Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 217

Held in Kyiv on November 21-22, the congress of the People’s Democratic Party (NDP)–the “party of power”–witnessed differences of views regarding the selection of the party’s nominee for the upcoming presidential election. Although the “centrist” NDP is a pro-presidential party, some of its influential figures called for exploring possible alternatives to a renomination of President Leonid Kuchma. These speakers stressed the need of winning over the large contingent of uncommitted voters (up to one-third of the electorate, according to recent polls) and of reaching out to the political right for mutual support against the leftist challenge.

The NDP’s First Deputy Chairman, Volodymyr Filenko, advocated a coalition of “centrist and right-wing forces” based on the NDP and the Rukh which would decide upon a common candidate during the interval between the first round and the runoff. NDP Chairman Anatoly Matvienko is also on record as favoring a coalition with the Rukh and the selection of a mutually acceptable candidate (see the Monitor, October 26). The first deputy chairman of the NDP’s parliamentary caucus, Oleksandr Yemets, similarly called for an electoral alliance of the NDP with the Rukh and the Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Reform and Order Party (see profiles of these pro-market and nationally minded parties in the Monitor, February 4, March 18, 19). Yemets, furthermore, listed several possible presidential nominees of the NDP and the center-right alliance, notably National Bank Governor Viktor Yushchenko. A radical economic reformer, close to the Reform and Order Party, Yushchenko has thus far declined to run, but this stance is not considered final.

Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko, however, expressed the position of a large part of the NDP when he called for a “centrist” strategy and for Kuchma’s renomination as the joint candidate of the NDU and centrist parties. Defining centrism as a “socially oriented, gradual approach to reforms,” Pustovoytenko called for the signing of a cooperation pact among parties that support this orientation and Kuchma’s reelection (Ukrainian agencies, November 21, 22).

The differences within the NDP at this stage do not presage a split of the party. By raising the possibility of alternative nominations, the proponents of an alliance with the right probably aim to nudge Kuchma in that direction. They almost certainly seek to achieve the center-right bloc with the president, not against him. They are unlikely to abandon Kuchma, unless the economic crisis deepens to the point of compromising the president’s chances to defeat the leftist opposition.–VS