Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 6

At a press conference on January 8, the People’s Democratic Party (NDP) deputy head, Volodymyr Filenko, admitted that the party is close to a split over differences concerning support of President Leonid Kuchma in the elections scheduled for October 1999. Filenko said that the public letter listing electoral conditions for Kuchma as a presidential candidate (see the Monitor, January 8) was written to prevent a clash between the supporters of Kuchma and those members of the NDP leadership who believe that the democratic forces should back another candidate. In an interview with STV, Filenko made it clear that if Kuchma turns down the NDP demands to speed up reforms and take a strong line against corruption, the party may support the candidacy of the National Bank of Ukraine head, Viktor Yushchenko. Filenko also suggested that Premier Valery Pustovoytenko might be a good candidate if Kuchma does not run (Ukrainian agencies and television, January 8, STV, January 9). Reforms and Order–the party of the “father” of Ukrainian liberal reforms, Viktor Pynzenyk–had earlier proposed Yushchenko for president (see the Monitor, December 3, 1998). The banker has so far denied having presidential ambitions.

Also on January 8, another NDP deputy head, Yevhen Kushnaryov, speaking as the leader of the New Ukraine association, called on the democratic forces to set up a wide coalition to support a single presidential candidate. Kushnaryov said that he sees “no alternative to the incumbent president in the democratic camp.” If Kuchma does not run, he said, then the democrats “will never agree on a single candidate” (Ukrainian 1st TV Channel, UNIAN, January 8). Kushnaryov resigned as the presidential chief-of-staff last November to concentrate on organizing, as its leader, New Ukraine’s support of Kuchma’s second bid for the office. New Ukraine, created in 1992 by market-oriented regional leaders and directors, mostly from the east of Ukraine, in 1996 evolved into the NDP.

In his interview with STV, Filenko–speaking for the NDP’s reformist wing–suggested that after a possible split, it will continue actively supporting market reforms, while “the state bureaucrats” will stick to Kuchma to defend their group interests. Premier Pustovoytenko, a member of the NDP leadership loyal to the incumbent president, did not sign the letter which set the conditions for the party’s support of Kuchma (see the Monitor, January 8). He sided instead with Kushnaryov, enthusiastically supporting the idea of forming a center-right coalition to back a single presidential candidate–that is, Kuchma (STV, January 9, Ukrainian 1st TV Channel, January 8, 9).