Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 70

It is generally believed that, despite strong nostalgic sentiments among the population for Soviet times, Ukraine’s “reds” can win the presidential elections in October only if they come up with a single candidate. Prospects of an accord among the anti-reformist forces, however, look dim. At a congress of the far left Progressive Socialist Party on April 10, its leader, the outspoken populist “red” Natalya Vitrenko, proclaimed opposition to both the government and other leftist forces. Vitrenko, accusing Petro Symonenko’s communists and Oleksandr Moroz’ socialists of “betraying socialism” in favor of “bourgeois ideals,” made it clear that a common electoral strategy with either of them–the two strongest leftist forces–is out of the question for her party (BBC, Studio 1+1, April 10).

Vitrenko, with an estimated 20 percent approval rating, runs neck and neck with incumbent President Leonid Kuchma in recent public opinion polls. Despite this, she is hardly electable, because of her radical views, absence of political allies, virtual isolation in parliament and scarce financial resources. However, in running for president, she would pull a considerable share of the protest vote away from the objectively stronger “red” candidates, Symonenko and Moroz.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Peasants Party of Ukraine (PPU), Serhy Dovhan, reportedly said that the presidium of his party recently voted to back Symonenko’s presidential bid. According to Dovhan, PPU’s informal leader, Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, also voted for Symonenko (Den, April 10). The support of the PPU is important, because it means securing the vote of a large share of the docile and apolitical electors in Ukrainian villages, who are likely to cast their ballots as their collective farm bosses tell them. At the same time, an accord between PPU and the communists weakens the position of the ambitious Moroz, a moderate leftist who is regarded by Ukrainian analysts as capable of winning against Kuchma if backed by a wide “red” coalition. The bloc of Moroz’ socialists and the PPU scored the third strongest return among Ukrainian parties in the March 1998 elections. In October, however, the larger part of PPU broke with Moroz and established their own faction in the legislature.–OV