Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 67

With the Ukrainian presidential elections scheduled for this October in mind, the reformist wing of the Rukh party and the liberal wing of the People’s Democratic Party (NDP) are negotiating a coalition. The reformist Rukh faction, headed by Yury Kostenko, parted ways with the Rukh and its charismatic long-time leader Vyacheslav Chornovil shortly before his death last month. The liberal NDP faction, led by Anatoly Matvienko (who reportedly may be dismissed as NDP chairman today), had dissented from that party’s central committee’s support of incumbent President Leonid Kuchma (see the Monitor, February 9, March 16).

Kostenko proposed that in May a congress will be held of all “national-democratic and patriotic forces” in Ukraine–which number some ten to twelve political parties–to nominate a single presidential candidate in the upcoming October presidential elections. Those whom Kostenko cited as possible candidates include President Kuchma, former Premier Yevhen Marchuk and Hennady Udovenko, leader of the rival Rukh wing (Ukrainian agencies and television, April 6; Den, April 3).

Reaction to Kostenko’s announcement was mixed and Kostenko appeared contradict himself. Udovenko’s faction suggested that the Rukh might reunify. Kostenko, judging by his recent statements, will be reluctant to support this (Ukrainian radio, April 7). Neither, given both Kostenko’s strained relations with Udovenko after the Rukh split and Udovenko’s scanty support outside his own faction, is Udovenko’s nomination by a wide coalition likely. Further, Kostenko, despite having included Marchuk as a possible candidate, also denied yesterday that his wing will support him. Matvienko, for his part, said in a recent newspaper interview that if the NDP nominates incumbent President Leonid Kuchma, it would discredit itself, because “he does not need a political force, but a loyal bureaucracy.” Kostenko’s followers have indicated several times that the Rukh would not back Kuchma.

On the surface, then, the Rukh–which evidently has yet to resolve its identity crisis–appears decidedly unclear about who it will select as a presidential candidate in this year’s race.–OV