Hyperbolic or inflammatory assessments and assertions bordering on distortion have marred any potentially intelligent and objective analysis. Here are a few examples from relatively respected Western publications and spoke persons:
“Ukraine’s streak of four relatively democratic national elections, from 2004 to 2012, has come to an end with the October 28 parliamentary vote. The 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which fields the largest and most credible election observation missions, in a preliminary statement today said the vote represented and apparent reversal in Ukraine's democratic progress.”
“The parliamentary elections of 2012 approach the elections of 2004 in dirtiness.”
“On Nov. 12, Ukraine's Central Election Commission issued the results of the parliamentary elections held on Oct. 28. Zhanna Usenko-Chornaya, deputy chair of the Central Election Commission, passed the judgment: 'the dirtiest elections in Ukraine's history.' The European Parliament, the European Commission, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly offered similar assessments.”
“...the government used its control over the majority of the Central Election Commission to falsify tight single-mandate races. In the end the commission refused to acknowledge the opposition victories in five-single mandate constituencies and called new elections there.”
I even heard a comparison of Ukraine's parliamentary elections to elections in the Russian Federation.
The reality is that compared with the Russian election, Ukraine's November 2004 presidential election, Ukraine's presidential February 2010 election and Ukraine's local October 2011 elections, the Oct. 28 elections were a step towards democracy. The OSCE, including the ODIHR, OSCE PA, PACE, EP and NATO PA have issued two reports, one dated Oct. 29 and the most recent dated Nov. 9. The earlier one concluded:
“The 28 October parliamentary elections were characterized by the lack of a level playing field, caused primarily by the abuse of administrative resources, lack of transparency of campaign and party financing, and lack of balanced media coverage. Certain aspects of the pre-election period constituted a step backward compared with recent national elections. Voters had a choice between distinct parties. Election Day was calm and peaceful overall. Voting and counting were assessed mostly positively. Tabulation was assessed negatively as it lacked transparency.”
The more recent report addressed the issue of tabulation and stated “the tabulation process was assessed negatively in 77 of the 161 DEC (district election commissions, of which there are 225) where it was observed by the OSCE/ODIHR EOM (election observation mission). The main problems reported immediately after Election Day included DEC premises with insufficient space, overcrowding, tension, and tampering with election materials submitted by the PECs (precinct election commission). The lengthy process of PEC results was exacerbated by long breaks announced by some DECs and by the very high number of PECs that were obliged to compile corrected protocols because of minor mistakes or because figures in their protocols could not be reconciled...In a positive step, the CEC (Central Election Commission) posted the election results by polling station on its website; however, some essential data such as the number of invalid votes or the number of voters who received ballots, were not included.”
Nowhere in the two OSCE reports can the following language be found:”Ukraine's streak of four relatively democratic national elections, from 2004 to 2012, has come to an end with the Oct. 28 parliamentary vote;” or “The parliamentary elections of 2012 approach the election of 2004 in dirtiness;” “the dirtiest elections in Ukraine's history.” Clearly, nowhere in the OSCE reports is there a reference or comparison with Russian elections.
The outburst by a deputy chair of the CEC, made many days prior to the CEC issuing final results was unsubstantiated, clearly inflammatory even in its absolute terminology “dirtiest election” and never endorsed by the Commission or any of its members. Attributing that outburst to the entire commission is an intentional attempt to mislead.
Furthermore, in the five districts where the CEC voided the elections, the winners were not opposition candidates. In fact the final results had Party of Regions' candidates leading in two districts, independents leading in two others and the United Opposition leading in only one.
I am not writing this piece to exonerate the Yanukovych regime. Clearly, that regime worked very diligently and nefariously in the pre-election campaign. However, the election itself was major victory for the people of Ukraine, who worked equally diligently and scrupulously to ensure, as best they could, a relatively free and accurate result. The results have to be considered in the analysis.
Frankly, I am not sure as to the motivation behind much of the Western hyperbole at best and distortion at worst surrounding the election. I do think that it lessens Western credibility for future assessments, advice and influence. More importantly it was and continues to be a great disservice to the Ukrainian people.
Askold S. Lozynskyj is an attorney, former president of the Ukrainian World Congress and has served as an international election observer in Ukraine since 1990, including the Oct 28 parliamentary election.