Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 232

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko’s electoral bloc for the upcoming parliamentary elections–Our Ukraine, which leads popularity polls neck and neck with the Communists–will consist of ten parties. This was announced on December 7, when the bloc’s leaders publicized an agreement on the allocation of quotas between parties within the bloc. (The elections are scheduled for March 2002.)

The People’s Movement of Ukraine (Udovenko’s Rukh), the Ukrainian People’s Movement (Kostenko’s Rukh), Reforms and Order, Solidarity and Yushchenko himself each got 20 percent. A number of representatives of six junior partners–the Christian Popular Union, the Rural Democratic Party, Forward Ukraine, the Youth Party, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Liberal Party (LPU)–will be part of Yushchenko’s quota. Yushchenko, who is also permitted to invite individuals from outside the bloc to fill his quota, announced that sympathizers of Our Ukraine would run in at least seventy-five of Ukraine’s 225 single-seat constituencies. He said that those constituencies would not only be in western areas, where Our Ukraine is especially popular, but across the whole country, given that his bloc represents all of Ukraine.

At the same time, Udovenko and Kostenko held conventions of their respective wings of the Rukh to formalize their alliances with Yushchenko. Kostenko’s convention quietly endorsed the accession to Our Ukraine. But on December 8 Udovenko had a difficult session with his Rukh, which was torn by differences over electoral strategy. Some observers had predicted dismissal for Udovenko and a split for his party. This did not occur. Instead, a group of dissenters bore the brunt of the situation. The leader of the party’s Dnipropetrovsk organization, Serhy Konev, who headed the internal opposition to the union with Yushchenko, was expelled from Udovenko’s Rukh altogether, and his sympathizers were dropped from its central committee. Konev’s main argument against the Our Ukraine alliance was that the Rukh would be diluted, spoilt by Yushchenko’s liberal ideas and might even cease to exist.

The dissenters will most likely join the Rukh splinter group headed by Bohdan Boyko, who is building a right-wing bloc alternative to Yushchenko’s (see the Monitor, November 14). Konev has already reemerged in that group as Boyko’s official bloc coordinator. Several regional branches of Udovenko’s party, including the Dnipropetrovsk organization, will probably follow Konev. Boyko’s bloc, which intends to find a legal loophole to usurp the Rukh’s name for the elections, is generally believed to be backed by those authorities fearful that Yushchenko’s coalition may become too popular and hence beyond their control.

The LPU’s eleventh-hour move of December 7 to join Our Ukraine spawned something of a sensation. But, unlike the Rukhs, the LPU, headed by Sumy region Governor Volodymyr Shcherban, a presidential loyalist, had long hesitated on whether to join Our Ukraine. (The Liberals did so last month, only after the pro-presidential For United Ukraine bloc had refused to take them under its wing. LPU’s participation does not look quite as logical.) Even without Shcherban, Yushchenko is likely to find strong support in the Sumy region, given that he is native to it. Ideologically, the LPU is rather distant from the nationalism professed by the majority of Yushchenko’s followers. Numerically, the party is a dwarf. Yushchenko was most likely persuaded to take the LPU on board by his friend and LPU deputy chairman, Mykola Zhulynsky, who was deputy premier for humanitarian policy in Yushchenko’s cabinet last year (Forum, December 7, 11; Ukrainska Pravda, December 7-10; see the Monitor, October 19).