RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 1, No. 26, 30 November 1999

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team.

PRESIDENT VETOES PERSONAL TAX INCOME BILL, SIGNS TWO OTHERS. Aleksander Kwasniewski on 28 November vetoed the personal income tax bill and signed another two bills (one on corporate tax and the other on value-added tax and excise tax) from the tax-reform package passed by the parliament on 20 November. The debate over the tax reform highlighted deep differences between the ruling coalition and the opposition (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 16 November 1999).

Kwasniewski said he vetoed the personal income tax bill because the legislation contradicts the constitutional principle of social justice and because of the way the bill was passed by the parliament.

The bill provided for the gradual reduction of personal income tax brackets in Poland from the current 19 percent, 30 percent, and 40 percent to 18 percent and 28 percent in 2002. "As the president, in accordance with Article 126 [of the constitution], I stand guard over the basic law and in this context I understand the doubts concerning whether the proposed lowering of the rates [for the richest] while retaining unchanged the rates for the lowest earners is consistent with the principle set out in Article Two of the constitution of the Polish Republic, that Poland is a country where the principle of social justice is being put into effect," Kwasniewski commented, according to BBC Monitoring.

Regarding the procedure for adopting the bill, Kwasniewski said: "The ruling coalition has already been debating the reform of the tax system for 15 months. I never commented critically on this fact. All the more, therefore, do I think unjustified and detrimental to the gravity of lawmaking the ruse proposed by one of the coalition deputies, which consisted in rejecting [his] own bills in order to shorten debate and make it impossible for the opposition's proposals to be examined.... No law should be created in this way in Poland, regardless of what political forces constitute the majority--Right, Left or other--and regardless of the subject matter of the law. And I must say no to this unhealthy practice."


HOW RUSSIAN IMAGE-MAKERS HELPED KUCHMA WIN. During the election campaign for the recent presidential elections, Ukrainian newspapers--particularly those that supported the rivals of the incumbent, Leonid Kuchma--suggested that "Russian image-makers" helped the incumbent secure his election victory. However, no Ukrainian publication provided any details to support that suggestion. On 16 November, the Moscow-based "Kommersant-Vlast " made some revelations in an article entitled "The Victory of Russian Kuchma-Makers."

"Kommersant-Vlast" reported on a group of Moscow election specialists working in Dnipropetrovsk as a bogus "Fund for Interregional Ties Between Moscow and Dnipropetrovsk." The group was headed by Dmitrii Alekseev, director of the "School for Election Techniques." According to the newspaper, their work yielded a "phenomenal result" owing to three techniques: accusations that the incumbent's rivals were mentally unbalanced, the dissemination of falsified popularity ratings, and the spreading of rumors detrimental to Kuchma's rivals.

The general message of Kuchma's election advertisements and posters was that the incumbent is the guarantor of stability and peace in Ukraine. His rivals were presented by the Russian election specialists as a threat to the country because of their alleged various mental disorders. Communist Petro Symonenko, for example, was portrayed as a "complete schizoid with a clearly defined 'enemy' syndrome." Socialist Oleksandr Moroz was declared to be an "epileptoid." Progressive Socialist Natalya Vitrenko was presented as a "hysteroid of a mixed, male-female type." According to Alekseev, this technique was effective because "Ukrainians are interested in Jung, who is translated and abundantly quoted [in Ukraine] a propos of everything. Since all Kuchma's rivals were prominent personalities, it was easier for us to declare them crazy and build our campaign on this."

In order to discourage the so-called Kaniv Four election alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko from fielding a single candidate against Kuchma, the Moscow consultants provided falsified popularity poll results. According to "Kommersant-Vlast," both Marchuk and Moroz secretly believed that they topped the popularity ratings and therefore failed to compromise on a single candidate.

"Kommersant-Vlast" also reported that the Moscow election consultants spent $10,000 on "rumor disseminators," each of whom was paid $10 a week. The group, which was composed of representatives of different social strata, spread rumors favorable to Kuchma and harmful to his rivals.

RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.

YELTSIN GETS SICKER. Russian President Boris Yeltsin was admitted to a Moscow hospital on 29 November because doctors suspect that he has pneumonia. As of mid-morning in Moscow on 30 November, a formal diagnosis had not been issued. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said he cannot say exactly how long doctors think treatment will take. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 November that Yeltsin's illness throws into question of a number of planned trips, such as Yeltsin's visit to China, scheduled for the beginning of December, as well as a meeting in Paris on 21 December with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Also affected are the visits to Moscow of Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and possibly Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. JAC

UKRAINE'S KUCHMA SWORN IN FOR SECOND TERM. Leonid Kuchma, reelected for another five-year term on 14 November, took his presidential oath in the Ukrayina concert hall in Kyiv on 30 November. Kuchma's inauguration ceremony was attended by presidents, prime ministers, and other high officials from some 20 countries, including Russia's Vladimir Putin, Poland's Aleksander Kwasniewski, Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and Lithuania's Valdas Adamkus. Ukraine's 450- seat parliament, which initially wanted the inauguration to take place in its building, backed down two hours before the ceremony, with 245 deputies supporting the Kuchma-proposed venue. Some 160 communist and leftist deputies refused to participate in the inauguration ceremony. JM