INTRODUCTION OF S. RES. 205 ON PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION IN UKRAINE
Honorable Ben Nighthorse
Mr. President, as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I today am introducing a resolution urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic, transparent, and fair election process leading up to the March 31, 2002 parliamentary elections. I am pleased to be joined by fellow Commissioners DODD and BROWNBACK. Several of our colleagues from the House have introduced a companion resolution.
Ukraine's success as an independent, democratic state is vital to the stability and security in Europe, and that country has, over the last decade, enjoyed a strong relationship with the United States. The Helsinki Commission has monitored closely the situation in Ukraine and has a long record of support for the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for human rights and democratic freedoms. Ukraine enjoys goodwill in the Congress and remains one of our largest recipients of assistance in the world. Clearly, there is a genuine desire that Ukraine succeed as an independent, democratic, stable and economically successful state. It is against this backdrop that I introduce this resolution, as a manifestation of our concern about Ukraine's direction at this critical juncture. These parliamentary elections will be an important indication of whether Ukraine moves forward rather than backslides on the path to democratic development.
Indeed, there has been growing cause for concern about Ukraine's direction over the last few years. Last May, I chaired a Helsinki Commission hearing: ``Ukraine at the Crossroads: Ten Years After Independence.'' Witnesses at that hearing testified about problems confronting Ukraine's democratic development, including high-level corruption, the controversial conduct of authorities in the investigation of murdered investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and other human rights problems. I had an opportunity to meet Mrs. Gongadze and her daughters who attended that hearing.
While there has been progress over the last few months with respect to legislation designed to strengthen the rule of law, it is too early to assert that Ukraine is once again moving in a positive direction.
With respect to the upcoming elections, on the positive side we have seen the passage of a new elections law which, while not perfect, has made definite improvements in providing safeguards to meet Ukraine's international commitments. However, there are already concerns about the elections, with increasing reports of violations of political rights and freedoms during the pre-campaign period, many of them documented in reports recently released by the non-partisan, non-government Committee on Voters of Ukraine , CVU.
It is important for Ukraine that there not be a repeat of the 1999 presidential elections which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, stated were marred by violations of the Ukrainian election law and failed to meet a significant number of commitments on the conduct of elections set out in the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document. Therefore, this resolution urges the Ukrainian Government to enforce impartially the new election law and to meet its OSCE commitments on democratic elections and to address issues identified by the OSCE report on the 1999 presidential election such as state interference in the campaign and pressure on the media.
The upcoming parliamentary elections clearly present Ukraine with an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to OSCE principles. The resolution we introduce today is an expression of the importance of these parliamentary elections, which could serve as an important stepping-stone in Ukraine's efforts to become a fully integrated member of the Europe-Atlantic community of nations.
SENATE RESOLUTION 205--URGING THE GOVERNMENT OF UKRAINE TO ENSURE A DEMOCRATIC, TRANSPARENT, AND FAIR ELECTION PROCESS LEADING UP TO THE MARCH 31, 2002, PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
Mr. CAMPBELL (for himself, Mr. DODD, and Mr. BROWNBACK) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations:
S. Res. 205
Whereas Ukraine stands at a critical point in its development to a fully democratic society, and the parliamentary elections on March 31, 2002, its third parliamentary elections since becoming independent more than 10 years ago, will play a significant role in demonstrating whether Ukraine continues to proceed on the path to democracy or experiences further setbacks in its democratic development;
Whereas the Government of Ukraine can demonstrate its commitment to democracy by conducting a genuinely free and fair parliamentary election process, in which all candidates have access to news outlets in the print, radio, television, and Internet media, and nationally televised debates are held, thus enabling the various political parties and election blocs to compete on a level playing field and the voters to acquire objective information about the candidates;
Whereas a flawed election process, which contravenes commitments of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on democracy and the conduct of elections, could potentially slow Ukraine's efforts to integrate into western institutions;
Whereas in recent years, government corruption and harassment of the media have raised concerns about the commitment of the Government of Ukraine to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, while calling into question the ability of that government to conduct free and fair elections;
Whereas Ukraine , since its independence in 1991, has been one of the largest recipients of United States foreign assistance;
Whereas $154,000,000 in technical assistance to Ukraine was provided under Public Law 107-115 (the Kenneth M. Ludden Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, Fiscal Year 2002), a $16,000,000 reduction in funding from the previous fiscal year due to concerns about continuing setbacks to needed reform and the unresolved deaths of prominent dissidents and journalists;
Whereas Public Law 107-115 requires a report by the Department of State on the progress by the Government of Ukraine in investigating and bringing to justice individuals responsible for the murders of Ukrainian journalists;
Whereas the disappearance and murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze on September 16, 2000, remains unresolved;
Whereas the presidential election of 1999, according to the final report of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of OSCE on that election, was marred by violations of Ukrainian election law and failed to meet a significant number of commitments on democracy and the conduct of elections included in the OSCE 1990 Copenhagen Document;
Whereas during the 1999 presidential election campaign, a heavy proincumbent bias was prevalent among the state-owned media outlets, members of the media viewed as not in support of the president were subject to harassment by government authorities, and proincumbent campaigning by state administration and public officials was widespread and systematic;
Whereas the Law on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine , signed by President Leonid Kuchma on October 30, 2001, was cited in a report of the ODIHR dated November 26, 2001, as making improvements in Ukraine's electoral code and providing safeguards to meet Ukraine's commitments on democratic elections, although the Law on Elections remains flawed in a number of important respects, notably by not including a role for domestic nongovernmental organizations to monitor elections;
Whereas according to international media experts, the Law on Elections defines the conduct of an election campaign in an ambiguous manner and could lead to arbitrary sanctions against media operating in Ukraine ;
Whereas the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) on December 13, 2001, rejected a draft Law on Political Advertising and Agitation, which would have limited free speech in the campaign period by giving too many discretionary powers to government bodies, and posed a serious threat to the independent media;
Whereas the Department of State has dedicated $4,700,000 in support of monitoring and assistance programs for the 2002 parliamentary elections;
Whereas the process for the 2002 parliamentary elections has reportedly been affected by apparent violations during the period prior to the official start of the election campaign on January 1, 2002; and
Whereas monthly reports for November and December of 2001 released by the Committee on Voters of Ukraine (CVU), an indigenous, nonpartisan, nongovernment organization that was established in 1994 to monitor the conduct of national election campaigns and balloting in Ukraine , cited five major types of violations of political rights and freedoms during the precampaign phase of the parliamentary elections, including--
(1) use of government position to support particular political groups;
(2) government pressure on the opposition and on the independent media;
(3) free goods and services given in order to sway voters;
(4) coercion to join political parties and pressure to contribute to election campaigns; and
(5) distribution of anonymous and compromising information about political opponents:
Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate--
(1) acknowledges the strong relationship between the United States and Ukraine since Ukraine's independence more than 10 years ago, while understanding that Ukraine can only become a full partner in western institutions when it fully embraces democratic principles;
(2) expresses its support for the efforts of the Ukrainian people to promote democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in Ukraine;
(3) urges the Government of Ukraine to enforce impartially the new election law, including provisions calling for--
(A) the transparency of election procedures;
(B) access for international election observers;
(C) multiparty representation on election commissions;
(D) equal access to the media for all election participants;
(E) an appeals process for electoral commissions and within the court system; and
(F) administrative penalties for election violations;
(4) urges the Government of Ukraine to meet its commitments on democratic elections, as delineated in the 1990 Copenhagen Document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with respect to the campaign period and election day, and to address issues identified by the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of OSCE in its final report on the 1999 presidential election, such as state interference in the campaign and pressure on the media; and
(5) calls upon the Government of Ukraine to allow election monitors from the ODIHR, other participating states of OSCE, and private institutions and organizations, both foreign and domestic, full access to all aspects of the parliamentary election process, including--
(A) access to political events attended by the public during the campaign period;
(B) access to voting and counting procedures at polling stations and electoral commission meetings on election day, including procedures to release election results on a precinct by precinct basis as they become available; and
(C) access to postelection tabulation of results and processing of election challenges and complaints