Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 52

On March 12, by a vote of 11-6, the executive committee of Ukraine’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) recommended incumbent Leonid Kuchma as their party candidate for the upcoming October presidential election. Formal nomination will take place during a PDP congress in May. The dissenting votes included those of party chairman Anatoly Matvienko and his first deputy, Volodymyr Filenko, who announced yesterday that the PDP will probably split at that congress over the issue. Two other PDP heavyweights, Premier Valery Pustovoytenko and Yevhen Kushnaryov, Kuchma’s former chief-of-staff–who represent the majority–said at a press conference the same day that everything will be done to prevent a split. Pustovoytenko noted that should the PDP refuse to support Kuchma, he would be left with the difficult choice of having to part ways with either the party or the government (Den, March 13; Ukrainian television and agencies, March 15).

This is the first time that a possible split has been openly discussed by PDP leaders; that it has been reveals the serious character of the rift growing within the party. The party’s reformist wing, which finds support mostly in the west of Ukraine, has criticized Kuchma over the past several months for both his negligent attitude toward Ukraine’s political parties and the slow pace of his economic reforms. In January, amid rumors of an imminent split, and reportedly in an effort to preserve the party, the PDP came up with a list of conditions for Kuchma, which he would have to comply with to be nominated as PDP’s presidential candidate in May. Kuchma, however, has ignored those conditions (see the Monitor, January 8). The PDP majority–primarily state officials and industrial directors who depend on Kuchma for their posts–will most probably support his nomination. The wing led by Matvienko and Filenko, on the other hand, has apparently burnt its bridges in its push to join forces with the Rukh and other right-of-center parties, which do not support Kuchma as a candidate.–OV