Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 56

On 19-20 March, the high-ranking loyalists of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma gathered at the founding congress of the Zlahoda (Accord) Association–an amorphous centrist political organization apparently set to oppose both the “red” forces and radical reforms. Attendees included ministers, leaders of pro-presidential political parties and parliament factions, including the People’s Democratic Party (NDP) and the United Social Democrats. Premier Valery Pustovoytenko, former President Leonid Kravchuk and former Speaker Ivan Plyushch were elected as co-chairs.

By the end of last year, it had become clear that the NDP liberal wing, which was highly critical of Kuchma’s slow reforms, would hardly support him in the October presidential elections. At the same time, Kuchma pushed for a law on those elections which would deny nascent political parties priority in nominating candidates. In January, members of the NDP leadership–spearheaded by Pustovoytenko and former presidential chief-of-staff Yevhen Kushnaryov–formally launched the Zlahoda. It was ostensibly conceived to replace the NDP, which was gradually getting more independent and less loyal to Kuchma as the electoral bastion of the incumbent president.

The Zlahoda is not, however, a political party. “There are,” as Pustovoytenko put it, “too many of them now.” It was decided at the congress that the association’s statute will provide for both individual and collective membership, meaning that political parties and unions can join (Ukrainian television, March 20).

Pustovoytenko did not conceal that the Zlahoda will be an active player in the upcoming elections, adding that he has made his choice in that decision: “I will stay by Kuchma’s side even if no one else supports him.” Such an emphatic pledge of loyalty did not go unnoticed. Speaking in Crimea, President Kuchma repudiated rumors about an imminent dismissal of Pustovoytenko as a scapegoat for the current economic turmoil. Moreover, in his usual emotional style, Kuchma branded those who want Pustovoytenko dismissed as “irresponsible” and “dishonest” (Studio 1+1, UNIAN, March 19). Kuchma referred to the leaders of the “red” opposition, who have made it clear that they would soon initiate a no-confidence motion in parliament against Pustovoytenko’s cabinet.