Accessibility links

Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: April 10, 2001


10 April 2001, Volume 3, Number 13
POLAND
RIGHT WING CONTINUES TO SPLINTER. Former members of the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL) and the Christian National Union set up a new party called the Right-Wing Alliance (Przymierze Prawicy, PP) last month. The new party is led by Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski, culture minister in Premier Jerzy Buzek's cabinet. The PP wants to concentrate on such issues as building a strong state, toughening penal policies, promoting family rights, as well as supporting private ownership and a competitive economy. The new party was launched one week after the Jan Maria Rokita-led SKL quit the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) bloc and joined the centrist Citizens' Platform launched by Andrzej Olechowski, Maciej Plazynski, and Donald Tusk. The Right-Wing Alliance is a part of the AWS bloc. On 28 March, 17 deputies from the PP formed their own parliamentary caucus, which is a component of the AWS parliamentary caucus.

On 8 April, lawmaker Gabriel Janowski announced the creation of a new political party called the Alliance for Poland (Przymierze dla Polski, PdP). Janowski said the party's main goals are "to change the state institutions that are completely inefficient right now and hinder Poland's normal development, as well as to revise Poland's association accord with the EU, because this accord has overshadowed Poland's economic development," PAP reported. Janowski noted that the PdP has already been joined by many parliamentarians -- "from five to 20" -- but he added he promised them not to reveal their names for the time being because they currently belong "to various groupings."

Janowski is known for his very controversial behavior in public. Some parliamentarians have openly voiced apprehensions that he may have problems with his mental health. Janowski was elected to the Sejm on the AWS electoral ticket. He was one of the leaders of a rebellious group of 21 AWS lawmakers who often opposed governmental proposals in the parliament, particularly those from Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. Janowski significantly contributed to the breakup of the coalition of the AWS with the Freedom Union. The AWS expelled him from its ranks for insubordination.

In February Janowski staged a 12-day sit-in in the office of the treasury minister, protesting against the government's plans to sell Polish sugar plants to foreign investors. The treasury minister resigned, saying he could not perform his duties because Janowski "paralyzed the work of the ministry." Janowski was removed from the ministry by police and subsequently disrupted the work of the parliament by occupying the parliamentary rostrum for several hours.

On 4 April, lawmaker Henryk Wujec proposed to replace Janowski as the head of the parliamentary Agricultural Commission, but the proposal was rejected by three votes. Polish Radio quoted Janowski as saying at the commission's sitting: "If the majority comes out in favor of introducing [Wujec's motion] onto the agenda, and then removing the chairman, I will bow my head before the verdict. Who out of the deputies is in favor of the introduction onto the agenda of a point concerning a change in the chairman? [Vote ] by hand! -- I've said it several times! Best with the left hand! You [four-letter word]! Sorry."

SKL Chairman Jan Maria Rokita commented: "We are dealing with a person who is going through serious psychological problems. This can happen to anyone.... But what is abnormal is the fact that deputies are maintaining this state of affairs, for their own amusement and delight, and are not bringing about a change in the chairman of the Agricultural Commission. If something is pathetic and sad [in this case], it is precisely that."

BELARUS
LUKASHENKA WELL AHEAD OF HIS CHALLENGERS. The Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) held a poll in February and March among 1,489 Belarusians, examining their political and electoral preferences.

The poll found that 76.1 percent of respondents want to vote in the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus; 10.8 percent said they will decide on their participation depending on the political situation during the presidential campaign; 6.5 percent said they will not vote; and 6.6 percent were unable to answer this question.

If the elections were held at the time the poll was taken, 41.4 percent would have voted for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. His potential challengers are well behind him: Mikhail Chyhir -- 3.3 percent, Uladzimir Hancharyk -- 1.5 percent, Zyanon Paznyak -- 1.4 percent, Syamyon Domash -- 1.2. Support for other politicians is below 1 percent. The margin of error in the poll was 3 percent.

NISEPI also asked another question to examine electoral preferences in Belarus: "Do you want Lukashenka to be the president of our country for one more term?" The answers were as follows: yes -- 41.6 percent; no -- 32.3 percent; unable to answer -- 26.1 percent.

Asked whether the upcoming presidential elections will be free and fair, 39 percent answered in the affirmative, 27.3 percent in the negative, and 33.7 percent were unable to provide a specific answer.

UKRAINE
KUCHMA TALKS TO RFE/RL -- PART 1

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma spoke on the telephone in a live evening program of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 3 April. Below is the first part of a translation of his interview, which was transcribed and published by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on its website (http://www.radiosvoboda.org).

On the State Power System

RFE/RL: Leonid Danylovych, I'm very glad that you've found time to talk to us. You are speaking with Oleksa Boyarko, an employee of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. I have a lot of questions for you.

KUCHMA: You're welcome, I'm ready to openly answer them.

RFE/RL: I'll start with a general question. You know, if one listens to Ukrainian politicians today, one cannot immediately grasp what kind of a country Ukraine is. Extreme rightists say it is a bandit, totalitarian regime; extreme leftists also say it is a bandit regime.

KUCHMA: If we classify [Socialist Party leader Oleksandr] Moroz as an extreme leftist, then it is he who says so.

RFE/RL: And some say it is an autocratic regime right now. You often mention that you want to build a democratic Ukraine. In your opinion, what democratic characteristics does Ukraine already possess, and what characteristics are you going to develop in the future?

KUCHMA: In the first place, there is Ukraine's Constitution, which envisions exactly this [democratic] development pattern for society and the country as a whole, therefore all of us should proceed from the constitution in our actions.

As regards those characteristics, they can be seen, as people say, with a naked eye. In the first place, the fact that [Ukraine's] power system is divided into three branches -- legislative, executive, and judicial -- is a trait of the democratic community. And the fact that the constitution guarantees human rights and freedoms. True, they are not always observed -- to begin with living standards -- but [the constitution] is our orientation point.

Furthermore, regardless of what people say in Ukraine or elsewhere, there is freedom of expression in Ukraine, there are independent media.... It is unambiguous that there are media that are independent from the state, the government, the authorities.

Therefore, our values are European ones, we want to stick to them. You see, other countries were pursuing [those values] for 100 or 200 years, or even longer, while we [are expected] to transform one system into another within 10 years. I think it is senseless to make the same demands on the [Ukrainian] society as on Germany or France.

RFE/RL: Your opponents often say that it is necessary to limit the presidential powers in the future. You have had a lot of experience in the post of president. What is your opinion about the proposal to transform Ukraine into a parliamentary republic with a ceremonial president in the future?

KUCHMA: [My opinion is] absolutely negative. It is 100 or even 200 percent negative. [The proposal] spells a failure for all of Ukraine. It is a threat to the existence of Ukraine as a state. Let us suppose that we have a parliamentary republic -- what would happen in Ukraine?

We need not look for examples in remote parts. Under pressure from some structures, including European ones, Moldova is a parliamentary republic. What has happened there is evident to everybody. If anybody wants to make an experiment in Ukraine.... Ukraine is not Moldova, and consequences will be much more disastrous, not only for Ukraine but also for Europe. Therefore, there is no need to play a game that is not needed. Today, in the transition period, a strong executive branch is necessary.

RFE/RL: Is it nonexistent, Mr. President?

KUCHMA: Today? It is nonexistent because of a simple reason: You have helped ruin the results of the [constitutional] referendum, prevent their implementation [ed. note: it is not clear whether Kuchma has RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service or someone else in mind]. What the referendum envisioned was the creation of a workable state power system, a European model, in which parliamentary elections lead to the creation of a coalition that assumes responsibility, including for the formation of a government. And there is mutual responsibility.

As of today, the parliament is not responsible for anything, is it? Not responsible for anything. The parliament is not structured, and the majority that was created under the influence of some factors -- including the referendum -- has now been ruined by some forces. Tell me, please, is it possible for a country to achieve successes if the government has no support in the parliament? Therefore, I would like to warn everybody against pushing Ukraine into this fatal path. For some reason nobody doubts the necessity of a strong government in France. Perhaps you will extend your wish to install a totally parliamentary republic to the United States as well, won't you?

Let us look at Europe. In every country the president is able to disband the parliament if it is not operational, while the president in Ukraine does not have such a possibility.

On Opposition

RFE/RL: There is a lot of talking now about a dialogue between the presidential authority and its opponents. With which forces or groups, or with which persons are you not going to conduct any dialogue?

KUCHMA: I will not conduct any dialogue with those forces that do not support this strategic course of Ukraine's development, that do not want Ukraine to be an independent country.

RFE/RL: Could you name any specific people?

KUCHMA: Well, what for? Let's not touch upon specifics. If there's a need, I can tell you about specific people. [I will have no dialogue] with those forces that do not want to work within the legal framework, within the framework of the constitution, which I should sacredly observe as the president, as the guarantor of the constitution. [And] with those forces that demand the dismissal of the president or the transformation of Ukraine into a parliamentary republic.

I defend the constitution and will not sit down to negotiate with those forces that want transformations according to the pattern "somebody wants something." Otherwise, I'm open for dialogue with all forces: from the left wing and the right wing, and from the center, with anyone you like, provided they share the values I have mentioned.

This dialogue has begun. I requested the people who are respected in society [to handle] this issue. But it is not advantageous for some oppositionists. It is not advantageous to conduct a dialogue [for them], so they're making demands that cannot be met.

Moreover, who has given them the right to say that "we are the main oppositionists today"? (Ed. note: Kuchma apparently refers to the demand of the Forum of National Salvation that it be recognized as the main negotiation partner.) There is an opposition that I fought during the elections, the Communist part [of the opposition], which obtained more than 10 million votes. Is it an opposition or not? If they, too, put themselves within the same framework as the opposition mentioned before, with the same demands, then tell me, please, what will happen in Ukraine? [Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya] Vitrenko is in the opposition, too.

I say it once again: The elections did take place, the people did make their choice, one does not need to make demands now but to work, to work within the legislative framework, to win not with stones [during demonstrations] but in the presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2004. Let them show that they have support in society, among voters.

RFE/RL: Mr. President, do you personally believe that you can find common language with your opponents at all?

KUCHMA: If they don't want to find common language, I'll not find it either, because of the following reason: The language of ultimatums is not a language for speaking with the authorities. I reject ultimatums. I'm not going to capitulate. I say I'm a president elected in a nationwide ballot. More than 16 million voters voted for me....

On the Mace, Foreign Accounts, Gift for RFE/RL

RFE/RL: Let me interrupt you with the [following] question: Are you preparing a replacement for yourself? Of course, you don't have to mention names, and I will not insist on them, but do you see in your entourage those....

KUCHMA: I'm not [former Russian President] Yeltsin, I'm not going to resign, therefore the replacement is not the main concern for me today. The main concern [for me] is to make the system work as a whole, to make the government work [and to] cooperate with the parliamentary majority. [To ensure that the parliament] adopts legislation that is needed by society, that it fully meet its commitments to the Council of Europe and so on. [To ensure] that we be perceived as a civilized country, not as a country where the fight for a mace is continuing. I hope you know what a mace is, you haven't forgotten, have you? (Ed. note: mace [Ukrainian: bulava] -- a symbol of authority of a hetman [Cossack leader]; Ukraine's newly elected president is presented with a mace during the inauguration.)

RFE/RL: I know very well what a mace is. Mr. President, do you use your mace for practical purposes? People often say that you are a victim of various machinators who make their shady deals on your account. Is it so?

KUCHMA: I reject this [allegation] absolutely unambiguously as an outright lie. An absolute lie. You know that I'm a business-like man, I always say: Please talk facts, not suppositions, not rotten allegations that are often voiced from the side of my opponents.

It turns out that [people] have been given freedom [of expression], but social mechanisms for using this freedom have not been created. It's the reason for this all.

Regarding some accounts somewhere, as you allege, I bestow these accounts upon you. I bestow them upon Radio Liberty, perhaps they will help you work normally, won't they?

RFE/RL: I don't assert anything, I'm only asking.

KUCHMA: And I'm answering you: I can give my accounts to Radio Liberty.

RFE/RL: You know, it is very important for history. You declare that you do not have any accounts abroad. Very well, history will record this for itself. We are off that, we only ask.

KUCHMA: Indeed, history will record. History will put everything in its place: who is who, the role of people, including [your] radio station.

(Part 2 of the interview will be published in next week's issue.)

QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"We may not, we don't have the right to lose this [presidential] campaign. If we lose these elections, Russia's days will be numbered." -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on his reelection bid; quoted by Belapan on 6 April.

"They live on our soil, they earn big money here or, more precisely, they do not earn it as we do, they make it on brokering services, sitting in warm offices without dust. None of them want to drive a tractor or go to a raion center to work as an [agricultural] specialist. Therefore, let them fulfill [our] instructions." -- Lukashenka on his instruction for Belarusian commercial banks to issue credits to state-controlled companies; quoted by Belarusian Television on 5 April.

XS
SM
MD
LG