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Ukraine: Kuchma Names Kinakh To Replace Yushchenko

  • Askold Krushelnycky

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has announced his choice for prime minister to replace Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-Western and pro-reform premier who resigned last month after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament. RFE/RL correspondent Askold Krushelnycky reports on the nomination.

Prague, 22 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma today nominated Anatoly Kinakh, a parliamentarian who is the leader of the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, as a candidate for the position of prime minister. The nomination has to be approved by a majority of the 450-member parliament.

Kuchma has been seeking a candidate for prime minister since Viktor Yushchenko resigned from the position last month (26 April), after losing a vote of no confidence in parliament. The vote was the result of an alliance of Communists -- the largest party in the parliament -- and parties loyal to the powerful businessmen known as oligarchs.

The Communists opposed Yushchenko's pro-Western and pro-market reforms, while many of the oligarchs were angered by Yushchenko's attempts to curb their business activities.

Kinakh is not a very well-known politician in Ukraine, although he served for a time as deputy prime minister in charge of the industry and fuel sector.

Analyst Volodymyr Polokhalo, the editor of "Political Thought" magazine, told RFE/RL that Kuchma's overriding consideration in making the nomination was to select someone as prime minister who would be obedient and be able to prepare for next year's general elections in order to secure a parliamentary majority for the president.

"The president has to have almost absolute trust in a person who will, in the first place, obey all his orders, including informal agreements, and in the second place look after the interests of the oligarchs. [The nomination] is, in fact, about creating the conditions for forging a parliament in 2002 which has a majority that will support the president and secure his political legacy and personal safety, in the manner that was achieved in Russia for Boris Yeltsin."

Polokhalo said that Kinakh had worked closely with Kuchma in the past, most notably when he threw the support of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs behind Kuchma during the presidential elections in 1999. The analyst also said that although Kinakh had relations with the oligarchs, he was not closely associated with them or any other political grouping.

"Anatoly Kinakh delivered the president the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which contributed greatly to Kuchma's victory in the presidential elections. This Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is extraordinarily influential in Ukraine. It unites the red (communist) directors and other industrial leaders who constitute a powerful economic and political force."

Polokhalo says that the 49-year-old Kinakh is a person who occasionally uses the language of reform but has not been able to break away from his past as part of the old Soviet nomenklatura. He says Kinakh retains many of the psychological traits and habits of that old Soviet elite.

Many politicians and analysts doubt whether Kinakh has enough backing to gain a majority in parliament during the vote scheduled for 24 May to approve his nomination. Although the Communists and oligarchs united to get rid of Yushchenko, they have shown little evidence that they are ready to vote for the same prime ministerial candidate. If parliament repeatedly rejects Kuchma's nomination, than the president can appoint Kinakh as acting prime minister.

Parliament Speaker Ivan Plyushch said yesterday (21 May) that it will be difficult for any presidential nominee for prime minister to win parliamentary approval. He said that Ukraine's parliamentarians were not prepared for the dismissal of Yushchenko: "Yushchenko has been sacked, and now they have realized that they are not ready to take logical steps in order to appoint a new prime minister and form a government."

Like analyst Polokhalo, Plyushch said the parliamentary elections scheduled for the spring of 2002 are a far more important issue for political parties than the need to form a full-fledged government. He thinks Kuchma will have to settle for an acting prime minister.

Polokhalo says that the way the Communists vote on Kinakh's nomination will be crucial. Last week, the Communists were adamant they would only vote for one of their own nominees.

"I'd put his chances at 50-50 if Anatoly Kinakh has managed to strike a deal with the Communists -- and today they are an active political player, being the largest grouping in parliament, while there is a split between the right-wing and oligarch groupings and an absence of any agreement among the most powerful political elites. Therefore, the Communist Party can now play an important role in whether Kinakh will be acting prime minister or prime minister."

It still remains to be seen whether Kinakh will accept the less politically powerful role of acting prime minister if he fails to get a parliamentary majority on 24 May.

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