Leonid Kravchuk

Leonid Kuchma

Natalya Vitrenko

Petro Symonenko

Oleksandr Tkachenko

Oleksandr Moroz

Yuriy Kostenko

Yevhen Marchuk

The presidential elections, third after Ukraine gained independence, will be held at the end of October, 1999. Leonid Kravchuk, the first Ukrainian president elected in a general election, found himself head of state at a very difficult time. The gigantic monster, also known as the USSR, remained dangerous even in its senility which lasted for several dramatic years - a nuclear superpower with ruined economy, run-away inflation, impoverished population, hopelessly ineffective political system, millions upon millions of people brought up on the ideals of the communist regime and finding themselves completely disoriented under the new, immensely complicated and controversial conditions of rapid change. The attitudes of the Ukrainians towards the former president Kravchuk differ and range from praise to condemnation. And they have a lot to say both for and against Kravchuk. But personal emotions aside, president Kravchuk did achieve something that even his detractors would have to acknowledge: Ukraine is one of the few post-Soviet countries where no internal fratricidal conflict erupted, where no coups happened, where no soldiers were killed in street fighting, where no tanks were sent to deal with insurgents. In the annals of Ukraine's history "the cunning fox" (the nickname that Kravchuk himself does not seem to mind) will be entered as a president who stayed staunchly at the helm in the worst of storms.
Leonid Kuchma, Kravchuk's successor as president, was not, unlike his predecessor, a professional politician. Before coming into the politics, he was director of the YUZHMASH plant, a huge rocket-making facility in the city of Dnipropetrovsk. Kuchma has both a lot of supporters and a lot of antagonists. His chances of becoming president for the second term are estimated to be high enough, all the more so that a number of rather influential political parties and public associations have already come out in support of the incumbent president. Among the presidential candidates one finds leftists, rightists and centrists. Some of them are seasoned politicians, others are "dark horses." Estimations of their chances to attain presidency differ but each of the candidates, quite aside from his or her political affiliations, is definitely an interesting personality. We'll begin our brief descriptions of the candidates starting with the ultra-leftists and proceeding through the political spectrum from left to right.
Natalya Vitrenko, a member of parliament, is the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, the most radically leftist party of Ukraine. She is for going back to the "classical" Soviet-type economic, political and social set-up. Not once, but many times in her speeches and addresses she called for restoration of the Soviet Union. Professor Vitrenko holds a Ph.D. in economics. She is known for her fiery rhetoric and hot temperament. Once she was nicknamed "a witch from Konotop" and she often refers to herself, not without coquetry, by this nickname (an explanation is probably needed here: Mrs Vitrenko hails from the town of Konotop, and a once popular nineteenth century novel by H. Kvitka-Osnov'yanenko is titled: The Witch of Konotop).
Petro Symonenko, an MP, is the leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Way back in the Soviet times, he was a communist-party functionary. His programme is basically close to that one of Vitrenko but the communists have more seats in parliament and a wider social base than Vitrenko's Progressive Socialists.
Oleksandr Tkachenko worked formerly in agriculture, then became a minister and at present he is the Head of the Presidium (speaker) of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament). Mr Tkachenko is an ardent adherent of the idea of integration of the "Slavic" (Russia, Belarus and Ukraine) nations of the former Soviet Union. He believes Ukraine should join a Russian-Belorussian-Serbian union (what Serbia has to do with that, one may wonder). But even Belorussian president Lukashenko, the main initiator and promoter of this unlikely union, has recently grown somewhat skeptical as far as the idea of such a union is concerned. Mr Tkachenko enjoys support mostly among pro-communist peasants united in the Agrarian Party, and also among certain members of the state administration. His chances to win at the presidential elections are estimated very differently.
Oleksandr Moroz, a former speaker of parliament and the current leader of the Socialist Party, is believed to be the most level-headed of the leftist politicians. Mr Moroz is a prominent parliamentarian, no doubt. He believes that the future of Ukraine lies in having a social and economic structure similar to that one of the Scandinavian democracies of strong socialist leanings. His judicious and tolerant attitudes have won him respect of most of his opponents, with the exception of the ultra-leftists and communists who accuse him of being "pro-bourgeois." The united social-democratic party supports the present president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma. Another candidate is Vasyl Onopenko, the former Minister of Justice, the leader of one of the social-democratic parties. The rightists and right-centrists are also represented by several candidates.
Yevhen Marchuk is considered to be one of the most prominent members of the opposition. Formerly a KGB general (later head of the Security Service of Ukraine, and still later prime minister), Mr Marchuk, nevertheless, enjoys the support of many rightist parties, including the Republicans, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists and other forces of the non-communist opposition. The political association he heads is against both any attempts at "communist revanche" and the present-day policies of the current president and government. The Economist (a British magazine) has once called Mr Marchuk "most pro-Western" among all the candidates. The rift in the Narodny Rukh ("National Movement") that has recently split this party up, continues to grow. Both sections of the divided Rukh have put forward their own candidates - Hennadiy Udovenko, a career diplomat and a former foreign minister, and Yuriy Kostenko, a former minister for protection of ecology and nuclear safety. The split has badly diminished chances of both candidates. In the centre of the political spectrum we find the Greens Party which stands somewhat aside from the rest and joins no coalitions or alliances. At the parliamentary elections of 1998, the Greens had a stunning success (which was rather unexpected, even for the political analysts) and their faction in the Ukrainian parliament is numerically the third largest faction among all other factions of the Greens in European parliaments.

Hennadiy Udovenko

Vasyl Onopenko

Vitaliy Kononov

Oleksandr Rzhavsky

Yutiy Karmazin

Oleksandr Bazylyuk

Mykola Haber

Volodymyr Oliynyk

Vitaliy Kononov is a presidential candidate from the Greens. He has already established himself as a political figure to be reckoned with, though he is not a career politician.He used to be an industrial chemist, a rock musician, he has never occupied a governmental post, his appearance is somewhat exotic for a member of parliament and a presidential candidate: he wears luxuriant handlebar moustache, long hair and bizarre outfits but all of this attracts rather than repels the "greens electorate" mostly made up of young people who have become disillusioned with the more traditional parties. Somewhat aside from the rest also stand: Oleksandr Rzhavsky, a businessman and the leader of the small-sized Yedyna Rodyna ("One and Indivisible Family") Party; Yuriy Karmazin, the leader of a small party of native land defenders (mostly made up of former army officers); Oleksandr Bazylyuk, the leader of the Slov'yanska ("Slavonic") Party; Mykola Haber, the leader of the Patriotychna ("Patriotic") Party; and Volodymyr Oliynyk, the Governor of Cherkasy. We are not going to predict the results of the elections. Predictions are an ungrateful business. At the end of October we all of us shall see who wins.

By Andriy Hlazovy