Ukraine's Opposition Fraud

By FrontPage Magazine | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004 @ 9:43PM

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The Election in Ukraine suffered not only from government fraud, as has been widely reported. I know because I was a member of a group of 62 U.S. and foreign observers sponsored by the Institute for the Study of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Eastern Europe, a nonpartisan think-tank based in Israel.

We monitored some 25 to 30 urban and rural polling stations across the greater Kiev metropolitan area. Our group did find discrepancies between voter registration lists and actual voters during the first round of the two-stage election in some of the polling stations we inspected, but these were corrected by special legislation before the second round occurred.

We can attest however that the Ukrainian elections officials at those polling stations made every effort to ensure that the elections were fair and legal. We observed no violations of the elections laws and regulations by anybody associated with the Ukrainian government at the polling stations we visited.

Nor was there any apparent interference by the authorities with the people’s right to a free vote — an observation affirmed by the impressively high turnout.

In fact, all of the major violations we witnessed at various polling stations were engineered by the orange-clad supporters of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Time after time, we witnessed blatant interference by the opposition party’s “orange” monitors inside some of the polling stations — all of them easily identifiable in orange-colored clothes and scarves. They routinely intimidated voters by hovering over them and even escorting them to the booths to see how they voted — acts that interrupted the orderly flow of voters at many polling places.

Nor were some foreign observer delegations exempt from strident partisanship. We took photos of an Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) automobile with two flags on its fenders, one its own and the other the orange flag of Yushchenko’s political party.

The flagrant mounting of the opposition party’s flag next to its own certainly calls into question the neutrality of those OSCE election watchdogs. It should have set off alarms among media observers, yet it never rated a mention in European and American press reports.

While Yushchenko’s followers have based much of their call for a new election on claims that exit polls showed their man winning, we observed no independent elect ion polls being conducted at the polling stations we monitored.

Only the opposition party’s “monitors” took notes of voters’ activities and interruptions that they themselves caused; notes that we could only conclude must have served as in their subsequent claim about exit poll results.

Nevertheless, the staff at the polling stations we visited were able to ensure that citizens were able to vote freely; and the votes were subsequently counted meticulously.

Because of our direct observations, we were dumfounded by post-election protests we saw in downtown Kiev early in the morning after the elections.

A large stage with huge TV monitors was in place; huge banners were hung on nearby buildings overnight; orange flags, banners and spray-painted carnation s were everywhere — all testaments to well-funded advance preparations for the “spontaneous” outrage by the opposition leaders and their supporters.

The activities we witnessed in greater Kiev, along with the ensuing civil disobedience, seemed to us to be a pre-planned campaign to seize power for Yushchenko. However, these protests were reported without skepticism by members of the Western press.

Our eyewitness account of he election we witnessed, does not imply that similar events took place elsewhere, or that the government did not engage in similar activities or worse. It only shows that widespread violations were apparently the rule on both sides.

If a true democracy, a concept new to Ukraine, is to prevail there, all of its aspiring leaders must realize that it is the public will as recorded in a legitimate voting process — not street demonstrations by one candidate’s supporters — that must determine the winners and losers.

Rachel Ehrenfeld, Ph.D., is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and author of many publications, including several books, the most recent:Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It.

Categories: U.S. Policy, Ukraine

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