Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 136

Relations between Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and the leftist bloc led by the new chairman of parliament, Oleksandr Tkachenko, seem about to revert to the familiar model of 1995-97. That involved a constant tug of war over both policy and personnel appointments, often including elements of a constitutional confrontation. On July 13, the new parliament narrowly passed a resolution giving full legal force to its own resolutions adopted since May 12–that is, before the election of the new chairman and of the committee chairmen on July 7 and July 10, respectively. Some of those resolutions “invalidated on the entire territory of Ukraine” Kuchma’s reformist decrees on value-added taxes, privatization certificates, and other issues.

Kuchma responded in a July 14 message pointing out that the parliament may not pass legally valid acts prior to the election of its chairman and committee chairmen. Under the constitution and the parliament’s bylaws, the chamber may only adopt decisions on its own internal organization during that period. Kuchma’s senior economic adviser, Valery Litvitsky, issued yesterday an urgent appeal to parliament to assist the president in introducing urgently needed reforms and unfreeze international lending to Ukraine.

Speaking during an inspection of Kherson region, Kuchma warned that “the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] could plunge Ukraine into its worst-ever financial crisis” if it rejects the president’s economic decrees and fails to approve the revised budget for 1998. “Ukraine would not be able to survive the crisis,” Kuchma warned. He lashed out at “political leaders who proclaim that IMF and World Bank credits are inexpedient. Those leaders do not understand anything about Ukraine’s economic situation.”

Kuchma and Tkachenko met in an attempt to establish a modus vivendi. They agreed in principle that all draft legislation emanating from the executive branch would have to be approved by the relevant parliamentary committees before it is submitted to the floor for voting. This could give the Reds a virtual veto power, since they control most of the key parliamentary committees, whereas the parliament is more or less evenly divided. Kuchma and Tkachenko also “discussed the state of affairs in agriculture” and, moreover, “matters of personnel appointments” in the context of executive-legislative cooperation. The phrasing would seem to indicate that Tkachenko seeks state support for collective farming–his pet cause–and concessions on personnel policy, in return for a measure of parliamentary cooperation with the president.

Apparently in order to maximize his bargaining position, Tkachenko called for changing the constitution in order to give parliament the power to appoint and dismiss the deputy prime ministers, the ministers of defense and of internal affairs and the head of the State Security Service. Those changes had also been demanded by leftists in the preceding parliament. Under the constitution, it is the president who appoints and dismisses those key officials. (DINAU, UNIAN, July 13 through 15; Fakty (Kyiv), July 14).

Tkachenko, a trained agronomist and old-line party apparatchik, recipient of top Soviet awards, held the position of agriculture minister of the Ukrainian SSR in 1985-1991. He was the first vice-chairman of the 1994-98 parliament as a close ally of that body’s chairman, the Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz. Tkachenko is one of the leaders of the Peasant Party, which resists privatization of agriculture and seeks state financing for that deficit-plagued sector. In his native Cherkassy region, Tkachenko heads the huge agricultural firm “Land and People,” recipient of major state support derived from external loans. As regards foreign policy, Tkachenko is a member of the “Anti-NATO Association” of leftist deputies who oppose NATO’s enlargement and favor collective security arrangements within the CIS framework. That orientation is diametrically opposed to the policy of the executive branch.

It is still unclear whether Tkachenko will follow the model established by his mentor Moroz in the relations between parliament leadership and the executive branch (see above). While ideologically very close to Moroz, Tkachenko is said to be temperamentally less confrontational and somewhat more inclined toward opportunistic compromise, compared to the Socialist leader. From Kuchma’s standpoint, the silver lining is that Tkachenko does not aspire to be president; and that Moroz, a declared and powerful presidential aspirant, no longer occupies the speaker’s chair himself as next year’s presidential election approaches. (Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (Kyiv), Research Update, July 13; see the Monitor, July 8 and 13)