Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 198

Addressing a congress of the Ukrainian Trade Union Federation, President Leonid Kuchma charged that lawmakers are "parting with common sense" and succumbing to an "avalanche of populism" in the runup to the parliamentary elections. Kuchma cited the parliament’s recent passage of an inflationary law on old-age pensions and the overriding of his veto to that law. He also warned the legislature against passing, out of electoral considerations, an unbalanced and inflationary budget for 1998. The president announced that he would continue to veto laws inspired by deputies’ quest for "electoral dividends" or by "narrow-interest lobbies," and that he might resort to presidential decrees in order to enact reforms. Describing resistance to reforms as "squandering the early results of stabilization so painfully obtained" and therefore "a crime against the people," Kuchma warned that the alternative to reform is "economic chaos" and the loss of all prospects to complete the stabilization program.

Kuchma also expressed concern that the electoral campaign, superimposed on the struggle over reforms, poses "an acute danger of splitting society along political and regional lines." To prevent a possible eruption of tensions on the upcoming anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, which the left plans to celebrate, Kuchma proposed that parliament declare November 7 to be, by law, a "day of reconciliation and consensus." (UNIAN, DINAU, October 21-22) This initiative seems likely to meet with skepticism both on the left, which will impugn its sincerity, and on the right, which will oppose it on principle even while welcoming Kuchma’s stand on reforms. Most significantly, the president’s address reflects the erosion of the pro-presidential "center," which is dissociating itself from the economic reforms under the pressure of short-term electoral considerations.

Russian-Hosted Transdniester Negotiations Fail in Runup to CIS Summit.