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END NOTE: GENDER ISSUES HIJACKED BY 'PARTY OF POWER' IN
UKRAINE'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN
UKRAINE OBJECTS TO IMF'S CONDITION FOR RELEASING ANOTHER TRANCHE. Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Rohovyy said on 25 February that Ukraine has failed to resolve a key tax issue that must be resolved before the IMF will release another tranche of its $2.6 billion loan. Rohovyy, who led the Ukrainian delegation at the talks with the IMF in Washington last week, told journalists that Kyiv will not follow the IMF's advice to immediately repay some 2.7 billion hryvni ($500 million) of VAT refunds to Ukrainian exporters from the budget. "It is a path that may provoke us into building a new financial pyramid and may ruin the financial stability that has been so painfully achieved since 1998," ICTV Television quoted Rohovyy as saying. JM
YULIYA TYMOSHENKO HITS THE ROAD AGAIN. Former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, who leads the election bloc bearing her name, has again set off on a campaign trip to the provinces, UNIAN reported on 25 February. Tymoshenko had toured some Ukrainian regions before her automobile accident on 29 January, after which she was hospitalized. Moreover, on 29 January the Appeals Court restored the earlier restriction on her freedom of movement that did not allow her to leave Kyiv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2002). However, on 14 February the Supreme Court suspended the Appeals Court's decision until 14 March, making it possible for Tymoshenko to travel outside the capital. Oleksandr Turchynov, the deputy head of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, told UNIAN that Tymoshenko left the hospital and went on her provincial trip against her doctors' advice. JM
MOLDOVAN LEADERS MEETS U.S. ENVOY. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev met on 25 February with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer in Chisinau and denied that his cabinet intends to renationalize private enterprises and reintroduce the collectivization of agriculture, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Tarlev said these are "rumors spread by certain political forces interested in discrediting the country's leadership." Pifer said the U.S. is prepared to "further assist in finding mutually acceptable solutions" to both Moldova's current political crisis and the Transdniester conflict. Pifer was later received by President Vladimir Voronin, who told him the authorities' economic policies are geared toward overcoming the current crisis and reviving economic growth. Voronin also said Chisinau has three preliminary conditions for renewing discussions with Tiraspol: the evacuation of Russian weaponry, setting up joint Moldovan-Ukrainian customs posts, and restoring the OSCE's activity in the separatist region. MS
GENDER ISSUES HIJACKED BY 'PARTY OF POWER' IN UKRAINE'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN
The authorities have a clear policy to only allow one women's and one "Green" party linked to the "party of power" to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections on 31 March. The Green Party of Ukraine (ZPU) and Women for the Future are both financed by Vasyl Khmelnytsky, No. 3 on the ZPU's election list and the director of the Zaporizhstal plant, who has close ties to first lady Lyudmyla Kuchma. In February, the Central Election Commission annulled its previous decision to register the alternative Women of Ukraine party and the Rayduha (Rainbow) green election bloc, and forced Larysa Skoryk's Women for the Future of Children party to reregister as the All Ukrainian Party of Interethnic Understanding.
In the late Soviet era, fixed quotas ensured that one-half of the seats in local councils and a third of the seats in Ukraine's Supreme Soviet were allocated to women. In Ukraine's three parliaments elected in 1990, 1994, and 1998, female representation initially declined but then slightly increased from 2.9 to 4.6 to its current 8 percent. But it still lags far behind that of the Soviet and Mikhail Gorbachev eras. Nevertheless, women's issues continue to remain marginal to the concerns of mainstream politicians in Ukraine.
In the March 1998 parliamentary elections, only one party -- the All Ukrainian Party Women's Initiative (VPZhI) -- campaigned on a gender platform. Its result of 0.58 percent of the vote placed it 22nd on the list of 30 blocs and parties competing in that ballot.
In contrast, Women for the Future (ZhzM), one of two election groups in the current election campaign with a gender platform, has scored far more impressive results in opinion polls, which have averaged between 6-7 percent. These figures suggest that the group will easily pass the 4 percent voting barrier to qualify for the distribution of 225 seats contested under a proportional system. According to a January poll by the Ukrainian Institute for Social Studies, 10 percent of women and 2 percent of men will vote for Women for the Future.
Of Ukraine's 130 registered political parties, five are devoted to women's issues. The VPZhI, registered in October 1997, is the oldest of the five. It is also the only party based outside Kyiv, in Kharkiv. Three others are also small parties -- the Women's Party of Ukraine (registered in March 1997), the Women's People Party United (September 1998), and the Solidarity with Women Party (December 1999).
Women for the Future's rise to third place in popularity among the 36 election blocs and parties has been meteoric. Its registration on 30 March of last year was suspiciously just one day before the deadline for parties to be registered for the 31 March parliamentary elections. Within less than a year, Women for the Future has managed to attract 360,000 members in 500 branches, an impressive figure when compared to the Communist Party's 140,000 members.
Women for the Future is led by individuals with ties to the former Soviet Ukrainian nomenklatura and to Leonid Kuchma when he was Prime Minister in 1992-1993. According to Alexandra Hrycak, a Western expert on gender issues in Ukraine, the ideology of Women for the Future is Soviet and not in tune with gender issues and the women's rights movement in the West. Women for the Future does not oppose the Sovietera stereotype of the female role in politics being confined to areas such as maternal and child-welfare issues. As "Zerkalo Nedeli/Dzerkalo Tyzhnya" reported, Women for the Future "has no new ideology behind it either."
Valentyna Dovzhenko, the head of Women for the Future, also heads the All-Ukrainian Voluntary Fund of Hope and Good (VDFND) and heads the State Committee of Family and Youth Affairs that was formerly a ministry, as well as the parliamentary Committee on Family and Youth. The head of the controlling committee of VDFND and the president of another NGO, the National Fund for the Social Defense of Mothers and Children, is Lyudmyla Kuchma. The VDFND was established by the Sovietera Union of Ukrainian Women led by Maria Orlyk, a leading member of Women for the Future.
The answer to the question as to why the Women for the Future party has managed to become so popular so quickly is its access to "administrative resources." "Administrative resources" or closeness to centers of power, such as the executive, ensure high popularity and victory in Ukraine's elections. Independent and thereby genuine women's parties, such as the four women's parties other than the ZhzM, stand little chance in elections when Women for the Future has executive support and -- more importantly -- the backing of first lady Kuchma.
Women for the Future was created especially to ensure that another pro-presidential faction would exist in the next parliament. It will therefore play the same role as the Greens in the 1998 elections, who were able to win 5.43 percent of the vote by targeting floating voters, the undecided, and those disillusioned with party politics. In this sense, Women for the Future campaigns on a platform of hostility to the very idea of the usefulness of party politics. The platform of Women for the Future and its traditional campaigning style appeals to women aged between 30-40 and centers on such issues as women's rights, health (e.g., breast cancer), and domestic violence. Women for the Future's closeness to Ukraine's first lady has also drawn comparisons to the Yugoslav United Party of the Left led by Slobodan Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic.
Members of Women for the Future have been defined as "albinos" by the weekly "Zerkalo Nedeli/Dzerkalo Tyzhnya" because they are devoid of any ideological platform. The party's popularity has not grown because of advertising or rousing speeches in defense of women's rights. On the contrary, party members have instead traveled around Ukraine distributing material assistance at schools, military bases, and factories. In Sumy and Kharkiv Oblasts, foodstuffs have been distributed free of charge. In every raion in Chernivtsi Oblast, "Photos for Mother" events were undertaken in schools, kindergartens, libraries, and cultural clubs -- during which free photos were taken of children standing next to Women for the Future party symbols. Afterward, presents were distributed free of charge to needy families.
According to the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a third of the distribution of free assistance by election blocs in Ukraine is undertaken by Women for the Future. Grandiose concerts by Ukrainian and Russian pop stars in towns and villages throughout Ukraine organized by the party have cost some $100,000, according to "Zerkalo Nedeli/Dzerkalo Tyzhnya." Yet the party is vague about its sources for the funds to finance the high cost of running such a brash campaign.
Women for the Future is likely to enter the next Ukrainian parliament. But the Soviet ideological influence on the party will likely mean that it will not advance women's rights in the sense understood by women's movements in the West. Instead, Ukraine will obtain another pro-presidential faction in parliament that differs little from other oligarchic factions led by the opposite gender.
RUSSIANS KISS TO SET A RECORD (19 FEBRUARY) Some 2,226 young Russians gathered for a simultaneous kiss on Moscow's Kievsky pedestrian bridge on 16 February, setting what they hope is a new world record, AP reported. Aleksei Svistunov, president of the PARI information agency, organizer of the event, said the kiss-off should earn a place in the record books. The event was a part of St. Valentine's Day celebrations in the Russian capital. According to Svistunov, the previous record of 1,400 people kissing simultaneously was held by the U.S. in 1996. (TSK)
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
GREENS, OLIGARCHS, AND ELECTIONS. Of Ukraine's 130 registered parties, seven claim to be "green." These include the All-Ukrainian Chornobyl People's Party (registered in October 1998), the Green Ecological Party (February 2001), the Green Party of Ukraine, the Ecological Party, the Ecological Party "Defense" (all in March 2001), and the Green Party-XXI Century (April 2001).
Six of Ukraine's seven "green" parties have little influence in comparison to the oldest, the Party of Greens of Ukraine (ZPU), which was registered far ahead of the others on 24 May 1991. Until its electoral success in 1998, the ZPU faced little competition from other "greens." Then, another five "green" parties were registered in the winter 2000-spring 2001 season.
The "Greens" underwent a similar process that took place within other Ukrainian political parties. From 1994 to 1998, some centrist and national democratic parties were gradually taken over by oligarchs who needed to convert their newly found economic clout back into political influence. After the ZPU and the People's Democratic Party (NDP) were taken over by them, those members of both parties who stayed loyal to their original pre-oligarch ideology left to create other parties or joined existing ones. These nonoligarchic parties have joined Our Ukraine or the Yuliya Tymoshenko blocs, while the ZPU and NDP support the oligarchs and President Leonid Kuchma.
Of the 34 parties and blocs registered until last week for the election campaign, only two were "green," and both are supported by competing oligarchs. The Rayduha (Rainbow) election bloc included the Ecological Party of Ukraine "Defense" and was financed by Vadym Rabynovych, an oligarch who was recently accused of acting as a middleman in the sale of Ukrainian tanks to the Taliban in the mid-1990s. Rabynovych holds dual Israeli-Ukrainian citizenship, is the head of one of two competing Jewish organizations in Ukraine, and is persona non grata in the United States. The title of this bloc is also meant to appeal to the gay community, whose international flag is made up of the colors of the rainbow.
Rabynovych went ahead and created his own election bloc after falling out with the ZPU, which he helped to finance in its successful return to Ukrainian politics in the March 1998 parliamentary elections. In an interview in "Stolichnye novosti" in August 2001, a newspaper funded by Rabynovych, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Yuriy Shcherbak initially toyed with the idea of heading the Rainbow coalition as an alternative "green" bloc to the ZPU. Shcherbak founded the Green World Association in 1986 and was the first head of the ZPU, which he now accuses of having betrayed "green" ideology. Rabynovych and Shcherbak have known each other since the early 1990s when the latter was Ukraine's first ambassador to Israel.
On 20 February, the Central Election Commission cancelled the registration of the Rainbow bloc, following a verdict by a Kyiv district court saying that the bloc was formed in an illegitimate manner. This decision has left the ZPU as the only group representing Ukrainian environmentalists in the elections.
Genuine "green" parties, in the same manner as genuine women's parties, find it impossible to be successful in Ukraine's political system. Only parties that have been captured by oligarchs (such as the ZPU) or created especially by them for the elections (Women for the Future) can be successful because they have financing and, while being pro-presidential, also have access to "administrative resources." The Rainbow bloc was not successful in winning popularity because Rabynovych was no longer on good terms with the executive. The Women of Ukraine Party, the only other registered gender party, has also failed to win support because it is backed by neither the oligarchs nor the executive.
Ukraine's largest "green" party, the ZPU, grew out of the Green World Association, an ally of the Rukh nationalist movement in the late Soviet era. It is contemporary Ukraine's third-oldest political party, and its inaugural congress was held in September 1990 where it championed both "ecosocialism" and state independence. Its main base of support then was western and central Ukraine, the same as Rukh's.
After Ukraine became an independent state in 1991, the ZPU began a long period of decline. In the eyes of Ukraine's elites, environmental problems became less important than ensuring sufficient energy supplies in the face of Russia's use of energy pressure, mounting debts, and a shift in world prices. During the ZPU's stagnation, it elected a new leader in October 1993, Vitaliy Kononov, who has remained in that position until today. In 1994, before the ZPU was taken over by oligarchs, the ZPU joined the European Federation of Green Parties.
The ZPU re-entered the Ukrainian political scene in the March 1998 elections when it won 5.44 percent of the vote. The new ZPU was very different from that created in 1990-91. At its peak the ZPU held 25 parliamentary seats, which has since declined to 15, and it boasts 52,000 members, small by the standards of other oligarchic parties.
The ZPU's 1998 success was due to two factors: a very effective Western-style advertising campaign, and a huge injection of new finances. As with the Women for the Future party in the current elections, the ZPU campaigned in 1998 on an "antiparty" ticket with the slogan "Politicians Utilize Demagoguery." This was an appeal to disaffected young people (the ZPU was one of the youngest factions) and those easily turned off by politics.
The main financier of the ZPU since 1998, as well as the Women for the Future whose campaign is building on the earlier success of the ZPU, is Vasyl Khmelnytskiy, No. 3 on the Green election list, and director of the huge Zaporizhstal plant. He was successful in recruiting other businessmen who needed a "krysha" (roof) to protect their business interests in telecommunications, banking, insurance, hotels, and -- more surprisingly -- energy. Khmelnytskiy's additional support for Women for the Future has been made possible by his close relationship with President Kuchma and first lady Ludmyla Kuchma.
Throughout the entire tenure of the 1998-2002 parliament, the ZPU remained loyal to the president without going overboard in its support, presumably so as not to turn off potential young voters. Only two minor government positions were granted to the ZPU. Last year, Ambassador Shcherbak severely criticized the ZPU's lack of legislative initiative in the current parliament.
The ZPU has 9.9 to 7 percent support in southern and eastern Ukraine, and its two strongest bases are Zaporizhzhya and Odesa. Ironically, in western and central Ukraine, where the ZPU began 10 years ago, its support is only 5.1 and 3 percent, according to a January poll by the Center for Economic and Political Studies. Khmelnytskiy's two pet projects, the ZPU and Women for the Future, will therefore enter the next parliament, but neither are likely to promote green or gender issues.
No. 1 -- Communist Party
No. 2 -- Our Ukraine Bloc (led by Viktor Yushchenko) No. 3 -- Democratic Party and the Democratic Union Party Bloc No. 4 -- All-Ukrainian Christian Party
No. 5 -- Natalya Vitrenko Bloc
No. 6 -- Green Party
No. 7 -- Bloc Against All
No. 8 -- Communist Party of Workers and Peasants No. 9 -- New Force Party
No. 10 -- Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc
No. 11 -- Party for the Rehabilitation of the Seriously Ill No. 12 -- Reformed Communist Party
No. 13 -- Socialist Party (led by Oleksandr Moroz) No. 14 -- For a United Ukraine Bloc (led by Volodymyr Lytvyn) No. 15 -- Unity Bloc (led by Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko) No. 16 -- All-Ukrainian Party of Workers No. 17 -- Reformed Liberal Party
No. 18 -- All-Ukrainian New World Association No. 19 -- Justice All-Ukrainian Leftist Association No. 20 -- Winter Crop Generation Team
No. 21 -- Party of Depositors and Social Protection No. 22 -- Agrarian Party
No. 23 -- Social Democratic Party (United) (led by Viktor Medvedchuk) No. 24 -- People's Movement of Ukraine (Rukh's splinter group led by Bohdan Boyko) No. 25 -- Ukrainian National Assembly
No. 26 -- ZUBR Bloc (ZUBR is the acronym of "For Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia")
No. 27 -- Ukrainian Naval Party
No. 28 -- Christian Movement
No. 29 -- Social Democratic Party
No. 30 -- Russian Bloc
No. 31 -- Women for the Future
No. 32 -- Yabluko Party
No. 33 -- New Generation Party
"It is better to remain a political orphan than to have such a father as [President] Leonid Kuchma." -- Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz on relations between former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and the Ukrainian president; quoted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website on 23 February.
"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.