All Ukrainian ministers running in the parliamentary (Verkhovna Rada) elections will enjoy a respite from their work in the cabinet until election day, like it or not. On January 22, President Leonid Kuchma, himself fresh from a long Christmas vacation in the mountains, announced his proposal that all ministers coveting seats in the Rada stop work on February 9–the day on which election canvassing begins. “Moral considerations,” the president said, were the basis of his suggestion. The same day Premier Anatoly Kinakh said that he would comply.
At first glance, this is a concession to those who feared that cabinet ministers running for the Rada would take advantage of administrative resources–that is, state funds and direct instructions to officials to “organize” the popular vote for them. In reality, however, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so while on this enforced vacation. Temporarily relieved from government duties, they will simply have more time for campaigning. In the meantime, it is still unclear who will be directly responsible for the cabinet’s work.
If all the ministers concerned go along with Kuchma’s suggestion–and it would be unwise of them not to–almost half the ministerial offices in Ukraine’s twenty-one-member cabinet would remain empty for nearly two months. And some of them would remain empty for some time after that, until Kuchma completes the post-election cabinet reshuffle (Ukrainian law requiring those elected to parliament to quit the executive branch). There are nine ministers presently on Ukraine’s electoral lists: Premier Kinakh, Deputy Premier Volodymyr Semynozhenko, Industry Minister Vasyl Hureyev, Agriculture Minister Ivan Kyrylenko and Transport Minister Valery Pustovoytenko are running on the For United Ukraine (FUU) bloc list; Education Minister Vasyl Kremin–on the list of United Social Democrats; Environment Minister Serhy Kurykin–on the Green Party list. Labor Minister Ivan Sakhan and Agricultural Deputy Premier Leonid Kozachenko are also expected to run. And, because registration of party lists for the elections is not over, cabinet offices may empty even more.
Coincidentally or otherwise, with Kinakh and many key ministers on vacation, the Donetsk elite will effectively be in charge of the cabinet, because–worthy of note–ministers who came to the cabinet from Donetsk are not running in the elections. Kinakh’s duties will be performed by First Deputy Premier Oleg Dubyna. Though not a member of the Donetsk clan himself, he is believed to have close ties to it. State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov, the founder of the Donetsk elite’s political umbrella–Party of Regions–has bowed out of the race. Neither Fuel and Energy Minister Vitaly Hayduk or Finance Minister Ihor Yushko are in the running.
It is not yet clear whether Kuchma’s “moral” initiative will apply to all appointees, or simply to cabinet members. If so, however, vacation time will come also to Prosecutor General Mykhaylo Potebenko (on the Communists’ list) and Kuchma’s office chief, Volodymyr Lytvyn (the FUU leader). The chair under Potebenko having long been shaky, a vacation for him would likely coincide with a dismissal. Lytvyn has indicated that he would take a break as soon as Kuchma has ordered him to do so (Inter TV, January 14; New Channel TV, Forum, ICTV, January 22; see the Monitor, January 3, 8, 18).
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