Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 102

Speculations about Oleksandr Tkachenko, speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, possibly participating in the run-up to the October elections are gaining solid ground. Tkachenko’s Peasant Party has recently visibly changed its preferences. Its chairman, Serhy Dovhan, has switched from backing communist leader Petro Symonenko to public declarations of a growing popular support of Tkachenko to admitting that Tkachenko will be quite probably nominated for president at the Peasant Party’s pre-election congress on May 29. Recently, Tkachenko has been busy traveling across Ukrainian regions in what seems to be the start of active campaigning. On May 25, Tkachenko made it clear that he would have nothing against his nomination, noting that “over 270 working collectives” have already voiced unsolicited support of his candidacy. “I have to react somehow,” Tkachenko noted modestly (Ukrainian agencies, May 25; see the Monitor, May 3).

All this visibly irritates certain declared presidential contestants. In a newspaper interview, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz recalled that Tkachenko had earlier denied having presidential ambitions. “I have never doubted the firmness of his statements,” Moroz said. One of the main organizers of Kuchma’s campaign, Oleksandr Volkov, a Ukrainian “oligarch,” was more outspoken: “I hope he is wise enough,” he said. “He has lived to sixty and not made a single thoughtless move.” Volkov explained that Tkachenko will not risk losing his speaker’s chair, which sounded rather menacing. Volkov had reportedly been one of the key figures backing Tkachenko’s election to the post of speaker last summer. Tkachenko promptly and angrily called Volkov’s remarks “not serious” and “dishonest” (Holos Ukrainy, Den, UNIAN, May 25).

Tkachenko’s candidacy looks rather strong because the Peasant Party, the organization of post-Soviet agricultural bosses, controls a large portion of the docile rural electorate. Tkachenko–a convinced advocate of a union with Russia who does not conceal nostalgic feelings for the Soviet past and, at the same time, professes moderate pro-market views (he used to be a successful agricultural entrepreneur)–may distract a fair chunk of the leftist-oriented electorate from both Kuchma and “red” candidates, especially the nonradical Moroz.