By Taras Kuzio
The crucial event in Ukraine’s political evolution will be the presidential election scheduled for October 2004. A study of previous elections from the past decade reveals some underlying patterns in Ukraine’s electoral politics that will likely shape the outcome of this pivotal vote.
Despite his high popularity ratings, a victory for the national-liberal leader Viktor Yushchenko in 2004 is not a certainty. His best chance for winning is to enter a second round facing Piotr Symonenko, the leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU). For this to happen the opposition would do better to submit separate candidates in the first round of the race, especially as Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine and the KPU will never agree on a single candidate to challenge the nominee of the “party of power.”
The current incumbent, Leonid Kuchma, is barred from running for a third term, and his centrist backers do not have a candidate with any public following. The Kuchmagate crisis destroyed the legitimacy of the oligarch ruling class, which makes it difficult for them to organize a Russian style succession. Hence 2004 will see an open and fiercely contested race.
1991 AND 1994: NATIONAL DEMOCRATS MARGINALIZED