On March 22, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma signed the law on presidential elections which parliament had approved in January. Kuchma had protested against the law’s provision which gives political parties the exclusive right to nominate presidential candidates. Claiming that this clause contradicts the constitution and that public organizations should also be allowed to nominate candidates, Kuchma vetoed the law in February. This veto was easily overridden by parliament, and it was generally expected that the president would appeal to the Constitutional Court to set aside the override of his veto. Kuchma explained yesterday that he signed the law because an examination of the document by the court might drag on for several months, effectively disrupting the elections scheduled for October. He, however, reiterated that the law, in his opinion, is far from perfect (Inter TV, STV, March 22; see the Monitor, February 16, March 8).
According to the law thus coming into force, the presidential race this year will officially begin on May 4, with parties and blocs nominating their candidates. This exclusive role–given to the nascent parties for the first time since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991–should consolidate the democratic party system, which until now has been underdeveloped in Ukraine. Sixty parties have registered in Ukraine so far, many of them either serving the narrow interests of isolated individuals or existing only on paper. –OV
LUCINSCHI CALLS REFERENDUM TO CHANGE FORM OF GOVERNMENT.