ANTICOMMUNIST STRATEGY A WINNER FOR KUCHMA .

Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 212

Symonenko went into the runoff with the support of a leftist and Russian-oriented bloc whose parties and leaders had polled, between them, almost 50 percent of the total vote cast on October 31 in the first round of the election. The bloc included the Socialist Party of Oleksandr Moroz, the Progressive Socialist Party of Natalya Vitrenko, the Peasant Party of Parliament Chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko, and six smaller parties, notably including the pan-Slavist one of Oleksandr Bazylyuk. The alliance rested on ideological consensus and an agreement to share political power and government posts in the event of Symonenko’s victory. The Symonenko campaign–now assisted by other leftist forces–promised, among other things, to stop and partly reverse the privatization of state property, revert to central economic planning and resource allocation, reject the “dictatorship” of the International Monetary Fund (for example, by refusing to reform the mining sector), confer official status on the Russian language, promote the “Slavic” idea, join the Russia-Belarus Union, seek “defense self-sufficiency” in the framework of the CIS, repudiate the Ukraine-NATO Charter of Distinct Partnership, ban joint military exercises in Ukraine with US and NATO troops and discontinue Ukraine’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

The Kuchma campaign responded by intensifying its anticommunist propaganda blitz in the state-owned mass media and in private newspapers controlled by “oligarchs” allied with the president. The campaign heavily underscored the destabilizing consequences of a redistribution of privatized property and the risk that a union with Russia could involve Ukraine in Russian wars, such as the current one in the Caucasus. During the last days before the runoff, state television blanketed the country with documentary films showing the brutality and hopelessness of Soviet rule in Ukraine. An indignant Symonenko charged on voting day that the Kuchma campaign’s focus on the “threat of Red revanche” had “offended against the human dignity” of voters and “exerted a psychological impact on our electorate”–in other words, it thinned out the potential Communist vote.

Kuchma avoided a one-on-one debate with Symonenko on national television, but scored heavily against the Communist challenger in a live session on Vulychne Television in which the two candidates answered phoned-in questions from viewers. When Symonenko insisted that he and his party regard a union with Russia as compatible with Ukraine’s independence, Kuchma retorted that in that case the Communist parliamentary deputies would stop wearing USSR badges on their jackets, would not refuse to stand up when the Ukrainian anthem is played and would not insist that the USSR coat of arms be retained on the facade of the parliament building.

The Kuchma campaign also made an all-out effort to appeal to young voter groups, both through its political message and through various forms of public entertainment. Preliminary returns suggest that this appeal paid off, helping partially to offset the left’s popularity among pensioners, whose turnout in elections is normally high (UNIAN, Intelnews, STB-TV, UT-1, November 7-13; see the Monitor, October 22, 29, November 8).

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