Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 165

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada yesterday included in its agenda a draft law on impeachment of the president, targeting Leonid Kuchma. A majority of the attending deputies voted in favor of the move. Furthermore, 196 deputies–more than the required 150–have signed a motion to start no-confidence proceedings against Kuchma’s loyalist Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko and his cabinet of ministers. The Communist and the Socialist-Peasant caucuses provided the critical mass of votes in favor of both moves.

The Socialist-Peasant group issued a political bill of indictment against Kuchma. It described the president’s August 8 budget-balancing decree and other reform attempts as “unlawful” and “criminal” actions which have “led to the impoverishment of the people.” It also called for the formation of a “national-patriotic coalition to assume responsibility for the country.” Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz, a political arch-rival of Kuchma, is a virtually declared candidate in the 1999 presidential election, while the Peasant Party holds the Rada’s chairmanship through Oleksandr Tkachenko.

Budget Committee chairwoman Yuliya Timoshenko, whose Hromada Union initiated the impeachment move, endorsed Moroz’ presidential candidacy. She also called for a national referendum to depose Kuchma from office–apparently as a fall-back position if the impeachment move fails. (Eastern Economist Daily [Kyiv], September 10; UNIAN, September 4 and 9; and see the Monitor, September 3)

The chances of the impeachment move are uncertain at best. The leftist opposition and the center-right parties checkmate each other in the legislature. The left is in a position to blackmail the president and sabotage reforms, while the center-right has enough votes to keep Kuchma in office until the election, if this ad-hoc coalition does not unravel prematurely. The impeachment move, in effect, launches the left’s presidential election campaign and presages a very turbulent contest.