Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 104

On May 26 in Kyiv, the Communist Party of the former Soviet Ukraine, headed by Stanyslav Hurenko, officially merged with the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), headed by Petro Symonenko. The planned merger was approved unanimously by the 398 convention participants. Hurenko’s Communist Party–banned in Ukraine after the abortive coup in Moscow in August 1991–officially resurfaced this past December, when Ukraine’s Constitutional Court ruled the ban illegal (see the Monitor, January 3). De facto, however, the Communists re-emerged in 1993, when they circumvented the ban by founding the CPU with Symonenko as its head.

In a symbolic gesture, the conference of the unified Communist Party excluded former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, current President Leonid Kuchma, and the former parliament speaker, Ivan Plyushch, from its ranks, calling both “traitors.” The two were members of Soviet Ukraine’s Communist party before August 1991.

The practical meaning of the merger is that the CPU has legally become the heir to the Soviet Ukrainian Communist Party. The CPU now intends to claim property confiscated or simply stolen in the legal vacuum of the early 1990s. On May 26, Symonenko told journalists that it would be up to the Constitutional Court to rule on this issue. He made it clear that the Communists would like to have the “illegally confiscated property” returned. Symonenko referred primarily to bank account holdings. At the same time, he said that the CPU would not claim buildings appropriated and used by either educational or state institutions.

The Kyiv conference silently approved CPU participation in the tactical coalition of four opposition forces in parliament (see the Monitor, May 13). Views on the economy and international relations, it should be noted, however, could not be more different than between the CPU and the other three coalition partners–the right-center Our Ukraine bloc of former Premier Viktor Yushchenko, the Socialists and Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc. In a statement issued on May 26, the staunchly anti-Western CPU warned against power being usurped by “representatives of Washington, international financial organizations and NATO.” Yet the four parties agree on one important issue: parliament should get more powers at the expense of the president. CPU conference participants confirmed the need of the transition to a parliamentary republic in Ukraine, the transfer of control over power ministries from the president to parliament, and the election of heads of key city administrations, who are now routinely appointed by the president.

Contrary to expectations, Crimean ex-speaker Leonid Hrach did not contest Symonenko’s chairmanship of the party this past weekend. But Hrach, who is undoubtedly very popular among Communist grassroots and who chairs the CPU Crimean organization, did not sit in the conference presidium–an obvious sign of a rift between him and Symonenko. Both are expected to run in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, and Hrach has already publicly confirmed his intention of doing so (Ukrainska Pravda, Forum, May 26; see the Monitor, May 13).

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