UKRAINE'S 'KANIV FOUR' ELECTION ALLIANCE FALLS APART. The presidential election alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko fell apart on 26 October after Moroz announced he will stay in the race despite the alliance's earlier decision to support Marchuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 October 1999). "From now on, everyone is conducting his campaign separately," Marchuk commented, according to AP. Moroz noted that the Kaniv four has fulfilled its task by "breaking the information blockade" around its four candidates. Meanwhile, Tkachenko announced the same day that he will withdraw from the race and called on his supporters to vote for Communist Petro Symonenko. Progressive Socialist leader Natalya Vitrenko commented that Tkachenko has resigned in favor of Symonenko in order to avoid his "political death," Interfax reported. JM

UKRAINE'S MOROZ WARNS AUTHORITIES AGAINST ORGANIZING 'PROVOCATION.' Socialist Party leader and presidential candidate Oleksandr Moroz has warned Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko and Security Service chief Leonid Derkach against staging a "provocation" indented to discredit him in the eyes of Ukrainian voters, Interfax reported on 26 October. Moroz said Ukraine's "law enforcement bodies" will air on statecontrolled television channels a video that alleges his involvement in the 2 October attempt on Vitrenko's life. Moroz added that such a move would contravene Ukraine's Constitution. JM

UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS TO SUPPORT FORMER KGB GENERAL. Yaroslava Stetsko, leader of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, said in Lviv on 26 October that her party will support Yevhen Marchuk's presidential bid. Stetsko added that this was a difficult decision for her organization, which had been persecuted by the KGB in the past. General Yevhen Marchuk was the Ukrainian SSR's KGB first deputy chairman in 1990 and chief of the Security Service in independent Ukraine from1991-1994. JM

Regardless of who wins this year's presidential elections in Ukraine, no one should expect the country's dire economic situation to improve soon. That is the only certainty with regard to Ukraine at the present time.

Ukraine's foreign debt stands at $12 billion, of which $3.1 billion is due to be paid next year, while the National Bank's reserves total $1.3 billion. The country is thus facing a default on its foreign debt.

Meanwhile, the government's "domestic" debt, in unpaid wages, pensions, and social benefits, totals 10 billion hryvni ($2.5 billion). Some 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and real unemployment stands at 25 percent. Some 17 percent of Ukraine's labor force is occupied in the shadow economy, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the country's economic activity. Corruption is pervasive. And one-third of the population wants to leave the country because of economic woes.

Even if these data--taken from the newspaper "Den," which supports Yevhen Marchuk's presidential bid and is very hostile to incumbent President Leonid Kuchma--are exaggerated, the true picture of Ukraine's socio-economic condition is unlikely to be much rosier.

All observers of the Ukrainian political scene agree that none of the presidential hopefuls will obtain more than 50 percent of the vote on 31 October, meaning there will be a runoff on 14 November. Observers also tend to agree that Kuchma will be one of the two participants in that second round. However, it is anybody's guess whom the incumbent will be running against.

Ukrainian opinion polls suggest that the most likely candidates to reach the runoff with Kuchma are Natalya Vitrenko, Petro Symonenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Yevhen Marchuk. However, many hopefuls, as well as political analysts, have repeatedly cast doubt on the objectivity of polls in Ukraine, claiming they are biased.

Of the front-runners, Petro Symonenko, the uncharismatic leader of the Communist Party, appears the rival against whom Kuchma would prefer to compete on 14 November. Many analysts argue that in such a case, Kuchma's election team could successfully apply Boris Yeltsin's campaign tactics of 1995, when the Russian president faced Communist Gennadii Zyuganov in the run-off and, with the concerted help of Russian electronic media, effectively instilled the fear of a "red revenge" into the electorate. Those analysts assert that Kuchma could successfully use the same strategy against Symonenko. They also point out that Kuchma's campaign is already closely following the "Russian scenario": the Ukrainian incumbent, like his Russian counterpart four years ago, is employing the services of a host of pop stars and celebrities to promote him in the provinces.

Kuchma's potential duel with Progressive Socialist leader Natalya Vitrenko would be more difficult and its outcome less easy to predict. That scenario could be called the "Belarusian" one because of Vitrenko's extremely populist election ticket, which strongly recalls Alyaksandr Lukashenka's in the 1994 Belarusian presidential vote. The 2 October attempt on Vitrenko's life has most likely boosted her surprisingly high popularity. The unpredictability of a possible Vitrenko challenge to Kuchma lies in the fact that her electorate cannot be defined in terms of its social or economic status. Vitrenko's populism finds its appeal among different social layers of the Ukrainian population, whose only common denominator may be disappointment with Kuchma's rule. It is easy to make mistakes in trying to neutralize the populist appeal in the post-Soviet area, as the case of Belarus five years ago amply demonstrated.

Many would argue that Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz's possible runoff could be the worst scenario for Kuchma. Despite his fierce and not always fair criticism of the incumbent, Moroz is seen as a moderate leftist and, in contrast to Symonenko, a likeable one. In the second round, Moroz might be able to enlist the support of both Symonenko's and parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko's electorate--a goal he failed to achieve while campaigning within the socalled Kaniv Four election alliance of Marchuk, Tkachenko, and Volodymyr Oliynyk. However, the failure to arrive at a political compromise even with Tkachenko (who is now supporting Symonenko) means that Moroz is less likely to appear in the runoff than either Symonenko or Vitrenko.

Marchuk's chances of reaching the second round seem even more remote than Moroz's. In fact, Marchuk is seeking support among the same electorate as Kuchma--that is, among those supporting both Ukraine's pro-market reform and strong statehood. Voters may rather prefer Kuchma, who has already proven himself to be a reformer, if only a half-hearted one, and a staunch supporter of an independent Ukraine.

Ukraine's presidential election campaign has so far been less than exemplary, to say the least. It has been characterized by language that is invariably harsh, very often offensive, and sometimes vulgar. The administration keeps the electronic media--both state-controlled and commercial--on a tight rein, not allowing those media to give more air time to Kuchma's rivals than was prescribed by the Central Electoral Commission. At the same time, Kuchma receives extensive coverage in the state media as the incumbent head of state.

It appears, however, that neither Ukrainian citizens nor the international community would protest very much if Kuchma were elected for another five years. For many inside and outside Ukraine, such an outcome would mean continuation and stability, even if embarrassingly low political and economic standards continue to prevail.