Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 22

According to the latest Gallup poll, the head of the extreme “red” Progressive Socialist Party, Natalya Vitrenko, is a potential leader in the upcoming Ukrainian presidential race. Popular support for Vitrenko has grown from 6 percent in September 1998 to 15 percent in January. She is known for her strong stance against both cooperation with the West and market reforms. Her aversion to reforms goes as far as promises to send Ukraine’s liberal reformers to Siberia.

Incumbent President Leonid Kuchma trails Vitrenko in the polls, showing only 10 percent of the popular “vote” in December. Vitrenko and Kuchma are followed by the Socialist Party leader, Oleksandr Moroz, and the Communist Party leader, Petro Symonenko, each of whose approval ratings have risen, respectively, from 7 and 4 percent to 10 percent each. Former Premier Yevhen Marchuk has 3 percent. Former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko–discredited by investigations on corruption charges in both Ukraine and Switzerland–is supported by only 1 percent (Ukrainian agencies and television, February 1; see also the Monitor, December 4, 22, 23, 1998).

The poll shows that a single “red” candidate could win a landslide victory in the elections scheduled for October 1999, if the current trend persists. Now, however, the leftists are far from agreeing on a single strategy. In a recent newspaper interview, Symonenko denied that he would bow out of the race in favor of Moroz, which he did four years ago. “Then, we were not firmly on our feet,” he said. “Now, the situation is different” (Den, January 28). Natalya Vitrenko has a deep antipathy to both Symonenko and Moroz, whom she occasionally accuses of betraying the “interests of the working people”, while they are less radical in their anti-capitalist and anti-Western rhetoric. –OV