Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 133

The narrow election of Oleksandr Tkachenko of the Socialist-Peasant bloc as chairman of the new Ukrainian parliament (see the Monitor, July 8) has opened the way for a takeover of most leadership posts in the legislature by leftists and their fellow-travelers. The new first-vice chairman is Adam Martynyuk, whose party post is that of second secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party. Centrist forces only managed to win the post of vice-chairman for the United Social-Democrat Party’s Viktor Medvedchuk, president of the Ukrainian Lawyers’ Union and a successful entrepreneur in his own right.

Leftists and their allies also gained the chairmanships of twelve parliamentary committees–including most of the key ones–out of the parliament’s twenty-two committees. The Communists took over the chairs of six committees, including four critical ones dealing with foreign relations, national defense and security, legal affairs, and economic policy and investment–respectively. Moderate Communist Boris Oliinik, who behaved constructively as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the 1994-98 parliament, keeps that post as a token gesture to the non-leftist half of the chamber.

The Socialist-Peasant bloc took over two committees, including that dealing with the mass media. This will make it impossible for President Leonid Kuchma’s administration to restrict Communist and socialist access to state television and radio during the 1999 presidential campaign. The leaders of those two parties, Petro Symonenko and Oleksandr Moroz, are likely to challenge Kuchma in that election. The presidential administration and cabinet of ministers severely restricted the Red parties’ access to audiovisual media during the recent parliamentary elections.

The Hromada Union took over four committee chairs, including those of the Budget Committee and of the Committee for Law Enforcement against Organized Crime and Corruption. The latter post should help Hromada to quash investigations and prosecution underway against its own leaders and some other suspects. Hromada’s leadership, now allied with the left, is seen in the country and abroad as an epitome of official corruption.

The pro-presidential People’s Democratic Party (NDP) obtained the chairmanship of five committees, all of secondary importance. The national-democratic Rukh obtained three chairmanships, including those of the Culture Committee and of the Human Rights and Ethnic Affairs Committee–the latter to be headed by former foreign minister Hennady Udovenko. Two centrist parties, the United Social-Democrats and the Greens, obtained one commission chairmanship each, for relatively minor commissions. (Jurisdiction over nuclear energy and Chornobyl is divided between the Environmental and Chornobyl Policy Commission and the Fuel, Energy, and Nuclear Policy Commission, which are chaired by Green and NDP representatives, respectively).

The parliament confirmed this distribution of posts by 235-441 votes in favor. The slim margin of approval shows that leftist predominance at the leadership level is disproportionate to the actual leftist weight in the chamber. According to the latest registration tally, the strength of the main parliamentary caucuses is as follows: Communists 121, NDP 90, Rukh 47, Hromada 44, Socialist-Peasant 35, United Social-Democrats 27, Greens 25 and Progressive-Socialist 15. The balance to 441 consists of a few micro-groups and several individual deputies of varying shades. Nine seats are still vacant.

The leftist parties’ control of the legislative process threatens to complicate even more severely, and may even thwart, Kuchma’s attempts to introduce reforms during the months that remain until the presidential election campaign. (UNIAN and other Ukrainian agencies, July 10 and 11)