Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 85

The turnout at the international day of workers’ solidarity rallies across Ukraine–May 1–was rather high, at 200,000 people. Ukrainian leftists grasped this opportunity to air their views with an eye to the presidential elections in October.

The captains of the strongest leftist forces–Petro Symonenko of the Communist Party, Oleksandr Moroz of the Socialist, Natalya Vitrenko of the Progressive Socialist, and Oleksandr Tkachenko of the Peasant–showed ostensible unity in condemning the government for the economic hardships and NATO for the war in Yugoslavia during a “red” rally in Kyiv.

The four leaders, however, remain rivals in the presidential race, where–most Ukrainian experts say–only a single leftist candidate could win against the incumbent President Leonid Kuchma. Vitrenko and her followers, showing their disdain of the other three leaders, whom Vitrenko keeps accusing of “collaboration with the capitalist regime,” kept a distance from the rest of the mob at the rally. “We will not go with Tkachenko, Symonenko and Moroz,” she said. Answering a question from the media on whether she will run for president, Vitrenko replied, “Maybe.” Despite leading in public opinion polls, Vitrenko, a professed Stalinist, continues calling for abolishing the Ukrainian presidency, which she believes to be a “bourgeois” (thus redundant) counterweight to the power of soviets. The ambitious Symonenko and Moroz apparently do not subscribe to this view, asserting the need to back a single leftist presidential candidate, but still failing to achieve any specific agreement. The parliament speaker and Peasants Party informal leader, Tkachenko, was coy on May 1, replying “We’ll see” to a question on his presidential plans (Ukrainian television and agencies, May 1-2).

Tkachenko, known for his strong pro-Russian and anti-Western views, may join the campaign despite earlier public denials of presidential ambitions. Recently, he has trumpeted a so-called program for Ukraine’s economic revival, drafted by his assistants. It is undoubtedly the essence of what would be his electoral campaign. Speaking during a recent trip in the Cherkassy region, Tkachenko revealed what are probably two of the program’s main points: preservation of Soviet-era collective farms (a synonym to inefficiency in agriculture) and leaning on Russia as a source of cheap natural resources. Meanwhile, the Communist and the Peasant Parties reported reaching a preliminary agreement to work together during the presidential elections–a formulation which casts doubt on their ability to nominate a single candidate (Ukrainian agencies, April 24, 30).–OV