Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe: U.S. Helsinki Commission
Ukraine’s Upcoming Elections: A Pivotal Moment
Yehvenia Tymoshenko – daughter of imprisoned former prime minister Yulia
David Kramer – President, Freedom House
Stephen B. Nix,
Eurasia, International Republican Institute (IRI);
Eurasia, National Democratic Institute (NDI);
Europe and Asia, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
The Hearing Was Held From 2:00 p.m To 3:30 p.m in 1310 Longworth House Office
Building, Washington, D.C., Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) Moderating
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Federal News Service
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ): We do have a vote and a series of votes,
and then, you know, Dr. Burgess and I and the other members of the commission
will start and go as far as we can before we have to rush to the other vote,
and then we’ll come right back. So I apologize and ask you to bear with that
Welcome to this Helsinki Commission hearing on the October 28th parliamentary
elections in Ukraine. Even though the actual voting is still five months away,
in the hope of – that matters great can still be properly addressed, we believe
it is important to focus attention now. Ukraine’s past four national
elections, two presidential and two parliamentary, have met international
democratic standards. They received positive assessments from the OSCE-led
international observation missions and other international observers.
But given Ukraine’s democratic backsliding under Viktor Yanukovych, we still
have reason to be concerned about the pre-election climate and watchful for
attempts to skew the conditions in which the campaigns will be conducted.
The October 2010 elections, the local elections, and more recently the March
mayoral elections, were problematic, and Ukraine’s general backsliding is very
troubling. We see it in the independence of the judiciary, in corruption,
tightening controls over the media and harassment of NGOs. All these things
could have – could also have a debilitating impact on the election process.
Concerns that are emerging then – are emerging that in addition to potential
overt voting day election-rigging, more subtle measures of manipulation may
already be taking place, such as putting pressure on opposition candidates to
not run or to switch allegiances to the ruling regime’s party. Equally
disconcerting – and I would say disgusting – is the unjust imprisonment of
political opposition leaders from Prime Minister – former Prime Minister
Tymoshenko to former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, removing their
participation in the elections and casting a shadow over the entire election
Of course everyone remembers that last October, former prime minister
Tymoshenko was given a seven-year sentence on Soviet-era specious charges of
abuse of office in a highly irregular judicial process, that nobody’s buying,
specifically for signing a 2009 gas contract with Russia, allegedly without
approval from the cabinet of ministers. Unless she and other senior foreign
government officials are released from prison and restored to their full
potential and civil rights, the October elections will, by the very fact of
their imprisonment, be tainted. The imprisonment of leading opposition figures
alone is so significant and so outrageous that they will make it impossible for
the international community to assess these elections as having met
international democratic standards.
These elections are a litmus test for Ukrainian democracy of the degree and
kind of democracy it still has. The election process, including the
pre-election environment – registration, campaign voting, counting and
tabulation – will tell us a lot about Ukraine’s future course. Will Ukraine
continue sliding towards authoritarianism or will it resume its path to
Another factor here is that, in 2013, Ukraine will assume the leadership of the
OSCE, which makes it even more important that these elections be conducted in
line with OSCE standards of freedom and fairness. If not, Ukraine’s
chairmanship itself will be under a cloud.
As a long-time advocate of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in
Ukraine, I hope that the Yanukovych government will not tear Ukraine away from
its recent tradition of free and fair national elections and will permit a
genuinely democratic election process, one in which political parties and
candidates compete on a level playing field, there exists equitable media
access, and the balloting is conducted in a manner that instills confidence.
And again, those who have been imprisoned absolutely must be released.
I’d like to now turn to my friend and colleague Dr. Burgess, a fellow
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL BURGESS (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I’ll forgo an
opening statement because of the pendency of votes and I am anxious to hear
from our witnesses. I will just say that I’ve become increasingly concerned,
from what I’ve read in the lay press, about the medical condition of former
prime minister Tymoshenko and the necessity of getting her the medical help
that she needs in addition to securing her release from what sounds like an
So I’ll yield back and resume after votes.
REP. SMITH: We – before getting to our panel of witnesses, we do have a very
important panelist who will be testifying from Kiev. Yevheniya, who’s the
daughter of the former prime minister, has graciously agreed to join us and
will speak to us.
And again, we may have to leave – we will have to leave at some point. If she
can hang on, we will come back and ask some questions. But I would like to
open up that – open up the connection.
And I would also ask that any of our panelists, when Dr. Burgess and I leave,
have a question they’d like to pose to her, you know, we’ll keep the record
going here so that you can pose such a question to her.
Please proceed, and thank you so much for joining us and for the very
courageous stand and defense of your mother.
YEVHENIYA TYMOSHENKO (via Skype): Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope that
you can hear me because I cannot hear what Mr. Chairman was saying. Can you
REP. SMITH: Yes, we can hear you just fine. Thank you.
MS. TYMOSHENKO: OK, thank you so much for the introduction and for this
opportunity to speak today to you. I just wanted to briefly summarize the
latest events that happened here in Kiev in regards to my mother and other
First of all, I wanted to mention that the recent incident that I think you all
heard of is when my mother was taken by force to a hospital and beaten by the
prison guards. When I found out, it was already four days after the attack
happened, and the authorities were hoping that her bruises will disappear. And
they only met the defense team after some senator – (inaudible) – that they
thought of just to cover up this incident. But eventually, we could come in
after four days, and we saw the results of the beating.
I heard my mother’s statement, and we made straight away official appeals to
the prison, to the prosecutors about this incident. We made official request
for the video of this instance to be shown and given to us. She also asked the
medical team – independent medical team from the members of Parliament, from
all the factions – to come and visit and make expertise statement. She also,
during the two days, gave the account – showed the bruises to the medical team
in prison and prosecutors that she called especially to record the bruises.
This all was done, but now defense team also, during the investigation that was
mounted by the prosecutor’s office, didn’t have any chance to see the medical
card where bruises were recorded. We were officially replied by the prison
authorities that this video of this incident doesn’t exist.
Also there were a lot of falsifications with information about this attack
because, first of all, the head of the prison said that he didn’t see the
bruises. And afterwards, when it all became evident and because of Karpachova
ombudsman – actually we – the world could see the bruises, they started
thinking of more and more ways to falsify this information. And that is why it
is really surprising for us to hear that Prime Minister Azarov (ph) in Brussels
two days ago stated that he saw that video, and he didn’t see any violence on
this video. So either Mr. – Prime Minister Azarov (ph) was lying about this or
a video does exist. But why didn’t authorities show it right after the
incident to dismiss all kinds of conspiracy behind it and so-called false
accusations? So this hasn’t been done. None of the diplomats were allowed in,
and we’re still very sure that the authorities are now trying to cover up this
Of course, more important, more than this what is worrying us know is the legal
aspect of the case because so far the last court of appeal, which was scheduled
for the 15th of May and all the people involved could make sure that they
looked at the case, obviously because – reasons of – to dismiss it. There was
– that there’s no legal grounds to call my mother a criminal or to sentence
her. And we’re very thankful to Danish Helsinki Committee – to claim and to
make their statement – conclusions after very thorough research that this case
against my mother is politically motivated. So are the next case that was
closed by the Supreme Court in 2005 by 56 judges and prosecutors general. So
now they are illegally reopening this old new case.
We knew General Prosecutor Pshonka claims that 56 judges in the Supreme Court
and general prosecutor made illegal act by closing this case. So why don’t we
also make attempt to ask the people who closed this case and bring them to the
witness stand and make sure they state why they closed this case? So far we’re
not hoping for any justice in the court because the appeal courts and the last
court of appeal were held by the people who are completely subordinate to the
regime, they’re subordinate to the high council of justice, the majority of –
the majority of members of which are subordinate to the president and
So far, these two cases – the two appeals that happened in the last month,
they’ve been held exactly in the same manner as the first court when my mother
was sentenced. None of the evidence was looked at. No defense strategy
(remarked ?) or were listened to. And so far, we really have no hope because
they – even the president who claims that the courts – that the trial would let
– not under European standards, they didn’t make any kind of move towards
solving the situation, not only just about my mother, but about a case for
other political prisoners now that have been imprisoned without sentence for
over a year and now have been sentenced – some of them been sentenced with no
criminal basis and illegally.
There is also another major aspect in this situation with political prisoners
is the humanitarian and medical aspects. So far, in – during all this time –
and for some prisoners, it’s over a year now, more than one year and a half
for, say – (inaudible) – Mr. Lutsenko. They have – (inaudible) –
REP. SMITH: Excuse me, Yevheniya, if I could be so rude to interrupt, we have
– Dr. Burgess and I – about 45 seconds to get to the floor of the House and
vote. We have four votes; it should be relatively quick, but the hearing will
stand down in recess. We will turn this into a briefing for a few moments
because we do have some – a very distinguished panel who, I believe, would like
to ask you a question or two. Then we’ll come back and resume the hearing, if
that would be OK with all?
So we stand in momentary recess. I would ask again if the panelists – if they
have questions, if they would want to come up here, because those mics don’t
work for some reason, on the hookup, and then we’ll resume the hearing as soon
MR.: (Inaudible) – the witnesses – (audio break) – the hearing becomes a
briefing and because the congressmen don’t want to miss any of Ms. Tymoshenko’s
statement, we’re going to – we’re going to interrupt that statement for the
witnesses to the hearing will come up to the dais and we can – we can have a
question and answer, which should still be very fruitful. Of course it will be
part of the transcript, on the record. And as soon as the members are done
voting, I’m sure they’ll hurry back and we’ll resume the testimony and the
Who’d like to start with a question?
MR.: (Off mic.)
MR. NIX: Can you hear me?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yes. I cannot distinguish very much what you’re saying, Mr.
Chairman. I’m sorry.
MR. NIX: Ah, OK. Well, let me – let me try. Is this any better?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: A little bit better.
MR. NIX: OK. I have just a procedural question related to your mother’s case.
Our understanding is that there is an appeal filed with the European Court of
Human Rights. Do you have any information as to when the court might rule on
MS. TYMOSHENKO: I’m afraid I cannot – (inaudible).
MR. NIX: Uh-huh, OK. Can’t hear –
MS. TYMOSHENKO: I think it’s – the sound is getting lost.
MR. MILOSCH: Do you want to try my microphone?
MR. NIX: Is this any better? Can you hear me now?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: No, I’m sorry, I cannot hear the question. Maybe it’s
possible to type it on the – on the chat here, on the messages, and then I can
answer, because – it’s possible –
MR. MILOSCH: OK. I think we have a little clarity here. We can hear her well
and she doesn’t hear us at all. What – we’re going to stop here while we –
while Randy (sp), who’s been the wiz who’s made this work, is going to adjust
the connection so that we can talk and she will hear. We will pick up again in
two or three minutes.
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yes. Maybe – can you repeat maybe the question, you know,
just to me in the microphone so I can hear it, because I cannot hear what is
said in the microphone at the round table.
MR.: Please, yes.
MS. TYMOSHENKO: OK. Could you please the question – (inaudible).
MR. NIX: OK. Let me repeat my question. Our understanding is that your
mother’s attorneys have filed an appeal with the European Court of Human
Rights. (In foreign language.)
MS. TYMOSHENKO: I can’t – I can’t hear. Is it possible just to repeat it –
someone to repeat it close to him or – (inaudible) – computer?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yes, I can hear you if you speak close to the screen, then I
can hear. But I cannot hear from the microphone on the table.
MR. NIX: OK, we’ll try it again. Can you hear me now?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yes, yes.
MR. NIX: Great. OK. (Inaudible.) This is Stephen Nix asking the question.
We understand the – your mother’s attorneys have filed an appeal at the
European Court of Human Rights. And my question was merely, do you have any
idea when the court – when you might expect to receive a ruling – a decision
from that court?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Thank you. We have filed several appeals to the European
Court of Human Rights. At first it was in general about the case – the gas
case. And in general then added about the other cases that’s been filed
against my mother, which was the latest accusation. That – the papers and the
documents from the government were passed just a month ago. And today it was
the last day for us to provide our plight to the government’s comment. And so
we have done so today. And now we are waiting for the European Court of Human
Rights to announce the date of the first hearing on the general case.
Also, our defense – (inaudible) – to European Court of Human Rights, issue of
medical treatment for my mother after the incident when she was unconscious for
two hours. (Inaudible) – didn’t receive medical treatment. European Court of
Human Rights made a substantive decision on the 15th of March and to demand
Ukrainian government to treat her in a specialized clinic by independent
doctors. So far, for two months almost, this decision was not fulfilled,
although it had to be fulfilled straight away by the government of Ukraine.
My mother for – (inaudible) – appealed for – to government of Ukraine to
provide her with access of the doctor – of the professor who she trusts, which
is Ukrainian professor. For two months she’s been rejected to have this right.
And now, after she’s been moved to the hospital, but we’re really only hope
now for the decision of the European Court of Human Rights – (inaudible) – the
general cases and her illegal arrest, the impossibility to participate in the
political life but also other – (inaudible) – breaches of her rights that been
going on for months now, like, for example, breach of private information
according to Article 8, et cetera, et cetera.
MR. NIX: Thank you. Just a follow-up question then, have you had the
opportunity to speak with President Grybauskaite of Lithuania since her visit
to your mother or have you had the opportunity to speak with U.S. ambassador
John Tefft after his visit?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: I personally didn’t have the chance to do that because I was
always time traveling to see my mother in hospital. But Dr. – (name inaudible)
– member of the team. and Mr. Vlasenko, the defense lawyer, had the chance to
speak to the Ambassador Tefft after the meeting. But I know that my mother
outlined the critical situation that she’s in illegally politically kept in a
medical inhumanitarian way. And she outlined that in hospital she’s under very
strict illegal surveillance by video cameras, that her rights for privacy are
And she, just two days ago, refused to go for treatment and now she –
(inaudible) – after the authorities admitted some of these breaches of rights
and tried to correct. So we’ll see. But – so I didn’t – I didn’t manage to
meet personally – to speak to ambassador and president.
MR. KRAMER: Yevheniya, this is David Kramer from Freedom House. I wanted to
ask you about the – your view of the reaction of the international community.
Are you and your mother satisfied with how the European Union and the United
States have responded to this situation?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yes. We’re very much thankful to the – to the support and the
– (inaudible) – protest against the repression in Ukraine that’s been going on
since arrests – (inaudible) – but specifically after my mother’s been violently
attacked in prison. So far, you know, we just think that if it wasn’t for this
support, I wouldn’t know what would happen to my mother, whether she would be
completely isolated or would have any hope at all for her release or for any
justice for other political prisoners.
What I wanted to add, if I may, is that my mother today – (inaudible) – applied
and – (inaudible) – to the FATS (sp) organization to ask them to publicly start
investigation into – (inaudible) – activities of – (inaudible) – in Ukraine.
She believes that only this way, when this investigation can start and the
facts of this breach of law by these high officials. I know they’ve been
investigated by journalists and on few occasions already, the countries –
certain countries, the prosecution have started investigation of – in this
incident. And she also is asking if it’s possible that after many months of
insisting that it’s the only way the regime will stop its illegal activity is
by starting this kind of public investigation so that – (inaudible) – to really
ask that. Also, she’s asking and all political prisoners are asking – who
actually admit officially in some way, if it’s possible, that they are
political prisoners, that they are prisoners of consciousness, because the, for
example, official definitions of this (firm ?) completely corresponds to –
(inaudible) – and the reasons why they – the reason they are political.
MS. FOX: Can you hear me?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yes.
KATIE FOX: Hi. I’m Katie Fox. I’m from the National Democratic Institute.
Now, I would like to ask you what – as Chairman Smith mentioned the electoral
process – for the parliamentary elections has already been tainted by the
exclusion of a major political figure, your mother. But could you also comment
on additional problems that you may expect to see, if any, in this electoral
process and things that the international community and particularly Ukranians
should be looking for.
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Thank you. So far, of course, we have – I mean, opposition
has very strong worries about the elections now in October. First worry is of
course about falsifications and that regime has accumulated so much financial
power by different schemes – especially connected, for example, to Euro 2012,
but other issues to do with laundering – (inaudible) – money. They will use
this financial resource to do anything possible to falsify the elections.
Plus, they have very strong administrative tools now and power in the – in the
regions of Ukraine to try to manipulate and put pressure on the people, for
example, who work in the state organizations like factories and budget
Also, the pressure and persecution of the candidates from the opposition in the
regions have already started. For example, in Dnipropetrovsk region, a single
candidate from the opposition was arrested illegally for something – for some
accident that happened about five years ago when there were no real victims and
there were – nobody suffered. The person who was in this car accident is
already working and doesn’t have any claims against this candidate. But
independent from that, he was taken for questioning and arrested straight away
at this point. So now Dnipropetrovsk area – it’s just few – the polls – he’s
representing one of the polls in the Dnipropetrovsk region, which is one of the
most populated and eastern – it’s in this region, the country – now is without,
you know, one major – very popular opposition candidate. This is going on in
almost every region more or less controlled by pro-presidential people. Like
of course, it’s mostly populated eastern region.
So from – on my mother’s behalf, she also asked me to pass to you the request
not just – (inaudible) – the coming elections, but maybe it would be possible
to have inside now and analyze the situation already with these breaches of law
against this opposition.
GAVIN WEISE: Hi, Eugenia. Gavin Weise from the International Foundation for
Electoral Systems. As we all know, Ukraine will return to an election system
that will look very similar to what it had in 2002. And – I’m sorry, maybe
you’re too young to remember 2002. However, I for one have noticed a number of
similarities or parallels, of course, to both the political situation in the
country and the creation of this type of electoral system. And I was wondering
maybe if – not to put you on the spot – but you could talk a little bit about
how maybe the creation of those districts is influencing or affecting the way
that perhaps your mother and also the party is thinking at this moment.
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yeah. Unfortunately, you know, I’m not able, of course, to
analyze this situation, you know, in full. I just – I just know that the main
electoral committee have made already very few fast changes in determining the
electoral districts. And they, for example in my region, added the areas which
are, for example, pro-opposition. They’re very supportive of opposition.
They’ve added two more – two more areas which are completely pro-presidential,
that are by the pro-presidential people, in order to kind of – to put the
electorate there and to make sure they control this kind of – so they cannot
capture those areas which are pro-opposition.
I don’t know – I’m sorry whether that answers your question at all. But I also
wanted to pass the message that it’s always been in history of the elections of
Ukraine the situation – is that it’s not that people have voted for the parties
or candidates, is then how those votes are counted. And this is another major
part in this scenario and this situation, whether the central electoral
committee members have already been established and they already been basically
pinpointed by the pro-presidential people – (inaudible) – believe that a
majority of them are already controlled.
So independent of the way how people will fight in the actual districts with a
– with the malfunction and falsifications. And the results and bulletins or
anything else to the central committee, they’re going to be miscalculated. So
this is another major issue.
MR. KRAMER: It’s David, again. Can you update us on the status of the
investigations and the other charges and accusations against your mother, the
Shcherban murder case – where do all these other investigations stand? What’s
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Thank you very much. Well, they – the second case that’s been
opened against my mother after the gas case that was a case of allegedly –
alleged tax evasion and accusations similar to that. We call it – our defense
lawyers call it a case of moral orders. Why we call it that is that because
during the time when my mother is accused of this action, she was not working
in that corporation. And the prosecution and investigators accused her of
giving (part of her office ?) to her accountant to claim for VAT.
First of all, claiming for VAT is a normal procedure for any businessman in the
country. And not receiving VAT is also normal procedure – or receiving VAT is
also a normal procedure. So she is accused of giving this order, which nobody
really can prove, to the accountant that claimed that VAT. So that’s the –
kind of the whole accusation, which obviously nobody, first of all, can prove
that and there’s no evidence for that. But first, the main point that she
didn’t work in that corporation at that time.
The other accusation – it actually hasn’t been formally given to her – is of
kind of (considering ?) money officially to the account – some of it for the
separatist party. This accusation hasn’t been formally given to her, and she
hasn’t even managed – and she wasn’t even given the opportunity to give her
statement or witnessing statement. So that is why we received the statement of
– (inaudible) – that would mean that she is already a murderer, a complete
falsified statement while she’s not even been a proper witness in the case. So
we think that this is absurd false accusations have only put forward to shock
the world and to try and to label her as a criminal and to blacken her name
without having evidence.
We’re very thankful also to Ambassador Tefft, who stated that U.S. authorities
don’t have any evidence connecting my mother to this case. So far, on the 21st
of May, on Monday, there will be a court hearing in the second case of the
alleged tax evasion for my mother. This – court – (inaudible) – hasn’t started
yet, because she wasn’t able to be present in the course because she’s in
hospital. So the actual process hasn’t started yet, but they just –
(inaudible) – just to basically start – (inaudible) – to her.
MR. MILOSCH: Thank you, Eugenia. At this point, we’re about five or 10
minutes for the members returning. We have some people working on the
microphones. Yeah, I think we’re going to stand down and hope the mics on the
dais can be plugged into the Skype mic by the time the members return.
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: – The Commission will resume its hearing. I want to thank our
witnesses for their forbearance, again, and their – but also more importantly
for asking questions and engaging our very distinguished witness.
MR.: (Off mic.)
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Hello.
REP. SMITH: (Inaudible) – time to visit. Appreciate you coming here –
(inaudible) – follow-up for our witnesses, who asked probably the best question
– (inaudible). Now I’ll just say parenthetically, former Congressman Jim
Slattery is here. Congressman Slattery is a great friend from years back. We
served together when he was a House member. And I just want to – you know,
people say in the United States bipartisanship is dead. Well, not so with Jim.
Jim was always a very, very capable and effective lawmaker. And the only
times I think we were really at odds is when our kids played against each other
in a basketball game under the auspices of the CYO here in the United States.
But to be serious as well on a very serious subject, if you could just briefly
say whether or not you believe the United States, both the executive branch and
the Congress, is doing enough on behalf of your mother. Any specific things
that the EU might do and we might do to do – you know, to try to accelerate her
release? And has the United Nations weighed in at all, whether it be the Human
Rights Council or any of its treaty bodies?
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you so much for the question –
(inaudible) – opportunity. Just wanted to say to the – (inaudible) – that so
far I have the support of the democratic world, international community that –
(inaudible) – repressions. And now – (inaudible) – so much – (inaudible) –
really critical level after the regime crossed the line to actually applying
physical violence against – (inaudible) – against political prisoners.
I am very thankful because otherwise, without your support and without the
attention of diplomats here in Ukraine, we won’t be able to probably access the
prisoners or help them or have any hope at all. Beyond the message that my
mother wanted to pass on to you is that she yesterday – (inaudible) – her
defense lawyers applied and made an appeal to the FATF organization to –
(inaudible) – investigate the – (inaudible) – and investigate – (inaudible) –
that will prevent – (inaudible) – of the high officials in the government.
This she believes, and she believes – (inaudible) – that’s for any –
(inaudible) – apparently – (inaudible) – how these repressions can be stopped
and the regime punished with sanctions.
(Another way ?)is of course very, very thankful for the attention of the
Congress, Senate hearings, for most of the – (inaudible) – visits of the
senators and congressman in the next few months. And – (inaudible) – (there ?)
can’t be another solution but emergency – (inaudible) – Ukraine where –
(inaudible) – accept and make official the status of these prisoners and name
the political prisoners, because so far the official definition of these people
behind bars for – (inaudible) – for many years, not just – (inaudible) – few
years – (inaudible) – since the 2001 – you know, since my mother – (inaudible)
– in ’96, she was always the – (inaudible) – methods that we realized that –
(inaudible) – they are prisoners of conscience.
There are other political prisoners that also don’t receive medical treatment
there. And – (inaudible) – status, their health status is very critical now.
So we want to ask to – senator also international – (inaudible) – hospital team
to see them and to see – (inaudible) – because for example, Mr. Lutsenko, the
ex- minister of interior – according to his – (inaudible) – TB and has told
about this. So now he knows that he has this and must be quiet in prison –
That is why I’m very afraid for my mother’s life now. Hospital where she’s –
(inaudible) – very professional. They are – (inaudible) – the regime as well
as prosecutors and judges. They can do something to her – (inaudible). So
we’re just asking you please to keep the pressure on and to just – we don’t
know many – (inaudible) – (Moscow ?) that – just please don’t leave us alone,
because we (pray ?) there’s – (inaudible) – people. We’re not strong enough to
fight against this injustice.
REP. SMITH: Well, in the follow-up to this hearing, we will be updating text
and introducing a resolution here on the House side. We’re looking at the
probability of a delegation – I would like to put together a delegation to go
and visit Kiev. And so we want to let you know that – you know, we’re just
going to increase rather than – our efforts. And finally, are you at any risk
MS. TYMOSHENKO: At the moment I don’t – (inaudible) – directed pressure or
threat on me per se, no.
REP. SMITH: OK. Well, you’re in our thoughts and prayers. I want you to know
Commissioner Cohen is here, a member of our Helsinki Commission.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE COHEN (D-TN): That’s – I’m a Democrat as well; I felt
like chopped liver a few minutes ago when he was extolling the virtues of Mr.
Slattery. But we work together in a bipartisan fashion as well.
REP. SMITH: Of course.
REP. COHEN: And we had a hearing this week on the problems in Uzbekistan and
others – this – nations in Central Asia in imprisoning people of conscience,
political journalists and religious people. And we’re preparing a letter to
our colleagues as we speak on this subject and encouraging the State Department
to use whatever pressures and sanctions they can. And the same thing goes with
Ukraine, and possibly we’ll do a separate letter or work together on that. But
I just – I look forward to coming to Kiev and visiting. I see your panda bear
in the back there; we have a panda in the Memphis Zoo, and I like your panda.
That’s good. (Laughter.)
MS. TYMOSHENKO: Yeah – (chuckles.)
REP. SMITH: So we will see you soon. You know, we hope to have other members
going. And I think it’ll be a worthwhile trip. And I would just add, we will
also be writing Ban Ki-moon and – to see if the U.N. system sleeps through this
one and allows a former prime minister and other high-ranking officials to be
unjustly incarcerated, it does call into question the very viability and the
raison-d’être, if you will, of the United Nations itself. My hope is that they
will weigh in very robustly, but we will contact them. Again, this hearing is
to – for us to recalibrate and to accelerate our efforts on the Commission. So
thank you so much, and God bless you.
MS. TYMOSHENKO: So much – thank you so much – (inaudible).
REP. SMITH: Bye. (Pause.)
We will resume our – we already did resume our hearing. (Chuckles.) Let me
just – David Kramer, I understand does have to leave. And I apologize again to
all of you for being so late with those votes. If it would be all right, we
will go right to Mr. Kramer, and then go to Stephen Nix, Katie Fox and Gavin
Weise. And I’ll do a little more introduction momentarily.
MR. KRAMER: Great. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much. My apologies for having
to leave fairly soon; my apologies to my colleagues on this panel. It’s a
great privilege to be with them and also to appear before the Commission again.
I’m a late addition to the witness list, and so I also apologize for not
having a written statement.
But let me offer a few thoughts based on a recent trip to Ukraine that Freedom
House conducted at the beginning of April as part of our second assessment of
the state of democracy and human rights in Ukraine, a follow-on to the report
we issued last year, which was called “Sounding the Alarm,” which I have to say
I think has turned out to be rather prescient given the trends that we’ve seen
in the past year.
We met with a number of officials, including President Yanukovych, on this last
visit. We also had the opportunity to visit two of the – of the political
prisoners, including Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko, the former minister of
interior, who is in prison in Kiev. And this was an issue that was prevalent
throughout our discussions with high-level officials in Ukraine.
But it’s not the only issue that I think we need to focus on. And I know my
colleagues here are going to talk about the election coming up in October for
the parliament, for the Rada, which is going to be a critical test of whether
Ukraine can continue to conduct national elections in a fashion that meets the
criteria that the OSCE’s ODIHR arm has – and I’ll let my colleagues address
The two other issues involve the incarceration and persecution and prosecution
of political opposition figures. And it is important to keep in mind not only
the powerful representation of Yevheniya Tymoshenko of her mother’s case, but
that there are other people in jail from the opposition who many suspect are in
jail because they were part of the opposition.
And this has been a major concern for many observers. And I think we have seen
the reaction in the international community among officials from the European
Union, as well as the United States, to this continued situation: the latest
developments with Yulia Tymoshenko; the visit by the human rights ombudswoman
in Ukraine to her prison and the release of photos from that visit, which I
think fed the concern than many people have had about the situation.
I commend – after significant, extensive efforts – Ambassador John Tefft and
Tom Melia, the deputy assistant secretary in the DRL Bureau at State, for being
able to visit her on – earlier this week, I believe it was. They issued a
statement from the embassy expressing their concern about her continued
incarceration and also expressing the hope of the release not only of
Tymoshenko but also of the other members of the – of the previous government
and restoration of their full civil and political rights, which I think is a
There have been positive developments in Ukraine. And it is not an entirely
black-and-white picture. There is NGO legislation that actually is – has been
deemed rather good. There has been access to information; open government
efforts; the development with the European Union last December where Yanukovych
initialed this agreement, though has not yet been able to sign it because of
the concerns about the trends in Ukraine; the efforts with the United States on
highly enriched uranium, which – I do have some concern that that has become
too much of a focus of U.S. government officials and distracting from some of
the trends, at least earlier; but also, I would even argue, standing up
somewhat to pressure from Moscow, where once again we see Russian officials
overplaying their hand and not helping their cause and even alienating parts of
Ukraine that in the past have been more sympathetic toward Russia.
But the three main issues coming up, or that have been in play: the
prosecution and persecution of opposition figures and their incarceration; the
elections, which my colleagues will talk about; but then also the issue of
corruption. And a term that I heard that came up during my visit in April was
“family-ization,” that this is actually becoming rather personal; and the
corruption allegations extending to even parts of the first family, where you
have one of the sons whose wealth has soared 18 times just in the past year
alone, according to reports; and questions about how this wealth has been
Corruption is a problem throughout the region, but it’s a particular concern in
Ukraine. The energy sector is rife with corruption. And the return of
RosUkrEnergo, the energy middleman company, I think is not a welcome sign in
this – in this situation.
The summit that was supposed to be held with a number of East Central European
and other officials – European officials, I should say – that was to have taken
place last week was canceled because a number of heads of state decided they
were not going to visit Ukraine in light of the current situation. I think
you’re also seeing a situation where Ukraine is hosting the Euro 2012 soccer
championships, along with Poland, starting in – June 8th, I think it is. And a
number of officials, including EU officials, have indicated they have no plans
to visit Ukraine because of what’s happening on the political scene.
Ukraine is going to be the chair – as you know, Mr. Chairman – of the OSCE next
year. And many concerns that Ukraine’s chairmanship is going to make the
Kazakh chairmanship of several years ago look pretty good. I certainly hope
that won’t be the case, because that will do significant damage to the
organization as well as Ukraine’s standing.
There are a number of events where Ukraine should be proud – of hosting the
Euro 2012, of being chair of the OSCE. These should be reflections of a
Ukraine that is moving in the right direction. But instead, as we warned when
we were in Ukraine in April, these events are likely going to be instead not
the focus of attention, as you have many journalists and others arriving in the
country questioning why Ukraine is hosting such events or chairing the
organization. And I think all too predictably, the continued situation with
the Tymoshenko case, the other cases, the problems of corruption, and concerns
even about the elections – where there was a mayoral election in the city of
Obukhiv before we arrived that was widely ridiculed and criticized – concerns
about how the elections themselves will shape up.
The last thing I would say, Mr. Chairman – and I’ll stop here – is it is
critically important that we continue to engage. But, at the same time, there
is a growing level of frustration with the officials in Ukraine, where, I
think, for the first time, in the past few months, we’ve heard the words
“Ukraine” and “sanctions” mentioned in the same sentence which is terribly
Ukraine, after all, I would argue, despite the recent comments of one official,
is not Belarus. It’s not Russia. But if the current leadership in Ukraine is
not careful, that’s how it’s going to be viewed in the West. And it would be a
mistake on the part of Ukrainian officials to assume that Ukraine is so central
and important to European officials that Europe will do whatever it can in
order to try to lure Ukraine into the West.
Europe has so many problems on its hands right now that I’m not sure it really
wants to take on what is a growing headache for Ukraine. And so Ukraine and
the leadership in Ukraine and civil society, which I did detect is more active
now than a year ago – I think they too are frustrated – it’s really important
that Ukraine get back on the right track. And I certainly hope they will do
Thank you very much, Mr. Kramer.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Kramer. And I just – I’m glad you noted
the good work that Ambassador John Tefft is doing, both in Ukraine and before
that. I actually visited with him when he was in Tbilisi right as the Russians
rolled in to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And he’s a very wise and very, very
effective – so it’s good that he’s on the scene for all – for all of the
concerns that we all have.
I’d like to now – and, again, your full résumés will be made a part of the
record – but I would like to ask first Stephen Nix, who’s regional director for
Eurasia, International Republican Institute, the IRI. Then we’ll go to Katie
Fox, deputy director of national – for Eurasia, National Democratic Institute.
And then we’ll got to Gavin Weise, deputy director, Europe and Asia,
International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
Very knowledgeable and heavily credentialed witnesses – all four of you. Thank
you for sharing your insights and wisdom and thank you for posing questions
earlier, which answered a lot of questions that this panel would have asked,
and you did it much better.
I’d like to now ask Mr. Nix if you’d go.
STEPHEN B. NIX: First of all, thank you, Mr. Chairman – (off mic) –
REP. SMITH: (Off mic)–
MR. NIX: Can you hear me now? Is that better?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for convening this hearing today. Thank
you for a focus on this part of the world. We’re all cognizant of the fact
that much attention and focus is now being placed on the Middle East and North
Africa. However, Eurasia remains strategically important to the United States
and events in that part of the world, particularly in the field of democracy
are critical to the U.S. interests abroad.
So, thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for convening this. I would ask that my
remarks be entered into the record.
REP. SMITH: Without objection, so ordered.
MR. NIX: Mr. Chairman, we meet here today at a critical time in Ukraine’s
democratic development. For the past two years, we’ve watched what can only be
described as democratic backsliding in Ukraine. The international community
has witnessed the continued selective prosecution, as you saw earlier today and
heard from your first witness – the selective prosecution of the political
opposition in Ukraine. The almost daily announcement of European leaders that
they will not attend the soccer championships that Ukraine is hosting; the
continued discussion of visa bans and freezing of assets that are taking place
in both Brussels and in Washington.
None of this would have been imaginable two years ago. However, the reality is
that Ukraine has changed significantly. It’s instructive to understand how the
country arrived where it is today and to analyze the context of how that might
affect the upcoming parliamentary election.
The October 2012 parliamentary elections will be the first parliamentary
elections in Ukraine since 2007. As you noted yourself, Mr. Chairman, several
elections have taken place in Ukraine that have been deemed to be free and fair
and meeting international standards. In February 2010, in an election that was
administered by the previous administration, Victor Yanukovych was elected
president, and these elections were deemed to have met, by and large,
However, since his election, the Yanukovych administration has engaged in the
practice of selective justice, targeting opposition political figures. The
only elections conducted thus far under the current administration are the 2010
local elections. Unfortunately these were recognized by both U.S. and
international observation missions as falling short of democratic standards.
Massive government resources were used to consolidate power, while political
parties not aligned with the governing party were not able to fully and fairly
participate in those elections.
As a result of this consolidation of power, there is growing public discontent
with the authorities. In public opinion polls conducted by IRI, respondents
were asked if they would support the freezing of assets and banning of visas of
Ukrainian officials, including judges that engaged in corruption. Eight-two
percent responded in the affirmative, that they would support such moves.
These are dramatic figures, Mr. Chairman. We see this nowhere else in the
region, and I think it speaks to the level of discontent that is emerging in
In November, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a law on parliamentary elections.
The new law establishes a mixed system, which is a return to the system last
used in 2002 and establishes a 5 percent threshold for any political party to
be represented in parliament and does not allow electoral blocs to compete in
The Venice Commission strongly criticized this draft parliamentary election
law. Unfortunately the commission’s analysis was mostly ignored. Its report
was critical of the change to the mixed system. It advocated an open party
list system. It also expressed concern about unclear criteria and deadlines
for the designation of election districts, a lack of clarity on appealing
results of elections, and an absence of full disclosure on sources and sums of
election campaign funding.
Now with regard to the upcoming elections, I just wanted to give you and the
members a bit of a preview on how things are shaping up. According to IRI
polling data, it appears that six political parties will likely pass the 5
percent threshold. Those are the Party of Regions, Batkivshchyna or Fatherland
Party, Front of Change, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, the
Communist Party and the Freedom Party.
Many parties are starting to coalesce. The Strong Ukraine political party has
merged with the Party of Regions, and the opposition is also seeking to
coalesce. Batkivshchyna and Front for Change have united in a single list of
candidates for the single mandate districts and are currently in discussions
with the Udar political party. However, leading up to these elections,
government officials have intensified their pressure on multiple sectors of
Ukrainian society, and I’d like to speak about three of those: media, civil
society organizations, and the political opposition.
With regard to the media, Mr. Chairman, one of the preeminent legacies of the
Orange Revolution was a free and vibrant media. Soon after assuming power in
2010, the current government directly and indirectly pressured the media to
limit critical coverage and report more positively on the government. In
addition, one of the country's deputy prime ministers is the owner of the
largest media conglomerate in Ukraine, known as Inter. The government has
tried to censor TV state companies.
In civil society, the Ukrainian government began to more closely monitor and
regulate activities of NGOs, including those of IRI. A cabinet of ministers’
decree signed in January of 2011 amends the registration regulations in
Ukraine, making it easier to deregister international civil society
organizations and placing much higher reporting requirements on these – their
With regard to the opposition, you’ve already heard from several today about
the marginalization and the political persecution of political figures. I
won’t go into that any further. I would like to share with you some of the
things that IRI is doing to try to strengthen democracy in Ukraine.
IRI has had a long-standing program in Ukraine. We support the promotion of
democracy in Ukraine, and we try to address the above-referenced challenges and
respond to Ukraine’s rapidly deteriorating political environment and by working
to strengthen political parties, foster mechanisms for good governance, support
the next generation of political activists, and develop a more transparent
electoral system. To assist in the development of Ukraine's electoral
processes, IRI has conducted international election observation missions,
observing every parliamentary and presidential election in Ukraine since it
became independent in 1991.
As far as next steps, Mr. Chairman, let me summarize by saying I’d like to
reiterate the importance of the upcoming elections. Elections are critical for
Ukraine’s continued integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Failure to
conduct elections which meet international standards will cause Ukraine to be
further isolated from the West.
We encourage the U.S. Congress to continue to make it clear to the Ukrainian
government that free and fair elections will determine the course of the future
relationship between our two countries. In anticipation of the possibility of
excessive fraud in the parliamentary elections, we call on Ukrainian
authorities to support international election observation missions and to allow
district and regional election commissioners to conduct their work independent
of pressure, intimidation from central authorities.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, I’d like to thank you and the members for focusing on
the parliamentary elections. The way in which elections are conducted in
Ukraine are every bit as important as the outcome. So, I thank you again, and
I’ll be prepared to answer any questions you might have.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Nix, thank you so very much for your testimony.
KATIE FOX: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the
Commission. I want to apologize for my voice. I’m getting over a cold, but
I’m not contagious, but – thank you for this opportunity to comment on next
October’s Ukrainian parliamentary elections. I want to note that this is a
particularly important time to be holding this hearing. Although the election
is still several months off, there are important decisions being made right
Ukraine’s constitutional court recently invalidated parts of the parliamentary
election law. The very important territorial and precinct election commissions
will soon be chosen. Opora, which is the major domestic nonpartisan election
monitoring group, is beginning to issue reports, and the political parties,
with which NDI and IRI work, are making their plans for protecting electoral
integrity. Moreover, of course, as you know, it is established international
practice to evaluate all parts of the election cycle, not only election day,
but the broader electoral context that affects the character and quality of
In fact, both the Ukrainian government and its critics agree that this election
should be viewed in a broader political context. The Ukrainian government
asserts that it is – it is preparing to hold a fully democratic election, one
that will demonstrate its ability to balance strong, centralized governance
with democratic values sufficient to justify European Union membership for
Unfortunately, this notion of balance remains wishful thinking despite the
efforts of some well-intentioned people in the current government. In the
electoral arena, as my colleague Steve Nix has noted, there was a promising
start when a democratic election was held in 2010 and President Yanukovych came
to power. Since then, as my colleague has also noted, the only nationwide
elections under the current administration, the local elections in fall 2010,
were flawed in the view of credible domestic and international observers. That
tainted performance undermined confidence among the opposition that this
government would uphold international and domestic standards for fair
elections. Very long and unfortunately opaque deliberations over a new
parliamentary election law fueled further mistrust in the electoral process.
And as has been noted in a recent troubling development, international
observers were not allowed to monitor critical aspects of the election vote
count in the – in March in a local election in the Kiev suburb of Obukhiv.
As several people have already commented, the last two years have seen a
general deterioration of political pluralism in Ukraine. The ruling party has
taken control over most of the institutions of government. In addition to the
parliamentary election law, the last two years have seen of course the jailing
of the most popular opposition politician, Ms. Tymoshenko; constitutional
changes to strengthen the presidency relative to parliament; and greatly
expanded control by the ruling Party of Regions over local governments as well
as law enforcement and regulatory bodies. Ukraine’s courts, including the
constitutional courts, have rebuffed challenges to all of these changes. And
in David’s organization, Freedom House, which puts out the very influential
Freedom in the World Index, Ukraine dropped from free to partly free under the
At the same time, Ukraine still benefits from strong democratic voices and
alternative points of view. For example, in the election law debate the
opposition parties were able to marshal media and public attention, and they
were able to negotiate significant changes into the law. This presence of a
viable opposition sets Ukraine apart from most of its ex-Soviet neighbors. And
it is this multiparty system that may be undermined if the October elections
are seriously flawed.
The international community can and should use both words and deeds to guard
against the further erosion of democratic rights in Ukraine. But the primary
driver of change, however, must be the Ukrainians themselves. There should be
no mistaking Ukrainians' desires. A common refrain you hear among certain
commentators is that Ukrainians are either apathetic about their political life
or ready to sacrifice democratic institutions and principles for a, quote,
“strong hand” in governance.
Neither is true and they both do disservice to Ukrainians' aspirations. While
it is true that citizens express disappointment with their political leaders,
they do care about the direction of the country, which is evidenced by the
growing numbers who are participating in peaceful protests. Recent increases
in demonstrations and the so-called protest mood have been documented by
pollsters and by civil society, including an NDI partner, the society – Center
for Society Research, excuse me.
The all too common wisdom that Ukrainians will sacrifice democracy for progress
on bread and butter issues is also false. Ukrainian civic groups have
successfully married the two concerns in an advocacy campaign on the freedom of
assembly. Thousands of Ukrainians have signed petitions that call upon the
government to allow freedom of assembly as a means of protecting their economic
rights. Polling supported by NDI along with Lake Research Associates prior to
this petition campaign showed that Ukrainians are well aware of threats to
democracy and to individual civil liberties, notably political influence over
the judiciary – a topic we discussed today.
As the election approaches, Ukrainian civil society will become more active,
particularly in monitoring and reporting on threats to electoral integrity.
Five key issues are most important to restoring some measure of credibility to
Ukraine's electoral process. I will list them here: one, government
impartiality in the administration of the elections. This means no misuse of
governmental resources and authority in support of a candidate or party,
including abuse of the taxing or licensing and regulatories of government, or
governmental pressure on courts involved in such things as candidate
Two, a campaign environment in which candidates, campaign activists and
observers can operate free of harassment and intimidation. Three, transparent
and equitable formation of territorial and precinct election commissions.
Four, respect for, and adherence to the legal framework for the election, and
for the compromise that was negotiated between government and opposition when
the law was ultimately passed. Finally, five, a post-election environment free
from pressure or incentives to induce deputies to switch allegiances.
It’s important to note that this, in particular, was a major problem following
the 2002 parliamentary elections, the last time Ukraine used a single mandate
system as they are for half the seats this time. The opposition party in that
election won the greatest number of seats, but because of post-election
defections, the pro-governmental bloc eventually was able to form a
Observers from Opora have been monitoring in every oblast since early April.
In July, Opora will deploy additional observers to the 225 electoral districts.
And on Election Day, it will field up to 3,500 observers. With NDI's
technical support, Opora will be able to draw accurate conclusions about the
fairness of the election nationwide, based on observation in a statistically
representative sample of polling places.
Opora will be reporting on electoral processes and incidents, not just in
monthly press conferences but also as they are happening in real time. It will
employ sophisticated data visualization techniques to display maps of electoral
violations online. It will circulate reports using email and social networks.
All of these efforts will enable Ukrainian citizens and international groups to
react immediately to electoral problems and events.
Opora will also work with other groups to post verified reports from ordinary
citizens, using what’s called crowdsourcing techniques that were so important
in recent Russian elections. Of course, in all these efforts, the
organization, Opora, will also cooperate with the OSCE, and other nonpartisan
domestic and international election monitoring groups.
In addition to Opora, NDI hopes to support a monitoring effort – monitoring
effort by the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations. This is a
network of the leading nonpartisan monitoring groups from the former Soviet
Union and Central Europe. Its members, who have observed a number of previous
Ukrainian elections, are well-versed in Ukraine’s electoral processes.
Opora, ENEMO and other monitors can give Ukrainians crucial information that
they need so that they are able to demand from their government clean elections
as part of a genuine, long-term commitment to democracy. We hope that all of
those here who care about Ukraine help to amplify the findings of these
credible Ukrainian – excuse me – credible monitoring groups.
Thank you, again, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, for holding this
hearing and for the opportunity to speak. And I have – there’s a schedule of
Opora’s reports on the table out there if people want to follow.
REP. SMITH: Ms. Fox, thank you very much for struggling through with your
difficult cold and voice, and thank you for doing it. One quick question
before Mr. Kramer – and all of you I would ask the same thing, but after of
course then next witness. You mentioned the leaders have no plans – or some of
the leaders have no plans to go to Euro 2012. What about teams? Is that
something that should be promoted, that teams ought to boycott this?
MR. KRAMER: It’s a great question. I am inclined to keep the teams out of
this; have this decided at the political level. I think the teams are looking
forward to participating in these games. And I think enough of a political
statement will be made by political leaders and heads of state deciding not to
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
MR. KRAMER: And my apologies, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate –
REP. SMITH: Thank you so much.
MR. KRAMER: Thanks.
REP. SMITH: And have a nice trip. Mr. Weise. And thank you for your patience.
MR. WEISE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
members and staff of the Commission. I’d like to ask that my full written
statement as well as some other materials which I will refer to in this
presentation be included in the record.
REP. SMITH: Without objection it will be so ordered.
MR. WEISE: Thank you. IFES is an independent, non-profit leader in election
assistance and democracy promotion. In Ukraine, we have provided support to
nascent electoral institutions, offered legislative assistance to fundamental
laws and worked with a range of civil society groups and experts to improve the
quality and transparency of elections in the country.
I would like to begin today by first sincerely thanking the Commission for
inviting IFES to speak – and, in fact, all of us to speak – but more so for
simply holding this event. Over the past few years, the organizations
represented here today have followed closely events in Ukraine with an eye
towards this October’s parliamentary election.
As we have now already heard, problems arising in the 2010 local elections,
some recent developments in election law for this election, the subsequent
deterioration of rights and freedoms, the much-publicized and seemingly
selective political persecution of former government and current opposition
figures have all collectively fueled our growing concern over how free, fair
and credible these elections may be.
I will focus my remarks on the legal framework and administration of elections.
In doing so I touch upon a number of new or persisting weaknesses in the
electoral legislation, I draw your attention to recent developments in
preparation for October’s election and I briefly highlight some additional
issues that may surface in the coming months based on IFES’ own observations
and work in the country.
On the heels of the 2010 local elections, which we’ve referred to a number of
times now, President Yanukovych announced his intent to embark on comprehensive
electoral reform. And there was soon considerable disappointment when it was
clear that the government made many key decisions, including a change to the
electoral system, even before the working group on election reform held its
Out of this process that lasted a few to several months, a new draft
parliamentary election law was eventually put forward. IFES, together with the
Council of Europe Venice Commission and OSCE ODHIR drew attention to both
positive and negative provisions in the law. The final version of the law
largely reflected this draft law with some notable exceptions. And it is of
course this law which now will regulate these elections in October.
In Ukraine’s new parliamentary election system, half the deputies will be
elected through proportional representation according to a nationwide vote and
half will be elected in winner-takes-all electoral constituencies, not unlike
our elections, for example, for the House of Representatives. Inherently,
there is nothing right or wrong in such a system.
However, I would like to draw your attention to the last time such a system was
in place exactly 10 years ago, as was mentioned today – this being the 2002
parliamentary elections. These elections were held at a time of a government
waning in popularity, yet they eventually produced somewhat surprising results
to the benefit of the pro-government political force to the point of it
successfully retaining significant control of the legislature.
The pro-government, pro-presidential parties achieve this feat largely or
partially certainly by doing extraordinarily well in these single-member
districts, disproportionally so. The commonly held assertion amongst experts
and academics at the time and, indeed, still was that in some cases
administrative resource use and control of certain territorial regions and
resources helped ensure a victory for the pro-governmental candidates where the
pro-governmental party did not enjoy a plurality of voter support.
Now I bring up this point because today in Ukraine we have a similar scenario
unfolding. A parallel election system is now firmly in place A number of
polls, as you’ve heard today, and including IFES’s own from two weeks ago show
the support for the ruling party in Ukraine is in decline. So in a sense, we
have the similar mix as we had in 2002 – on one hand, a governing force that’s
waning in popular support, which on the other is about to complete in an
election where half the seats will be determined through these single-member
districts. Of course we can conclude nothing at this time, nor should we, but
the parallel is striking and must not be dismissed.
A more technical issue we’re just now confronted within the last few weeks
concerns the boundaries of those new single-member districts. It is difficult
to assess – to assess the Central Election Commission’s performance in creating
boundaries only because the law included just three brief subarticles to
regulate this process. We should also point out that between the initial draft
of the new law and the final version, one of the only provisions in the law to
regulate this process, that districts must at least be contiguous, was
inexplicably removed. Not surprisingly, in examining the new boundaries, we
see that there are districts which are noncontiguous. By international
standards, there are very few reasons for justifiably doing this, and such
reasons do not appear to apply in these cases.
IFES, together with civil society partners, is now working on a comprehensive
technical analysis of the districts, which it hopes to release in the coming
week. How the districts may have been drawn in terms of political intentions
will require some degree of insight into Ukrainian politics, but certainly this
will come to light in the days, weeks and months to come.
An additional area to watch relates to the formation of district and polling
station election commissions which are essentially the chief electoral bodies
for their respective areas. In Ukraine, all commissioners are nominated by a
political entity. Because of the number of parties and candidates expected to
– (inaudible) – for these elections, places on these commissions will be at a
premium and largely decided by a lottery. On April 29th, the CEC adopted a
lottery procedure that could severely hamper parties’ chances of obtaining
these valuable district commission places and is contrary to an earlier IFES
In addition, the timeframe for a political entity to submit candidates for the
commission is extremely tight – just three days, with any nomination returned
for correction needing to be resubmitted the following day. We are concerned
that political entities may forfeit their commission nominees simply because
they will not learn until later that there was an issue with their initial
In terms of electoral administration, let me begin by saying the CEC of Ukraine
has an unenviable task in preparing up to half a million temporary election
commissioners in a matter of just a few weeks. The CEC also be burdened with
many other tasks in the upcoming months, for example, registering candidates on
party lists and accrediting thousands of local and international nonpartisan
observers and thousand more candidate and party proxies and observers.
Beyond these logistical challenges, we recall, in Ukraine election commissions
are de facto not independent from political influence, as they are formed by
the entities and whose interests they de facto represent on the commission.
Such a concern has been raised by international organizations such as the OSCE
Finally, I would point to a few additional issues to be cognizant of in the
upcoming campaign and election. First is the possibility that voters will be
able to use the option in Ukraine of voting in their current temporary place of
location to strategically change their place of voting, meaning from one
district to another. This was a potential issue that we raised in one of our
earlier analyses of the draft law and we simply believe that it should be
Second concerns the commonly recognized phenomenon that all major political
entities receive considerable financial and other resources from Ukraine’s
wealthiest benefactors. The new parliamentary election law does very little to
bring transparency to these relationships, requiring only the modest basic
level of disclosure and leaves ample room for campaign costs to be hidden as
third-party expenditures or services in kind.
Third, Election Day itself may well complicate it by unwieldy procedures that
need to be clarified by the CEC in advance of the election.
And finally, there exists the ever-present possibilities in Ukraine of abuses
of state resources, vote-buying schemes and other illegal practices that can
thrive with impunity under a weak system of law enforcement.
Now let me conclude by stating what the international community, including the
United States, could do to support consolidation of democracy in Ukraine
through a transparent, competitive and credible election this October.
First, I would say, don’t take your eye off the ball now. Over the next few
months important developments will take place that will surely tell us how
transparent, credible and evenly contested these elections might be. I urge
you all to stay focused on the issues raised today by myself and all the
colleagues, and those that may come to light in the upcoming weeks and months.
To this end, it is of course vital for the U.S. and the larger international
community to pay close attention to and respond to election administration and
observation needs and, through statements from entities such as your own, to
continue to show that the U.S. is supportive of a democratic, free and fair
election in Ukraine.
Second and finally, I urge you not to take your eye off the ball later.
Ukraine fatigue in the West has correlated positively with the government’s
recidivism with respect to human rights, obvious aggression towards political
rivals and efforts to solidify a hold on power.
For our part, IFES has and will continue to advocate for improved democratic
election legislation and practices in compliance with international standards.
Now despite issues or concerns raised today, I would say that we certainly do
not know what the outcome of these elections will be. But however the conduct
and whatever the outcomes, it will be necessary to continue to engage Ukraine,
and of course the performance in these elections will in large part determine
just how that engagement may take shape.
Thank you all for the opportunity to testify today, and I am happy to answer
any questions you may have. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Weise, for indicating what’s happening
now, but equally important, when you talked about and admonished us to keep our
eye on the ball, what to look out for. And I can assure you this commission
will stay very, very focused, but your words, I think, are very important. And
of all the issues in the world today, we need not lose focus, and Kyiv needs to
be very well aware of it, at least in terms of the U.S. Congress and this
commission. We really do understand what’s going on, and you have helped us –
the three of you and Mr. Kramer, before he left – to have a much better sense
of the threats that are occurring there.
I’ll ask really all of my questions, in the interest of time, then yield to Mr.
Cohen, just – so whichever ones you would like to respond to, I would ask that
Starting first of all with a more general question, do you think that the
Ukrainian government is showing any signs of responding to the force, the
pressure, if you will, really just calling on the Yanukovych government to just
simply do what it ought to do and it has promised to do with regards to those
they’ve jailed, including and especially Prime Minister or former Prime
Minister Tymoshenko? And are they all listening, or are they tone deaf with
regards to the very real issues you’ve raised about the upcoming election? It
seems to me if you – if you plan it to – or rig the election, you’re going to
get the outcome you like.
And secondly, on the intimidation of candidates, by holding people who have –
or are in jail for trumped-up charges, does that have a chilling effect? Or
does that have the opposite effect, especially with the world watching and
encouraging for candidates to step forward and assume what could be very real
With regards to the Euro 2012, as I asked Mr. Kramer earlier, do you think
there’s any room for soccer teams themselves to boycott, or is it better left
to the political side of the equation?
And then with regards to religious leaders, it’s my understanding that
religious leaders from the Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim all
met with Yanukovych and pushed the human rights issue in general. I’m not sure
if they brought up the prime minister or the other incarcerated leaders. If
you have any insights on that, that would be helpful.
And then the issue of the United Nations and its engagement from Ban Ki-moon to
the United Nations Human Rights Council to any other treaty bodies or any other
aspect of it – how engaged are they? We know the EU’s engaged, the U.S. is
engaged. And finally, should we be doing more, and should the EU be doing more?
MR. NIX: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. All great questions; I’ll try to answer
them briefly. Let me address your first two questions, if I may.
With regard to whether the government is being responsive or at least paying
attention to what is being said about the elections and the previously noted
selective prosecution of political figures, I would say this: that what
certainly has gotten attention is increased discussion about the possibility of
sanctions, about the possibility of freezing of assets of selected individuals,
of denying visas to selected individuals. That is certainly something that I
think has created some awareness on the Ukrainian side. In addition to that,
raising questions about Ukraine’s role as possible chair of the OSCE I think
has certainly gained the attention of authorities in Kiev. So those are two
very central issues, and I think that the government is certainly taking note
of those types of issues.
With regard to your second question, which was the net effect of the
prosecution of political figures, similar to our polling that we conduct in
Ukraine, many of the polls that I’ve looked at indicate that the incarceration
of the opposition has only increased their political ratings. That seems –
that seems to be the trend, in any case. Whether that will continue, we don’t
know. But that has been the case so far. In turn, the government’s rating has
decreased since these cases have been brought.
MS. FOX: Thank you. I also would like to respond to, I think it – the first,
second and maybe fifth of these questions. (Chuckles.) On whether the
Ukrainian government is open to pressure or whether they just are completely
tone deaf, I want to note the reaction that NDI got. We had an international
assessment mission in these local elections in Obukiv in March.
And the authorities were very anxious to give us every accommodation. They
wanted us; they wanted – they were very open to briefing us and making
conditions comfortable for us, to listening to us, to asking for our views.
Even though we did not issue a formal report, because it was not an observation
mission – we didn’t see the pre-election period – a number of government
officials at the Kiev Oblast level, at the Kiev City level and the Party of
Regions were interested informally in asking for our views.
So I do think they have a lot invested in getting a clean bill of health from
the international community on these elections. And I think they are capable
of, for better or for worse, separating that a little bit – would like to
separate that from the Tymoshenko issue.
On what we – what you, Mr. Chairman, members of the commission and the
Congress, the U.S. government – can do further, I would say two things. One is
to amplify the findings of the nonpartisan election-monitoring groups,
including the Ukrainians themselves. Don’t allow them to be painted as being
irrelevant or biased or something of that nature. Pay attention to what these
groups are saying, and use the influence that you have to amplify them.
The other is sort of a diplomatic function, I would also stress, working with
the EU to ensure that they don’t suffer from what has been called Ukraine
fatigue and that they continue to hold Ukrainians to the standards that should
be required for membership in European bodies and for the trade agreement,
which is very important to Ukrainians.
I want to make one quick point on the candidate intimidation. Steve made a
good point about ratings going up. But also we have to remember that there’s a
lot of candidate and political activist intimidation going on out in the
regions where it isn’t becoming known and where it’s much easier to scare
people. And that just – it makes it all the more important that observers are
out there reporting on this. And I want to particularly commend Ambassador
Tefft in the past for the support we’ve had. And we’ve been able to bring
these cases of specifically observer intimidation to his attention. He’s been
REP. SMITH: Did you want to touch on the U.N. before we go, Mr. Weise?
MR. NIX: Mr. Chairman, if I can just respond to your fourth question with
regard to the meeting with religious leaders, I would only say that our polling
clearly shows – we asked respondents to rate institutions. And the church in
Ukraine – whether that’s the Orthodox Church, Kyiv patriarch, Moscow patriarch,
or the Ukrainian Catholic or Roman Catholic faith – those combined institutions
are – always received invariably the highest rating in polling in terms of
institutions. So if the administration is going to listen to any particular
body in the country, it would likely be the united churches.
REP. SMITH: Have they been public enough? You know, after all those years of
communism and being voiceless almost, have they learned to get their voice in
the public square?
MR. NIX: Well, that I think is something that’s developing, but it’s certainly
a fact that the president met with them, I think, is a positive and promising
REP. SMITH: MR. WEIESS
MR. WEISS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’ll try to also address some of the
issues that were not – that were not picked up on by my colleagues, if I can
First, with regards to the effect of some of the messages and noise that has
been coming at the authorities, I will leave the macro-level issues out of my
response but look really at regards to the election itself. And here I’d like
to point out just on the election law itself, you know, there was an initial
draft law put forward by the MOJ, which organizations like IFES and Venice
Commission reviewed. And indeed, there were a number of things that were
changed in that legislation that were contained in both of our analyses, which
we do believe will make it a much more – have the – I would say have the
potential to make it a more free and fair election, and certainly will make the
election run more smoothly. So I can give an example of this by releasing the
territorial districts to the candidates and the public more than just the very
day that the election itself starts. You can imagine trying to run in a race
where you actually don’t know what your district is and the election starts on
that day when you finally learn what it is.
Also, guidance on the – what we’ll do with overseas voters, which was lacking
from the law. Also the removal of some – in the final draft they removed some
precincts which could have been by law opened up in various locations not
related to a military or diplomatic post but merely in a shopping mall or what
have you, another location that they – that they sanctioned.
Another – a couple of other things, like putting free access to government
funds for TV airtime and perhaps in media, et cetera, et cetera. I would also
say that the CEC, while they did not pick up on all civil society’s
recommendations to be transparent in how they were drawing boundaries by any
means, they did stick to a couple of provisions such as the 12 percent maximum
deviation rule between the sizes of the districts and also distributed the
districts evenly among Ukraine’s regions in a relatively straightforward and
let’s say standard manner.
As far as the political – as far as the effect of – as far as the effect of the
persecution of the opposition, I would just agree with my colleagues and say
that I think that absolutely has been the cause for a significant increase in
the popularity in the polls. And I do not know the extent of some of those
former opposition leaders, how popular they were before ratcheting of
And with regards to the euro 2012 boycott, I would agree with my colleague
David Kramer to, you know, let’s keep it political, if we can. Let’s also
remember that Russia is competing in those games and also has a pretty good
team. And I don’t know if they would be willing to boycott this event. So it
would be hard to do it sort of on a widespread basis. And I would also say
that the history of boycotts has been mixed, I think, when we look back at it
through history with the ’80/’84 Olympics, I think it was. So in that respect,
I would say let’s – well, hopefully it will stay political. And hopefully,
there actually will be some political pressure because of course – and
political boycotts, because we’re not actually at the point of the games just
yet. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
REP. COHEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think the questions are pretty
well-covered, but I would like to ask this. Have other countries brought
actions or taken action that the United States should emulate?
MR. NIX: I think that the United States, through our embassy in Kyiv, and –
has joined with our European friends in making very strong statements in
advance of these elections. They’re of critical importance. Every time we
have a national election in Ukraine, we say it is the most critical election
ever. And every time we say that, it’s true. It’s just as true this time.
So I think the statements coming out now are timely, because the fact that
districts have been drawn and the election law has been amended – the official
campaign will start. And so I think speaking up now is appropriate. To speak
with one voice across the Atlantic is appropriate. I think that’s being done.
But finally, I think the key is to be persistent in holding officials to
account, in the hope that these elections can be well-administered and meet
international standards for fairness and transparency. That’s the goal.
That’s what we hope Ukraine can achieve. We all want Ukraine to achieve this.
REP. COHEN: OK. On the election issue, do the other two panelists agree that
e’re working in concert with our European allies and should do so and –
(inaudible) – nobody’s taken any steps beyond us?
MS. FOX: Yes, I agree that it’s very important to be working in concert with
European allies and to be persistent and to follow up, as Mr. Nix has said.
And I also agree with him that we have – we’ve had a very strong voice in this
and are doing what we should be doing. We just need to keep doing it.
REP. COHEN: Mr. Weise, you concur?
MR. WEISE: Yes, I do. I concur, and I also would like to point out that not
only – it’s not so much maybe that we should be emulating some of our European
allies, but maybe they should be emulating us as well. I think that the U.S.
has actually done a very good job and should be commended for often leading
some of – some of the statements and some of the issues that we have
concentrated on over the past several months. And again, we’ve mentioned
Ambassador Tefft, and I think he’s done an excellent job in Ukraine. And he
has really, let’s say, pushed, I think, the European allies to sort of all be
on the same page. And we certainly thank him very much for that.
REP. COHEN: And those statements are about the elections. And are they also
consistent with the treatment of the former prime minister and the prison
conditions of people being imprisoned for same?
Let me ask you this. On the – just to – Mr. Nix, you first. We had briefings
yesterday on the Uzbekistan and all of those other “stans” in Central Asia. If
you take all the former Soviet republics, where does Ukraine rank as far as
democratic principles and actions – (inaudible) – the present government?
Above who and beneath who?
MR. NIX: Well, sure. I’d – comparatively I’d like to say at the outset that
it’s not at the same level as it was, say, after the election of 2005.
Obviously there has been regression. Where does it stand now? I was pointed
out earlier by Mr. Kramer, it’s not Belarus, it’s not Russia; but it’s
certainly not Western Europe. It’s somewhere in between. And if Ukraine wants
to realize its European ambitions, if it truly wants to be part of the
Euro-Atlantic alliance, it has to do better than its doing now.
REP. COHEN: And Mr. Kramer’s – I kind of guess he gives, like, a report card.
And he’s got, you know, fair and not so fair and whatever. Are you familiar
with this report card?
MR. NIX: Oh yes. (Inaudible) – refer to regularly. It’s very comprehensive.
It’s done regularly. It’s relied on by the NGO community.
REP. COHEN: So with Western Europe and Belarus, it’s – and Russia – they’re in
the middle, but how are they with all the other former Soviet Union, scratch
MR. NIX: Well –
REP. COHEN: In that division – if they’re
MR. NIX: Sure, in terms of Eastern Europe –
REP. COHEN: You know, are they a one seed or an eight seed or do they not
make the playoffs? (Laughter.)
MR. NIX: Well, that’s an interesting analogy. But I would say this in terms
of Eastern Europe, Ukraine is lagging far behind the Baltic countries and the
other countries – Slovakia and Poland. It needs to do better; hopefully it
will. That’s what this is all about. And I think the strong voices of
Congress in supporting Ukraine in its efforts to democratize will have real
effect. So they’re not where they should be. Hopefully they will get there,
and sooner the better.
REP. COHEN: Are they better than the “stans”?
MR. NIX: Oh, yes, sir. Yes. I would – I could say that I think
unequivocally. But you know, even in Kyrgyzstan, where we’ve had a – something
of a democratic breakthrough, at least we have the constitutional makings of a
parliamentary republic – a parliamentary system of government. But that’s
still very fragile. No one knows how that will pan out. So yes, obviously,
Ukraine has gained strides. Its location, I think, dictates that it acts so.
So in sum, absolutely ahead of the “stans.”
REP. COHEN: Thank you very much. Yield back.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Commissioner Cohen. Just final question,
would a congressional or codel of this commission be helpful, say, between now
MR. WEISE: Well, I think I speak for all of us when I say absolutely. And of
course, all of our organizations would also be happy to assist with information
or other background materials in advance of such a trip.
REP. SMITH: We will take you on that. Thank you. We will try to put that
together as quickly as possible.
And just one final – on a – on a more humorous note, I’m sure Ambassador Tefft
showed you his Green Bay – his beloved Green Bay Packers helmet. Thank you so
much for your insight, your counsel, your tremendous work on behalf of human
rights. It is extraordinary. And the people of Ukraine benefit because of
you. Thank you so much.