End Note: MONITORS EVALUATE UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
U.S. URGES FREE AND FAIR RUNOFF ELECTION IN UKRAINE. The U.S. State Department on 2 November called for Ukrainian officials to ensure a free and fair second round of presidential elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The State Department said such an election would contribute to Ukraine's development as a stable democracy. In other news, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 November that Russian Premier Vladimir Putin telephoned President Kuchma the same day to congratulate him on his showing in the first round of the election. A press spokesman said the two also discussed bilateral trade matters. PB
UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS DETAIN SUSPECTED KUCHMA ASSASSIN. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said on 2 November that it has arrested a man suspected of planning an attack on President Leonid Kuchma, AP reported. The SBU said the man has admitted to having accomplices. It did not release his name. During the election campaign, several opposition candidates claimed there were plots to assassinate them, but no evidence was produced and such reports were dismissed as an election ploy to gain sympathy from voters. The only attack against a presidential candidate occurred on 2 October, against Natalya Vitrenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). PB
MONITORS EVALUATE UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS
Monitoring organizations unanimously agree that voting in Ukraine's 31 October presidential election was conducted in a peaceful and orderly fashion. The Committee of Ukrainian Voters (CVU), the International Republican Institute, and a joint statement by the Council of Europe and the OSCE all said that their monitors had seen minor infringements of the election law but these were insufficient to affect the outcome. They agreed that most violations seemed to be the result of ignorance or incompetence rather than deliberate fraud.
The CVU did not gain official accreditation for its monitors because the Ukrainian government was giving such credentials only to foreign or international groups. The OSCE has called this discrepancy a "backward step" in the election law. But the CVU managed to send to polling stations some 16,000 people accredited as journalists.
Igor Popov, head of the CVU, said that those observers found a large number of violations of the election law...but our general conclusion is that these violations have not significantly influenced the results of the election. We want to emphasize that the candidates who will go on to the second round were those really supported by Ukrainian voters."
Popov noted that the gap between the first and second places, taken by incumbent Leonid Kuchma and challenger Petro Symonenko, and the third place is so large that the 300,000 to 400,000 votes considered questionable by the CVU could not invalidate the results.
The CVU's Yevhen Radchenko divided violations into three types: electioneering on voting day, misconduct in the voting and counting processes, and, worst of all, interference by government officials.
"The third group of violation, to our mind, is the most serious and dangerous that we detected," he commented. "These are violations committed by officials who are not legally participating in the election process. These officials often directly or indirectly intervened in the election process."
In polling stations across the country, many election committees consisted of employees from one government institution, while committee heads were most often Kuchma appointees. For example, in one polling station in Irpin, a small town just outside Kyiv, more than half of the committee members worked at the forestry institute at which voting took place, and the head of the institute was present all day during polling as an official observer for Kuchma. Speaking to RFE/RL, the institute head said he had told all his staff to cast their ballots for Kuchma. But he rejected the idea that his presence during voting in any way influenced the vote.
All the monitoring groups expressed deep concern at the conduct of the election campaign, which, they said, was characterized by media manipulation, illegal government participation, and even violence. The OSCE's report was especially damning on government interference prior to voting. It said that political intervention on behalf of incumbent President Kuchma had been undertaken by security forces, the post office, and housing authorities.
Simon Osborne, head of the OSCE mission in Ukraine, told journalists in Kyiv on 1 November that the election observers mission received "numerous verified reports that public officials in state institutions were campaigning in favor of the incumbent president."
For example, Osborne said, "observers noted that heads of state administrations in eight oblasts at various levels openly urged voters to vote for the president." Furthermore, the election mission "received numerous allegations that postal workers were distributing campaign materials for President Kuchma and that [housing authority] employees were canvassing support for the incumbent president in at least four oblasts. In the latter case, the involvement in the election campaign could easily be perceived as intimidation," according to the OSCE official.
The OSCE also heavily criticized the lack of independent coverage in state-run media. The organization said this reporting overwhelmingly favored Kuchma.
The author is an RFE/RL corespondent based in Kyiv. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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