Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 110

The Agrarian Party of Ukraine (APU)–the main rival of parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko’s Peasant Party in the competition for the agricultural electorate–has joined the electoral campaign on behalf of President Leonid Kuchma. At their congress on June 7, APU delegates also replaced the party’s chair, Kateryna Vashchuk, with Kuchma loyalist Mykhaylo Hlady, who is also the deputy premier for agriculture. Further, the delegates announced plans to set up a bloc of left-center parties to strengthen Kuchma’s camp. Hlady refused to specify which parties might join the APU in this bloc (Ukrainian television and agencies, June 7).

The APU, a pro-presidential party professing moderate pro-market views, lost the parliamentary elections in March 1998. In those elections, the leftist Peasant Party won seats as junior partner in a bloc with the socialists. Hlady’s taking charge of the Agrarians should be seen both as an attempt by Kuchma’s administration and the government to boost Kuchma’s campaign in rural areas and as a timely effort aimed at weakening Tkachenko’s presidential campaign in those areas, which are commonly seen as his stronghold. Meanwhile, there are indications that Kuchma’s team sees Tkachenko not as just another leftist contender fragmenting the “red” and protest electorate, but as a strong adversary of the incumbent president. The political association New Ukraine–whose chairman is Yevhen Kushnaryov, the leading member of Kuchma’s team and former head of the presidential administration–publicly called on Tkachenko at its meeting on June 5 to step down as speaker while the presidential campaign is underway. Kushnaryov suggested that the legislature should be chaired by a person who has no presidential ambitions and who, thus, would not use the parliament rostrum as a campaigning tool (Studio 1+1, Ukrainian agencies, June 5).–OV