Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 181

The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Oleksandr Tkachenko, announced to the parliament on October 1 that the Peasants Party had set up its own faction consisting of fifteen deputies. The faction, along with the Peasants’ leader, Serhiy Dovhan, and several prominent members of the Left Center faction, among which is a former economics minister, Viktor Suslov, included also former members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party faction and independent deputies (Ukrainian agencies and television, October 1). Rumors about a split within the Left Center, representing the Peasants Party and the Socialist Party of former Speaker Oleksandr Moroz–the leader of this faction–have been circulating in the parliament since early summer. The Peasants were unhappy with the division of the twenty-odd standing committees, when they failed to obtain chairmanship of any of them, while two members of their coalition partner, the Socialists, chaired two, including the coveted by the Peasants Party committee for agriculture.

Both Dovhan and Tkachenko, who also belongs to the leadership of the Peasants Party, noted on several occasions that the party has its own view on important issues and should have its own voice in parliament. The Peasants’ leadership, in particular, distanced itself from the Left of Center’s call for impeachment of President Kuchma, publicized in Ukrainian media September 4-5. This split in the leftist camp, which significantly weakens the position of Moroz as a presidential candidate, is another victory of Kuchma in view of the upcoming presidential elections. Only a leftist candidate will have chances to win against the incumbent president in the fall of 1999. Should the Peasants Party throw its support behind Kuchma–which is now very likely–then he would get votes of the numerous, docile and impoverished rural electors who tend to vote as their local “omnipotent” agricultural bosses, who may promise payment of wage arrears or employment, “advise” them to.

The leftists, impeded by internal rivalries, cannot agree on a single candidate. The Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, called “incomprehensible” the decision Socialist Party’s nomination of Moroz as presidential candidate because the Socialists apparently did not consult with other left-wingers (Ukrainian agencies, September 28; see the Monitor, September 23). The Communist Party is expected to nominate its own candidate at its plenum on October 10. This most disciplined and strong leftist force cannot but nominate its leader, Symonenko.–OV