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December 29, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KYIV4679 2006-12-29 13:12 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

DE RUEHKV #4679/01 3631312
P 291312Z DEC 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 004679 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2016 
Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4(a,b,d). 
1. (C) Summary.  The Central Election Commission (CEC) 
announced on December 29 that more than four million valid 
signatures had been collected in support of a proposed 
nationwide referendum on NATO membership and the Single 
Economic Space (SES), as a result of aggressive pushing from 
referendum proponents and a court ruling.  Under the law, 
three million valid signatures collected in no fewer than 
two-thirds of all oblasts (regions) are required to call a 
referendum.  The collection of signatures in support of the 
referendum began in late 2005 as a ploy by the SPDU(o) party 
of former Kuchma Chief of Staff Medvedchuk to gain votes in 
the March 2006 Rada elections, but the rules of referenda in 
Ukraine have turned this issue into a possible vehicle for 
anti-NATO politicians to slow down relations with the 
Alliance and revisit Ukraine's announced European path.  The 
CEC has tried to stall issuance of a decision on the validity 
of the signatures gathered in support of the referendum, but 
has run out of legal options.  Yushchenko as President has 
the authority to sit on the referendum issue without making a 
decision, according to CEC Chair Davydovych and Deputy Head 
of the Presidential Administration Yatsenyuk assured the 
Ambassador that the President would not let a referendum 
happen in the near future. 
2. (C) While the Universal agreement endorsed holding a 
referendum prior to NATO accession, it also emphasized the 
need to ensure all proper preparations had been completed, an 
implied reference to an effective public education campaign 
to lift popular support.  If the referendum were to be held 
in the short term, most believe it would fail given the 
unpopularity of NATO membership in the wake of two election 
cycles and an anemic government information campaign.  If it 
fails, another referendum on NATO could not be held for five 
years.  End summary and comment. 
Collecting Signatures For Political Gain 
3. (SBU) Beginning in late 2005 and leading up to the March 
2006 parliamentary elections, the political party SDPU(o) led 
by former Kuchma chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk, who has 
strong ties to the Kremlin, began a campaign to collect 
signatures requesting the CEC conduct a referendum on the 
questions of joining NATO and the Single Economic Space (SES) 
on March 26, the day general elections were held.  At the 
time, many believed that SDPU(o) pushed the referendum in 
hopes of bolstering its chances of getting its political bloc 
Ne Tak! over the three percent threshold.  (Note: Ne Tak! 
received a scant one percent, not making it into the Rada.) 
However, their collection of far more than the 
legally-required minimum number of signatures--the 
constitution requires three million; they sent the CEC more 
than four and a half million--gave them the right to demand 
the referendum be held. 
4. (C) Comment: Although the petition for referendum contains 
two questions, the press and our contacts have paid little 
attention to the SES aspect of the petition.  As opposed to 
just a referendum on joining NATO, which could be interpreted 
as support for neutrality, the proposed SES plank would offer 
a popular endorsement of the alternative of economic 
integration with Russia rather than the EU.  While the GOU 
line on SES, even under Kuchma, has been consistently against 
anything beyond a free trade agreement, public polls in 2004 
and 2005 showed a clear majority of Ukrainians in favor of 
SES and deeper economic ties with Russia.  Shortly after the 
March election, Kremlin-associated Russian political 
technologist Gleb Pavlovsky publicly warned Medvedchuk not to 
leave Ukraine until he succeeded in pushing the referendum 
5. (C) Comment continued: According to the current referendum 
law, if a referendum on a certain question were held and 
failed, a repeat referendum on the same issue could not be 
held again for 5 years.  Polling numbers and our contacts 
confirm that a referendum on NATO membership held before an 
effective public education campaign would be doomed to 
failure.  Currently, about two-thirds of the country oppose 
NATO membership for Ukraine, with about a third representing 
hard opposition and the rest skeptical that the benefits of 
membership outweigh the risks and costs.  End comment. 
CEC Not Rushing to Make Progress 
6. (C) At a November 15 meeting, CEC Chairman Davydovych told 
the Ambassador that he had been trying to drag out the 
process of verifying the signatures collected by SDPU(o); 
according to the law, the CEC should have finished the count 
KYIV 00004679  002 OF 003 
within one month of receiving the signatures.  Although 
Davydovych said publicly that the CEC has found that 12-15 
percent of the signatures were forged, he told the Ambassador 
that there was such a large number of signatures that 
eventually the CEC would have to conclude that there were 
enough vali
d signatures.  He added that the SDPU(o)-led 
referendum group had taken the CEC to court over its lack of 
progress.  On December 11, the Pechersk Court ruled that the 
CEC must make a decision on the validity of the signatures. 
7.  (C)  On December 29, the CEC held an open session at 
which it declared that 4,431,674 signatures of the total 
4,656,182 collected in support of the nationwide referendum 
were valid.  Under the law, three million valid signatures 
collected in no fewer than two thirds of all the oblasts 
(regions), with no fewer than 100,000 signatures in each of 
these oblasts, are required to request a referendum.  The CEC 
announced that it would send its referendum protocol 
attesting to the validity of the signatures to the President. 
 All CEC members signed the protocol. 
Next Steps: the Buck Stops with the President? 
--------------------------------------------- - 
8. (C) CEC Secretary Dubovyk warned a USAID NGO partner on 
December 21 that the CEC would probably have to make its 
decision on the referendum petition soon.  Once the CEC 
formally validated the signatures and accepted the petition, 
it would have to write a referendum protocol and forward it 
to President Yushchenko.  Current law stipulates that the 
President can either approve it and set a date or decline to 
announce a referendum.  Davydovych told the Ambassador that 
there was no time limit for Yushchenko's decision on whether 
to hold the referendum.  However, if he were to approve the 
holding of a referendum, it would have to be conducted within 
120 days of his decision. 
9. (SBU) There are several remaining legal avenues to delay 
the process.  On December 26, Davydovych appealed the 
Pechersk ruling to the Kyiv Court of Appeals.  The CEC also 
asked a district court in Rivne to examine the validity of a 
small sample of signatures in favor of the referendum to 
address the forgery concerns.  Several experts said that 
Yushchenko could also appeal the referendum law to the 
Constitutional Court, arguing that because the 1991 
referendum law predates the 1996 Constitution, there was no 
constitutional legislation to guide the process.  Such an 
appeal could effectively tie the issue up for months, given 
the backlog that the Court faces. 
Anti-NATO Forces Turn Up the Political Heat 
10. (SBU) Pressure has been building over the past few months 
for the CEC to issue a decision on the referendum.  SDPU(o) 
publicly appealed on December 25 to the OSCE and PACE to help 
ensure that the referendum would be conducted in 2007. 
Former CEC chairman and current adviser to PM Yanukovych 
Ryabets said December 26 that he was filing a lawsuit against 
Davydovych for disgracing the CEC.  In addition, on December 
15, three Regions MPs registered a bill stating that the 
December 8, 2004 dismissal of the CEC under Chairman Kivalov, 
in the wake of Kivalov declaring Yanukovych President, was 
illegal; they registered a second bill on December 18 
maintaining that the new CEC under Davydovych was appointed 
illegally.  (note: in fact, then President Kuchma dismissed 
the Kivalov CEC and the Rada approved the dismissal and the 
reconstituted CEC in line with proper procedures). 
Amending the Referendum Law 
11. (C) Another issue that will have to be addressed is the 
existence of flaws in the current referendum law, adopted in 
1991.  Currently, the only  draft bill on amending the law 
was tabled by radical Regions MP Kushnaryov.  Davydovych said 
that Kushnaryov,s draft leaves many questions unanswered and 
a number of provisions do not meet international standards 
and norms.  A panel of experts on December 21 said that 
unaddressed issues included: who would fund referenda; how 
voting commissions would be formed; how to ensure there would 
be no multiple voting; the lack of guidelines for campaigning 
for or against an issue; and a way to differentiate between 
binding and nonbinding referenda.  The general consensus of 
the roundtable was that holding a referendum under these 
conditions could add to current political tensions. 
CEC Politics at Play 
12. (C) According to the USAID NGO partner, CEC Secretary 
KYIV 00004679  003 OF 003 
Dubovyk was highly critical of the President's team for 
having not yet done anything to "torpedo" the NATO/SES 
referendum.  The CEC, to his mind, had given the Secretariat 
eight months to find a way to stop the referendum, which 
could have included conducting investigations into whether 
the signatures had been collected legally and without duress 
or fraud, but they had done nothing.  At the end of the day, 
the CEC would be legally compelled to certify the signatures; 
it would then be up to Yushchenko to decide how to proceed. 
13. (C) Comment: Yushchenko's non-interference is in keeping 
with his pledge during the 2006 parliamentary and local 
elections not to interfere in the procedural process, a 
pledge which he kept.  Yatsenyuk told the Ambassador on 
December 29 not to worry about the court ruling that 
compelled the CEC to take action.  The President's team 
understood that the push for an early referendum was a demand 
of the Kremlin, fed through Medvedchuk and adviser to the 
Prime Minister Lyovochkin, but that the President would not 
let it happen anytime soon.  End comment. 
14. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 




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