Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 201

Ukraine is holding the first round of its presidential election on October 31. The Kaniv Four alliance of candidates, who hoped with joint efforts to defeat the incumbent Leonid Kuchma, collapsed five days before the election date. The alliance of the Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz, parliament chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko, former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk and Cherkassy mayor Volodymyr Oliynik had recently seemed to be unraveling, owing to its inability to designate a joint candidate against Kuchma (see the Monitor, September 8, October 7, 22). Suddenly, on October 25, however, the four protagonists seemed to agree on a common candidate–Marchuk. That decision could significantly have altered the electoral correlation of forces in the country. But the decision was short lived. Within hours, Moroz, citing a decision of his Socialist Party, announced that he would continue the race to the finish, as standard bearer of the left, in the professed hope of entering the runoff and then defeating Kuchma on November 14.

Moroz’ decision precipitated the final demise of the Kaniv Four. Marchuk, now free of obligations, announced on October 25 that he, too, would pursue his presidential bid, in the hope of collecting votes on the “center-right and right-wing” of the political spectrum. Marchuk’s spectacular rightward shift earned him the endorsement of Yaroslava Stetsko, the highly respected leader of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN). She pointed out that her decision had been a painful one, because many KUN members had been jailed during the Soviet period by the KGB, in which Marchuk had served for twenty-eight years. But–as Stetsko concluded–Marchuk had become a firm and competent supporter of Ukrainian independent statehood. On October 25-26, in any case, Marchuk metamorphosed from a “”left-centrist”–his credo of long standing–into a “right-centrist and rightist.” Oliynik has endorsed Marchuk’s candidacy.

Tkachenko, for his part, has endorsed the presidential candidacy of Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, who is now probably the strongest opponent of Kuchma in the first round. The first-round votes on the left will split between Symonenko and the ultraleftist Natalya Vitrenko. But Symonenko seems set to come out ahead because his electorate is more disciplined than Vitrenko’s and because the communists possess an efficient electoral apparatus at the local level (UNIAN, STB-TV, October 25-29).