Profile: Socialist Party of Ukraine's Oleksandr Moroz
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Oleksandr Moroz (Ukrinform)
Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz may have been the biggest winner in Ukraine's Orange Revolution. In the first round of the 2004 presidential election, he came in third place with just 5.81 percent of the vote. But after throwing his support in the second round to eventual winner Viktor Yushchenko, Moroz's Socialist Party ended up with three ministers in the government the chairmanship of the State Property Fund and several regional governorships.
By backing the Orange Revolution, Moroz also accomplished one of his most cherished political goals: transferring some of the powers enjoyed by Ukraine's president to the parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, which he headed as parliamentary speaker from 1994-98
And if his Socialist Party clears the 3 percent barrier to win seats in the new parliament, a likely outcome according to current opinion polls, Moroz may end up playing an equally important role following the March 26 parliamentary elections.
In the event of a deadlock among the top parties - the opposition Party of Regions, the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- Moroz could again find himself playing the role of kingmaker.
A former mechanical engineer and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Moroz has been one of the mainstays of Ukraine's political scene since independence. A member of the Verkhovna Rada since 1990, he founded the Socialist Party of Ukraine in October 1991.
"The basis of a [post-election parliamentary] coalition should include the Socialist Party caucus, because others will not come to an agreement, they will quarrel with each other, and there will be no stability whatsoever." -- Moroz speaking at a news conference in Kyiv on March 13.
Under Moroz's leadership, the party's ideology has steadily evolved away from orthodox communism into a more European-style form of social democracy. The change met stiff opposition and led to defections from leaders of the party's hard-line faction -- most notably Nataliya Vitrenko, who formed the Progressive Socialist Party, and Ivan Chyzh, who formed an organization called "Spravedlyvist," or Justice. While they initially look like a setback, the defections allowed Moroz to move his party closer to the European social-democratic model.
Throughout the late 1990s, Moroz emerged as the leading noncommunist opposition to the increasingly authoritarian Leonid Kuchma. In 1996, he spearheaded attempts to prevent Kuchma from concentrating most political power in the president's hands.
Prior to the 1999 presidential election, many analysts predicted that Moroz could defeat the incumbent Kuchma in a second round runoff. But Moroz finished third with 11.29 percent of the vote, and Petro Simonenko, leader of the hard-line Communist Party, advanced to the second round instead. Many observers at the time said they suspected fraud on the part of the government to prevent Moroz from reaching the runoff.
Following Moroz's weak showing in the 1999 presidential elections, many pundits considered his career finished. But in November 2000, Moroz revealed to the Verkhovna Rada the existence of tapes made by Kuchma's former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko that implicated the president in the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. The ensuing scandal severely damaged Kuchma's domestic and international reputation, and revived Moroz's career as he led the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement that demanded the president's resignation.
The movement failed, but it helped set the stage for the Orange Revolution that has served Moroz so well.