President Leonid Kuchma stated on election eve (Ukrainian agencies, March 27) that he personally considers forming a post-election coalition government comprising two or three centrist parties, including the Agrarian Party of Ukraine. Founded in December 1996, and claiming a large membership but only modestly represented in parliament, APU has cooperated smoothly with the government in the outgoing legislature. As its main accomplishment to date, the party cites the land lease law it drafted, which stops short of complete decollectivization.
APU adopted its electoral platform and list of candidates at a congress last November. It designated party chairwoman Kateryna Vashchuk, Agriculture Minister Yury Karasyk and Odessa Region State Administration head Ruslan Bodelan among APU’s top candidates. The selection of these and other state officials identified APU as a component of the presidential camp. In Crimea, APU got started with the support of the autonomous republic’s prime minister Anatoly Franchuk, who is related to Kuchma.
The party presents itself to the electorate as a "centrist" party of social-democrat orientation. It appeals to farm voters by urging state support for produce prices, protection against agricultural imports, debt write-offs for farms, and preferential targeted credits to the agricultural and food-processing sector. APU would permit limited, state-regulated sale and purchase of some land plots. It opposes, however, turning the land into a commodity. It favors a referendum on that issue in the expectation that it would lay the issue to rest. APU opposes "measures dictated by international financial centers," that is, a consistent privatization of agriculture and weaning it from deficit-financing by the state. (Ukrainian TV, November 14, 1997; Holos Ukrainy, March 12, 1998)
The platform reflects current political realities in the Ukrainian countryside, which resemble those in other post-Soviet countries and which Kuchma is forced to take into account in these elections. In the short-term strategy of the presidential camp, APU seems destined for the role of collecting rural votes and offsetting the influence of the Peasant party in the countryside. That party stands further to the left and is allied with the Socialist party in the Socialist-Peasant Bloc, a redoubtable leftist force in these elections.
The National Economic Development Party — a Presidential Ally in Industrial Centers.