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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    Print
    BRAMA, Oct 5, 2004, 11:00 am ET

    Press release

    Congress passes resolution warning Ukraine to hold free and fair elections

    Washington, DC, Oct. 5, 2004 - H.Con.Res. 415 titled "Urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic, transparent, and fair election process for the presidential election on October 31, 2004" passed the House of Representatives last night.

    The resolution was introduced by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), Chairman of the International Relations Committee (HIRC) on May 5, together with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the Helsinki Commission and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), HIRC Ranking Member. 26 congressional representatives co-sponsored the bill. The original text of the bill was altered to include (8) and (9) in the Resolved section.

    The floor debate follows the text of resolution below. The identical text, minus (8) and (9) passed the Senate back in July.

    — Orest Deychakiwsky
    Helsinki Commission Staff Advisor

    *   *   *   *   *

    Whereas the establishment of a democratic, transparent, and fair election process for the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine and of a genuinely democratic political system are prerequisites... (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)
    108th CONGRESS
    2d Session

    H. CON. RES. 415
    CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
    Urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic, transparent, and fair election process for the presidential election on October 31, 2004.

    H. CON. RES. 415
    "Urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic,
    transparent, and fair election process for the
    presidential election on October 31, 2004."

    Sponsor: Rep Hyde, Henry J. [R-IL-6] (introduced 5/5/2004)

    Co sponsors:
    Rep Aderholt, Robert B. [R-AL-4] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Ballenger, Cass [R-NC-10] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Bell, Chris [D-TX-25] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Bereuter, Doug [R-NE-1] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Berman, Howard L. [D-CA-28] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Burton, Dan [R-IN-5] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD-3] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Chabot, Steve [R-OH-1] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Davis, Jo Ann [R-VA-1] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Faleomavaega, Eni F. H. [D-AS] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Gallegly, Elton [R-CA-24] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Kaptur, Marcy [D-OH-9] - 6/25/2004
    Rep King, Peter T. [R-NY-3] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Lantos, Tom [D-CA-12] - 5/5/2004
    Rep Leach, James A. [R-IA-2] - 6/25/2004
    Rep McCarthy, Karen [D-MO-5] - 6/25/2004
    Rep McCotter, Thaddeus G. [R-MI-11] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA-46] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Royce, Edward R. [R-CA-40] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Sherman, Brad [D-CA-27] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [D-NY-28] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Smith, Christopher H. [R-NJ-4] - 5/5/2004
    Rep Udall, Mark [D-CO-2] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Udall, Tom [D-NM-3] - 7/19/2004
    Rep Watson, Diane E. [D-CA-33] - 6/25/2004
    Rep Wexler, Robert [D-FL-19] - 6/25/2004

    Whereas the establishment of a democratic, transparent, and fair election process for the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine and of a genuinely democratic political system are prerequisites for that country's full integration into the Western community of nations as an equal member, including into organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO);

    Whereas the Government of Ukraine has accepted numerous specific commitments governing the conduct of elections as a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including provisions of the Copenhagen Document;

    Whereas the election on October 31, 2004, of Ukraine's next president will provide an unambiguous test of the extent of the Ukrainian authorities' commitment to implement these standards and build a democratic society based on free elections and the rule of law;

    Whereas this election takes place against the backdrop of previous elections that did not fully meet international standards and of disturbing trends in the current pre-election environment;

    Whereas it is the duty of government and public authorities at all levels to act in a manner consistent with all laws and regulations governing election procedures and to ensure free and fair elections throughout the entire country, including preventing activities aimed at undermining the free exercise of political rights;

    Whereas a genuinely free and fair election requires a period of political campaigning conducted in an environment in which neither administrative action nor violence, intimidation, or detention hinder the parties, political associations, and the candidates from presenting their views and qualifications to the citizenry, including organizing supporters, conducting public meetings and events throughout the country, and enjoying unimpeded access to television, radio, print, and Internet media on a non-discriminatory basis;

    Whereas a genuinely free and fair election requires that citizens be guaranteed the right and effective opportunity to exercise their civil and political rights, including the right to vote and the right to seek and acquire information upon which to make an informed vote, free from intimidation, undue influence, attempts at vote buying, threats of political retribution, or other forms of coercion by national or local authorities or others;

    Whereas a genuinely free and fair election requires government and public authorities to ensure that candidates and political parties enjoy equal treatment before the law and that government resources are not employed to the advantage of individual candidates or political parties;

    Whereas a genuinely free and fair election requires the full transparency of laws and regulations governing elections, multiparty representation on election commissions, and unobstructed access by candidates, political parties, and domestic and international observers to all election procedures, including voting and vote-counting in all areas of the country;

    Whereas increasing control and manipulation of the media by national and local officials and others acting at their behest raise grave concerns regarding the commitment of the Ukrainian authorities to free and fair elections;

    Whereas efforts by the national authorities to limit access to international broadcasting, including Radio Liberty and the Voice of America, represent an unacceptable infringement on the right of the Ukrainian people to independent information;

    Whereas efforts by national and local officials and others acting at their behest to impose obstacles to free assembly, free speech, and a free and fair political campaign have taken place in Donetsk, Sumy, and elsewhere in Ukraine without condemnation or remedial action by the Ukrainian Government;

    Whereas numerous substantial irregularities have taken place in recent Ukrainian parliamentary by-elections in the Donetsk region and in mayoral elections in Mukacheve, Romny, and Krasniy Luch; and

    Whereas the intimidation and violence during the April 18, 2004, mayoral election in Mukacheve, Ukraine , represent a deliberate attack on the democratic process: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress--

    1. acknowledges and welcomes the strong relationship formed between the United States and Ukraine since the restoration of Ukraine's independence in 1991;
    2. recognizes that a precondition for the full integration of Ukraine into the Western community of nations, including as an equal member in institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), is its establishment of a genuinely democratic political system;
    3. expresses its strong and continuing support for the efforts of the Ukrainian people to establish a full democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in Ukraine ;
    4. urges the Government of Ukraine to guarantee freedom of association and assembly, including the right of candidates, members of political parties, and others to freely assemble, to organize and conduct public events, and to exercise these and other rights free from intimidation or harassment by local or national officials or others acting at their behest;
    5. urges the Government of Ukraine to meet its Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) commitments on democratic elections and to address issues previously identified by the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE in its final reports on the 2002 parliamentary elections and the 1999 presidential elections, such as illegal interference by public authorities in the campaign and a high degree of bias in the media;
    6. urges the Ukrainian authorities to ensure--
      1. the full transparency of election procedures before, during, and after the 2004 presidential elections;
      2. free access for Ukrainian and international election observers;
      3. multiparty representation on all election commissions;
      4. unimpeded access by all parties and candidates to print, radio, television, and Internet media on a non-discriminatory basis;
      5. freedom of candidates, members of opposition parties, and independent media organizations from intimidation or harassment by government officials at all levels via selective tax audits and other regulatory procedures, and in the case of media, license revocations and libel suits, among other measures;
      6. a transparent process for complaint and appeals through electoral commissions and within the court system that provides timely and effective remedies; and
      7. vigorous prosecution of any individual or organization responsible for violations of election laws or regulations, including the application of appropriate administrative or criminal penalties;
    7. further calls upon the Government of Ukraine to guarantee election monitors from the ODIHR, other participating States of the OSCE, Ukrainian political parties, candidates' representatives, nongovernmental organizations, and other private institutions and organizations, both foreign and domestic, unobstructed access to all aspects of the election process, including unimpeded access to public campaign events, candidates, news media, voting, and post-election tabulation of results and processing of election challenges and complaints;
    8. strongly encourages the President to fully employ the diplomatic and other resources of the Government of the United States to ensure that the election laws and procedures of Ukraine are faithfully adhered to by all local and national officials, by others acting at their behest, and by all candidates and parties, during and subsequent to the presidential campaign and election-day voting;
    9. strongly encourages the President to clearly communicate to the Government of Ukraine , to all parties and candidates, and to the people of Ukraine the high importance attached by the Government of the United States to this presidential campaign as a central factor in determining the future relationship between the two countries; and
    10. pledges its enduring support and assistance to the Ukrainian people's establishment of a fully free and open democratic system, their creation of a prosperous free market economy, their establishment of a secure independence and freedom from coercion, and their country's assumption of its rightful place as a full and equal member of the Western community of democracies.

    Passed the House of Representatives October 4, 2004.

    *   *   *   *   *

    HOUSE FLOOR DEBATE:

    Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H . Con . Res . 415 ) urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic, transparent, and fair election process for the presidential election on October 31, 2004, as amended.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from Virginia (Mrs. Jo Ann Davis) and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Wexler) each will control 20 minutes.

    The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Virginia (Mrs. Jo Ann Davis).

    GENERAL LEAVE

    Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the concurrent resolution under consideration.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Virginia?

    There was no objection.

    Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H . Con . Res . 415 regarding free and fair elections in Ukraine. I want to commend the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman Hyde) for introducing this important and timely resolution and thank the ranking Democrat of the full committee, the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), for his strong support.

    On October 31, the people of Ukraine will go to the polls to participate in an election for their next president. The development of a strong democracy in Ukraine has been slow and difficult over the past 13 years by any measure. However, no issue will be more important to Ukraine's future standing with the West than the strength of its democracy. Therefore, this election, in many ways represents a historic opportunity for the people of Ukraine to decide whether or not democracy can flourish in this important nation.

    Ukraine has an obvious need to maintain positive relations with its neighbor, Russia. But with its resources and economic potential, Ukraine can and should be an important element in the further stabilization of Europe. However, its long-term commitment to democracy is the only way Ukraine can become a full partner with the democracies of the Euro-Atlantic community. Because of the importance of relations between Ukraine and the West, Ukraine has been reassured time and again that the door to the West remains open. This month will be a crucial test of whether the Ukrainian people and their government are willing to make the effort to walk through that door.

    Regrettably, recent statements and actions by some in the current political leadership have raised concerns in the international community and in this Congress about whether this election will be open and fair. Based on problems witnessed in the past elections in Ukraine, I believe it is important that Ukraine's leaders understand that this election will be regarded as a litmus test of Ukraine's commitment to democracy and to its future in Europe.

    It seems incomprehensible to me that with the rocky relationship the West has had at times with the outgoing leadership in Kiev, that either of the major candidates running for election would want his victory tainted by an unfair electoral process, biased media coverage, and even thuggery.

    Why would the next President of Ukraine want to spend the next 5 years under a cloud of legitimacy?

    Many visitors to Ukraine, including several from this House over the past few months, have raised the issue of free and fair elections. All have been reassured by President Kuchma, Prime Minister Yanukovich, Foreign Minister

    Gryshcenko, and Speaker of the Parliament, Lytvyn, that every effort will be made to meet the government's commitment for a free and fair election. I am afraid, however, that in many instances thus far, the rhetoric has not been matched by the actions.

    At the Subcommittee on Europe markup of this resolution in June, our former subcommittee chairman, Doug Bereuter, noted that they would hold those government officials to their word. We know that Ukraine's leaders have heard our message, but we are concerned that some of them are not taking that message seriously.

    H . Con . Res . 415 notes the importance of the presidential election to the success of Ukraine's transition to democracy. The resolution addresses reports of government harassment of those who support opposition candidates and of threats and violence against opposition leaders and their families. It speaks to allegations of harassment of independent media in Ukraine and about allegations of possible outright election fraud.

    The resolution stresses how important it will be for President Kuchma and other senior officials to take active steps to ensure that the kinds of foul play seen in past elections do not become the norm during the remainder of this presidential election.

    Finally, the manager's amendment which has been included also includes language calling on the United States Government to ensure that all of Ukraine's election laws are being followed by the presidential candidates and those working on their behalf.

    Mr. Speaker, we in the Congress remain committed to assisting Ukraine in building a stable, democratic and prosperous nation. What better way for President Kuchma to leave office than to ensure that the people of Ukraine have a free and fair choice as to who will lead them over the next 5 years?

    We hope the elections in just a few weeks' time will prove that Ukraine too shares these same goals.

    I urge adoption of this resolution.

    Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

    Mr. WEXLER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friends and colleagues, the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and Doug Bereuter for sponsoring this important resolution, as well as the gentlewoman from Virginia (Mrs. Jo Ann Davis).

    Mr. Speaker, this resolution reaffirms U.S. Congressional support for the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people and the establishment of a genuine democracy in Ukraine. Given the importance of Ukraine to the stability of southeastern Europe and the strong ties between the Ukrainian and American people, we must make every effort to put the relationship between our two nations on a strong and democratic footing.

    Unfortunately, the conduct of the previous parliamentary and presidential elections in Ukraine was judged to be flawed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We in Congress had hoped that the Government of Ukraine had learned from its past mistakes, but all the evidence elected collected so far about the conduct of this year's presidential campaign points otherwise.

    As the Ukrainian presidential election approaches in just 3 weeks, the prospect for the election to be free and fair seems bleak.

    Despite high-level protests by the United States government and the Congress over the continued manipulation and control of the media by national and local Ukrainian officials, these violations have continued unabated and raise grave concerns regarding the commitment of the Ukrainian Government to free and fair elections.

    I am also uneasy about the efforts of the Government of the Russian Federation to tilt the election in favor of the presidential candidate from the ruling party.

    Mr. Speaker, Ukraine has been a country at the crossroads for the past 12 years. This election will show the world whether the Ukrainian Government is committed to democracy and the rule of law. It will also serve as an indicator of the Ukraine's readiness to become a valuable member of the Western community of democracies.

    Congressional consideration of this resolution today, just 3 weeks before the presidential election, sends an important message to the Ukrainian electorate and the Ukrainian political elite that the U.S. Congress cares deeply about the political future of Ukraine.

    Mr. Speaker, the United States seeks a strong and lasting relationship with Ukraine. Ukraine has already shown its good will by joining coalition forces in Iraq. However, history has shown that the most enduring and fruitful alliances can be sustained between genuine democracies which share the same values and aspirations.

    I would like to express my sincere hope that Ukraine will succeed in conducting a democratic and fair election. Ukraine will then be on a firm path of becoming a full-fledged member of Europe.

    I strongly urge my colleagues to support this resolution.

    Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I yield as much time as he may consume to my colleague the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith).

    Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the House moved to the timely consideration of H . Con . Res . 415 , which calls upon the government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic, transparent and fair election process for that country's presidential elections that are about to take place on October 31. As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I join the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman Hyde) in sponsoring this important resolution. H . Con . Res . 415 makes clear the expectation that Ukrainian authorities should, consistent with their own laws and international agreements, ensure an election process that enables all of the candidates to compete on a level playing field.

    International attention, Mr. Speaker, is now rightly focused on ensuring free, fair, open and transparent presidential elections on October 31, with a second round likely on November 21. These elections are critically important to the future of Ukraine, yet we see on a daily basis an election campaign that seriously calls into question Ukraine's commitment to OSCE principles.

    Without exaggeration, Ukraine is facing a critical election, a choice not only between Euro-Atlantic integration versus reintegration into the former Soviet Eurasian space, but a choice between further development toward a European-style democracy, such as in Poland or Hungary, versus the increasingly authoritarian system that prevails in Russia today.

    Unfortunately, the pre-election environment in Ukraine gives great cause for concern. Ukrainian voters clearly are not receiving balanced and objective information about all of the candidates in the race. Ukraine's state-owned television channels are heavily biased against the democratic opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who is leading in the polls nevertheless.

    Independent media providing Ukrainians with objective information about the campaign, including channel 5, are being shut down in various regions. Journalists who do not follow the secret instructions from the presidential administration, it is called temnyky, are harassed and even fired. Given the stakes in these elections, Mr. Speaker, we should not be surprised that the ruling regime has launched an all-out campaign against the free media and against the opposition, the most recent of numerous examples being the highly suspicious poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko.

    In addition, numerous obstacles to a free and fair political campaign have been placed by the national authorities, including intimidation of citizens, candidates and campaigns, the harassment of citizen expressions of political views, and the illegal use of State resources to promote the candidacy of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

    Equal conditions for candidates, including unimpeded access to media, and an end to the intimidation and harassment of candidates and citizens must be provided during the remainder of the presidential campaign and will be key in determining whether or not the Ukrainian presidential elections will be judged as free and fair by the OSCE and the international community.

    The elections will be a watershed for the future direction of that country.

    Ukraine has tremendous potential. An independent, democratic Ukraine where the rule of law prevails is vital to the security and stability of Europe. Ukrainian authorities need to radically improve the election environment, however, if there is to be hope for these elections to meet those standards.

    Mr. Speaker, this resolution urges the Ukrainian government to guarantee freedom of association and assembly, and it is not guaranteed now; ensure full transparency of the election process; free access for Ukrainian and international election observers; and unimpeded access by all candidates to the media on a nondiscriminatory basis.

    I urge all Members to support this.

    Mr. WEXLER. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of the time.

    Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Murphy). The question is on the motion offered by the gentlewoman from Virginia (Mrs. Jo Ann Davis) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution, H . Con . Res . 415 , as amended.

    The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the concurrent resolution, as amended, was agreed to.

    A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.



    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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