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Ukraine Political Parties - 2001

Anders slund, Director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowement for International Peace noted in testimony on May 12, 2004 before the Subcommittee on Europe Committee on International Relations U.S. House of Representatives "The three most important oligarchic groups are regional: the Donetsk group, the Dnepropetrovsk group and the Surkis-Medvedchuk group in Kiev. These groups are both economic and political. At present, the strongest group by far is the Donetsk group. Its leader is Rinat Akhmetov, a businessman who owns System Capital Management, Ukraine's biggest corporation, focusing on metallurgy. Its parliamentary faction, the Regions, has some 65 members out of a total of 450.

"The second most important group is the Dnepropetrovsk group, whose business leader is Viktor Pinchuk, who owns the metallurgical company Interpipe. Its party, Labor Ukraine, has about 40 parliamentarians and is led by the Chairman of the National Bank, Serhiy Tyhypko. Pinchuk owns three TV channels.

"The Kiev businessman Hryhoriy Surkis and President Kuchma's chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk form the third group, which is much more state-oriented. Unlike the other groups, it has not developed normal private enterprises as yet. Medvedchuk controls the three biggest TV channels, and he plays a great role in law enforcement. Their United Social Democratic Party comprises some 40 parliamentarians. President Leonid Kuchma rules by playing off these and other less important oligarchic groups against one another."

Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada is the only parliament in the world where it was as easy to change your party or faction as it is to don a new shirt. It thus required constant observing in order to know who is dancing with whom. The factional situation was subject to change, every minute:

Communists: By far the largest faction in the Rada with 112 members as of 2001, the Communists abandoned their traditional motto of "Solidarity Forever" and instead adopted a new one that translates as either "Let's make a deal" or "What's in it for us?" While party leaders don't advertise it, the Communist faction will more often than not be found dancing with President Kuchma loyalists these days.

Labor Ukraine: The largest and most disciplined of the non-Communist factions, Labor has 49 members, of whom two are most important. Viktor Pinchuk is rich, represents a powerful Dnipropetrovsk clan and has clout with the president, whose daughter he dated; Ihor Sharov has superior organizational abilities that make the strongly pro-Kuchma faction probably the best managed in the Rada.

Regional Rebirth: The second biggest of the so-called "oligarch clans" after Labor, but far less effective legislatively, in part because of the mercurial nature of its leader, Oleksandr Volkov. The party suffers from internal clan grouping among members from its strong Donetsk base.

Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united): Another so-called "oligarch" clan, the SDPU(u) has 34 members. The party's effectiveness is limited by having several powerful and rich leaders who often disagree because of their competing business interests. Any good news for Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko is considered bad news for the SDPU(u)'s Viktor Medvedchuk, a deputy Rada speaker with presidential ambitions. The SDPU(u) is pro-Kuchma but highly flexible.

Batkivshchyna: At this point considered the most likely candidate for decline because of the problems of its founder, former Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. On the bright side it has a very capable and vocally anti-Kuchma leader in Oleksandr Turchinov, and it still has Tymoshenko's money.

Solidarity: Now with 23 members, Solidarity is another faction that may be subject to decline. Solidarity consists of leftists in an uncomfortable alliance with businessman and leader Petro Poroshenko.

Yury Kostenko's Rukh: More Kostenko than Rukh; anti-Kuchma. Membership considered static or declining with minimal influence.

Hennady Udovenko's Rukh: This 16-member faction was pro-Kuchma before the Gongadze scandal. But now it strongly opposes Prosecutor General Mykhailo Potebenko and other law enforcement heads. Little growth potential.

National Democratic Party: Led by non-Rada member and former Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko, this party has 20 members but little prospects for growth. Strongly pro-Kuchma.

Greens: Another faction with little to offer possible new members. Some members are political environmentalists but most are businessmen. Pro-presidential.

Socialists: Led by former Rada Speaker Oleksandr Moroz, who is still considered the "Mr. Clean" of the Rada. Bu the party is not effective legislatively and not comfortable with its old Communist allies because of the Communists' tendency to sell out to Kuchma loyalists.

Reforms: All dressed up but going no place. Very close to Yushchenko, which put them at odds with the president. Faction leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Pynzenyk, once considered likely to rejoin the government, possibly as first deputy prime minister, now is an outsider with no prospects in government and a faction that could crash through the lower boundary for recognition at any time.

Yabloko: Headed and largely funded by Mykhailo Brodskiy, Yabluko's 14 members tend to play a somewhat quixotic and independent game. Anti-Kuchma, pro-Russia drift.

Sobor: Too small (7 members) to be officially recognized as a faction, Sobor is a group within the non-factional list. Led by Anatoly Matviyenko, a former Kuchma ally now fiercely opposed to the president.

Progressive Socialists: Shrunken to only seven members, Natalia Vitrenko's group of Stalinists attempts to make up for its small size with loud demagoguery. However, avoids direct criticism of Kuchma and in an emergency will dance to Bankova's tune.

The pro-presidential parties were united in the coalition For a United Ukraine (ZYU). Soon after the opening of parliament, it had splintered into groups that reflected various interests. These groups subsequently joined with the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united (SDPUo) to form a loose pro-presidential majority in the parliament towards the end of 2002. But this majority was unable to develop into a stable coalition. The anti-Kuchma factions -- Our Ukraine, the Communists, the Socialists and Tymoschenko's bloc -- formed an opposition coalition. However, serious ideological differences prevented the formation of any meaningful unity. The pro-presidential faction was able to retain a stable parliamentary majority.

Although Ukraine's Constitutional Court ruled he could seek a third term, Kuchma repeatedly said he did not intend to run.

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