Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 5

On January 5 the People’s Democratic Party of Ukraine (NDP)–the “party of power”–released a public letter citing the conditions under which it would support Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma’s electoral bid in the October 1999 presidential elections. The announcement was broadcast on Ukrainian television and the full text published in newspapers. The NDP demanded that Kuchma cut expenses on administration, support parliamentary elections on a purely proportional basis, remove hidden censorship of the media, and take a strong line against official corruption. In the economic sphere, the NDP urged the president to speed up market reforms, voice unequivocal support land reform and private property of land, back a gradual reduction of the value-added tax, cancel privileges for selected clan businesses, increase the role of regions in implementing economic policy, and protect domestic companies on the market (Ukrainian television and agencies, January 5-6).

Kuchma’s administration promptly rejected the NDP ultimatum. At a briefing on January 6, the presidential chief-of-staff, Mykola Biloblotsky, called the “peremptory tone” of the party’s statement “amazing.” He announced that the president will not accept conditions from any party. Biloblotsky noted that Kuchma remains a convinced reformer, and suggested that the proposed conditions reflect the position of only a part of the NDP leadership (Ukrainian television and agencies, January 5-6).

The NDP, whose prominent member, Kuchma’s loyalist Valery Pustovoytenko, heads the cabinet, continues to grapple with its identity crisis, criticizing Pustovoytenko and Kuchma for slow reforms. The party’s reformist wing hesitates in backing Kuchma in this year’s electoral race, opting instead for support of the right-of-center bloc of the Rukh and Reforms and Order Party, which announced that they would not support the incumbent president (see the Monitor, December 15). A large part of the NDP, at the same time, is struggling to maintain its status of the “party of power”, supporting Kuchma and working to reach a compromise with him. –OV