UKRAINE’S NEWEST ELECTORAL BLOC STILL WITHOUT A LEADER.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 189

The recently formalized bloc of Ukraine’s four major pro-presidential parties has a new name, For United Ukraine (FUU). It does not, however, as yet have a leader. On October 4, the leaders of the parties making up the bloc–Serhy Tyhypko of Labor Ukraine (LU), Valery Pustovoytenko of the People’s Democrats (PDP), Mykola Azarov of the Party of Regions (UPR) and Agricultural Minister Ivan Kyrylenko of the Agrarian Party (APU)–signed a document legitimizing United Ukraine for the upcoming March 2002 parliamentary elections.

As the show of unity it was apparently meant to be, the October 4 meeting failed, establishing a political council, rather than a leader, to determine the bloc’s strategy. This council will include the four party heads–Tyhypko, Pustovoytenko, Azarov and Kyrylenko. Someone from outside will most likely be invited to chair the bloc. People’s Democrats deputy head Anatoly Tolstoukhov announced that talks were in progress with Premier Anatoly Kinakh’s Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko’s Unity party. One of them may be invited to formally head United Ukraine.

It is no secret that the bloc’s real mastermind is President Leonid Kuchma. “We are not a pro-presidential bloc,” Andry Derkach, a prominent Labor Ukraine member, said in Kharkiv recently. “We are a presidential one.” Kuchma apparently hopes to make United Ukraine one of two pillars of a vast pro-presidential majority in the next Rada, along with former Premier Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine. Yet United Ukraine continues to be torn apart by internal differences, and it looks as if–but for Kuchma’s consolidating role–it would have long since fragmented.

First is the Agrarian Party. Despite the fact that its head Kyrylenko formally heads the United Ukraine election headquarters, the party is continuing to hold private talks with Yushchenko. The APU is apparently living through an identity crisis among abundant rumors of strife between its formal chairman, Lviv regional Governor Mykhaylo Hlady, and its former leader, seasoned agricultural Rada lobbyist Kateryna Vashchuk.

Participation in United Ukraine has not done Labor Ukraine much good. Its leader Tyhypko remains enthusiastic about the new bloc. But the LU–never more than a loose alliance of affluent businessmen from Dnipropetrovsk, united by their closeness to Kuchma–may be on the verge of breaking apart. At least two key figures are going their own ways. People’s deputy Inna Bohoslovska announced her intention to leave the LU faction in the Rada by the end of October and set up a liberal-oriented bloc of her own for the elections. Viktor Pinchuk, a steel and media magnate and Kuchma’s son-in-law, also reportedly plans to do the same for himself. The LU may continue to exist without Pinchuk, but his defection would deprive it of a significant financial and media resource.

People’s Democrats head Pustovoytenko does not conceal the fact that his party, the oldest established pro-Kuchma force, is not happy in the bloc. He believes that more PDP members would get through to the Rada if the party ran in the elections alone. “It is not good for the PDP to be in a bloc now,” Pustovoytenko said on September 24. But the PDP “has to take this step” because “we need a majority in parliament and political and economic stability in the state.”

Last is the Party of Regions. Observers are confused about the intentions of its leader, State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov. He too is continuing private talks with Yushchenko about a possible alliance between UPR and Our Ukraine. But it is not clear which alliance they have in mind: (1) UPR and Our Ukraine joining forces on their own or (2) Our Ukraine entering the United Ukraine bloc.

Recent developments suggest that Azarov may be aiming to become United Ukraine’s leader. He has declared that he would leave the post of the UPR chairman. This would be an important step to leadership in the new bloc, given that it has been informally agreed among the four parties that none of their chairmen would head it.

Speaking for the new bloc in a recent newspaper interview, Azarov said that he would continue negotiations with Yushchenko and Omelchenko, that there have been no talks with two other strong parties of the ruling elite–the United Social Democrats of Viktor Medvedchuk and Hryhory Surkis, and the Democratic Union of Oleksandr Volkov–and confirmed the obvious impossibility of an alliance with the radical opposition from Yulia Tymoshenko’s National Salvation Forum (Korrespondent.net, September 24, October 5; UNIAN, September 28, October 4; Forum, October 7; Stolichka, October 8, Stolichnye Novosti, October 9; see the Monitor, September 28, October 5).

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