The Democratic Party of Ukraine dates back to the heyday of the national-democratic movement. Party chairman Volodymyr Yavorivsky, a prominent writer, was one of the founding leaders of the Ukrainian Popular Movement — the Rukh — in 1989 and entered the parliament in 1990. Shortly afterward he created the Democratic party, initially with other prominent writers who gradually gave way in the party to businessmen, administrators, and full-time political figures.
The DPU is contesting this election as an ally of President Leonid Kuchma. It aims to increase the number of deputies prepared to support reforms and a European orientation in the new parliament. The party has decided against trying to squeeze into western Ukraine, where too many national-democratic and nationalist organizations compete against each other for a limited electorate. Instead, DPU stakes its hopes on central Ukraine, targeting at the same time eastern and southern Ukraine in an effort to take votes away from the Red parties there.
To support its effort in the east and south, the DPU has made an alliance of convenience with the Crimea-based Party of Economic Revival. In October 1997 the two parties formed the electoral bloc N.E.P. The acronym stands for the Ukrainian words "People’s Power, Economics, Order" but is deliberately designed to remind voters of the economic liberalization of the 1920s known as the New Economic Policy. This label reflects the goal to make inroads in eastern and southern regions, whose unsophisticated electorate is marked by Soviet nostalgia and distrust of reforms. (In one televised endorsement, a 102-year-old woman told voters that she remembers the N.E.P. as something positive).
DPU’s and N.E.P.’s top candidates in this election, apart from Yavorivsky, include:
— Crimean parliament chairman Anatoly Hrytsenko
— Ahrotekhservice president Volodymyr Bortnik, an exponent of agrarian interests
— Yuri Alekseev, director-general of the Pivdenmash plant formerly headed by Kuchma
— Kuchma’s economic adviser Aleksandr Volkov, placed inconspicuously in seventh spot on the slate
— former Acting Prime Minister Yukhym Zviahilsky and
— former Defense Minister Colonel-General Vitaly Radetsky.
Zviahilsky and Radetsky held those posts under then-President Leonid Kravchuk. DPU — and indirectly the Kuchma camp — apparently seeks to attract supporters of the former president, who co-leads the United Social-Democrat Party in opposition to the current president.
Its association with Zviahilsky and, particularly, with the Party of Economic Revival, may boomerang against the DPU. Zviahilsky remains influential in his native Donbass where he used to be a top mining executive. But the country remembers him mainly for the galloping inflation which marred his tenure as Acting Prime Minister in 1993-94; and he is tagged by corruption accusations which, despite being unproved, forced him into de facto refuge in Israel in 1994-96. The Party of Economic Revival for its part owes its substantial influence in Crimea to its close links with the shadow economy. At least one faction of the party has recently been the target of highly publicized anti-crime measures by Kyiv authorities, with the open encouragement of Kuchma’s administration. The DPU itself is untainted by corruption, but its choice of allies could not have failed to damage the DPU’s image with the electorate. (Institute of Statehood and Democracy (Kyiv): The Rukh Insider, December 18, 1997, and March 13, 1998; Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research: Research Update, November 3 and 24, 1997, and February 23 and March 9, 1998; see also Prism, Vol. IV, No. 1, January 19, 1998)
Moscow Arrests Zviadists.