After Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma’s victory in the November 14 election, and the consequent weakening of the Red forces in parliament, Oleksandr Tkachenko’s position as speaker of the parliament is growing increasingly unstable. If Kuchma achieved his goal of creating a center-right majority in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), Tkachenko may lose his post (see the Monitor, November 23). Tkachenko’s election as Verkhovna Rada chairman in the summer of 1998 was a compromise between Kuchma and the leftist parliamentary majority, which Tkachenko represented as informal leader of the left-leaning Peasants Party (SelPU). If the tables are now turned–and leftists become a minority–the pro-Kuchma groups in parliament will be able to oust Tkachenko. For close to a year and a half he has been one of the leaders of the opposition to both Kuchma and market reforms and the most vocal Ukrainian supporter of the idea of a Slavic union with Russia and Belarus.
Several center-right parliament factions have already indicated their desire to remove Tkachenko. Among them: the Regional Revival group of pro-Kuchma oligarch Oleksandr Volkov, the Rukh of former Environment Minister Yury Kostenko, and the Green Party. The Labor Ukraine caucus and especially the United Social Democratic Party faction–whose leader, Deputy Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, is the most probable candidate for the post of parliamentary speaker–may also join the attack on Tkachenko. Volkov became Tkachenko’s bitter enemy after Tkachenko orchestrated a parliamentary appeal to begin an investigation against Volkov on charges of alleged embezzlement (see the Monitor, September 28). At a news conference on November 26, Volkov made it clear that he will organize the collection of the 150 signatures necessary for Tkachenko’s dismissal. Gathering this many signatures from the 450-member parliament should not be difficult, given that the embattled leftist opposition likely to defend Tkachenko–primarily Communists, Socialists, Progressive Socialists, SelPU, and the Hromada–now numbers less than 190.
Tkachenko may be spared if he and SelPU become more conciliatory to President Kuchma. Tkachenko has already appeased the president on the issue of choosing the venue for Kuchma’s inauguration on November 30. Kuchma had wanted it held in the spacious and luxurious Ukraina Palace, arguing that there is not enough space in the Verkhovna Rada to accommodate numerous foreign guests. The communists and socialists insisted that the ceremony take place in the parliament, because two previous inaugurations (Leonid Kravchuk in 1991 and Kuchma in 1994) were held there and it would be less costly. Superficially this was simply a procedural issue, but in essence it was the first open post-election conflict between Kuchma and the leftist opposition. Winning it was a matter of principle. On meeting with Kuchma yesterday, Tkachenko announced that he supports Kuchma on the inauguration issue–which can be interpreted as an indication of Tkachenko distancing himself from the Reds to hang on to his post as speaker (Den, November 18, 27; Ukraina moloda, November 19; STB TV, November 19, 27, 29; Inter TV, November 27; Kievskie vedomosti, November 29).
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