President Leonid Kuchma called over the weekend for the formation of a "centrist bloc" — based on the Ukrainian Popular Movement-Rukh and the New Ukraine organization — in preparation for the parliamentary elections. Kuchma was addressing the congress of New Ukraine, held in Kiev under the chairmanship of Yevgeny Kushnarev, the new head of the Presidential Administration, who retains his post as New Ukraine’s leader. In his report to the congress, Kushnarev defined the organization’s role as organizing public support for the acceleration of reforms against leftist opposition. Kushnarev also called for merging the reformist message with one of social concern and an emphasis on Ukrainian nationhood. "The course of Ukrainian-Russian relations depends primarily on whether Russia’s elite will be able to perceive Ukraine as a partner, not as a subject territory."
Meanwhile, in Kiev this weekend the Ukrainian Communist party Central Committee held a plenum that called for the creation of an electoral bloc with the Socialist party and other leftist groups in preparation for the parliamentary elections. CPCC first secretary Petro Simonenko’s report urged a redoubling efforts to stop the government’s market reforms. The Communists will campaign for "changing Ukraine’s bourgeois system, removing the anti-popular regime through constitutional means, and returning political power to the working people." The CC also approved a plan of "large-scale public actions" to mark the upcoming 80th anniversary of the proclamation of Soviet power in Ukraine and the 75th anniversary of the founding of the USSR. (UNIAN, Interfax-Ukraine, February 15-16)
Kuchma’s view of Rukh is emblematic of his transformation from the erstwhile exponent of russified Eastern Ukraine into a Ukrainian national leader. At the same time, the New Ukraine organization is in a position to make inroads into the electorate of russified industrial cities. Some New Ukraine leaders, including Kushnarev, are ethnic Russian industrial executives and administrative officials loyal to Ukraine and the president’s course. The Communists and Socialists between them account for nearly one third of parliamentary seats, but they have some differences as well as common positions, and do not often act as a homogenous bloc.
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