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Viewing cable 06KIEV1261, UKRAINE ELECTION 2006: WINNERS, LOSERS, TRENDS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1261 2006-03-30 14:02 2010-12-01 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv
Appears in these articles:
http://www.spiegel.de
VZCZCXRO7198
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #1261/01 0891451
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301451Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY KIEV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8475
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KIEV 001261

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE ELECTION 2006: WINNERS, LOSERS, TRENDS

REF: A. KIEV 1186

B. 05 KIEV 4590
C. KIEV 1081

Classified By: Ambassador, reason 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: While the results of Ukraine's March 26
parliamentary and local elections are not yet final, and
negotiations to form a majority Rada coalition have not yet
concluded, it is already clear that the elections highlighted
a number of winners and losers, as well as trends in
Ukraine's developing political landscape. Fundamentally,
voting for the Verkhovna Rada reinforced the results of the
ultimate Orange win in the 2004 presidential election with
remarkably similar aggregate numbers: a majority of
Ukrainians supported politicians/parties with overtly
pro-Western, pro-reform orientations. The 2006 results also
confirmed substantial shifts in the electorate from the 2002
Rada election. Besides Western-oriented, pro-reform
Ukrainians, winners were, first and foremost, the Tymoshenko
Bloc (BYuT), and secondarily Party of Regions and the
Socialists, plus the Democratic Initiatives Polling firm and
newly empowered locally elected authorities. The biggest
losers were Rada Speaker Lytvyn as an individual and
President Yushchenko's People's Union Our Ukraine as a party,
secondarily Orange splinter forces like Kostenko's Ukrainian
People's Party, Pora-Reforms and Order (Pora-PRP), and Yuri
Karmazin's Bloc, as well as pro-Russian hard oppositionists
Natalya Vitrenko, the SPDU(o), and the Communists. Comment:
With only five parties in the Rada, and Vitrenko forced to
reprise her role as a street-protest gadfly, the Ukrainian
political scene may actually be more stable than many had
feared leading up to the election, even though the same
intra-Orange squabbling and Orange-Blue battles are almost
guaranteed to continue in 2006 and beyond. End summary and
comment.

The real winners: Ukraine, those who were on the Maidan
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (C) While election tables from the 2006 Rada elections
will show that Regions received a 32-percent plurality, the
real winners of the March 26 election were Ukraine and the
Ukrainian people themselves, which pulled off the most
successful election among former Soviet republics outside of
the Baltics, along with a majority of Ukrainians who had
embraced a fundamentally pro-Western, pro-reform future in
2004 by voting for Yushchenko and then taking to the streets
to prevent Yanukovych and the Kuchma regime elements from
stealing victory. Despite incompetence and intra-Orange
squabbling by the "Maidan" team in office, significantly
lower growth figures, and disillusionment among ordinary
Ukrainians in 2005, voters on March 26 delivered a remarkably
similar percentage of votes to the parties who stood together
on Maidan as they had to Yushchenko in 2004; just over half
the voters voted for Orange parties or similarly oriented
forces. In the December 2004 presidential re-vote,
Yushchenko received 52% of the vote to Yanukovych's 44.
(Note: With 99.95 percent of precincts reporting, the Orange
forces of BYuT, Our Ukraine, and the Socialists will have 243
seats in the Rada, or 54 percent.)

Party winner: BYuT
------------------

3. (SBU) Based on expectations heading into the election, the
runaway winner March 26 appears to be BYuT, which most
pre-election polls for months had predicted would finish
third with around 15% of the vote. In the competition for
Maidan votes, BYuT bested Our Ukraine handily, some 22% to
14%; BYuT won pluralities in 13 central and western Ukrainian
oblasts plus Kiev, compared to only three for Our Ukraine.
BYuT also more than tripled its 2002 Rada vote (7.2%).
Furthermore, BYuT built organizations in eastern and southern
Ukraine, often running second to Regions; only BYuT and the
Socialists can currently lay claim to being truly national
parties. BYuT may have benefited from being out of
government, tapping into voter discontent, as well as being
led by the most charismatic of Ukrainian politicians, Yuliya
Tymoshenko. But BYuT's effective grass roots organization
and focused campaign tactics deserve a great deal of credit
(ref A). That leaves BYuT and Tymoshenko herself
well-positioned for future election cycles (2009
presidential, 2011 Rada).

Secondary winners: Regions and Socialists
-----------------------------------------

4. (C) While many Western press stories immediately labeled
Yanukovych and Party of Regions the "victors" in the March 26
vote based on their plurality, Regions' success is more
nuanced. Regions did not aspire to be a national party in

Kiev 00001261 002 of 004


this election cycle; instead, as Yanukovych told us in early
November 2005, Regions was running to protect its base in the
east and south against the Communists and Vitrenko (ref B).
Regions ran a well-financed, well-organized campaign,
successfully consolidating that base, which had largely voted
Communist in the 1998 and 2002 Rada elections. Regions won
the nine oblasts plus Sevastopol that Yanukovych carried in
2004, securing slightly more than two-thirds of the support
Yanukovych received then. Employing American consultants
rather than Kremlin operatives to advise it on tactics and
outreach to the media and Western interlocutors, Regions also
partially rehabilitated an image tarnished by its attempts to
steal the 2004 election. Regions' challenge looking forward
will be to develop a strategy that appeals beyond its base.

5. (SBU) The Socialists (SPU) can also be considered a
secondary winner in the 2006 cycle, even if they aspired to
more than the 5.7% they received in their predicted
fourth-place finish. The Socialists expanded a nationwide
party structure and polled nearly evenly across the country,
the only such Ukrainian political force to do so; they
confirmed party leader Olexander Moroz's 2004 presidential
first-round third-place support (5.8%), which pushed them
past the Communists for the first time as Ukraine's leading
"leftist" (in traditional European terms) force (ref B).
While the Socialist niche is modest, it is well-defined, with
a generally forward-looking, positive political agenda (its
economic ideas, however, remain antediluvian). The SPU
succeeded despite that fact that it being in power deprived
it of the chance to tap into the protest vote, which had
contributed to the SPU's 6.9% showing in the 2002 Rada
elections.

Democratic Initiatives and the Exit Poll Consortium
--------------------------------------------- ------

6. (SBU) The widely respected Democratic Initiatives (DI)
polling firm should also be considered one of the winners of
the 2006 election cycle. Alone of Ukraine's major polling
firms, DI captured the crucial dynamic of the campaign end
game -- BYuT surging, and Our Ukraine slipping -- in its
final published poll March 10 (note: Ukrainian law bans
polls two weeks prior to elections). While the Institute of
Social and Political Psychology of the Ukrainian Academy of
Pedagogical Sciences showed BYuT ahead of Our Ukraine in its
final March 10 poll, it did not have a track record of
previous polls; all other polling firms showed Our Ukraine
holding onto the 3-4% lead over BYuT it had enjoyed since
mid-January. Democratic Initiatives combined with the
Razumkov Center and the Kiev International Institute of
Sociology to run an exit poll March 26 that accurately
predicted the final results of the election, within their
stated margin of error.

Local and regional elected officials
------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The winner in the Kiev mayoral race, Leonid
Chernovetsky, shocked everyone in besting not only incumbent
Mayor Omelchenko but also ex-WBC heavyweight boxing champion
Klychko, running on the Pora-PRP ticket. Chernovetsky ran a
stealth campaign which clearly managed to secure a larger
share of the anti-Omelchenko vote than Klychko.

8. (SBU) Finally, other winners in the March 26 elections,
but which received little attention internationally, are the
oblast, town, and district councils that were elected along
with mayors. Under constitutional reform and the delayed
administrative reform, which will serve as a counterpart to
changes in governance at the national level in Kiev, these
provincial and local bodies will receive more resources and
authority in the coming years. The elections under
proportional representation clarified allegiances to voters
previously faced with many unaffiliated local strongmen,
improving accountability; the election also gives the
councils a clear democratic mandate in negotiating with the
center, including the unelected governors appointed by Kiev.

The Big Losers: Lytvyn and Our Ukraine
--------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The biggest individual loser of the 2006 election
cycle was undoubtedly Rada Speaker Lytvyn, whose eponymous
bloc failed to reach the 3-percent threshold for the Rada,
leaving Lytvyn out in the cold. Lytvyn's bloc spent more
money on advertising than any other party but Regions,
according to official Central Election Commission (CEC)
figures, and Lytvyn commanded 63 MPs in the current Rada, 15%
overall. Lytvyn's campaign suffered from fatal flaws,
however. It lacked any real organization beyond a collection
of "names" at the national and local district level, many of
whom were tainted with the Kuchmaist label (note: Lytvyn

Kiev 00001261 003 of 004


served as Kuchma's chief of staff prior to becoming Rada
Speaker in 2002). The Lytvyn bloc had no real message for
voters, beyond proposing itself and Lytvyn as a "referee" to
reunite Ukraine between warring Orange and Blue factions. In
the end, Lytvyn's vote total barely topped 600,000, the
number of members his party claimed to have.

10. (C) The biggest party loser was Yushchenko's People's
Union Our Ukraine (PUOU), the core of the Our Ukraine
election bloc, which defied pre-election polls to slump into
third place and below 14% on election day.xxxxxxxxxxxx had told us in late January that
PUOU's organization was in complete shambles, would stagger
to the election, and would need to rebuild from the ground up
afterwards. Pre-election provincial visits confirmed
xxxxxxxxxxxx gloomy assessment; Our Ukraine had no visible,
effective organization outside of Lviv and several other
western provinces, relying primarily on a slick, expensive TV
campaign and Orange Revolution nostalgia. Voters did not
respond.

11. (C) Our Ukraine's disappointing performance -- which has
been characterized by many as a defeat for Yushchenko -- is
also a reminder that Yushchenko's electorate in 2004 voted
for him out of several motivations, not just in favor of
Yushchenko. One early 2005 survey indicated that only 37
percent of those who said they had voted for Yushchenko had
done so primarily because they supported Yushchenko
personally; 34 percent did so primarily to protest Kuchmaism,
and 29 percent did so primarily to defend their right to
choose. PUOU's party leadership is currently dominated by
the same unpopular Orange oligarchs -- Poroshenko, Zhvaniya,
Tretyakov, Chervonenko -- who Yushchenko was forced to
jettison in the September 2005 government shakeup, but who
still form Yushchenko's "kitchen cabinet." Our Ukraine's
poor organization for the 2006 election cycle does not bode
well either for Yushchenko's presumed run for re-election in
2009 or for the next Rada cycle in 2011, unless it follows
xxxxxxxxxxxx advice and rebuilds its organization.

The Orange Splinters - repeating the mistakes of the 1990s
--------------------------------------------- -------------

12. (SBU) Two of the more organized party elements of the
initial five-party Our Ukraine bloc that won a 23.6%
plurality in the 2002 Rada elections, Yuri Kostenko's
Ukrainian People's Party (UPP) and the Reforms and Order
Party (PRP), decided to run independently from the Our
Ukraine bloc in 2006, primarily because of disagreements with
Yushchenko and his entourage. In doing so, they repeated the
mistake both made in 1998, when they ran separately and
failed to reach the threshold. While both factions will
enter a variety of city and provincial councils with their
modified blocs (Kostenko-Plushch, Pora-PRP), their vote
totals in the Rada race (1.9 and 1.5%, respectively), along
with that of Our Ukraine MP Yuri Karmazin, who ran separately
(0.7%), were lost.

Pro-Russian hardliner opposition - marginalized, for now
--------------------------------------------- -----------

13. (SBU) Regions' heavily pro-Russian campaign rhetoric
(pro-Russian language, anti-NATO, pro-Single Economic Space
with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan) undercut the appeal of
two parties who made the trio of issues the center of their
campaigns: Natalya Vitrenko's People's Opposition Bloc
(2.9%) and the Ne Tak! bloc centered around the SPDU(o)
(1.0%), along with the Communists (3.7%). Vitrenko ran a
vigorous street campaign, falling just short of the
threshold. The SPDU(o), which received 6.3% of the 2002 Rada
vote, bought extensive billboard ads throughout urban Ukraine
but had no organization or street presence whatsoever. The
2006 results and disappearance from the political scene
confirmed the loss that it and its leader Viktor Medvedchuk
suffered in 2004 as the most reviled force behind the
excesses of the Kuchma regime. While the Communists will
have 21 seats in the next Rada sitting, their 2006 showing is
but a shadow of the 20% they received in 2002. They ran a
nearly invisible campaign; their dedicated electorate is
dying off, and Regions has effectively taken the eastern and
southern anti-Kiev protest vote that voted communist in 1998
and 2002.

14. (C) It would be a mistake to write off the pro-Russian
marginalized opposition completely, however. Vitrenko has
proven staying power on the streets of Ukraine, with many
observers suspecting she receives financial support from
Russia. If Regions ever transforms itself into a more
Western-looking, reform-oriented force, part of its
disgruntled "protest" electorate will likely turn elsewhere
to voice its discontent. With the Communists dying and the
SPDU(o) disappearing, Vitrenko may well finally make it into

Kiev 00001261 004 of 004


the Rada as the next protest vehicle.

15. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website at:
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev.
Herbst