Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 113

The presidential campaign in Ukraine–with elections scheduled for October 31–has entered a decisive stage. Each runner must collect a million signatures to be officially registered as a nominee in the elections. Success depends on having the backing of parties with well-established regional networks. The signatures, by law, must represent two-thirds of Ukraine’s twenty-five regions, with no fewer than 30,000 signatures in each of those regions. None of Ukraine’s weakling nonleftist parties can fulfill this task alone. The candidates are therefore busy creating electoral coalitions. The not-so-numerous pro-market candidates, due to their scanty resources, also have very different prospects.

Incumbent President Leonid Kuchma, however, should not encounter any problems at this stage. Along with the assistance of the government machine, represented by Premier Valery Pustovoytenko’s People’s Democratic Party (NDP) and the Zlahoda association, he is now backed by a wide coalition of centrist parties, having business-oriented leaders well connected to the administration and thus genuinely interested in his re-election. The coalition–representing twelve parties, including the NDP, the United Social Democratic Party, two wings of the split Liberal Party, the Muslims Party, and the Interregional Bloc of Reforms–was announced on June 9 (Ukrainian television and agencies, June 9).

Another nonleftist prospective candidate is former security chief and premier Yevhen Marchuk, from whom a strong campaign was initially expected. Marchuk continues a search for his own political niche. On June 10, an assemblage of small nationalist parties–including the Republicans, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the extreme right State Independence of Ukraine–announced a coalition named “Our President Yevhen Marchuk.” It is hard to say whether Marchuk really needs their assistance, or whether the tiny parties–none of which is represented in parliament–need Marchuk to attract media attention and remain afloat. Interestingly, neither Marchuk nor his Social Democratic Union were present when this coalition agreement was signed (Ukrainian television, June 10).

Meanwhile, the Rukh–once the strongest nationalist party–continues suffering a severe identity crisis. Asked whether Rukh reunification is possible, Yury Kostenko, leader of one party faction and a presidential candidate, said he considers it “unrealistic.” In an earlier interview, Hennady Udovenko, leader of the rival Rukh wing and a presidential candidate himself, said that unification of liberal parties may be possible “when it becomes clear which candidate has received [the requisite] million signatures.” It may turn out that only Kuchma and the Red with their strong party backing will succeed in this (Den, June 10; Ukraina moloda, June 2).–OV