Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 213

With almost the entire vote counted, President Leonid Kuchma has outpolled Communist leader Petro Symonenko by a margin of almost 19 percentage points–approximately 56.5 to 37.5–in Ukraine’s presidential election runoff on November 14. The defeat of the Communists and allied Red parties has turned out to be heavier than prognosticated/predicted by the presidential camp’s most optimistic forecasts–or the communists’ most pessimistic ones. A high turnout of almost 74 percent–some 4 percent higher than the first-round turnout–helped dilute the Red vote.

Yet as the presidential team had pointed out all along, the election hardly amounted to a referendum on whether to return to the Soviet past. The 37-38 percent of citizens who voted Red “did not vote for the discredited communist ideology, but against the way we live today,” said Kuchma in his victory statement yesterday. “For too many years the reforms were announced but marked time in practice,” the president pointed out. His remarks and similar ones from his staff yesterday seemed to presage an early political offensive against the antireform forces which control the parliament (see the Monitor, November 15).

International observers did not question the accuracy of the vote count but issued scathing assessments of the conduct of the electoral campaign by the state authorities. Monitoring teams of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe (CE)–led by Simon Osborne of Britain and Hanne Severinsen of Denmark, respectively–pointed their finger at the authorities’ active electioneering for the incumbent president. Monitors corroborated the Symonenko campaign’s complaints about school headmasters and hospital directors telling their staffs to vote for Kuchma, about police distributing Kuchma campaign material in the precincts, and about state administrations at the city, district and regional levels coordinating those efforts. According to the monitors, violations of the electoral law were more serious in the runoff campaign, compared to the campaign which had preceded the first round of the election, because the state authorities stepped up their electioneering efforts between October 31 and November 14.

The monitoring team of the Duesseldorf-based European Institute of the Media (EIM) provided detailed statistics showing state media partisanship in favor of Kuchma and against his communist rival. Privately owned television channels and newspapers were not much less partisan, the EIM’s statistics showed. The Voters’ Committee of Ukraine (KIU), a national monitoring organization, fully agreed with the OSCE and CE observers’ findings. KIU’s assessment added, however, that the organization had conducted its own vote count in parallel to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), and that the two produced the same results, which showed–according to KIU chairman Igor Popov–that the “CEC’s count was honest and accurate” (UNIAN, DINAU, November 15; Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), November 16; see the Monitor, October 22, 28).