On December 4, Ukrainian lawmakers by 249 votes to 15 adopted the draft law on presidential elections in the first reading. The old legislation contradicted the constitution adopted in 1996 which restricted personal rights. To become a law, the draft must be later approved in a second reading and signed by the president.
The draft foresees that the elections are valid if:–50 percent of registered electors plus 1 participated in the vote;–none of the candidates collects 50 percent of the vote plus 1 in the first round, the candidate who wins in the second round, irrespective of the number of voters, is elected president;–parties and blocs of parties can nominate candidates, and self-nominations are allowed;–every candidate collects 1 million signatures in two-thirds of Ukraine’s twenty-five regions, with no less than 30,000 signatures in each of them;–each potential elector only signs for one candidate;–nominations are accepted no later than five months before the elections;–candidates have equal access to the mass media in the campaign;–prisoners can vote (which may be an advantage for the incumbent president, given the unreformed Soviet-type Ukrainian penitentiary system) (Ukrainian agencies, Studio 1+1, December 4, Den, December 5).
The draft, originally proposed by Oleksandr Lavrynovych of the right-wing Rukh, incorporated changes proposed by several leftist deputies, and did not face any resistance from the leftist opposition. All major political forces apparently realize the need for the fastest possible adoption of the law in order to begin serious campaigning for the upcoming elections (scheduled for October 1999).
Meanwhile, recent polls suggest that incumbent President Kuchma will face tough competition from the leftists. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya Vitrenko and Kuchma–according to different public opinion polls–each currently have the support of 8-12 percent of the potential voters. The chief communist, Petro Symonenko, trails 2-5 percentage points behind the three leaders. The parliament speaker, Oleksandr Tkachenko, considered a strong potential nominee, has announced that he does not intend to run (Ukrainian radio, December 6).–OV
LAZARENKO IN A SWISS JAIL.