Kuchma’s no-holds-barred anticommunist strategy was the main but not the sole factor in preventing a Red revanche. In the first round of the election, the incumbent president had only polled some 36 percent of the vote, at least 12 percentage points below the total leftist and pro-Russian vote. Kuchma’s gain of 20 percentage points in the runoff would scarcely have been possible without the support of the right-of-center and right-wing voters loyal to Yevhen Marchuk and the rival factions of the Rukh.
As anticipated in the wake of the first round (see the Monitor, November 8). Marchuk with his pivotal 8 percent of the vote was well placed to arbitrate the runoff. His record in government–as Security Service chief and then prime minister–is that of a firm supporter of Ukraine’s independence and European identity. An alliance of Kuchma and Marchuk hinged, however, on their ability to bury a political hatchet which dates back to 1996. In that year, Kuchma dismissed Marchuk from the post of prime minister because he saw him as a potential presidential rival–which Marchuk in fact became.
On November 10, 1999, just four days ahead of the presidential election runoff, Kuchma and Marchuk joined forces. Marchuk urged his voters and all anticommunists to support the president against what Marchuk, too, described as the “danger of Red revanche.” Kuchma for his part appointed Marchuk to the powerful post of Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), with a special mandate to combat organized crime and official corruption. As a basis for their cooperation, Kuchma accepted the main points of presidential candidate Marchuk’s program, “New Strategy for Ukraine’s Development,” which focuses on streamlining and cleaning up the government.
The president must have found it especially painful to dismiss the incumbent NSDC secretary, Volodymyr Horbulin, in order to make room for Marchuk. Horbulin had been Kuchma’s closest and longest-serving aide, ever since their years as executives of the Pivdenmash plant in Dnipropetrovsk. Throughout Kuchma’s presidency, Horbulin was a key and trusted participant in all major policy and personnel decisions. The fact that Kuchma agreed to pay this price for Marchuk’s cooperation suggests that the president was not confident of victory in the runoff and considered Marchuk’s support absolutely indispensable.
The Rukh’s two rival wings–headed, each, by a long-serving former minister under Kuchma) adopted conflicting positions in the runoff. Hennady Udovenko’s wing endorsed the president while Yury Kostenko’s wing withheld its endorsement, in keeping with its view of Kuchma as not fundamentally different from his communist challengers. The Crimean Tatar Majlis, which is close to Udovenko’s wing of the Rukh, endorsed Kuchma as well. Kostenko and Udovenko had polled just over 2 percent and just over 1 percent of the vote, respectively, in the first round of the election. The Rukh’s decline represents a serious loss to Ukrainian democracy and state-building (Den, Kievskie Vedomosti, STB-TV, UT-1, November 10-12, UNIAN, November 10-11, 14-15; Rukh Briefing (Kyiv), No. 5, November 10; see the Monitor, July 30 (Marchuk profile), September 17 (Rukh’s profile), October 28, November 15).
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