Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 157

Ukraine’s national-democrats–“nationalist” and pro-market politicians, opposing both the Reds and the government–have missed probably their last chance to unite for the presidential election this fall. The inter-party forum, grandly titled “Truth and Prosperity to the People, a Worthy President to Ukraine!,” which convened on August 22, demonstrated that the ambitions of the numerous and weak national-democratic groups–and of their several presidential hopefuls–outweigh their proclaimed willingness to agree on a single non-Red alternative to President Leonid Kuchma.

The forum’s organizer, Anatoly Matvienko, former chairman of the pro-Kuchma People’s Democratic Party (NDP), and now Kuchma’s bitter opponent, is undertaking an effort to pull together what he describes as the “right wing” of the political spectrum in the lead-up to the presidential election. Matvienko managed to bring to the forum five presidential candidates, whose individual popular ratings hardly exceed 1 percent. Those were: (1) Yury Kostenko of the breakaway wing of the Rukh, (2) Vasyl Onopenko of the Social Democratic Party (not to be confused with the pro-Kuchma United Social Democrats), (3) self-declared millionaire Oleksandr Rzhavsky; (4) the mayor of the central Ukrainian city of Cherkassy, Volodymyr Olinyk, and (5) Yury Karmazin of the obscure Party of the Fatherland’s Defenders. The national-democratic credentials of at least two of these candidates are in any case questionable. Each of the five, addressing the forum, duly blasted the Red for retrograde ideas and Kuchma for reliance on clans and oligarchs, but the issue of a single candidacy was barely approached. Putting a brave face on the failure, Matvienko suggested that such a candidacy should be named at a second and similar forum in October–which obviously would be too late to organize much of a performance at the elections.

The forum could hardly bring palpable results because it was not attended by two presidential candidates who are clearly stronger than any of those represented at the forum. The two absentees were the former foreign minister and current leader of Rukh’s larger wing, Hennady Udovenko, and the former Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) chief and prime minister, Yevhen Marchuk. Udovenko demonstratively ignored the gathering, saying that he would not bow out in favor of another candidate. Earlier, it had also been more than aggressively indicated that any agreement between Udovenko and Marchuk is impossible. Udovenko continues the line of the Rukh’s late leader, Vyacheslav Chornovil, who ruled out cooperation with Marchuk on the basis of Marchuk’s KGB past. One of Udovenko party’s new mottoes–a mocking antonym to Marchuk’s–reads, “The 21st Century Without Yevhen Marchuk.” And in the meantime, Marchuk has moved toward tactical cooperation with the leftist candidates Oleksandr Moroz and Oleksandr Tkachenko–a move which constitutes anathema to national-democrats.

The interparty forum and its aftermath occasioned new mutual offers of reconciliation from the Udovenko and Kostenko wings of the Rukh. But each wing demands from the other full acceptance of its own terms as a precondition to reunification. The Rukh’s split is one of the primary reasons for the vacuum which has developed on the center-right and right segments of the political spectrum. Kuchma will, as a result, have no strong right-of-center rivals in this election. He will have to persuade and mobilize the leaderless right-of-center and rightist electorate to vote for the incumbent president as the sole viable alternative to Red candidates (Studio 1+1, STB, UNIAN, August 19-23).