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додано: 18-09-2002
Taras Kuzio: UKRAINE'S 'VELVET REVOLUTION' GATHERS SPEED

Версія до друку // Редагувати // Стерти // URL: http://maidan.org.ua/static/mai/1032364423.html

Ukraine has begun its transition to the post-Kuchma era. The
"velvet revolution," which began nearly two years ago with the
"Kuchmagate" revelations of corruption and other executive
misdemeanors, has served to galvanize popular consciousness, paved
the way for a victory by opposition forces in the March parliamentary
elections, and is now moving toward its climax. Ukraine currently
resembles the USSR in the late 1980s when CPSU General Secretary
Mikhail Gorbachev struggled to keep pace with developments, instead
of controlling them.

The situation since the March elections has changed the
balance of forces in favor of the opposition, and the executive is
now in a state of panic and disorientation. In Our Ukraine leader
Viktor Yushchenko's words, Ukraine is in the depths of its worst
political crisis since independence. Prosecutor Svyatoslav Piskun has
promised to resolve within six months the murder of opposition
journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and his office has now admitted for the
first time that it was a "political murder." The opposition chose 16
September, the second anniversary of Gongadze's abduction, to launch
major protests.

The actions of the authorities since "Kuchmagate" have
radicalized moderates in the opposition camp, particularly within Our
Ukraine, whose business group Razom now supports a referendum on
early presidential elections, something backed only by the more
radical Forum for National Salvation (FNS) last year. Yushchenko's
open letter to President Leonid Kuchma on 29 August and the 14-15
September "For the Democratic Development of Ukraine" congress
organized by Our Ukraine also reflect a growing frustration and
radicalization of opinion among the moderate opposition, which is
threatening to completely join the radicals if the authorities
continue to turn down dialogue.

The executive and its oligarchic allies have no candidate to
succeed Kuchma as president in two years' time, as a viable candidate
could have been only found prior to "Kuchmagate." Deputy Prime
Minister Volodymyr Semynozhenko and oligarch Oleksandr Volkov, a
former presidential adviser, have openly spoken of the need for
Kuchma to run for a third term. They argue that his first term should
not count as it began two years prior to the adoption of the 1996
constitution, which bans an individual from holding that office for
more than two consecutive terms. Our Ukraine recently asked the
Constitutional Court to rule on this question, hoping it would rule
against, but even if the court ruled in favor of Kuchma being allowed
to run for a third term, it seems beyond the realm of the imaginable
that he could be re-elected in a free vote.

A key indication that the Kuchma regime is slowly
disintegrating are defections from the former pro-Kuchma For a United
Ukraine election bloc to Yushchenko. At the 14-15 September congress,
the Dnipropetrovsk (Kuchma's home base) clan's Party of
Entrepreneurs-Labor Ukraine led by Serhiy Tyhypko, Stepan Havrysh's
Democratic Initiatives faction, and Ukraine's Agrarians all defected
to Yushchenko.

The next to defect could be the Donetsk clan's Ukraine's
Regions led by Deputy Prime Minister Semynozhenko, established in
March 2001 and initially led by Tax Administration head Mykola
Azarov. Ukraine's Regions has long-standing ties to Our Ukraine
through Petro Poroshenko's Solidarity party, which was a founding
member of Ukraine's Regions but then switched to Our Ukraine. Other
parliamentary factions that could follow suit are Power of the People
and People's Choice.

The opposition is feeling increasingly emboldened despite all
manner of repressive action taken against it, including arrests and
interrogations conducted throughout Ukraine over the last few days
and threats by the Internal Affairs Ministry to dissuade the public
from joining the protests planned for 16 September. Despite a Kyiv
court ban, the protest in central Kyiv attended by 50,000 people went
ahead with Our Ukraine's participation, something the authorities had
not expected.

Despite the similarities with the late 1980s, Ukraine's
velvet revolution is slower than those that engulfed the outer Soviet
empire. The Ukraine Without Kuchma movement had already called for a
roundtable with Kuchma at the height of the "Kuchmagate" crisis but
the authorities refused. Nevertheless, Yushchenko, never comfortable
in the role of an oppositionist, has continued to call for a
"dialogue" with the executive in the form of a roundtable, hoping
that the authorities will now agree to this proposal.

After the manner in which the authorities reacted to the
demonstrations, with mass arrests and the tearing down of tents in
central Kyiv overnight, a roundtable is becoming less likely. Kuchma
was demonstratively outside Ukraine on 16 September, the day of
opposition protests. Another problem is the widespread lack of trust
in Kuchma's word. Kuchma shows no signs of interest in "dialogue,"
despite his claims to the contrary, and his actions are pushing
Yushchenko into the radical camp.

The Polish roundtable in September 1988 took place because of
many events and factors that are lacking in Ukraine. Specifically, it
followed seven years of mass clandestine opposition under martial
law, mass strikes, and protests that year. Gorbachev also rejected
the "[Leonid] Brezhnev Doctrine," thereby removing the threat of
Soviet intervention. Poland's Solidarity was also a nationwide
movement, unlike the Ukrainian opposition, which draws its main
strength from the more nationally conscious Western-Central regions
(with the sole exception of the Communists who have now for the first
time joined the largely national-democratic opposition).

The National Executive Commission (NEC) created by Solidarity
in October 1987 included the majority of the underground opposition.
In Ukraine the Forum for National Salvation (FNS), created in
February 2001, only ever included the radical wing of the opposition
and never Our Ukraine. The ruling authorities with whom a roundtable
is to take place are also different (Communists in Poland,
postcommunist oligarchs in Ukraine).

But there are also similarities. The demands made by the NEC
and FNS/Our Ukraine both include an end to repression and censorship
as part of a radical program of democratization. Both in Poland in
the late Soviet era and today in Ukraine, national democrats continue
to lead the struggle for democratization.

After the successful Polish roundtable, Tadeusz Mazowiecki
headed Poland's first postwar noncommunist government in 1989, and
free parliamentary and presidential elections were held the following
year. The attempt to create an "artificial majority" composed of
pro-presidential forces in Ukraine failed and negotiations are
underway to replace it with a "democratic majority" grouped around
Our Ukraine. As in Poland, the main objective is to appoint a
reformist prime minister, which in Ukraine's case would be
Yushchenko. In such an eventuality, with 18 months' grace during
which the government could not be brought down, Yushchenko would be
in the best position to be elected president in 2004.

The major loser in such a process would be Viktor Medvedchuk
and his Kyiv clan's Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o), which
Yushchenko has said will be barred from joining the parliamentary
majority. Both Medvedchuk and his SDPU-o clan are feared and disliked
by Eastern Ukraine's oligarchs. Radical anti-Kuchma oppositionists
Yuliya Tymoshenko, against whom politically motivated charges of
"corruption" would be dropped if Yushchenko became premier, and
Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz could also be losers unless they
agree to join the new "democratic [parliamentary] majority" led by
Yushchenko and Tyhypko.

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