BRAMA, Sep 28, 2004, 11:00 am ET|
Delegation of former congressmen and parliamentarians find irregularities in monitoring visit to Ukraine
September 23 Significant irregularities and improprieties have been found in the on-going presidential campaign in Ukraine by an election monitoring delegation of former Members of Congress in the Kharkiv, Poltava, and Sumy oblasts.
Five former U.S. Congressmen - John Conlan (R-AZ), Arlen Erdahl (R-MN), Jack Hightower (D-TX), Gregory Laughlin (R-TX), Andrew Maguire (D-NJ), and Tom Sawyer (D-OH) - traveled to Ukraine on July 25-31, 2004 to monitor presidential election campaign activities in the region. The communities visited were: Kupiansk, Merefa, and Vovchansk in the Kharkiv oblast; Chutove, Dykanka and Karlivka in the Poltava oblast; and Lebedyn, Okhtyrka and Trostianets in the Sumy oblast. These former congressmen were registered by the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Ukraine and accorded all the rights and privileges provided to foreign observers by Ukraine's law on presidential elections.
Ukraine is a signatory of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and therefore welcomes international observers to help secure a free and fair election. The congressmen's election monitoring activities included meetings with representatives of the main political parties, Ukrainian government officials, Central Election Committee, and U.S. officials in Kyiv. In the regions, the congressmen met with local government officials, representatives of NGOs, political parties, the media, and citizens, who shared their views and experiences of the political process in their respective communities.
Mayor of Chutove standing, Conlan & Hightower behind (Conlan full face - on left)
Key findings of the first delegation to the Kharkiv, Poltava, and Sumy oblasts
- Generally, in the communities visited, local officials were very cooperative and generously shared their time and opinions with the delegation. Local officials provided space for meetings and assisted in extending invitations to representatives of political parties, media, and NGOs to meet with the delegation. The delegation does note, however, that there were occasions when opposition parties were not informed of the meetings and, thus, were denied an opportunity to express their views and have their respective cases heard.
- In conversations with participants in the meetings attended and in conversations with ordinary Ukrainian citizens, the delegation was appalled to find that an overwhelming number do not expect the outcome of the election to be fairly decided. Those that hold this view often reply that the outcome has already been determined and that the vote count will support that determination. Independent polls verify that around 70% of the population believes this. That reinforces the view that every effort must be made by observers to ensure that the vote count is accurate and fair.
- While the delegation cannot investigate the allegations made, it does note with deep concern the repeated allegations of the systematic use of the government's administrative resources to bring pressure upon voters to support the candidate endorsed by government authorities. These reports are too numerous, consistent, and from too many different locations to be set aside; in fact they appear to the delegation to constitute a pattern of officially sanctioned political activity by government employees that is in violation of Ukraine's law on presidential elections. The delegation is very concerned about these reports and appeals to the Ukrainian government to ensure that all local government officials strictly adhere to the law. Allegations include:
- threats regarding loss of jobs predominate
- police preventing buses and automobiles from traveling to opposition rallies
- forcing government workers, teachers, and hospital workers to sign petitions for pro-government candidate, Viktor Yanukovych
- forcing regional councils to pass resolutions in support of Yanukovych
- teachers and agricultural workers given quotas to collect signatures for Yanukovych, under threat to lose vacation time or jobs
- students pressured to distribute Yanukovych literature
- even patients have been threatened with discharge from hospitals and denial of medical services if they fail to sign and pledge to vote for Yanukovych
In every community the delegation visited, they were greeted with hope and anticipation of a brighter tomorrow. They welcomed contact with the wider world and were anxious to host foreign visitors to show off their country and its potential. They deserve an opportunity to go to the polls and freely express their views and to be secure in the knowledge that all their votes are counted accurately in accordance with the law of Ukraine.
Laughlin meeting with Serhiy Kivalov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine
The delegation is a fact-finding mission and will report its findings to Ukraine's Central Election Commission, the U.S. Government, European governments, international organizations and the public through release to the mass media. The delegation does not support any candidate or political party and is only interested in helping ensure that the presidential election is free and fair.
Programming is organized by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF), in partnership with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (USAFMC) and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Foundation's second delegation traveled in August to the Cherkasy, Kyiv, and Kirovohrad oblasts and also included parliamentarians from Spain and the Netherlands. The third delegation, comprised of congressmen and a former member of the German Bundestag, traveled to the Kherson region during the week of September 19-25, 2004 to observe election campaign activities in the Kherson, Mykolayiv, and Zaporizhzhya oblasts.
The complete report can be found on the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation's website.