Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 209

Ukraine’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) yesterday rejected the registration application of six initiative committees which intend to launch a referendum on deposing President Leonid Kuchma from office. The Hromada and Socialist parties jointly created these six committees recently in five regions of Ukraine. They seem poised to do so in other regions as well. They tasked the committees to collect voter signatures on a petition for holding a national referendum on the question of terminating Kuchma’s presidential powers ahead of the expiration of his term, on the grounds that his policies are harmful to the people of Ukraine.

The CEC’s decision cited the absence of two legal prerequisites to the groups’ registration. First, the 1991 law on the conduct of referenda requires that the wording on the signature-collecting forms be established by the presidium of parliament. Second, the constitution provides for the cessation of a president’s powers by resignation, death or following impeachment, not through referendum. The CEC’s decision means that the referendum initiative committees lack a legal authorization to operate. The Hromada and Socialist parties now consider asking the parliament’s presidium to find ways around the CEC’s objections.

In an indirectly related development, Swiss authorities have announced the imposition of a freeze on suspect bank accounts worth an estimated US$40 million, connected to Hromada leader Pavlo Lazarenko (Ukrainian agencies, November 10; Den (Kyiv), November 10, citing the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, November 7).

The Hromada and Socialist parties will almost certainly fall short of their maximal goal of deposing Kuchma before the October 1999 presidential election. They can realistically hope, however, to use the referendum initiative as an electoral propaganda vehicle well ahead of the official start of the campaign. Furthermore, referring the matter to the parliament’s presidium would enhance leftist Chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko’s leverage as de facto arbiter between Kuchma and the leftist half of the parliament.–VS