Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 28

On February 9 the leaders of Ukraine’s People’s Democratic Party (NDP) and Liberal Party (LPU), Anatoly Matvienko and Volodymyr Shcherban, announced that they had formed a political bloc aimed at building an open society based on a market economy. Each called for a wider coalition of centrist and right-of-center parties to nominate a single candidate for the presidential elections this year. They are planning to maintain this union for the parliamentary elections of 2002 as well. Matvienko and Shcherban did not specify whom they would like to see as president, but said that their bloc will be directed against the leftists–meaning Socialists, Communists and the like (Ukrainian agencies and television, February 9).

Several years ago the NDP and the LPU–which were initially organized on the “clan” principle with powerful regional bases–were the strongest rivaling forces among Ukraine’s nascent centrist political parties. The NDP is still commonly called “the party of power” by a large number of high state officials in its ranks. Now, both the NDP and the LPU are experiencing hard times. A political union might mean survival for both of them.

In 1994-1996 the LPU was at its zenith, uniting the powerful Donetsk industrial elite. It grew significantly weaker in 1996 after Volodymyr Shcherban was sacked as the head of the Donetsk Region administration, and the LPU unofficial No. 2, Yevhen Shcherban, was assassinated. Last November, several regional organizations of the LPU tried unsuccessfully to oust Volodymyr Shcherban from the party, accusing him of authoritarianism, which effectively split the LPU.

The NDP is currently on verge of a split over attitude toward Leonid Kuchma’s second presidential bid. Kuchma has still not reacted to the NDP public letter listing electoral conditions for him as a presidential candidate, which was aimed at preventing a split in the party (see the Monitor, January 8, 11). Meanwhile, the NDP faction in parliament, second in size only to the Communist faction, is gradually shrinking. Many of those who had joined the faction to be closer to the apparent power base are leaving it now that the NDP is apparently falling out of favor with Kuchma.–OV