On May 23, a month after Ukraine’s parliament (Verkhovna Rada) voted no confidence in its liberal prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko, President Leonid Kuchma nominated a candidate to replace him. On May 29, the Rada members will cast their votes for or against Anatoly Kinakh, 46, chairman of the powerful industrial lobby organization Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (UUIE). It was not easy for Kuchma to come up with a replacement. The pro-presidential Rada majority had effectively fallen apart after Yushchenko’s ouster, leaving three groups not likely to concur readily on either principle or a candidate: the right-wing factions, the Communists and the pro-presidential oligarchs.
The right-wing factions–Reforms and Order, both Rukhs and Motherland–have made it very clear that they will vote down any candidacy but Yushchenko’s. The Communists, the largest single faction, are equally adamant that they will vote down either a reformer or a oligarchic favorite. The oligarchs, who have just finished toppling Yushchenko, stand no chance of pushing any candidate through without the support of either the right wing or the Communists.
The process is further complicated by the fact that the campaigns for the next Rada elections, scheduled for spring 2002, are now underway. Whoever is appointed as premier is certain to serve only until those elections are a done deal. Ambitious political heavyweights are therefore not particularly interested in the position.
First Deputy Rada Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, who had been regarded as a strong candidate, openly declared this; he would prefer to concentrate on preparing his party, United Social Democrats (USDP), for the elections. Yushchenko, who theoretically could be nominated again, is not enthusiastic either, for the same reason.
Kuchma’s challenge–given these circumstances and the ongoing tape scandal–was to find someone capable of finding common ground with both the left and the right, someone not too ambitious but decidedly loyal. After a few false starts and several eliminations, he settled on Anatoly Kinakh. The backup candidate is Labor Ukraine leader and former Economics Minister Serhy Tyhypko. But selling Tyhypko to the Communists, who castigate him as a market reformer, or to the rightists, who disapprove of his pro-Russian leanings, would be a tough job.
The poker-faced Kinakh is a shipbuilding engineer by diploma and a post-Soviet administrator by career. In 1994-1995 he served as then President Leonid Kravchuk’s envoy to the Mykolaiv Region. In 1996, he was elected chairman of UUIE–an organization that had catapulted Leonid Kuchma into big politics. In 1995-1999, Kinakh worked as deputy premier in three consecutive governments under Kuchma. In 1999, he was elected to the Rada.
Kinakh was one of the key figures in the anti-Yushchenko campaign. He also defended Kuchma in the tape scandal this past winter by organizing several round tables of pro-presidential parties and NGOs to support him. A pragmatist capable of finding compromises with both right and left, Kinakh is far from a radical reformer, but has pledged to continue market reforms and construction of civil society. This, he said, would be “the bottom line” in his negotiations with the Communists. Kinakh, believed to be the main heavy industry lobbyist, is free from any ties to the existing oligarchic clans and, in spite of a long administrative career in a notoriously corrupt society, has not yet been involved in any corruption scandal.
Unforgiven for his anti-Yushchenko stance, Kinakh should not expect votes from the right wing next week. He has reportedly secured support from the factions representing big business and oligarchs: United Social Democrats, Ukrainian Regions, Democratic Union, People’s Democrats and Solidarity. To ensure himself of victory, however, he will need to persuade Tyhypko’s Labor Ukraine and several small factions to support him. And if he manages to reach a compromise with the Communists, he would secure many more than the 226 votes in the 450-strong Rada needed for him to become next the Ukrainian premier (Studio 1+1 TV, May 8; UNIAN, May 14; Ukrainska pravda, May 22; New Channel TV, May 23; Fakty i Kommentarii, May 24; see the Monitor, April 27).
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