Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 9

In a public statement published yesterday, the nationalist Republican Party of Ukraine has called on all democratic forces to support former Premier Yevhen Marchuk’s bid as the noncommunist alternative to the incumbent President Kuchma in the upcoming presidential elections, which are scheduled for October of this year (Den, January 13).

Meanwhile, a new political party, the Social-Democratic Union (SDU), has arisen, created–apparently–to back Marchuk. At its initial conference on January 11 in Kharkiv, SDU founder Valery Repin proclaimed that support for Marchuk as a presidential candidate is one of the new party’s main goals. The SDU is the fourth in Ukraine to use the words “social democratic” in its name. Repin had been barred from attending the October 1998 congress of the United Social Democratic Party (USDP). At that time, the USDP elected President Kuchma’s adviser, Viktor Medvedchuk, as its new leader. It was generally believed that the party would back Marchuk’s bid in the presidential run. Marchuk had been quite popular in the party in the early part of the year, and his name on the ballot was a significant factor in the number of seats the USDP gained in the March 1998 parliamentary elections. In December, however, Oleksandr Zinchenko replaced Marchuk as the USDP faction leader in parliament, marking Marchuk’s declining influence on the party, which he had never officially joined (see the Monitor, December 24). More recently, Zinchenko announced that his party intends to nominate a presidential contestant only for the 2004 elections, not for the upcoming ones (Segodnya, Den, January 13).

Many Ukrainian observers believe that Medvedchuk harbors presidential aspirations. Medvedchuk, however, will not run in the October elections, but will instead throw his and USDP’s support behind Kuchma. The USDP severely criticized the recent NDP electoral ultimatum to Kuchma, which is just another sign of its loyalty to him (see the Monitor, January 8). The NDP quite prematurely included the USDP among potential supporters of its initiative. The USDP, however, in its statement denying such support, blasted the NDP conditions as “imitation of opposition” and “political trade” (Ukrainian agencies, January 8). –OV