Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 13

On January 16, the favorite–if opinion polls are to be believed–in Ukraine’s parliamentary race also announced its list of candidates for the 225-seat nationwide constituency. Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine will put 209 into the contest. Only Ukraine’s Communists came up with more candidates (see the Monitor, January 8).

Yushchenko’s bloc consists of the People’s Movement of Ukraine (led by Hennady Udovenko), the Ukrainian People’s Movement (Yury Kostenko), Reforms and Order (Viktor Pynzenyk), Solidarity (Petro Poroshenko)–the bloc’s pillars–and a group of smaller parties: the Christian Popular Union, the Rural Democratic Party, Forward Ukraine, the Youth Party, the Liberal Party, the Social Nationalist Party (SNP) and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (CUN).

Assigning numbers to the candidate list of such a motley bloc was tricky. Unavoidable tradeoffs caused a number of surprises. Number 1 is, as would be expected, Yushchenko. Number 2 is the biggest surprise: It was assigned to Oleksandr Stoyan, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FTUU). Stoyan’s political profile is far lower than his title might suggest. He is a general without an army, as the FTUU is a fairly loose, decentralized organization. Udovenko, Kostenko and Pynzenyk came in at 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Slava Stetsko, the CUN leader, came in at Number 11. This was carefully calculated positioning: This radical nationalist, had she been among the top ten, might have scared away voters in Ukraine’s cosmopolitan east and quiet central regions. Also surprising are the fairly low positions assigned to the Crimean Tatar leaders–Mustafa Dzhemilyov’s Number 28, and Refat Chubarov’s Number 60. The Tatars are not a very numerous group–some 300,000 Tatars live in Crimea–but they are remarkably consolidated. Yushchenko has also reportedly included his brother, Petro Yushchenko, on the list. This was a mistake: Mass media tied to Yushchenko’s rivals have hastened to accuse him of nepotism.

Most of the top positions on Yushchenko’s list have gone to nationalist politicians popular in Western Ukraine. Yushchenko has thus abandoned the idea of uniting Eastern and Western interests under a single umbrella. He is apparently betting only on the national-minded west, where he is unrivaled, leaving the densely populated areas in the east and south to the Communists and pro-government forces.

Yushchenko’s charisma is so significant that one politico has tried to take a free ride. On January 15, Oleksandr Rzhavsky, the leader of an obscure populist party called United Family, set up an electoral bloc called For Yushchenko. Ballots of disoriented voters may well bring this bloc consisting of a handful of political dwarfs to parliament on the wave of Yushchenko’s popularity, if the Central Electoral Commission allows it to run. An angry Yushchenko denied connection to the For Yushchenko bloc and blasted it as a dirty trick (Studio 1+1 TV, January 15; Ukrainska Pravda, Versii.com.ua, January 15, 16; see the Monitor, December 18).