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09KYIV1310, ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS STIR CONTROVERSY

August 7, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KYIV1310 2009-08-07 17:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO7667
PP RUEHDBU RUEHSL
DE RUEHKV #1310/01 2191725
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071725Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8234
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 001310 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/05/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL UP
SUBJECT: ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS STIR CONTROVERSY 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Colin Cleary for reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
SUMMARY 
-------- 
 
1. (C)  Election law amendments passed in late July at a 
special Rada session have drawn criticism from both the 
President's office and the NGO community.  Changes to the law 
limit the scope and timing of court appeals, make it easier 
to exclude NGO election observers and increase the financial 
requirements for candidates.  Backers say the changes are 
balanced and non-partisan.  A temporary alliance on this 
issue between PM Tymoshenko's bloc and the leading opposition 
Party of Regions gives it a veto proof majority. 
Presidential candidate Yatsenyuk had complained to Western 
diplomats about a provision which would have given the 
largest political parties -- Regions and the Tymoshenko bloc 
-- control over regional election commissions.  However, this 
provision did not make it into the final draft.  End Summary. 
 
 
 
PASSED IN SPECIAL RADA SESSION 
------------------------------ 
 
2. (SBU)  Amendments to the Presidential election law were 
passed on July 24 in an extraordinary Rada session called by 
Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) MPs.  The legislation was supported 
primarily by BYuT and opposition Party of Regions with 152 
and 161 votes respectively.  It also garnered three votes 
from pro-coalition members of the fractured Our 
Ukraine-People's Self Defense (OU-PSD) bloc.  The legislation 
is intended to address shortcomings in the electoral code 
that were highlighted in the 2006 and 2007 parliamentary 
elections, according to OU-PSD MP and former Justice Minister 
Roman Zvarych.  Zvarych, one of the authors of the changes, 
told us that the fact both the government and the main 
opposition could agree on the changes showed that they were 
balanced and non-partisan. 
 
 
LAW LIMITS ELECTION RELATED APPEALS 
----------------------------------- 
 
3. (C)  One key change to the presidential election law has 
drawn fire for limiting the role of the courts in election 
challenges.  Under the new amendments, the Kyiv 
Administrative Court of Appeals is the sole court empowered 
to hear election related appeals and its decisions cannot be 
appealed.  The changes also require the court to consider 
complaints within two days or they are automatically closed. 
Zvarych defended these changes and told us that because 
election violations are essentially administrative in nature, 
they should be heard in the administrative courts, not the 
criminal courts. 
 
4. (C) Zvarych said that limiting jurisdiction and appeals 
are necessary to avoid complainants from "court shopping" or 
finding a corrupt local court willing to rule in their favor 
and to prevent endless appeals that damage the legitimacy of 
the election.  Deputy head of the Presidential Secretariat 
Maryna Stavniychuk said that these changes would make 
falsification easier because the Administrative court will 
have the impossible job of hearing all election complaints 
with in two days and that there is no chance to appeal their 
decision to the Supreme Court for review. 
 
 
REMOVAL OF ELECTION OBSERVERS MADE EASIER 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C)  The new amendments make it easier for regional and 
local election commissions to exclude NGO-led election 
observers from their meetings.  It now requires only the 
support of a simple majority, rather than two-thirds, of 
commission members to remove observers who are deemed to be 
"interfering in the commission's work."  Zvarych said that 
this allows commissions to focus on their jobs rather than 
dealing with obstructions from "Moscow-funded" or 
"nationalist" NGOs whose main goal is to create provocations 
rather than observe the election process. 
 
6. (C) Chairman of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives 
Ihor Kohut, told us that he is worried that this change could 
allow commissions to exclude all observers from watching 
commissions and polling places.  He said that the absence of 
observers would cast doubt on the accuracy of vote counts and 
the legitimacy of the election.  Kohut noted that it was not 
clear if the new rules would allow commissions to exclude 
official observers as well as NGO observers. 
 
 
 
KYIV 00001310  002 OF 002 
 
 
GRUMBLES OVER CANDIDATE BONDS TOO 
--------------------------------- 
 
7.  (SBU) The new law ends the practice of candidates 
canvassing for signatures in order to be included on the 
presidential ballot.  Previously, presidential candidates 
needed to gather five hundred thousand signatures from at 
least two-thirds of Ukraine's regions.  Candidates also had 
to place a five hundred thousand Gryvnyia (64,000 USD) bond 
with the Central Election Commission.  The bond would be 
returned if a candidate garnered more than seven percent of 
the vote.  Under the new law the combination of signatures 
and a bond is replaced by a single 2.5 million Gryvnyia 
(320,000 USD) bond.  The bond will only be returned to the 
two candidates who make it to the second round of voting. 
 
8.  (C)
 Zvarych said that the larger bond would discourage 
the dozens of "nobody" candidates that regularly fill the 
presidential election ballot.  Deputy Central Election 
Commission head Andriy Magera told the Ambassador in May that 
the CEC expected more than 40 candidates to run for the 
presidency, but that only about six would garner more than 
one percent of the vote.  At a local press forum on July 29, 
candidates representing small parties complained that the 
large bond amount would limit the ability of many candidates 
to participate in the election.  Former Defense Minister and 
MP Anatoliy Hrytsenko publicly complained that the bond could 
keep him out of the race because he lacks wealthy "oligarch" 
sponsors who could pay it on his behalf. 
 
 
YUSHCHENKO PROMISES TO CHALLENGE LAW 
------------------------------------ 
 
9. (SBU)  President Yushchenko promised to veto the changes 
to the election law which he called "an offensive on 
democracy" and may challenge the legality of the changes in 
the Constitutional Court.  BYuT Deputy faction head Andriy 
Kozhemyakin said that BYuT and Party of Regions may call an 
extraordinary session before the Rada reconvenes in September 
to over ride Yushchenko's promised veto to ensure that the 
amendments are in force prior to the start of the campaign on 
October 20.  Most see no need to rush; the override can take 
place in September.  BYuT MP Valeriy Pysarenko warned that if 
Yushchenko successfully appealed the changes in the 
Constitutional Court during the course of the election it 
could force the CEC to begin the campaign anew and provide an 
opportunity for the President to remain in office. 
 
YATSENYUK IS HEARD 
------------------ 
 
10. (SBU)  On July 4, Presidential candidate Arceniy 
Yatsenyuk invited G-7 Embassy representatives to his 
headquarters to complain about provision in a draft of the 
election law which would have given the largest parties in 
the Rada -- BYuT and Regions -- the most seats in regional 
and local election commissions.  Yatsenyuk contended that 
this would disadvantage candidates like himself who did not 
have large blocs in the Rada; it would also facilitate fraud. 
 This provision was later dropped from the bill. 
 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11. (C)  We will continue to canvass opinion about these 
changes.  The provisions tightening access of election 
observers and redress in the courts merit particular 
scrutiny.  We will also continue to emphasize to the 
Ukrainian leadership the importance of fair and transparent 
elections.   The BYuT-Regions alliance on this issue gives a 
veto-proof margin of over 300 votes in the Rada.   Thus, 
unless struck down by the courts, these are the rules that 
will govern the January 2010 Presidential election. 
PETTIT

Wikileaks

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