Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s electoral endorsement of Leonid Kuchma as president of Ukraine — and, implicitly, of Kuchma’s camp in the upcoming parliamentary elections (see Monitor, February 2 and 3) — leaves the Party of Reform and Order in an uncertain position. The PRO has one foot in the presidential camp and another foot probing increasingly far outside it. Initially considered a "party of power," in effect a smaller and more sophisticated version of the Popular-Democratic Party (see Monitor, December 24), the PRO has developed into what may now be described a dissident party of power. It is a party of powerful figures of the economic and political establishment, whose agenda overlaps with that of the pro-presidential forces. But the overlap has been narrowing at the same time that differences have been widening over the scope and pace of reforms.
Last week, a group of PRO leaders attacked Kuchma for not going beyond "mere declarations" on behalf of reforms. At a news conference in Kyiv, these leaders urged Kuchma to desist from seeking reelection next year and to understand that Ukraine needs "a new president for a new stage of its development." These leaders announced that PRO would support National Bank Governor Viktor Yushchenko for president and urged Yushchenko to declare its candidacy in order to "unite reformist forces in one political bloc." Whether this group spoke for the entire party leadership remains unclear.
Led by former Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk, PRO was founded last October and November as a "right-of-center" party. Pynzenyk had been responsible for coordinating the government’s economic reforms, but resigned last year in frustration over resistance to the reforms, official corruption and what he described as insufficient support from Kuchma to the officially proclaimed reformist agenda. Pynzenyk’s frustration accumulated during Pavlo Lazarenko’s tenure as prime minister. Pynzenyk has not had the opportunity to test from inside the sincerity of the new government under Valery Pustovoytenko. A close associate of Pynzenyk in the party is Serhy Sobolev, chairman of the Reform group of deputies in parliament, of which Pynzenyk is also a member. PRO’s program calls for acceleration of reforms, the rule of law, rooting out official corruption and the "clan" phenomenon, and a "social market" economy–the latter being a virtually obligatory slogan for Ukraine’s parties in these elections. PRO offers this program as a "contract with Ukraine’s citizenry," obligating the executive power — if PRO wins a share of that power — to carry out the program’s provisions according to specific schedules from 1998 to 2002.
The party includes in its ranks a respectable number of economists and managers, mostly young and Western-oriented. However, the top ten places on PRO’s slate of candidates suggest that entrenched vested interests play a strong role in the party–or at least that the party’s radical reformers consider the support of those interests crucial for electoral success. Joining Pynzenyk and Sobolev among the top ten candidates are the General Directors of car-maker Avtozaz, of river-shipping company Ukrrichflot, and of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. These are ailing state-owned enterprises struggling to survive in a privatizing economy and clamoring for various forms of state support.
Yushchenko’s post as National Bank Governor bars him from political activity. However, the Young Ukraine association, which supports him, is closely aligned with the PRO. Yushchenko has earned high marks in the West and among Ukrainian reformers for managing Ukraine’s monetary reform. He is also being tipped as a potential prime minister if Kuchma’s camp is successful in the parliamentary elections after all. (Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research: Research Update, October 13 and November 3, 1997; The Rukh Insider, December 18, 1997; UNIAN, UNIAR, Intelnews, October 12-13 and November 7-8, 1997, and January 29, 1998; Eastern Economist Daily, January 30, 1998)
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