Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 69

After the election of a new parliament (Verkhovna Rada) on March 31, majority has become a buzzword in Ukraine (see the Monitor, April 3). The need for a stable majority in the legislature is well understood. It is understood especially well by President Leonid Kuchma: In 1994-1999, he faced an inefficient Rada dominated by the Communists, but in 2000-2001 found it relatively easy to work with a more or less stable center-right majority backing the cabinet.

The formation of a viable majority will not be an easy task, because no single party has secured enough seats in the Rada to form the core of a new majority. Before the election Kuchma had said that he would like to see a majority formed on the basis of the government bloc, For United Ukraine (FUU). This did not appear difficult: Pre-election public opinion polls suggested that four pro-government forces–the FUU the United Social Democratic Party (USDP), the Greens and Women for the Future–were going to get through to parliament (see the Monitor, March 21). But the pollsters proved wrong. Only the FUU and the USDP cleared the 4-percent barrier, and the latter scored significantly less than expected.

The FUU faction is likely to number around 140 deputies, including thirty-six elected from the bloc list, some sixty from single-seat constituencies who ran on the FUU ticket, and forty or so “unaffiliated” deputies elected from single-seat constituencies. Even if the FUU grows to 160, as the Ukrainska Pravda web site has suggested, this will be a far cry from the 226 seats needed to form a simple majority in the 450-seat body. A centrist coalition with the USDP, which secured only twenty-four seats, would make no difference.

Outgoing Speaker Ivan Plyushch suggested on April 5 that a majority will be formed by the FUU, the USDP and former Premier Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc. Such a coalition seems unlikely. Yushchenko has been quoted by newspapers as saying that he would negotiate with any force except the USDP. He is not likely to forget the smear campaign conducted against him in USDP-linked media before the election (see the Monitor, March 25, 27, April 2). It is also hard to imagine Russia-oriented oligarchs from the USDP and Europe-oriented liberals and nationalists from Our Ukraine in one coalition. Even if such a majority is formed, it will be short lived. The ambitions of Yushchenko and USDP leader Viktor Medvedchuk, both of whom are expected to run in the 2004 presidential election, are akin to oil and water.

It is easier to imagine a coalition of Our Ukraine and the FUU without the USDP. This would number roughly 260 people’s deputies (Our Ukraine’s 120 and the FUU’s 140). The FUU leader, Volodymyr Lytvyn, has indicated readiness to form such a majority. But Yushchenko would not welcome this. In western Ukraine, where Our Ukraine recorded a landslide on March 31, Yushchenko is seen as the alternative to a corrupt Russia-oriented Kyiv elite. A union with that very group would therefore do him no good.

But the FUU has alternatives. If Our Ukraine declines a coalition offer, the government may try to split Yushchenko’s bloc. In this case, the FUU, the USDP and splinter groups from Our Ukraine could form a centrist pro-Kuchma majority. Not a particularly formidable task, given that Our Ukraine is a motley group bound only by Yushchenko’s popularity. Whether by carrot or stick, both liberals and representatives of Ukraine’s business elite could be coerced into joining the FUU. There are signs that the government has chosen this plan. Sumy Regional Governor Volodymyr Shcherban, for example, who is on Yushchenko’s list, reportedly conducted a double play at the pre-election stage in assisting the FUU.

Lytvyn indicated that the FUU could cooperate with the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU–66 seats). But a stable majority would be impossible in this case, because the CPU opposes market-oriented legislation. A union between the Communists and Our Ukraine is even less likely for the same reason. Thus the CPU is probably the only major party whose participation in the majority is out of the question. A coalition of three forces believed to be in opposition to Kuchma–Our Ukraine (120), the Socialist Party of Oleksandr Moroz and Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc (22-23 seats each) will not make a majority of 226 seats. Finally, neither Moroz nor Tymoshenko–both ardent oppositionists–will join a majority in which either the FUU or the USDP takes part.

Thus the Rada will have either a majority consisting of the FUU, the USDP and secessionists from Our Ukraine (if the powers-that-be succeed in splitting Yushchenko’s faction) or no majority at all. A majority consisting of the FUU and Our Ukraine seems less likely. In any case, the majority will be pro-government.

If no majority is formed, it should not be too difficult for the government to pass economic legislation through a Rada consisting mostly of pro-market forces. The antimarket Communists (66), even if assisted by the Socialists (22-23), will be unable to block the adoption of vital economic laws. But in political terms, the Rada without a majority would be divided into the left wing (the Communists and the Socialists), the center (the FUU, prone to splits into regional groups, and the USDP), and the right wing (an inherently unstable Our Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc) (Ukrainian media, March 31-April 7).

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at pubs@jamestown.org, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions