Fake monitors “observe” fake elections in Donbas

The “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR), the organizations which are recognized as terrorist by the Ukrainian authorities, will hold “parliamentary elections” on Sunday, 2nd of November, on the territories occupied by them with the help of the Russian army.

These “elections” are widely considered illegal and illegitimate, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored “the planned holding by armed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine of their own “elections” on 2 November, in breach of the Constitution and national law” adding that “these “elections” will seriously undermine the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, which need to be urgently implemented in full”.

Nevertheless, the Kremlin is said to be willing to recognize these “elections”, yet again completely dismissing the advice from the UN let alone defying the laws of Ukraine that Russia has invaded in February-March 2014. The DNR/LNR “elections” will not be recognized as legitimate either by the EU or the US that threaten Russia with further sanctions for undermining Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty.

As it happened before, the Kremlin will employ puppet “election monitors” that will “observe” and legitimize the “elections” held by the terrorists. Evidence suggests that two “election monitoring organizations” have been in charge of setting up “election observation mission” for the DNR/LNR: the Eurasian Observatory of Democracy and Elections (EODE) run by Belgian fascist Luc Michel and the European Centre for Geopolitical Analysis (ECGA) run by Polish far right politician Mateusz Piskorski – both have been in the service of the Kremlin’s foreign policy since 2005-2006.

(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Fabrice Beaur (EODE / extreme right Parti communautaire national-européen), 1 November 2014, Donetsk
(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Fabrice Beaur (EODE / extreme right Parti communautaire national-européen), 1 November 2014, Donetsk
(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Mateusz Piskorski, 1 November 2014, Donetsk
(left to right ) The leader of the DNR terrorists Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Mateusz Piskorski, 1 November 2014, Donetsk

At the time of writing, the following names of international “observers” hired by the the EODE and ECGA the can be disclosed:

observer table

As my analysis of the movements of these international “election monitors” shows, they arrived to Donetsk from Moscow via Rostov-on-Don. This means that they have all entered Ukraine illegally, as they did not pass pass the official Ukrainian border control. Thus, they can be all persecuted for the crime of illegal border crossing.

According to Moscow-based journalist Alec Luhn, at the press conference in Donbas, the international “observers” suggested creating the Association for Security and Cooperation in Europe (ASCE), but then Stadler proposed the name “Agency for Security and Cooperation in Europe” (ASCE). The name obviously refers to the Oganisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international organization that, in particular, monitors elections in different parts of the world. Since it provides objective and independent monitoring of elections and referenda, the OSCE is hated by the EODE and ECGA, as well as Russian authorities.

However, while constantly vilifying and trying to discredit the OSCE’s observation missions, Russian state-controlled media intentionally present fake “election monitors” as members of the OSCE. For example, in March 2014, Russian TV channel “Rossiya 24” claimed that notorious fascist Michel was “the organizer of the OSCE observation mission” at the illegal “referendum in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea that Russia annexed afterwards.

Belgian fascist Luc Michel, the head of the EODE, in Crimea. The caption reads: "Organiser of the OSCE observation mission in Crimea"
Belgian fascist Luc Michel, the head of the EODE, in Crimea. The caption reads: “Organiser of the OSCE observation mission in Crimea”

This imposturous presentation of Michel to the Russian-speaking audience reveals the high status value of the OSCE even in the generally anti-Western context.

The “elections” planned for the 2nd of November may be a start of a new offensive of the DNR/LNR extremists against the Ukrainian forces. There is a non-zero chance of a false flag operation against either the “observers” or people at “polling stations”. Some of them may be killed by the (pro-)Russian extremists dressed in uniforms of Ukrainian forces to discredit Ukraine and/or divert the international attention from the illegitimate “elections” to the killing(s) of “election observers” or “voters”. The chances are low, but such a development cannot be ruled out.

[hr] Cover photo: The press conference of the international “observers” in Donbas, 1 November 2014. Third from the right is Ewald Stadler. Credit: Alec Luhn

Ukraine’s parliamentary elections and the far right

On the 26th of October 2014, Ukrainians voted at the early parliamentary elections. Ukraine currently has a mixed electoral system (50% under party lists and 50% under constituencies) with a 5% election threshold. Here are the results of the National Exit Poll 2014.

Since these are not official results, the following analysis is preliminary:

As I argued in February this year, popular support for the far right Svoboda party had dwindled already by the beginning of Euromaidan protests in Ukraine. Svoboda obtained 10.44% of the vote at the 2012 parliamentary elections, but in November 2013 only 5.1% of the voters would have cast a ballot for this party. Moreover, Svoboda failed to recover its lost support during the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, so only 5.6% of the voters would vote for the party in February 2014. At the early presidential election in May 2014, the leader of Svoboda Oleh Tyahybok obtained 1.16% of the vote.

Svoboda’s relative failure to mobilise its former electorate can be attributed to the demise of former president Viktor Yanukovych’s regime: Svoboda was successful in 2012 because it was considered an anti-Yanukovych party, so with Yanukovych ousted, almost half of Svoboda’s electorate was gone too. Furthermore, in 2012, Svoboda was also considered almost the only “patriotic” party, but now all democratic parties are patriotic, so Svoboda has lost its “monopoly” on patriotism.

What should also be noted is that the decline of Svoboda is much deeper than the simple comparison of electoral results in 2012 and 2014 can demonstrate. In 2014, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of the Donbass region did not take part in the parliamentary elections as Crimea is now criminally annexed by Russia, while part of the Donbass region is under control of (pro-)Russian extremists. These two regions voted heavily for Yanukovych’s party and the misleadingly named Communist Party of Ukraine and, therefore, brought down the support for Svoboda on the national level. If citizens in Crimea and Donbass had been given a chance to freely vote in the 2014 parliamentary elections, Svoboda’s results would have been even worse.

Where did Svoboda’s former electorate go? I presume that more moderate voters went back to the national-democratic forces, such as the People’s Front or Samopomich. Part of Svoboda’s former electorate apparently went to the Right Sector and Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party. The inclusion of these two parties into the far right category is tentative. As a political party, the Right Sector is ideologically quite different from the movement under the same name that was formed during the 2014 revolution; the party is less radical than the movement, so I suggest the term “national conservative” as a more relevant one. Lyashko’s Radical Party is dangerously populist and a typical anti-establishment force. However, both the Right Sector and Lyashko’s Radical Party have extreme right members, but they are a minority. In contrast to Lyashko’s Radical Party, the Right Sector will not be able to enter the parliament, but its leader Dmytro Yarosh will most likely be elected in one of the single-member districts.

The People’s Front led by prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also involved extreme right candidates: Andriy Biletskiy, leader of the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly and commander of the Azov regiment, and Vadym Troyan of the same affiliation, ran in single-member districts and were supported by the People’s Front. At the time of writing, it is not clear whether Biletsky and Troyan have been elected.

The veterans of the Ukrainian far right, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, have failed again. I presume the aim of their participation in the elections is not about getting into the parliament; rather, it is about having official observers in the electoral commissions – sometimes in the past observers from fringe political forces provided “services” to interested parties, i.e. were involved in corrupt schemes.

To conclude this preliminary analysis, the Ukrainian far right forces do not appear to be as successful in the electoral terms as they were in 2012. Populism, however, is still a problem, while relatively large segments of the Ukrainian society fail to recognise the threat that populism poses to the consolidation of democracy in Ukraine.

A Nation Divided?

Much has been made of Ukraine’s West v. East paradigm, but is it a valid demarcation of the country’s political leanings? The issue with post-Orange Revolution political discourse is that the Kuchma and Kravchuk eras have largely been forgotten while commentaries reach to the historic past to find reason for electoral leanings in the Soviet and even Imperial era. This is incredibly short sighted as we have several, common era elections in independent Ukraine’s history to look at to see if this trend holds up. And that’s the problem – it doesn’t.

1991 saw Viacheslav Chornovil go up against the heavily favored Leonid Kravchuk with the latter taking all but Galicia. 3 years later, however, we see Galicia warm up to Ukraine’s first president (presumably voting for the lesser of two evils). The presidential elections of 1999, though, saw another about face with Kuchma now taking the West while the Communist Party grew unevenly in the center, south, and east. It’s only when we get to the Orange Era that Ukraine fixates itself on an immutable east-west axis between the democratic opposition and the Party of Regions. The same Party of Regions, mind you, that was supported by Kuchma; thus completing his east-west-east lap around the country.

Now when looking at the animated map below, what stands out? For one, Crimea, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Kherson can’t make up their mind, voting Kravchuk, then Kuchma, but finally settling in on the pro-Russian Communist and Regions.

[one_sixth]idea of a predictable West too goes out the window[/one_sixth]

Similarly, Galicia is too the only collective of regions in the West that has voted for 5 different presidential nominees in the 5 elections. Factor in that the region is now resurgent in its support for Svoboda, and the idea of a predictable West too goes out the window.

Kirovohrad, Poltava, Vinnytsia, and Chernihiv all voted Kuchma, then Communist, then Yushchenko/Tymoshenko. Here we see a complete turnaround from “pro-Russian” to “pro-European” stereotypes. These four provinces are proof positive that hearts and minds can be won and swing states are alive and well.

Ultimately, the 2015 (or sooner) presidential elections, if free and fair, could very buck the trend that we’ve seen since 2004. The fact of the matter is, simplistic divides, while easy to represent in the media, don’t always hold the test of time. The United States is notorious for its Red v. Blue state battleground, but while the Northeast is typically Democrat and the South is typically Republican, there are always swing states and always variety. Ukraine is no different. With the ever changing, volatile political landscape of 2013 and beyond, there is just no telling where to draw the east-west line in the sand just yet.

Ukraine elections map