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07KYIV2247, UKRAINE: EVEN SMALL ELECTION ABUSES COULD

September 7, 2007

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07KYIV2247 2007-09-07 13:50 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO1290
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHKV #2247/01 2501350
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071350Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3650
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 KYIV 002247 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/07/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: EVEN SMALL ELECTION ABUSES COULD 
INFLUENCE OUTCOME OF SEPTEMBER VOTE 
 
REF: A. KYIV 001722 
 
     B. KYIV 002125 
     C. KYIV 01808 
     D. KYIV 02239 
     E. KYIV 02202 
     F. KYIV 02206 
     G. KYIV 01986 
 
Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4(b,d). 
 
1. Summary.  As the campaign heats up for Ukraine's September 
30 preterm parliamentary elections, few anticipate there will 
be massive election fraud.  However, in what is expected to 
be a very tight race, even abuses on the margins could 
influence the outcome.  Greater transparency in the election 
system, increased domestic and international scrutiny, and 
the high stakes if a leader is caught engaged in fraud make 
large amounts of falsification unlikely.  So far the tone of 
the campaign has been restrained and the highly-politicized 
Central Election Commission (CEC) has managed to move forward 
in making the necessary preparations for the vote.  The 
prevailing sentiment in Kyiv now is that the election will 
not be nearly as bad as 2004, but that both through 
disorganization and, in some cases, by intent, it could be 
worse than the March 2006 elections, which were hailed as the 
best in Ukraine's history. 
 
2. (C) Polls and local political analysts suggest that BYuT 
and OU-PSD on the one hand and Regions and the Communists on 
the other are roughly tied meaning that an advantage of one 
to two percent of the vote could alter seat allocations in 
the new Rada, and affect the formation of the future 
government coalition.  All forces are drawing on 
administrative resources to support their campaigns (albeit 
perhaps less than in the past); the Prime Minister and 
President's teams are using national-level resources, but all 
forces have local government power to bring to bear in 
different regions.  Beyond this, abuse and influence are 
likely to appear in a number of forms -- among these, the 
invalidation of the results of certain polling stations to 
lower a specific party's national rating, abusing the mobile 
ballot box, and sponsoring minor parties to strip votes from 
competitors.   We expect some vote manipulation by the major 
parties will be intended to keep the vote for peripheral 
parties under the 3% threshold for entering the Rada, as was 
alleged in 2006, by Vitrenko's Progressive Socialists (PSPU), 
Pora-PRP, and the Kostenko-Plyushch Bloc.  Disenfranchisement 
of voters is also likely due to new articles in the election 
law requiring the Border Guards to update voter lists as 
citizens leave the country and the decision to eliminate 
absentee ballots; changes that CEC Chairman Shapoval told the 
Ambassador were intentional and problematic.  Finally, all 
sides appear to be preparing post-election court challenges 
and seeking favorable judges to issue preferred rulings -- 
these court challenges could slow the seating of the Rada and 
the formation of a new government. 
 
3. (C) In the end, the Party of Regions probably has a slight 
advantage in its ability to abuse the system because it has 
more experience successfully doing so, has more money at its 
disposal, is more organized, and heavily dominates in the 
East and South, which gives it freer reign to act.  Regions 
will mostly be monitored in the east by the Communists and 
Vitrenko, where the Communists may be complicit.  In 
contrast, BYuT and OU will serve as a check on each other's 
shenanigans in the west and center, given the high level of 
competition between the two for their shared electorate. 
There is likely to be no major party inclined to care if 
PSPU, or any other smaller party, complains after the 
election that it was cheated out of seats.  To promote 
elections as clean as 2006, we are vigilantly reminding all 
sides that a bad election will harm Ukraine's standing in the 
democratic community and could give critics in Europe further 
fuel to argue that Ukraine is not ready for the EU.  End 
summary and comment. 
 
Few Votes Up For Grabs 
---------------------- 
 
4. (C) Political analysts and observers, both in Kyiv and in 
the oblasts, have told us that they expect the vote 
distribution between the three main parties to be roughly 
similar to 2006, with the Communists also making it over the 
three-percent barrier.  The possibility remains that a fifth 
party will make it; for example, Head of the International 
Democracy Institute Serhiy Taran told us that he believed 
Lytvyn had a shot.  This leaves only 5-10% of voters up for 
grabs, including some undecideds and much of the Socialist 
electorate, which Taran believed will split between Lutsenko 
and Regions. 
 
KYIV 00002247  002 OF 005 
 
 
 
5. (C) Because the vote will be so close, the difference of a 
few percentage points could still make a difference in seat 
allocation in the new Rada.  With no party likely to get an 
outright majority alone, they will all be calculating how 
many seats they ne
ed to have the upper hand in coalition 
negotiations.  Head of Committee of Voters of Ukraine Ihor 
Popov, who usually tends to be pessimistic, was confident 
that there was enough transparency in the voting system now 
to stop massive efforts to falsify the vote; he expected at 
most 1% of the vote could be falsified.  However, he warned 
that it would not require a lot of fraud to affect the 
outcome when a couple of percentage points could make all the 
difference in seat allocation.  Popov provided the following 
example: 100,000 people is .8% of the vote -- that's only 500 
polling stations, out of 34,000, tampering with 200 votes 
each, an easy feat. 
 
Money Will Play a Role 
---------------------- 
 
6. (C) The most direct way to influence an election is simply 
to buy votes.  The June 17 mayoral election in Irpin 
demonstrated an easy way to use money to directly buy votes. 
CVU monitors there reported that students used cellphones to 
take pictures of their ballots cast in favor of the candidate 
backed by both Regions and Our Ukraine; once the photos were 
emailed out, the students received 50 UAH ($10) in their cell 
phone accounts (ref A).  The OSCE's Office of Democratic 
Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reports various parties 
have been handing out gifts to voters, a long-standing trick 
in parliamentary elections here.  The ODIHR media monitor and 
a journalist in Cherkasy (ref B) both mentioned to us the 
concern that in addition to legally-approved political 
advertising, the big parties were buying news articles and 
news time on television.  In our trips out to the regions, we 
have been told that the amount of money Regions has available 
to put into its campaign is a major benefit.  Former Donetsk 
allies Serhiy Taruta and Vitaliy Haiduk also told us that 
Regions had a lot of money to spend.  In Cherkasy, the CVU 
representative and a local journalist claimed that the 
Regions was using its money to pay factory managers and 
school administrators, who in turn are supposed to encourage 
their workers/students to vote for Regions. 
 
Administrative Resources: Yushchenko's.... 
----------------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) The use of government resources by high-ranking 
government officials to benefit their parties' campaigns is 
an issue that arises before every Ukrainian election although 
CVU Head Popov told the press that so far they are being used 
less this round.  For example, Regions members, PACE, ODIHR, 
and some Ukrainian observers have criticized Yushchenko for 
directing many of his appointed governors to run the OU-PSD 
campaign in their oblasts.  In theory, as party members, each 
governor has the right to be involved in the campaign, but 
many have been accused of using budget money and other office 
materials in support of OU-PSD's cause.  An additional 
concern is that the presidentially-appointed governors and 
raion heads will put pressure on other officials, including 
at the polling station commissions (PSC) and district 
election commissions (DEC), to give advantages to OU-PSD. 
 
8. (C) OU-PSD campaign manager and Presidential Secretariat 
Head Baloha reportedly has tight control over the election at 
the national and regional level and predicted replacements of 
several governors -- Deputy Secretariat Head Bondar was named 
acting governor of Dnipropetrovsk on September 3 -- could be 
an effort to increase control over governors' actions and 
pressure them to assist in the election.  This strategy could 
backfire, however, given that many of the governors are 
politically unpopular, and sometimes resented as Kyivians 
sent into the oblast.  We also heard from the OU party leader 
in Odesa that some OU regional headquarters resent Baloha's 
micromanaging (ref D). 
 
9. (C) Without a doubt, Yushchenko has taken advantage of 
free advertising available to him as president.  In 
announcing his social program, Yushchenko put up hundreds of 
billboards around the country and ran television ads 
outlining his vision -- an effort that began in July just 
prior to the kick-off of the election campaign season.  All 
of these feature only the President and do not include any 
reference to Our Ukraine or any other party.  They were all 
paid for by the state because they are considered to be 
public service announcements.  Conveniently, Yushchenko's 
program ties in with what OU-PSD has put forward in its 
election platform and they were featured prominantly in at 
the OU-PSD party congress. 
 
KYIV 00002247  003 OF 005 
 
 
 
Yanukovych's... 
--------------- 
 
10. (C) The Cabinet is also openly involved in the election 
process.  ODIHR noted in a September 7 preelection briefing 
that all members of the Cabinet are traveling around the 
country campaigning while also working on official business. 
Justice Minister Lavrynovych has used his ministerial powers 
for political means, approving the falsified party stamp in 
the Pora controversy (ref E), and apparently helping to stir 
up an old controversy surrounding exiled Russian oligarch 
Boris Berezovskiy's provision of funds to Yushchenko's 2004 
presidential campaign.  Deputy PM Azarov's participation in 
the extraordinary Rada session (ref F) also showed the 
Cabinet's active support for Regions' campaign.  PACE and 
ODIHR have criticized the politicization of the CEC, singling 
out Regions' use of its majority to delay registration of 
BYuT (ref G), tampering with Pora's membership in OU-PSD, and 
efforts to approve a form for home voting that does not 
require a medical reason for requesting the mobile ballot 
box. 
 
...And Everyone Else's 
---------------------- 
 
11. (C) Officials on the local level probably will have the 
most influence on polling stations, giving all parties 
advantages in different regions.  In the east, Regions 
dominates many local councils and mayors, while BYuT has 
strongholds across the center and parts of the west, as does 
OU.  This also helps some of the smaller parties.  For 
example, one political analyst told us that in certain areas 
in central Ukraine there are strongholds of the Viche party, 
whose leader Inna Bohoslovska is now number 4 on the 
Regions's list.  We have also heard that this phenomenon 
could help the Socialists on voting day.  In past elections, 
we have heard stories of appointed and elected officials 
sitting in polling stations on voting day, even though this 
is illegal. 
 
Political projects 
------------------ 
 
12. (C) Another trick used by big parties in past elections 
is the funding of marginal parties to confuse voters into 
giving their votes to parties with similar names that have no 
chance, such as the Communist Party (reformed) and the 
Ukrainian People's Bloc.  Most of these parties are unlikely 
to have significant impact, but Popov agreed that they could 
attract votes on the margins.  For example, he said that the 
Suprun Bloc -- a new version o
f the pro-Kuchma People's 
Democratic Party that had all but gone out of existence -- 
seems very well-funded and has been engaged in a heavy 
advertising campaign in Crimea, presumably to strip votes 
away from PSPU and Regions.  KUCHMA could also be aimed at 
Regions.  One political analyst, Vadim Karasyov, said that he 
believed someone in Regions was backing Lytvyn's Bloc, 
presumably to entice undecided centrists away from BYuT and 
OU-PSD. 
 
Voting Day Abuses: 
------------------ 
 
13. (C) One of the problems with the election may be 
disorganization and confusion, stemming in large part to 
changes to the parliamentary election law (PEL) and the 
shorter-than-normal campaign cycle.  CEC Chairman Shapoval 
glumly noted to the Ambassador September 7 that one side 
changed the election law intentionally for a specific reason, 
a reference to the coalition-penned PEL put forward on June 1 
and supported by 251 MPs, after an opposition-backed PEL was 
rejected.  The amendments to the PEL have already raised 
questions and could cause problems that will enable parties 
to file court challenges after the election if they are 
unhappy with the outcome.  These amendments could result in 
charges of disenfranchisement if people are improperly 
removed from voters' lists because of mistakes made by the 
Border Guards watching the border crossings; the use of 
mobile ballots and the ban on absentee ballots could also 
lead to people being denied the right to vote.  On the fraud 
side, there could be some intraparty collusion at PSCs and 
DECs, where this year due to a change in the election law, 
all the commissioners are from the five Rada factions -- in 
the past all parties had the right to nominate some 
commissioners -- removing the ability of small monitors to 
closely monitor the process. 
 
Election Fraud... 
----------------- 
 
KYIV 00002247  004 OF 005 
 
 
 
14. (C) The most worrying area for actual fraud remains the 
mobile balloting box, now under looser requirements than in 
2006 (ref C).  Despite BYuT and OU-PSD efforts to require 
voters who want to vote at home to provide medical 
documentation -- not a legal requirement under the amended 
PEL -- the CEC majority has resisted this step.  An appeals 
court ordered the CEC to review the form voters must use to 
request the mobile ballot box, but the court did not instruct 
the CEC specifically to add a requirement for a doctor's 
note, just to reconsider the issue and provide instructions 
to the PSCs.  CEC Chairman Shapoval said that the form will 
approved by September 14, but it will not make the opposition 
happy.  In Shapoval's view, the ability of the CEC to agree 
on a new form is constrained by the law, which does not ask 
for a medical certification for at-home voters.  Observers 
are allowed to travel with mobile ballot boxes, but it is a 
time-intensive effort, and in most cases boxes travel at 
least part of the day unsupervised, which could allow extra 
ballots to be cast unseen.  Both ODIHR and PACE have 
expressed concern that loose restrictions on mobile balloting 
could lead to falsification.  Shapoval said another concern 
was that if too many people request the mobile ballot box, 
the PSCs will be overwhelmed.  For example, it takes 20 
minutes to bring the box to one voter -- if 200 people in one 
district request the box, the PSC would have to spend the 
whole day just collecting at-home ballots, which is 
unrealistic.  Moreover, because the law removed the 
requirement for verification, someone could register people 
for the mobile box without their knowledge, causing them to 
be struck from the PSC lists -- if they show up to vote, they 
will be out of luck.  A representative of IRI told us that 
their contacts claimed Regions officials were calling voters 
in the East and telling them they had already been signed up 
to vote at home. 
 
15. (C) A number of political activists have also expressed 
great concern to us that parties may resort to getting voting 
results thrown out for certain polling stations both during 
the counting phase and later through court appeals.  For 
example, the election law says that a PSC commission may 
invalidate the results at their station if damage is done to 
the box that makes it impossible to tell if the number of 
ballots cast is 20 percent more than the number of registered 
voters.  A USAID election implementer told us that spilling 
ink into the box was one way to ruin a large number of 
ballots and have them thrown out.  There were accusations in 
2006 that the major parties used these tricks to invalidate 
polling station results in areas where smaller parties were 
close to the three-percent threshold -- such as PSPU, 
Kostenko-Plyushch Bloc, and Pora-PRP -- to keep their 
national numbers under three percent.  Marginal parties could 
be targeted again to keep the total number of parties getting 
into the Rada down to four. 
 
16. (C) The USAID implementer added that it was not necessary 
to have the complicity of a whole polling station commission 
to commit fraud or dirty tricks.  Commissioners sit in pairs 
at different tables, with different voter lists and piles of 
ballots.  Collusion between two would be enough to ruin 
ballots or play with the voter list, for example. 
 
...Versus Election Flawed 
------------------------- 
 
17. (C) Problems with voter lists continues to be a source of 
concern.  Although the Rada passed a progressive law in the 
spring calling for a national voter registry, there has not 
been enough time to establish this registry.  Therefore, DECs 
and PSCs are still primarily responsible for ensuring that 
their lists are accurate; accidental misspellings and other 
minor errors could prevent voters from being allowed to vote. 
 Moreover, the PEL amendment calling on the Border Guards to 
enter into the voter lists system the names of people out of 
the country three days before the election has created 
confusion and uneven implementation.  Voters leaving the 
country are supposed to submit a form to the Border Guards 
and a second one when they return, but not all border guard 
points are computerized, according to one USAID implementer. 
Shapoval told the Ambassador that the CEC and Border Guards 
were having trouble figuring out how to make the system work; 
personally, he was hoping the Constitutional Court would 
strike this provision from the law, as President Yushchenko 
had requested.  ODIHR said that their long-term monitors in 
Sumy had been denied access to border crossing points.  Popov 
said that this issue could result in another 200,000 losing 
the right to vote; Shapoval also believed people would be 
unfairly removed from voter lists. 
 
18. (C) In addition, the new ban on absentee ballots may 
 
KYIV 00002247  005 OF 005 
 
 
limit parties from finding enough observers.  Parties are a 
major source of domestic observation, but in the past they 
bussed observers into regions where t
hey did not have a 
natural base of support.  It may be harder to find people 
willing to travel, now that they will be unable to vote.  For 
example, the orange team told IRI that they will send 3,000 
observers to Donetsk and 1,500 to Luhansk, depriving those 
4,500 people of the right to vote.  Coalition parties could 
face the same problem in sending observers west.  ODIHR also 
expressed concern that the lack of an absentee ballot will 
disenfranchise many university students. 
 
Parties Will Provide Some Checks, but not Enough 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
19. (C) All analysts we have spoken with thought that, to 
some degree, the mutual suspicion and competition between 
OU-PSD and BYuT will force them to serve as checks on each 
other, limiting the amount of manipulation in the West and 
parts of the Center.  Political observers have been more 
concerned about the East, where they thought there were 
areas, especially outside major cities, where Regions is in 
full control and can act with impunity.  Popov said that it 
was at the local level where fraud, if it happens, will take 
place.  Therefore what matters is who runs city and raion 
councils and administrations not what happens in Kyiv. 
 
Court Appeals Can Also Muddy Waters 
----------------------------------- 
 
20. (C) Everyone we have spoken with -- from Regions oligarch 
Akhmetov to the political analysts to ODIHR -- told us that 
the numerous court appeals likely to be filed before and 
after the vote will throw up roadblocks, and slow the vote 
count and seating of the new Rada.  A large number of cases 
filed before the election could clog the system and block 
important cases from being heard in a timely fashion. 
According to an ODIHR legal analyst, 39 election-related 
cases have already been filed since the campaign began on 
August 1.  Moreover, all agree that there will certainly be a 
large number of court cases filed in October to contest the 
election results.  Akhmetov told the Ambassador September 4 
that BYuT in particular will use the judicial system to have 
results thrown out in pro-Regions areas. 
 
21. (C) According to CVU Head Popov, he has talked to the 
heads of the legal departments for Regions (Yuriy 
Miroshnychenko) and OU-PSD (Mykola Katerynchuk) -- and both 
were already preparing legal actions for various election 
scenarios.  Popov and Ihor Kohut, head of the Agency for 
Legislative Initiatives NGO, were both worried that a worst 
case scenario was that a large number of court battles would 
result in the elections being annulled and no parliament 
being seated.  They also warned that 151 MP-elects could 
object to the elections and refuse to take their seats, 
causing a repeat of the current situation.  Either way, 
Ukraine could see more repeat elections or a Yushchenko 
presidency and caretaker Yanukovych government acting with no 
parliament.  Their best case scenario was that it would take 
a couple of months to get through post-elections objections 
and negotiations before a new government was formed and 
seated. 
 
22. (C) Also of concern is the common practice among all 
major parties here of court buying -- everyone may be looking 
for judges to provide favorable rulings.  Popov told us that 
Baloha holds sway over the Constitutional Court, which could 
play a role in some decisions, such as Yushchenko's appeal of 
the Border Guard provision in the PEL.  Popov also related a 
rumor to us that Baloha had approached one of the district 
administrative courts with instructions about how to rule on 
certain issues, only to be told that he was too late; Regions 
had already been there with money in hand, and he should find 
another court.  (Comment.  Apocryphal or not, this anecdote 
underscores the distrust all sides view the judicial branch 
with and the likelihood that multiple, contradictory rulings 
will crop up after the election, confusing the outcome.  End 
comment.) 
 
23. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

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