4. FIRST CRACKS IN THE ARMOUR OF KREMLIN’S SPIN DOCTORS

COMMENTARY: Ukrayinska Pravda, Kyiv, Ukraine,
Mon, Dec 19, 2005

The Ukrainian government, which owes its victory in the last elections,
among other things, to the international observers, now almost rejected the
participation of one of those observer missions.

On Tuesday, according to the Foreign Ministry spokesman it appeared that
international observers from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States),
supervised by its executive head Vladimir Rushaylo are not needed in
Ukraine.

This statement allowed the opposition to claim that without the
international observers from the CIS massive voting fraud would take place
during the elections, in spite of the fact that President Yushchenko had
invited observers from almost every corner of the world to come to Ukraine
in the spring.

The Foreign Ministry explained its decision in stating that “one-sided
political partiality of the CIS observer mission’s leadership during the
Presidential elections in Ukraine in 2004 led to biased and overly
ideological treatment of events, to conclusions that were distorted and far
from reality”.

However, that same evening President Yushchenko stated that he would still
personally invite “observers and people of good will from every corner of
the world including the CIS”. He didn’t specify whether he wanted to invite
this observer mission in particular or generally representatives from the
CIS.

For those who are familiar with the history of this issue the one-sided
approach of the leadership of this observer mission is not a surprise. In
2002 President Kuchma along with other leaders of the CIS signed a
Convention on Standards of Democratic Elections, on Electoral Rights and
Freedoms within the CIS. This convention, by the way, was created on the
initiative and with direct involvement of the Russian Central Electoral
Office.

There are also rumours that in 2004 the former President Leonid Kuchma had
nominated to the head of the CIS Executive Committee Mr. Rushaylo, who
worked before as the Interior Minister and the Secretary of the Russian
Security Council.
GEOGRAPHY OF CIS OBSERVERS’ BLINDNESS
Back in 2001 this same mission observed the elections of President
Lukashenko in Belarus and declared them legitimate.

In Ukraine for the first time results of observations of missions from CIS
and OSCE (The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe)
differed after the parliamentary elections of 2002. Then, observers from
the OSCE recognized the elections but pointed out the “general atmosphere
of mistrust”.

Reports of Western observers mentioned already the use of state funds,
pressure on workers of state enterprises, meddling of authorities in the
electoral process, cases of violence and pressure against oppositional
candidates, against campaign workers and voters.

Western observers pointed out also the bias of the media, especially radio
and TV. The observers drew attention to the fact that the national TV
channel financed by the state was leaning in its coverage towards
pro-president candidates.

The observer mission of the CIS didn’t see any of that. They didn’t make
any comments to this effect. The word combination “free, honest and
legitimate elections” would migrate since then from one report to the other
irrespective of the country and the events that unfolded.
UKRAINE’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN 2004
The pinnacle of cynicism for the CIS mission became the presidential
elections in 2004.

When western observes condemned widespread fraud, when carrousel
voting (voting by the same people at different stations) and other
violations at the voting stations shocked the world, and when thousands of
Ukrainians went out onto Maidan (Independence Square) the observers from
the CIS stated that the voting that took place on November 21, 2004 was
conducted “according to the election laws of Ukraine” and the observer
mission declared them “transparent, legitimate and free”.

Maybe because of statements like that President Putin was so impatient to
congratulate Mr. Yanukovych with the victory.

The further it went the better it became. Secret instructions that former
president’s administration was spreading among journalists were ordering
them to interview particularly members of the CIS mission about how the
elections were conducted.

The goal of the secret instructions was to tell Ukrainians through the
authoritative voice of the observers that in the regions that supported
Yanukovych elections proceeded calmly. At the same time another observer
from CIS had to turn everybody’s attention to numerous discrepancies in the
voter lists in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.

It happened that way not only in Ukraine.
ONE-CANDIDATE ELECTION IN UZBEKISTAN
In the same year 2004 Mr. Rushaylo’s mission didn’t notice a one-candidate
election in Uzbekistan . According to OSCE these elections didn’t live up to
the democratic norms – citizens of that state were denied the real choice
because the opposition was not allowed to compete for seats in the
parliament.

The OSCE also believed that the Uzbekistan government didn’t allow the
opposition to participate in the elections and most often it was excused by
technical violations.

Back then the Uzbekistan government declared 85% participation, but in
reality voting stations didn’t appear that crowded according to testimonies
of eyewitnesses.

Pro-Russian observers called this show transparent, democratic and perfectly
organized. “Observers recognized these elections as legitimate, free and
transparent”, declared the report.
KYRGYZSTAN IN 2005
Next country where views on elections cardinally differed between CIS and
OSCE observers was Kyrgyzstan in 2005.

Voting fraud there during the parliamentary elections led to the protests
and the downfall of President Askar Akayev’s regime, which had to flee the
country.

The OSCE declared that those elections didn’t live up to the democratic
norms and pointed out, above all, the bias of the media and even established
cases of bribery of voters.

However, even though the CIS observers did note some “drawbacks and
neglect” during the preparation to elections, they again called them
“legitimate, free and transparent”.

All that happened when thousands of citizens of Kyrgystan began to protest
widespread fraud.
IN AZERBAIJAN ELECTIONS
In Azerbaijan elections, where mostly pro-government forces won, the
Rushaylo’s mission saw “some violations”. However, according to them
these violations “were not massive and did not influence the free will of
voters and the results of the elections in any significant way”.

In the meantime, even the Azerbaijan Central Election Committee
acknowledged violations in 10 voting districts and ordered new elections.
The OSCE observer mission, however, in its report noted that elections on
the 6 of November “didn’t live up to many standards of the OSCE and the
Council of Europe”.

Interestingly enough, the CIS observers mentioned in their report President
of Azerbaijan Ilcham Aliev’s decrees that exonerated the political
opposition and allowed them actively to participate in the election
campaign.

However, in Ukraine almost everybody knows that the Azerbaijan
government didn’t allow the leader of the opposition party Rasul Guliev,
who is now a refugee, to return and participate in the elections. Also,
before the elections groups that supported the opposition were raided.
ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN KAZAKHSTAN
The last straw for Russia was the election campaign in Kazakhstan .

The OSCE again was very critical. According to the preliminary reports, in
spite of some improvements, the elections didn’t live up to a “number of
Kazakhstan’s obligations before the OSCE as well as to other international
standards concerning democratic elections”.

The OSCE also drew attention to the fact that the situation with vote
counting grew worse, that there were cases of multiple voting, of ballot
dumping and pressure on student voters.

The observers also noticed that in general in their coverage the media gave
preference to the current president Nazarbayev.

The CIS mission noted, however, that the ratio of negative and positive news
coverage about the candidates and the president demonstrated that “the state
media generally showed them as neutral or positive and the independent,
non-government media were more categorical in their coverage”.

After the next slap in the face from the western observers, the Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lost his temper and resorted to quite harsh
statements. He demanded from the west to “stop their attempts to impose
their version of democracy on Russia’s neighbours”.

In Russia they probably suspect that particularly the independent
conclusions of the OSCE lead to revolutions in the post Soviet countries.

It is no wonder then, that Russia finally lost its temper, because those in
the former Soviet capital could never abandon the role of influence in the
former soviet republics and would make maximum effort not to allow
“other” forces to come to power.

Even the Russian spin doctor Stanislav Belkovsky blurted out that “from the
Kremlin’s point of view the CIS observers are an armour in the Kremlin’s
spin wars and they have nothing to do with observing voting”. -30-

Article translated by Oleg Gorbik. Contact: ukrpravda@gmail.com

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