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додано: 17-06-2003
Taras Kuzio: Kuchma's Illusive 2004 Candidate

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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report
Vol. 5, No. 23, 17 June 2003

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the
Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team

Taras Kuzio

Whom will President Leonid Kuchma choose as the pro-presidential candidate for the October 2004 elections? Discussions are under way between Viktor Yushchenko, head of the pro-reform Our Ukraine bloc, and two radical opposition groups, Oleksandr Moroz's Socialists (SPU) and Yuliya Tymoshenko's bloc, to unite behind Yushchenko.

Yushchenko has maintained his position as Ukraine's most
popular politician since he was prime minister from December 1999 to
April 2001. In a May poll by the Ukrainian Democratic Circle,
Yushchenko obtained 27.8 percent backing (rising to 42.3percent if
Moroz's and Tymoshenko's support is added) and Communist
Party of Ukraine (KPU) leader Petro Symonenko 17.9 percent. The
opposition is likely to have two candidates -- Yushchenko and the
KPU's Symonenko.

Of the two opposition candidates, Yushchenko is clearly the
favorite. No Communist candidate relying solely on KPU support would
be able to win elections in Ukraine. With their high ratings, both
opposition candidates could possibly enter the second round, which
would make a Yushchenko victory certain.

It has always been in Kuchma's interest to have the
opposition vote fractured with all four opposition leaders as
candidates. In May, Kuchma said that Yushchenko had made a mistake in
not siding with pro-presidential centrists after the 2002 elections,
and he ridiculed talk of a united opposition candidate.

An April poll by Kyiv's "Politychna Dumka" (Political
Thought) journal discussed four possible scenarios for 2004. The best
scenario, from the viewpoint of anti-Kuchma forces, was a joint
non-Communist opposition candidate leading to Yushchenko and
Symonenko entering the second round where they would obtain 53.1
percent and 28.8 percent respectively.

In these four scenarios, a pro-Kuchma candidate would have to
obtain sufficient support in the first round in order to beat
Symonenko into the second round. Individual opinion polls for the
three potential pro-presidential candidates -- Prime Minister Viktor
Yanukovych, National Bank head Serhiy Tyhypko, and presidential
administration head Viktor Medvedchuk -- are low. But they should be
added together with an additional 5 percent-10 percent from
"administrative resources." Although opposition candidates have
access to state television's Channel 1, they will be blocked from
Channels 2 and 3 controlled by Medvedchuk.

Two separate sources inside Poland and in Kyiv have learnt
that Kuchma confided in President Aleksander Kwasniewski on a visit
to Poland earlier this year that his preferred presidential candidate
was Tyhypko. Such a choice would certainly be logical as Tyhypko,
although re-elected head of the Dnipropetrovsk clan's Labor
Ukraine party at its April congress, is not commonly perceived as a
corrupt oligarch. Tyhypko also has a relatively good image in the
United States as a "reformer," the only such image among
pro-presidential leaders. After becoming National Bank head in
December, Tyhypko began a self-promotion campaign which nobody in
this position had ever undertaken.

Within Ukraine both Medvedchuk and Yanukovych have drawbacks
in relation to Tyhypko. Medvedchuk has made even more enemies than he
already had prior to becoming presidential administration head in May
2002. The Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o), which is led by
Medvedchuk, is the only oligarch party unpopular in its home base, in
Kyiv. There are indications that Medvedchuk is willing to sit out the
2004 election and work towards the 2009 elections, including as head
of the SDPU-o opposition party, if Yushchenko wins.

Yanukovych's rating is growing because of his dynamism
since becoming prime minister in November. His visit to Paris in May
was deemed a success and considered the best visit to France by any
Ukrainian government. Yanukovych's usefulness to Kuchma was in
converting the Donbas into a "mini Belarus," as Ukrainian
commentators have described it, where he has ensured the domination
of the local "party of power" (Regions of Ukraine).

Yanukovych's strength in Donbas may be his liability in
the remainder of Ukraine. Although Yanukovych will be prime minister
for nearly two years prior to the 2004 elections, it is not clear
that this is sufficient time to change his image from governor of
Ukraine's "mini Belarus" to a potential president of Ukraine.

Tyhypko has advantages over both Medvedchuk and Yanukovych as
he is the best of the three to take on Yushchenko. Whether
Tyhypko's image of an oligarchic "reformer" conforms to reality
is difficult to say. Tyhypko's proficiency was never rated highly
when he was deputy prime minister and economy minister in the Valeriy
Pustovoytenko government from 1997-99. Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of
the eponymous opposition bloc, claims that when Tyhypko was economy
minister in the Yushchenko government, he "professionally sabotaged
all of my work" (P. Loza, "Nevypolnennyy zakaz," Kyiv, Taki Spravy,
2002, p.70). In May 2000 Tyhypko resigned in protest as economy
minister over reforms introduced by the Yushchenko government.

The manner in which Tyhypko became National Bank head in
November 2002 is also not a good indicator of his character. After
failing to obtain sufficient votes, a dubious secret voting system
was created to ensure the replacement of Yushchenko loyalist
Volodymyr Stelmakh. Tyhypko's appointment is the first occasion
the head of a political party has headed the National Bank, a factor
the Ukrainian Bank Association sees negatively because of its impact
on the bank's independence.

In January and July 2002, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc member and
lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko sent documents to the
Prosecutor-General's Office detailing accusations against Tyhypko
of money laundering and transfers of hard currency from Ukraine in
1995-96, when Tyhypko was head of Pryvatbank (1992-97), "Ukrayina
moloda" reported on 28 November 2002. The "Grani" website, linked to
the Socialist Party, published in May 2001 the names of offshore
companies linked to Pryvatbank. Ironically, one of Tyhypko's
first actions as National Bank chairman was to discuss illegal
capital flight which had grown to a record $2.27 billion in 2002
during the Anatoliy Kinakh government that replaced Yushchenko.

Besides being a presidential candidate, Tyhypko's major
service to pro-presidential forces in the 2004 elections could be his
control over financial resources. He is already indulging in monetary
populism by offering to repay bank deposits at Oshchadbank lost
during the hyperinflation of 1993 through issuing dollar-denominated,
long-term state bonds.

This report was written by Dr. Taras Kuzio, resident fellow, Centre
for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto, and
visiting fellow, Institute for Security Studies-EU, Paris.

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