Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz has been considered potentially the strongest challenger to President Leonid Kuchma in the two-round presidential election scheduled for October 31 and November 14. Although trailing two other Red candidates–the ultraleft Progressive Socialist Natalya Vitrenko and the Communist Petro Symonenko–in the polls, the relatively moderate Moroz is deemed ultimately more electable than his rivals on the left. He may no longer be. The alliance he concluded in August with three other candidates of differing ideological stripes (see the Monitor, September 8) has hardly strengthened his position. Moroz undoubtedly expected the others to renounce their own campaigns and defer to his candidacy; but they have failed to do so. The alliance, known as the Kaniv Four–consisting of Moroz, Verkhovna Rada Chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko, former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk and the obscure Cherkassy mayor Volodymyr Oliynyk–has failed to come up with a joint candidate for the upcoming election. They had promised to do so and set one deadline after another. But, with ten days to go until the first round of the election, they have yet to agree on a common candidate.
On October 13, the four announced a curious “three plus one” agreement, according to which both Marchuk and Moroz would run–Marchuk on his own, and Moroz with the backing of Tkachenko and Olinyk. This seemed reasonable to more than a few local observers. Had Marchuk withdrawn his candidacy, his predominantly nationalist electorate was more likely to desert him than to agree to vote for Moroz, given that the latter tilts toward Russia. By the same token, a free-floating Marchuk could bite into Kuchma’s electorate, attracting right-of-center voters to the quadripartite alliance. It seems, however, that personal ambitions are prevailing and that each of the four wants to run on his own for as long as possible. In any case, none has withdrawn his candidacy. Tkachenko’s Peasant Party even took the step–whether spontaneous or otherwise–of officially “obligating” Tkachenko to continue running for president.
The alliance also failed to enlist other candidates as members or at least as unofficial supporters. Marchuk wanted Yury Kostenko, leader of one of the two wings of the national-democratic Rukh, to join the Kaniv group. Kostenko refused. The pro-Marchuk newspaper Den–perhaps with sour-grape feelings–quoted Kostenko as complaining that he had been promised neither money nor a high post.
Moroz and Tkachenko both had hoped that Symonenko might join forces with them. This would have boosted the group’s chances dramatically, given the relatively high popularity of the Communist Party. Marchuk, however–who firmly supports Ukrainian state independence and is backed by several anticommunist nationalist organizations–opposed the idea. Symonenko in any case turned down the invitation, reluctant to join with the “anti-Communist” Olinyk or the “nationalist” Marchuk. He did negotiate with the Kaniv Four and even participated in their October 13 meeting, but it came to nothing. He had not been swayed by Valentin Kuptsov–the second most powerful figure in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation–who visited Kyiv in early October and recommended that Symonenko back Moroz, on the grounds that the latter has better chances against Kuchma in the runoff. Symonenko, however, countered that the Communist Party of Ukraine had made its own decision to keep him in the race to the finish and that he respects that collective decision. Kuptsov’s bid may well have originated in Moroz’ September visit to Moscow, where Moroz had courted the Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, the anti-Ukrainian mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov, and Patriarch Aleksy II–whose Russian Orthodox Church refuses to recognize Ukraine’s ecclesiastical independence.
Symonenko’s display of “national” and “democratic” communism need not be the last word, however. His ultimate attitude will be pivotal. Should he, at the last moment, agree to line up his large electorate behind Moroz, an energized left could then outvote Kuchma in the first round of the election. In that case, even short of a first-round victory, the left will have dealt the incumbent president a severe political and psychological blow. It may not be too late for the leftist candidates or at least some of them to join forces even between the two rounds of the election, in which case Vitrenko’s electorate would presumably also flock to whoever the leftist candidate will be. Should that come to pass, Kuchma might enter the runoff as an underdog.
The current, fluid situation makes the November 14 runoff seem distant indeed in political terms. The Kaniv Four alliance is down but not yet out. The personal ambitions and contradictory politics of its members have severely damaged it, as has the October 2 assassination attempt on Vitrenko, in which one of Moroz’ local campaign managers is said to be involved (see the Monitor, October 7). At this point, nevertheless, Moroz is the only member who has any chance in the campaign. The Kaniv Four have set October 25 as the final deadline for nominating a joint candidate against Kuchma. Failure to do so would leave Kuchma to face only two real challengers on October 31: the two diehard Reds, Vitrenko and Symonenko (UNIAN, September 17, October 4, 6, 12-4, 20; STB TV, September 18, October 11, 16; Den, October 7; Novy Kanal, Inter TV, October 13-14).
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