wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
2006-03-13 18:02:00
Embassy Kyiv
Cable title:  


pdf how-to read a cable
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KIEV 000957 


E.O. 12958: N/A



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Julie Finley
visited Kiev February 28-March 2 and met with OSCE, Central
Election Commission (CEC), and political party
representatives to get a better sense of how the run-up to
the March 26 elections was proceeding. She noted repeatedly
that the USG was watching closely to determine how the
elections were conducted. Almost all interlocutors pointed
to a vastly improved climate for the campaign in comparison
to 2004, with the turnaround in media freedom a key factor.
However, the OSCE's Election Observation Mission (EOM) voiced
concern about the large shortage in personnel (some 27,000
slots or six percent of the total) to man the polling station
commissions (PSCs). As a result, several PSCs are not fully
functional; this could hamper election preparations. The CEC
acknowledged problems existed but stressed they were more
logistical rather than political (e.g., blatant use of
administrative funds to help the party in power). Some
opposition parties did point to cases of dirty tricks or
harassment, but the EOM stressed these were largely isolated
or greatly exaggerated. The overall impression was that the
GOU and most of the political parties were genuinely
committed to conducting fair elections. On a separate issue,
the Presidential Secretariat noted problems in changing the
OSCE mandate. End Summary.

ODIHR Observation Mission -- Good So Far, But...
============================================= ===

2. (SBU) In his March 1 meeting with Ambassador Finley,
Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj, head of the OSCE's Election
Observation Mission (EOM) in Ukraine noted that they had 52
long-term observers in almost all of Ukraine's oblasts and
that thus far, the situation had been very calm. He said
that media freedom had improved significantly since the 2004
presidential elections and that it was clear the GOU was
genuinely interested in holding free and fair elections.
Most of the allegations of violations had been grossly
exaggerated or had not even taken place. However, as the
campaign heated up, he expected the appearance of dirty
tricks and potential kompromat (compromising materials).

3. (SBU) Kopaj said that the EOM was concerned about three
main issues leading up to the election.

--First was the large shortage in personnel to man the
precinct election commissions. The 15 parties/factions
currently in the Rada have a right to have their
representatives on the commissions, but since most are not
truly national organizations, only a few have actually done
so. This means there are some 27,000 vacant slots, or six
percent of the total on the PSCs. As a result, several PSCs
are not fully functional, which, in turn, could hamper
election preparations. The Central Election Commission (CEC)
wants a law that would allow local governments to put people
on the local commissions; however, that could disrupt the
commissions' balance and affect their integrity. Kopaj
thought one possible compromise would be to have more
representatives from the bigger parties, though he did not
have the capacity to formally make such a recommendation.

--The second issue was that some polling stations,
particularly in urban areas, have more registered voters
than the mandated 2500 maximum, which could lead to long
lines and a more drawn-out tabulation process.

--Finally, it did not appear that the CEC had the ability to
publish the election results of each polling station, which
was important to help track any possible fraud.

CEC, OSCE - Working on the Problems

4. (SBU) Deputy Head of the CEC Mykola Melnik told Ambassador
Finley March 2 that they were well aware of the problems
raised by the EOM. (Melnik said that CEC head Davidovych was
unable to make the meeting as scheduled as he had to deal
with an emergency at the factory that makes ballots.) He
contended that the problems that the CEC faced so far had
been logistical (getting the PSCs staffed) rather than
political (e.g., blatant use of administrative funds to help
the party in power). He said the political parties had been
"irresponsible" in either not nominating enough people to
serve on the commissions or nominating those who clearly had
no desire to do so. The CEC has told the parties that such
actions endanger the political process. Regarding large
numbers of voters at some polling stations, Melnik said they
have expanded voting time by three hours, from 7 a.m. to 10
p.m., rather than 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and by expanding the
number of stations (though still not as many as they would

5. (SBU) Melnik said that when fraud is reported on election
day or thereafter, the commissions will investigate. There
will be police officers at every polling station to take
reports and duty officers in the courts to deal with the
complaints quickly. He said he personally was not concerned
about such problems as false protocols, which were a major
issue last time, but rather with the ability of the local
commissions to operate effectively.

6. (U) Melnik had high praise for the electronic voter list
project, implemented by the Project Coordinator in Ukraine
(PCU), the OSCE's field presence. He said he had just
completed a trip throughout Ukraine and was able to see
firsthand how effective the program had been.

7. (U) In a March 2 meeting, PCU head Jim Schumaker explained
that the project, which cost approximately Euros 4.5 million
and to which the U.S. was a major contributor, provided over
1000 computers, 800 printers and 27 servers to the CEC to
completely update and modernize voter lists. The project was
able to purge more than one million names from old lists,
which will greatly enhance elections' transparency and avoid
the situation in 2004, where the Kuchma administration
created phony voter lists on election day and then falsified
voting results based on those lists. In addition, the PCU
has created grassroots forums for people to meet with local
authorities to discuss issues. Schumaker noted that so far,
there has been an absence of complaints regarding the

The Opposition - Some Praise, Some Complaints

8. (SBU) In several meetings, leading candidates and
representatives of political parties had some complaints
regarding the conduct of the campaign though none accused the
GOU of trying to outright rig the elections. Most
acknowledged, either openly or grudgingly, that media freedom
was far better than before. Ambassador Finley told all party
and GOU representatives that the USG was watching closely to
determine how the March 26 elections were being conducted.
She reminded them that in a democratic system, one loss was
not forever and that no matter what happened, she urged the
parties to continue doing the work necessary to broaden their
support so that they would be in a better position next time.

9. (SBU) Party of the Regions leader (and 2004 presidential
candidate) Viktor Yanukovych noted that opposition parties
did not have the same advantages as the party in power and
claimed they had problems getting air time. He even
maintained that the Presidential Administration still sent
instructions down to media outlets from time to time, just
like under Kuchma. On the other hand, he did acknowledge
that there had been major improvements on freedom of speech.
(Note: Yanukovych on March 4 publicly attacked the
Yushchenko government as preparing massive voter fraud in an
attempt to rig the elections.)

10. (SBU) Others, however, were far less critical. Oligarch
and Party of the Regions financier and Rada candidate Rinat
Akhmetov told Ambassador Finley in a separate March 1 meeting
that the GOU deserved credit, with the help of the OSCE, for
creating a much better atmosphere, especially on media
freedom, and that opposition parties had equal access to mass
media (note: Akhmetov owns both TV stations and newspapers).
He flatly denied any assertions that the GOU was somehow
telling the media what to report, noting that they have often
been very critical of President Yushchenko.

11. (SBU) Oleksandr Turchynov, Campaign chief for the Yuliya
Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT), also admitted that the campaign was
vastly improved from those in the Kuchma era, but said the
GOU had been "too weak" to fully prevent some abuse of
administrative resources at the local level. He also showed
concrete examples of dirty tricks, done by an unknown group.
He pointed to a professionally done flyer with a photo of
Tymoshenko offering children to celebrate her birthday at
McDonald's, where they would get a free hamburger. No such
offer existed. Another example was of a poster with the
bloc's heart logo which asked people to report their
neighbors to the authorities if they did not pay their taxes.
He said these were clear attempts to undermine BYuT's
campaign. Ambassador Finley replied that unfortunately, such
things happened in more established democracies, such as the
U.S., and that the real issue was whether the candidate had
any recourse to counter the bad publicity, such as by getting
on the news or alerting people via the Internet.

OSCE Mandate

12. (SBU) During her February 28 meeting with First Deputy
Chief of Staff of the Presidential Secretariat Ivan Vasyunyk,
Ambassador Finley raised the issue of the PCU's mandate,
which had to be renewed every six months (versus once a year
for most other OSCE field presences) and which also did not
allow the PCU head to comment on political developments in
the country. Vasyunyk replied that the mandate had been
negotiated under Kuchma and was ratified by the Rada. While
the GOU is generally satisfied with the PCU's work and wants
to increase the number of Ukrainian staffers in the OSCE
Secretariat, it is also hesitant to do anything to change the

mandate, at least for the time being. Such a change would
need to be reviewed by the Rada. That could open it up to
other, less helpful changes, which would only hurt the PCU's

13. (U) Ambassador Finley cleared on this cable.

14. (U) Visit Kiev's classified website: