Congresses of two new–but already quite strong–center-left forces over the weekend signaled that the Ukrainian party spectrum is undergoing serious changes. The “red” leftists have not recovered since their defeat in the presidential election a year ago, and the former “party of power”–People’s Democrats–have lost their dominant position in the political center after their leader, Valery Pustovoytenko, lost the prime minister’s chair last December. The two new parties, Labor Ukraine and Party of Regional Revival Labor Solidarity of Ukraine (PRRLSU), which held their congresses this weekend, are eyeing the niches which opened in the wake of the decline of the older parties. The two are similar in their programs and composition. Both are brandishing the leftist slogans of social justice and labor protection as a way of catering to the vast leftist-oriented electorate in the parliamentary elections of 2002. They are led, however, by those representing Kyiv, some of whom have been in the ruling elite for quite some time.
Labor Ukraine held its second congress in Kyiv on November 18. This party, which already has, after the Communists, the second-largest faction in parliament, was founded last year by three Ukrainian oligarchs: gas magnate Ihor Sharov, the son of Security Services chief Andry Derkach, and Viktor Pinchuk, a steel magnate close to President Leonid Kuchma’s family. The congress elected former Economics Minister Serhy Tyhypko as Labor Ukraine’s new leader. Tyhypko founded Ukraine’s most successful privately owned financial institution (PrivatBank), and, as deputy premier in several governments since 1997, has earned the reputation of a convinced liberal reformer. He left Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko’s cabinet and was elected to parliament this past June. In his address to the congress, Tyhypko spoke for partnership with trade unions and suggested that the idea of economic prosperity should become the foundation of the Ukrainian national ideal.
Also on November 18, the Regional Revival Party, the Labor Party, Solidarity, the Party for Beautiful Ukraine and All-Ukrainian Pensioners Party joined forces to form the Party of Regional Revival Labor Solidarity of Ukraine. This alliance is the result of a compromise between several ambitious leaders, which is clear enough from its bombastic name. The PRRLSU has put great emphasis on the protection of regional interests in Kyiv. Its governing body includes chocolate tycoon and leader of the Solidarity faction in parliament Petro Poroshenko, the founder of Praveks Bank Leonid Chernovetsky, and various leaders of the Donetsk industrial elite. Among these are former Deputy Premier Valentyn Landyk, former Donetsk Mayor Volodymyr Rybak, former Acting Premier Yukhym Zvyahylsky (1993-1994) and State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov. If this compromise doesn’t die in its infancy, the new party should have very good chances in the next elections: It has attractive leftist slogans, is backed by big national capital and has strong bases in Ukraine’s most industrially developed regions: Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk (UR-1, Korrespondent.net, November 18; Studio 1+1, November 19; Kievskie vedomosti, November 20; see also the Monitor, March 6, July 24).
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