Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 164

While Ukraine’s right wing remains fragmented and leaderless, three other presidential candidates–Parliament Chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko, former parliamentary chairman Oleksandr Moroz and former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk–have joined forces in view of the upcoming election (see the Monitor, July 23, August 27). In so doing, the three candidates have temporarily cast aside ideological differences and decided, as a matter of expediency, to cooperate with mutually objectionable groups. Tkachenko is an unadulterated leftist and Eastern-oriented politician; Moroz, a moderate leftist with some understanding of Ukrainian national interests; and Marchuk, a professed left-of-center candidate with some allies on the “nationalist” right, and who ably stood up for national independence while prime minister.

The trio’s first public step toward an alliance was signing an “agreement on fair elections” in Kyiv on July 28, one open for signature by other candidates as well. Initially, only Yury Kostenko of the breakaway Rukh wing and Yury Karmazin of the obscure Fatherland Defenders’ Party did so (UNIAN, STB, July 28; UNIAN, August 18). More recently, Volodymyr Oliynyk–the populist mayor of Cherkassy–joined their ranks, though not signing the original agreement; a relatively unknown young politician, he is unlikely to play a significant role.

On August 24–Ukraine’s Independence Day–Tkachenko, Marchuk and Moroz met in Kaniv, central Ukraine, demonstratively ignoring the government-organized festivities in Kyiv. The three stepped beyond the vague, nonbinding July 28 agreement and, with Oliynyk, announced a formal electoral alliance, saying that by the middle of October they will come up with a single candidate to oppose incumbent President Leonid Kuchma in the October 31 election. Moroz–with the highest popularity rating and the richest experience in public politics of the four–seems well placed to be their choice. He can also potentially function as a unifying link between the nationally minded Marchuk and the procommunist Tkachenko. Should this scenario materialize and Moroz win, Marchuk could then become prime minister while Tkachenko tightens his grip on parliament.

But even assuming that Marchuk and Tkachenko agree to renounce their presidential ambitions in favor of Moroz, at least two major hurdles would still need to be overcome before October 31. First, Moroz’ medical condition looks uncertain. The candidate was forced to suspend his campaign in the last week of August and left for Germany on September 3 for a checkup. Furthermore, the trio remains divided over the issue of cooperation with the Communist Party. Tkachenko is clearly in favor; Moroz, cautiously and conditionally so; and Marchuk clearly opposed. Yet the issue is a crucial one due to the fact that none in the trio can win the election without communist support. Further, that party’s candidate, Petro Symonenko, looks far stronger than Moroz, Marchuk or Tkachenko in public opinion surveys and has a superior campaign organization capable of mobilizing voters on the decisive day.

Tkachenko and Moroz have invited Symonenko to join their ranks, but he will not readily accept the invitation. The Communists feel strong enough to campaign on their own without joining alliances. Should they eventually join one, they would wait until the last moment in order to maximize their bargaining power. An alliance of Tkachenko and Moroz with Symonenko would ipso facto exclude Marchuk. Yet such an alliance could produce a windfall for the left. Its loss of the pro-Marchuk electorate would be far more than offset by the communist voters who would flock to the banner of a united left. Such an alliance could shatter Kuchma’s chances for re-election, given the current widespread popular protest sentiment against him. A joint candidacy of the left might well outvote Kuchma in the first round of the election and lift the Reds over the top in the runoff (Ukrainian Television, August 24-27; Den, August 26; Fakty i kommentarii, August 27; UNIAN, August 27-28, 30-31, September 2-3).