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07KYIV1722, UKRAINE: FLAWED LOCAL ELECTION REVEAL POTENTIAL

July 17, 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV1722 2007-07-17 12:11 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO4865
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #1722/01 1981211
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171211Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3075
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 001722 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2027 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: FLAWED LOCAL ELECTION REVEAL POTENTIAL 
PROBLEMS FOR RADA ELECTIONS 
 
 
KYIV 00001722  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: POL Counselor, reason 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  Contentious repeat mayoral elections June 17 
in Irpin, a town of 40,000 people located one hour northwest 
of Kyiv, underscored the potential for problems in the 
upcoming September 30 national Rada elections as a highstakes 
fight for land and power brought troublesome irregularities 
on voting day.  The former mayor, independent Myroslava 
Svystovych, had been removed from office by the town council 
on April 3, 2007 amid accusations of incompetence and 
nepotism.  Svystovych claimed the local government, run by a 
local Our Ukraine-Party of Regions alliance, was embroiled in 
political manipulation and corruption, with crooked land 
distribution deals at the heart of Irpin's problems.  Voter 
turnout was a low 23.6 percent, with numerous irregularities 
cited including: a last minute attempt to disqualify 
Svystovych observers prevented from fully seeing the voting; 
and one polling station simply refusing to count ballots.  In 
addition, the Central Election Commission (CEC) refused to 
register an Embassy observer arguing that the newly-seated 
CEC was technically unable to issue credentials. In the end, 
her opponent Oleh Bondar, supported by OU and Regions, won by 
a 293 vote margin. 
 
2. (C) Comment.  This election highlighted the potential for 
the September 30 pre-term Rada elections to be much worse 
than the relatively clean March 2006 elections.  Especially 
troubling were the efforts to block domestic and Embassy 
observation of the voting and the territorial election 
commission's (TEC) decision to announce the results of the 
election with one polling station's votes not counted.  Even 
if the manipulations were the result of solely local 
politicians' efforts--in fact, in one instance national-level 
OU leaders were able to rein in bad impulses--it still 
suggests that election results can be tinkered with to 
benefit certain candidates and parties.  The election caused 
a stir in Kyiv, but there have been no legal ramifications or 
condemnation by any of the major parties.  These events also 
underscore the importance of a strong observer presence, both 
domestic and international, for the September Rada elections. 
 End summary and comment. 
 
Irpin Politics: Mayor Today, Gone Tomorrow 
------------------------------------------ 
 
3. (SBU) Independent candidate Myroslava Svystovych was 
elected mayor of Irpin in April 2006--exactly a year later 30 
of the 35 members of the Irpin city council voted her out of 
office, in what Ihor Popov, head of elections watchdog 
Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), told us was a local Our 
Ukraine-Regions alliance to install a candidate who would 
give them access to cheap land.  Svystovych told us in May 
that she believed that the introduction of the party list 
system--where people vote for parties, not individual 
candidates--allowed businessmen, including candidates who 
were not Irpin residents, to get elected so as to further 
their business interests, namely land development. (Note: 
Irpin hosts one of Kyiv's more desireable dacha communities. 
End Note.)  The council members claimed to us that land 
issues, while important, were not the whole story.  They 
alleged that Svystovych routinely ignored procedural rules 
and conducted town business without a quorum, and therefore 
without the council's consent.  Further, they said she was 
unable to properly manage the town's daily business, such as 
garbage collection, roadwork, and other maintenance, in part 
because she fired competent professionals and gave their jobs 
to her inexperienced associates.  Popov acknowledged that 
Svystovych was a weak administrator and disorganized mayor. 
 
4. (SBU) After her dismissal, Svystovych challenged the 
council's action in district court and tried to initiate a 
referendum to dismiss the council members from their 
positions.  Her efforts, however, did not yield any results 
because she was unable to mount a successful legal campaign, 
and OU and Regions party officials in Kyiv supported holding 
a new election.  Moreovew, Irpin council members refused to 
appear in court to testify, arguing instead that Syystovych 
had acknowledged the legitimacy of her removal from office 
because she registered for the June 17 election. 
 
New Election: Old Tricks Make it Official... 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) Only 23.6 percent of the city population cast 
ballots on June 17 and numerous irregularities were cited. 
According to an Our Ukraine Rada staffer, the night before 
the vote, OU city council members tried to have Svystovych 
removed from the ballot.  Only when national level OU 
politicians Roman Bezsmertniy and Roman Zvarych intervened 
did they withdraw their challenge of her candidacy.  CVU 
 
KYIV 00001722  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
reported that on voting day observers were made to stand at 
least two meters away from commissioners, inhibiting their 
ability to see ballot and voter list transa
ctions.  Popov 
also told us that his monitors observed students from the 
State Tax Administration's officer academy--located in 
Irpin--receiving 50 UAH to vote for Bondar once they provided 
a cellphone photograph of the ballot as evidence (the money 
was deposited into their cell phone accounts after cash 
transactions were observed by monitors). 
 
6. (SBU) The election resulted in a slim victory for Oleh 
Bondar, Svystovych's main rival in 2006--by a margin of 3610 
votes to Svystovych's 3317 votes.  However, one polling 
station refused to count its ballots.  The ballots were 
transported to the Irpin City TEC, which also refused to 
count them.  In the end, all 840 ballots from that polling 
station were deemed invalid, but the TEC upheld the results 
of the election despite the fact that Bondar's margin of 
victory was only 293 votes. 
 
...Without U.S. Observers - Please 
---------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) After meeting with Svystovych and the council members 
in May, the Embassy attempted to register PolOff as an 
official observer for the Irpin election.  After filing the 
application with the Central Election Commission (CEC), the 
CEC asked several times about PolOff's identity, position in 
the Embassy, and purpose of the request.  Less than a week 
before the election, Ambassador received a call from Deputy 
Foreign Minister Khandohiy asking him to withdraw the 
monitoring application.  Khandohiy explained that the 
newly-seated CEC, appointed as a result of the political 
compromise paving the way for September 30 pre-term 
elections, would have to meet to consider the Embassy's 
request and if they did so, they would also have to discuss 
the upcoming parliamentary election.  He noted that the 
presidential administration preferred to avoid this outcome. 
 
8. (C) Comment: Khandohiy's concerns ring true as CEC 
Chairman Shapoval continues to resist convening CEC meetings. 
 Given that Shapoval, a Yushchenko appointee, faces a CEC 
majority controlled by the Party of Regions and its coalition 
partners, he may be trying to avoid official CEC meetings 
until he feels comfortable that there is full political 
agreement that the elections will happen.  They have, 
however, met in several informal working groups to study 
various aspects of the upcoming Rada elections. 
Nevertheless, the refusal to allow international observers is 
potentially troubling. 
 
Get Your Land While You Can 
--------------------------- 
 
9. (C) Comment: The events in Irpin also underscore the 
potential for land and asset grabbing before the upcoming 
Rada elections, as MPs and businessmen ensure their interests 
are taken care of, even if they should lose the vote.  All 
parties we talked to agreed that Irpin's land and location 
were its greatest assets.  With an estimated aggregate net 
worth of 5 billion dollars and a going rate of 2.5 million 
dollars per hectare, the town's proximity to the capital 
means prime real estate value.  The debate over how Irpin's 
limited property should be distributed and whether Irpin 
should develop into a residential or business center was one 
of the key catalysts of the political melee. 
 
10. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

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