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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WANTS PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY BASED ON HIS BLOC. Leonid Kuchma said on 19 March that he believes a parliamentary majority in the new Verkhovna Rada will be created around the For a United Ukraine election bloc led by presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, UNIAN reported. "I do not see any other political force around which a majority could be created in the future parliament, regardless of whether someone likes this or not," Kuchma noted. He said the state should be run by professionals, adding that "the time when the state was governed by female cooks has passed." Kuchma voiced the need for amending the law on political parties in order to prevent their "cloning," and noted that "having 140 parties in the country is an absurdity." He also spoke in favor of introducing a higher voting barrier -- around 7 percent -- for blocs of parties seeking parliamentary mandates. JM
OUR UKRAINE HEAD POINTS TO 'INTERFERENCE' BY RUSSIAN OFFICIALS IN ELECTION... Our Ukraine election bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko said on 19 March on local radio and television in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast that the statements of some Russian officials are "unfriendly" and constitute "direct interference in Ukraine's internal affairs and electoral process," UNIAN reported on 20 March. Yushchenko was apparently referring to a recent pronouncement by Russian presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, who reportedly said that For a United Ukraine, the Social Democratic Party (United) of Ukraine, and the Communist Party of Ukraine are the blocs that promote strengthening Russian-Ukrainian relations. "Unfortunately, [Our Ukraine] includes political forces that have overtly anti-Russian positions," UNIAN quoted Voloshin as saying. Yushchenko stressed that Our Ukraine is not a radical bloc and does not harbor anti-Russian sentiments. JM
...AS ACTIVIST ACCUSES MOSCOW OF FANNING 'ANTI-WESTERN HYSTERIA' IN UKRAINE. Roman Bezsmertnyy, a political coordinator of the Our Ukraine bloc, has said some Russian politicians and spin doctors are trying to influence the election campaign in Ukraine by provoking anti-Western sentiment, UNIAN reported on 20 March, quoting the Our Ukraine press service. "They have steered toward stopping Ukraine's advance to Euro-Atlantic structures by artificially fanning anti-Western hysteria," Bezsmertnyy noted. According to Bezsmertnyy, "short-sighted political forces" in Ukraine allow Russian spin doctors "to use some [Ukrainian] television channels to implement their long-term geopolitical plans." JM
UKRAINIAN NEWSPAPER ACCUSES U.S. OF INTERFERING IN ELECTION. "Fakty i Kommentarii," the Kyiv-based pro-presidential daily tabloid, has accused the U.S. of leading an effort to boost the election chances of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and opposition parties, as well as of sponsoring some 300 NGOs in order to obtain an election result that would suit Washington. "As for longer-term plans...the Americans seem to continue cherishing the hope of fragmenting Ukraine by strengthening breakaway and extreme movements... The U.S. used this scenario more than once in neighboring post-socialist countries. Therefore, the U.S. attempts, direct or indirect, to create a system of alternative public and political centers that could 'intercept' power amid 'crisis development' seem quite logical," the newspaper wrote on 16 March. JM
UKRAINIAN TAX AUTHORITY SAYS 1,500 ELECTION CANDIDATES MADE FALSE INCOME DECLARATIONS. State Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov told journalists on 20 March that 637 candidates running for parliamentary seats on party lists and 870 candidates registered in one-seat constituencies provided the Central Electoral Commission with false information about their incomes and possessions, UNIAN reported. Azarov added that checking candidates' declarations is the only form of participation of the State Tax Administration in the election campaign. Asked if he is aware that the Central Election Commission "selectively" uses information supplied by his institution, Azarov said he is not, adding that he does not intend to verify this allegation. Last week, the Central Election Commission disqualified more than 100 candidates from the election race, citing false income declarations as the reason. JM
LITHUANIA ACCEPTS UKRAINIAN OFFER OF ADVICE ON NUCLEAR PLANT CLOSING. In Vilnius on 19 March, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and his Ukrainian counterpart Anatoliy Kinakh discussed the closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, ELTA reported. Brazauskas gladly accepted Kinakh' s offer to share Ukraine's expertise on dismantling equipment, the storage of used materials, and other issues. The premiers also spoke about their common desire to expand bilateral economic cooperation and trade. They agreed to form a joint working group to discuss ways to increase the transit trade of both countries, and Ukrainian trade through the port of Klaipeda in particular. If Lithuania joins the EU, it will have to end its free-trade agreement with Ukraine. Kinakh mentioned that Ukraine plans to become an associated member of the EU in 2007, and be prepared for membership obligations by 2010-2011. In later talks with President Valdas Adamkus, Kinakh expressed his support for Lithuania's efforts to join NATO. SG
POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER CRITICIZES EU FARM AID PROPOSAL. Speaking to EU agriculture ministers in Brussels on 19 March, Polish Deputy Premier and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski said the European Commission's proposals concerning farm aid to new EU members are unacceptable to Warsaw (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 19 February 2002), Polish Radio reported. According to Kalinowski, a 10-year transition period for making equal conditions for new and current EU member countries means that, within this period, intensive agricultural production will remain almost the sole domain of the current 15 EU members, while the new members will have to extensively develop "agriculture, supplemented with a considerable amount of social policy." JM
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
BIRDS OF A FEATHER? The much publicized and controversial banning of Crimean speaker Leonid Hrach as a candidate for a seat in the Crimean Supreme Council took an unexpected turn last week when the Central District Court in Simferopol ordered district election commission No. 25 in Simferopol to issue all the necessary documents for registration as an election candidate to Leonid Ivanovych Hrach. On 25 February, the same court cancelled the registration of Leonid Ivanovych Hrach as a candidate in the same constituency, saying he misinformed the commission about his property and income as well as used his official position of Crimean parliamentary speaker to promote his election bid, all of which are offenses under Crimea's election law (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 March 2002). So why did the court change its previous decision? The explanation that follows below resembles a script for a Hollywood B movie rather than the account of an actual event, but since it was offered by the well-respected news agency UNIAN, "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" has no reason to disbelieve it.
The main point of the explanation is that Crimean speaker Leonid Ivanovych Hrach, who is also the head of the Crimean Republican Organization of the Communist Party of Ukraine and the leader of the Hrach Bloc, has a "political double" -- this double is called Leonid Ivanovych Hrach, heads the organization registered under the name of the Crimean Republican Organization of the Communist Party of Ukraine (of Workers) and manages the private commercial firm registered under the name of the Hrach Bloc. In order to avoid confusion, let us henceforth identify the current Crimean speaker as "Hrach-1," and this other Hrach as "Hrach-2."
Another main point is that until 29 January, Hrach-2 was legally known as Oleksandr Ivanovych Papeta, born some 46 years ago in the Russian city of Ussuriisk (Primorskii Krai). In December 2001, Oleksandr Ivanovych Papeta asked a district register office in Simferopol to change his name to Leonid Ivanovych Hrach. His request was satisfied on 29 January 2002, and on the same day he (Hrach-2) received a new passport.
On 12 January, a congress of the Crimean Republican Organization of the Communist Party of Ukraine (of Workers) reportedly proposed Leonid Ivanovych Hrach as a candidate for a seat in the Crimean Supreme Council. Hrach-2 tried to register his election bid with the district election commission No. 25 in Simferopol (which already registered Hrach-1), but was rejected: the commission argued that on 12 January, when he was officially proposed as a candidate by his party, he was still called Papeta, not Hrach.
On 25 February, the Central District Court in Simferopol annulled the registration of Hrach-1. Attempts of Hrach-1 to appeal this decision have failed: under Crimean legislation, a district court is the final appeal in cases pertaining to election matters. What is particularly interesting is that the Central Election Commission in Kyiv found no faults in Hrach-1's income declaration -- the same that was disputed by the court in Simferopol -- and registered the Crimean speaker as a candidate for a seat in the Verkhovna Rada.
In the meantime, Hrach-2 appealed against the rejection of his election bid, and the Central District Court in Simferopol ruled last week that he may be registered. According to UNIAN, Hrach-2 presented to the court a new document saying that he was proposed as a parliamentary candidate by his party on 29 January; that is, exactly on the day when he was legally given a new identity.
Some Russian-language newspapers in Ukraine commented on the ousting of the Crimean speaker (Hrach-1) from the election race on the peninsula last month with headlines such as "Grach Has Been Made to Fly Away" or the like. The allusion was obviously linked to the long-lasting feud between Crimean speaker Leonid Hrach and former Crimean Premier Serhiy Kunitsyn. Hrach appeared to be on the wining side last year when Kunitsyn was voted out of the post of Crimean premier. For many in Ukraine, Hrach's disqualification from the election race in Crimea is the result of Kunitsyn's "counterattack." But there was also a pun involved in comments on Hrach's electoral bad luck. "Grach" -- the Russian spelling of Ukrainian "Hrach" -- means "rook" in Russian. One is now almost compelled to comment that in Crimea another "Grach has been made to fly in."
Central Election Commission head Mykhaylo Ryabets made known last week that the problem of "doubles'" in the election campaign will be faced by voters in 46 one-seat constituencies where two, three, or even four candidates were registered bearing identical surnames and sometimes even first names and patronymics. Interfax reported that there are 119 such candidates in Ukraine. Ryabets said his commission tried to deal with this campaign "phenomenon" -- in order to avoid confusing voters -- by assigning numbers to the names of candidates listed in the alphabetical order on the ballots. As regards Simferopol, it is still unclear whether voters will see two Leonid Ivanovych Hrachs on their ballots, only one, or no Hrach at all.
WINTER CROP GENERATION: FIRST OLIGARCH-BACKED CENTER-RIGHT PARTY. The center-right has traditionally been dominated in Ukraine, as it has in other non-Russian republics of the former USSR, by parties such as Rukh that combined national and democratic demands. The reasons why cosmopolitan civic center-right parties are likely to fail are fourfold.
First, mobilization by civil society in Ukraine is only able to take place when both the national and democratic questions are united. Cosmopolitan reformist movements cannot mobilize the masses either in Ukraine, or elsewhere, because an ethnocultural basis is required in addition to democratic demands for societal mobilization.
Second, Ukraine has not gone far enough in democratization and market reform to create a large enough middle class that could underpin purely reformist or center-right parties.
Third, the liberal area of Ukraine's party system has been captured by the oligarchs. The Liberals were one of Ukraine's first postcommunist "parties of power" in the Donbas and today are members of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc. The Inter-Regional Bloc of Reforms (MRBR), an ally of Leonid Kuchma in the 1994 election campaign, joined the Popular Democratic Party (NDP), Ukraine's first "party of power," last year.
Fourth, cosmopolitan center-right parties have not been successful in developed democracies and therefore Ukraine will not be an exception. Western center-right parties such as the Republicans in the U.S. or the Conservatives in Great Britain are also traditionally "national-democratic" in that their ideology combines patriotism, opposition to multiculturalism, and support for a market economy.
Attempts to create cosmopolitan reformist parties in Ukraine began to be seriously made in the 1998 parliamentary elections. The Social-Liberal Alliance (SLON) was created by the MRBR and the Constitutional Democrats (KDP). As a cosmopolitan reformist bloc, it campaigned in defense of "the Russian language and culture." But its election bid failed miserably and won only 0.9 percent of votes for the party list, far less than national democratic parties.
In the 2002 elections, another attempt has been made to create a center-right cosmopolitan alternative called the Winter Crop Generation (KOP). The KOP includes four parties -- KDP again, the Liberal Democrats, the Party of Private Property, and the Peasant Democrats. Of these, only the national democratic Peasant Democrats has a long background in Ukraine and some social base. The other three parties within KOP have little support or are new and unknown.
The KOP is using the same public relations specialists from Moscow who molded Russia's Union of Rightist Forces (SPS). In the 1999 Russian elections, the SPS led by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Yegor Gaidar (Russia's Choice leader), and Boris Nemtsov fared well with 8.5 percent of the vote. Nemtsov, leader of the SPS, sent a statement of support to the KOP on 1 March.
Despite the support of its Russian colleagues, the KOP will not obtain the same support as the SPS obtained in Russia. Unlike the SPS, or center-right parties in the West and elsewhere, the KOP is cosmopolitan and hence does not combine traditional center-right patriotism with support for a free market. As with SLON in 1998, the KOP therefore has less than 1 percent support in all Ukrainian polls conducted since late 2001 and is highly unlikely to make it through the 4 percent barrier for party lists. Nevertheless, last week its campaign got a noticeable support boost from Labor Ukraine and the authorities.
Another problem for the KOP is that it is funded by Kuchma's son-in-law, oligarch Viktor Pinchuk, who has links to the Dnipropetrovsk-based Labor Ukraine oligarch party and parliamentary faction. Labor Ukraine is one of the five parties that make up the "party of power" -- the For a United Ukraine (ZYU) election bloc. In an attempt to woo voters away from Our Ukraine, the oligarchs are funding both the KOP and the extreme right Popular Movement for Unity. Unlike Our Ukraine, the Socialists, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the KOP is suspiciously being given blanket coverage on the main television stations controlled by oligarchs.
The KOP is the culmination of the oligarch takeover of the political center in Ukraine. Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy, the 32-year-old leader of the KOP, was an adviser to former NDP leader Valeriy Pustovoytenko, Ukraine's prime minister between 1997-1999.
However, the KOP's association with Pinchuk and, by default, the executive, has reduced its support with pro-business, younger generation supporters now provided with a nonoligarch alternative, Yabluko. Other younger generation business interests prefer to use the Green Party as their political "krysha" (roof). The KOP is therefore squeezed by Yabluko and the Greens on its liberal left and the popular Our Ukraine on its center-right. Not surprisingly, given its oligarch funding, the KOP refuses to describe itself as an opposition party, unlike Yabluko, and is critical of "social populists" and "oligarch-socialists" on its left and "conservative nationalists" on its right.
The KOP bills itself as a pro-market alternative of the younger generation and its members and election candidates are all in their 30s and 40s. Nevertheless, the KOP has been unsuccessful in targeting the youth vote. A February poll by Democratic Initiatives found that 70 percent of 18-29 year olds planned to vote in the elections, a 10 percent increase over the 1998 elections. Of those polled, 20 percent would vote for Our Ukraine, 12 percent for the Greens, 8 percent for the Social Democrats United, 6 percent for Women of the Future, and 5 percent for Yabluko. Support for the KOP was too low to record.
Perhaps the clearest indication of the artificiality of the KOP and its links to oligarchs are its foreign policy views. All center-right parties in European postcommunist states support their country's full integration into trans-Atlantic and European structures. In Ukraine this orientation is supported by national democratic parties and, therefore, by Our Ukraine. In contrast, the KOP supports the foreign policy orientation favored by oligarchic parties; namely that Ukraine should join Europe together with Russia. By linking Ukraine's European fate to Russia's, the KOP therefore supports a foreign policy orientation that consigns Ukraine indefinitely to Eurasia.
(This report was written by Taras Kuzio, a research associate at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.)
"They forgot that we have been an Orthodox nation for a millennium! Do you understand? They will not succeed in taking our religion from us. We will not let them ruin our church.... The Communists are the only party defending our canonical Orthodox belief." -- From an election campaign spot of the Communist Party on Ukrainian Television on 14 March: a grandfather tries to convince his apolitical grandson that the Communists are the only force taking genuine care of the well-being of the Ukrainian people. It is not clear from the spot to whom the "they" of the quote refers.
"Local election staffs [of the For a United Ukraine bloc] need to propose the signing of accords between For a United Ukraine [of Volodymyr Lytvyn] and Our Ukraine [of Viktor Yushchenko] with a subsequent joining of these accords by [our] allies: the Green Party, Women for the Future, the Social Democratic Party (United). [We need] to make preparations for the signing of an accord on cooperation between bloc leaders with the participation of the president of Ukraine. This will allow us to fully do away with the conflict with international observers, reinforce the position of our bloc, and orient Our Ukraine toward the right direction, simultaneously reducing its electoral support. In the event Yushchenko refuses cooperation, [we need] to use on a mass scale materials regarding his misdemeanors and personal information about him under a coordinated plan." -- From an allegedly confidential document publicized by lawmaker Oleksandr Yelyashkevych on 15 March; the document, according to Yelyashkevych, is allegedly a letter from Ivan Kyrylenko, the chief of staff of For a United Ukraine, to Volodymyr Lytvyn, the leader of For a United Ukraine. The letter outlines a plan of measures to be taken by the pro-government For a United Ukraine bloc and the authorities to rig the 31 March parliamentary election, discredit rivals, and manipulate the media in Ukraine. Quoted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website.
"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.