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United States Senate Passes Ukraine Elections Resolution

Washington – The United States Senate unanimously passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 106 late Thursday night prior to adjournment.  The bipartisan resolution urges the Government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic, transparent, and fair election process for the presidential election set for October 31, 2004.  The resolution also outlines measures Ukrainian authorities need to take – consistent with their own laws and international agreements – to ensure an election process that enables all of the candidates to compete on a level playing field.

The measure was sponsored by United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO).  Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Senator Joseph R. Biden (D-DE) were original cosponsors of the resolution.   Other Commission cosponsors were Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), and Gordon Smith (R-OR).

“The October elections will be vital in determining Ukraine’s course for years to come.  This resolution is a concrete expression of the commitment of the U.S. Senate to the Ukrainian people,” said Co-Chairman Campbell.  “Ukraine’s elections should be a watershed for the future direction of that country of great potential.  Ukrainian authorities need to radically improve the election environment if there is to be hope for these elections to meet OSCE standards.  By doing so, they will go a long way in restoring the trust of the citizens of Ukraine and strengthening Ukraine’s independence and democracy.”

An identical resolution, H.Con.Res. 415, introduced by House International Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-IL), together with Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), was reported out of the International Relations Committee and awaits passage by the full House of Representatives.

“The resolution underscores that an election process and the establishment of a genuinely democratic political system consistent with Ukraine’s freely-undertaken OSCE commitments is a prerequisite for Ukraine’s full integration into the Western community of nations as an equal member, including into NATO,” Campbell added.  “Yesterday I raised our concerns about the Ukrainian election with OSCE Chairman-in-Office Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, who assured me of the OSCE’s commitment to encouraging democratic elections in Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s pre-election environment has already proven problematic in such key areas as control and manipulation of the media; attempts by national authorities to limit access to international broadcasting, including Radio Liberty; obstacles to free assembly and a free and fair political campaign. Substantial violations in several recent elections, notably, the Mukacheve mayoral election give rise to deep concern over the conduct of the pre-election environment.  The Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a non-governmental organization, in its most recent report, noted an increase in the number of cases of government pressure against political opposition figures designed to impede their activities.

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