Election Fraud in Ukraine Presidential Vote
Yesterday's runoff presidential elections in Ukraine were tainted by massive voter fraud, Freedom House said today.
Domestic and international election monitors have determined that the atmosphere in which the election was waged was not free or balanced and that the voting process was neither fair nor honest.
"Hopes that the runoff vote would improve upon the first round of voting on October 31 and reflect the genuine will of the Ukrainian people, were regrettably not realized," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor.
The European Network of Election Monitoring (ENEMO) and the independent domestic Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) conducted extensive election monitoring efforts yesterday.
ENEMO--working in cooperation with Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute--fielded 1,000 observers from 16 countries from the former USSR and Central Europe and covered approximately 5,000 polling places throughout the country.
"ENEMO has identified a systematic pattern of violations that seem to have been planned to influence the elections," said ENEMO co-head Peter Novotny. "Given the closeness of the election, the blatant and carefully targeted violations ensured the election does not reflect the will of the Ukrainian people," he said.
Ukraine's election campaign was marked by the denial of media access to democratic opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko; media controls through the use of temnyks--theme directives from the government guiding the presentation of television news; disruptions of public rallies; official harassment, beatings and arrests of hundreds of students, election activists and civic activists, and searches of civic group offices; and a likely attempt on the life of the front-running opposition candidate.
Despite this pattern of repression and intimidation, a majority of Ukrainian voters appear to have voted for Mr. Yushchenko.
Two separate exit polls showed a clear victory by Mr. Yushchenko. One poll showed him ahead by 4 Percent, and the other -- by the Exit Poll Consortium, supported by European governments and private Western foundations -- showed Mr. Yushchenko winning by 11 percent.
However, unofficial results released by Ukraine's Central Election Commission showed incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich as the winner, by a margin of nearly 3 percent, or 800,000 votes from 30,2 million votes cast.
International and domestic monitoring missions confirmed many violations, including intimidation of election monitors, fraud, ballot stuffing, multiple voting, and government pressure on voters.
Election results indicate that most territorial districts of the Donestk region in Ukraine's east gave Mr. Yanukovich 97 percent or more of the total votes. In the neighboring region of Luhansk, amid nearly 90 percent voter turnout, most districts gave Mr. Yanukovich 92 percent or more. In short, election monitors found the most evidence of massive electoral violations in the two regions responsible for Yanukovich's large margin of supposed victory.
In public institutions, such as prisons, hospitals, and psychiatric institutions, Mr. Yanukovich won by massive margins that were often contrary to the prevailing trends in their localities.
"The flawed election administration produced results in certain election jurisdictions that frankly stretch credulity and indication gross manipulation," said Ms. Windsor.
Ukraine's democratic political and civic leaders have called for peaceful civic resistance. They already have demonstrated their commitment to nonviolence and restraint, which reflect the growing sophistication and organization of Ukraine's civil society.
In these fateful days, when Ukraine's political future and prospects for democracy hang in the balance, Freedom House recommends the following:
Additional background information on Ukraine is available on the Freedom House website:
- The United States should press vigorously for the Ukrainian parliament and judiciary to defend due process and a free and fair vote;
- The United States, the European Union, and the Council of Europe should explicitly condemn Ukraine's announced election results as fraudulent and illegitimate;
- Foreign governments should withhold recognition of the election results until a comprehensive review and redressing of the extensive election fraud is undertaken;
- Governments and international organizations should develop sanctions targeted at those Ukrainian government, electoral, and security officials, and at corrupt economic oligarchs--responsible for voter fraud, corruption, and intimidation. These sanctions should not be aimed at the Ukrainian people;
- The Community of Democracies should downgrade Ukraine's status as an electoral democracy.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.