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06KYIV4383, UKRAINE: VOTERS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN

November 29, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KYIV4383 2006-11-29 09:56 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO1115
PP RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHKV #4383/01 3330956
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 290956Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0489
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 004383 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: VOTERS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN 
LOCAL ELECTIONS 
 
REF: KYIV 4211 
 
(U) Sensitive but unclassified, please handle accordingly. 
Not for internet distribution. 
 
1. (SBU) Summary.  The Embassy, representatives from several 
USG-funded NGO's (NDI, IRI, Freedom House and IOM) and 
monitors from ENEMO (European Network of Election Monitoring 
Organizations) observed four repeat mayoral elections this 
month, all in the central Ukraine heartland which gave 
pluralities to the Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) in March 26 
parliamentary elections.  With the West still heavily 
pro-orange and the East locked down in the Regions camp, the 
center of the country remains Ukraine's swing vote, as it was 
in the 1994, 1999, and 2004 Presidential cycles.  The 
by-election winners came from a variety of parties--one 
Regions, two BYuTs, and either a Communist or an Our Ukraine 
rep. 
 
2.  (SBU)  The bottom line seems to be that local politics 
remains local, and often personality rather than 
party-driven.  National parties were often detached from 
their candidates or supported more than one candidate. 
Candidates who actually worked to improve their constituents' 
lives or who were young and fresh or, in at least one case, 
who represented the security of the past for the mostly 
elderly electorate that turned out, found support.  On the 
other hand, former mayors who tried to manipulate the system 
from their new home in the Rada were not able to hold on to 
their powerbases.  Voter turnout was low (20-30 percent, 
compared to 70-80 percent in the March general election), a 
sign perhaps of voter weariness at the fifth voting day in 
little over two years.  End summary and comment. 
 
Local Elections: Take Two (or three) 
------------------------------------ 
 
3. (SBU) Chernihiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, and Cherkasy form a 
ring around Kyiv's eastern and southern borders and have a 
more politically-diverse political landscape than their 
neighbors to the west and east, although all gave strong 
pluralities to BYuT in the March 26 Rada elections.  The 
first three oblasts held mayoral by-elections on November 26 
to replace mayors who joined the Rada, while Cherkasy held a 
repeat election on November 5 after two previous failed 
attempts.  In general, voter turnout was low (20-35 percent), 
as people disgusted with political games surrounding repeat 
elections stopped participating.  In Poltava, however, the 
city where the municipal government functioned best under an 
acting mayor and new city council, people still believed 
their votes mattered, according to an exit poll conducted by 
the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), and this was 
probably reflected in the slightly higher voter turnout (33 
percent) there. 
 
Kirovohrad: Still Flawed 
------------------------ 
 
4. (SBU) Kirovohrad, home to some of Ukraine's most blatant 
cheating in the 1998 and 2002 local/parliamentary elections 
as well as the first and second rounds of the 2004 
presidential election, was the messiest of the four mayoral 
elections.  A leading candidate, Oleksandr Nikulin, 
previously mayor of Kirovohrad from 1998-2002, was improperly 
removed from the ballot at midnight before election day by 
the territorial election commission (TEC).  According to 
Nikulin's camp and confirmed by CVU, only 9 of the 15 TEC 
members were present at the vote--two-thirds are required for 
quorum--and the local court reinstated him hours before the 
polls opened.  The TEC then overruled the court, removed 
Nikulin again, and decided to declare invalid any votes for 
Nikulin that were cast during the two-hour period when he was 
reinstated, resulting in several thousand votes being thrown 
out.  The uncertainty about the validity of Nikulin's 
candidacy caused chaos in several polling stations as local 
officials tried to decide whether or not to strike his name 
from the ballots--as the first voters of the day were 
arriving. 
 
5. (SBU) Prior to election day, local residents talked about 
a lack of leadership in the city, with some hinting darkly 
that the "interim authorities" would prefer to have no one 
win the election, leaving them with the reins of local power. 
 Valeriy Kalchenko (BYuT, former Kirovohrad governor in 
1999), won the mayor's race in March while managing BYuT's 
successful Rada campaign in the province, but he chose to 
take up his Rada seat instead of serving as mayor.   In 
August, Kirovohrad journalists and city council members told 
us that after Kalchenko's departure, BYuT found no one to 
fill the void.  Instead, Kirovohrad experienced a sense of 
 
KYIV 00004383  002 OF 003 
 
 
drift and lack of municipal leadership over the summer.  The 
interim authorities decision to significantly delay the start 
of municipal heating--the only such occurrence in a oblast 
capital country-wide this year, angered local residents. 
 
6. (SBU) Overall, voter turnout was low, about 20 percent and 
primarily pensioners.  After the initial chaos of the 
morning, the vast majority of polling places functioned 
smoothly, with poll workers taking professional pride in 
doing a good
job.  As of November 29, there still was no 
official winner although early exit polls gave the nod by a 
narrow margin appears to Communist Volodymyr Puzakov over Our 
Ukraine's Oleksandr Danutsa (15.8 to 15.3 percent).  Danutsa 
was the only one out of 44 candidates who is under 50 years 
of age; a young city council member who started his political 
career after the Orange Revolution.  He impressed us during a 
brief August encounter as a person to watch for the future. 
The de-registered Nikulin has already contested the election 
in the local court; with apparent legal grounds for a 
successful challenge, Kirovohrad may see a repeat election in 
a few months. 
 
Poltava: Electing a Mayor Who Gets Things Done 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
7. (SBU) Poltava in March re-elected Regions MP Anatoliy 
Kukoba, who had run Poltava like a personal fiefdom since 
before Ukrainian independence, but Kukoba also chose to take 
his Rada seat rather than serve as mayor.  The difference 
from Kirovohrad, however, was that the interim mayor chosen 
by the BYuT-led City Council, 42 year old Council Secretary 
Andriy Matkovskiy, made a quick splash, according to many we 
talked to in Poltava November 25-26.  The Matkovskiy-led City 
Council tackled a number of quality of life issues, achieving 
"more in five months than Kukoba had done in five years," 
quipped one Poltavan.  City Councilwoman Hanna Kyshchenko 
(BYuT) told us that the Council had significantly expanded 
street lighting (provincial Ukrainian cities are 
disconcertingly dark at night), bought more city buses and 
playground equipment, and repaired some long-neglected roads. 
 
8. (SBU) The results showed on election day, when Matkovskiy 
scored a resounding victory, with the CVU exit polls 
suggesting a 56-27 percent victory over closest competitor 
Viktor Zhivotenko.  Zhivotenko, who as the "non-Kukoba" 
opposition candidate in the March election had come within 
1500 votes of upsetting Kukoba, had Kukoba and Regions 
throwing their last minute support behind him.  Several 
observers suggested Kukoba's team was attempting to prevent 
the emergence of a long-term effective BYuT mayor.  Some of 
the last minute tactics seemed out of character for the 
Zhivotenko team, including a "black PR TV documentary" 
alleging Matkovskiy had shady ties which ran in the week 
prior to the election, and election day efforts to 
manufacture the appearance of possible vote buying and 
carousel voting among students, allegedly on Matkovskiy,s 
behalf.  (Note: Matkovskiy has now filed defamation law suits 
against some of the media outlets that he says tried to smear 
him before the election.) 
 
9. (SBU) The Poltava by-election was the most relaxed, 
tension-free and straightforward Ukrainian election yet 
witnessed by the members of the embassy observer team, who 
had a combined 15 election observations since 2004.  One 
precinct committee member summed up a prevailing sentiment by 
saying: "Both Matkovskiy and Zhivotenko are local Poltava 
boys with proven management capabilities.  We can't lose 
either way."  Moreover, Poltava saw a slightly higher voter 
turnout of 33 percent, and of those who did vote, 90 percent 
told the CVU exit pollers that they believed their vote could 
make a difference in how Poltava was governed. 
 
Chernihiv: Political Comeback 
----------------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) The story in Chernihiv was much the same.  The 
initial March winner of the mayor's seat, Socialist Mykola 
Rudkovskiy, left for Kyiv to take his Rada seat, subsequently 
becoming Transportation Minister.  Rudkovskiy had been 
dynamic and charismatic in his campaign in March, but when he 
left, he installed SPU people in city positions and tried to 
run things through a proxy, which engendered hostility 
towards the SPU (note: the Socialists experienced a dramatic 
drop in support levels nationwide after their July "flip" 
from supporting a governing coalition with BYuT and OU to the 
current Regions-led coalition including the Communists).  As 
a result, former mayor (2002-06) and Regions candidate 
Oleksandr Sokolov, who had had lost to Rudkovskiy in March, 
easily won in November by an overwhelming margin.  Voting in 
Chernihiv was very quiet and orderly.  Embassy observers did 
 
KYIV 00004383  003 OF 003 
 
 
not sense the same feeling of apathy as in other cities, 
although voter turnout was still a low 25 percent. 
 
Cherkasy: Finally, a Mayor 
-------------------------- 
 
11. (SBU) The November 5 Cherkasy election (described reftel) 
was relatively quiet after political machinations canceled 
the results in March and prevented a revote in June.  There 
was low voter turnout of 20 percent with high levels of voter 
disgust.  Former mayor Oliynik, who is now a BYuT MP in the 
Rada, controlled a lot of the technical candidates and the 
press attention, but still couldn't get his preferred 
candidate into office. (Note: he came in fourth).  Instead, 
young businessman and second BYuT candidate Serhiy Odarych 
won. 
 
Voters Dislike Politicians who Can't Shake Old Habits 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
12. (SBU) Comment: Taken together, the four mayoral elections 
demonstrate positive elements of Ukraine's post-Orange 
Revolution political scene.   What we observed were contested 
elections by different parties and perspectives, with local 
dynamics and personalities decisive in the final result, 
rather than attempts of long-time provincial godfathers 
trying to continue to run their home cities from Kyiv.  The 
results in Poltava in particular showed that competent 
municipal governance can make a quick impact, with Poltavan 
voters handing a decisive mandate to someone whom few had 
heard of six months prior.  Nevertheless, the continued use 
by some of old campaign tactics--using the TECs and the 
courts to try to disqualify competitors and "black PR" to 
discredit them--suggests that some old habits die hard. 
 
13. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

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