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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: April 3, 2002

3 April 2002, Volume 4, Number 13
ARCHBISHOP RESIGNS AFTER SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. Last week, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz resigned from his post of metropolitan archbishop of Poznan. "To live and to develop, the [Roman Catholic] Church in Poznan needs unity and peace. And that is why, having in regard the good of this church, I have addressed the Holy Father with a request that he accept my resignation from the post of archbishop, and the Holy Father has accepted my resignation," Archbishop Paetz said during a mass in the Poznan cathedral on 28 March.

"Rzeczpospolita" wrote on 23 February that the archbishop has been accused by "numerous" clerics of making sexual advances toward them. The daily claimed that Paetz's homosexual inclinations have been known in the Poznan Archdiocese for at least two years, and reported on a long string of initiatives by both clerics and laymen in Poznan to raise the issue of sexual molestation with the church authorities, including Poland's Episcopate and the Vatican.

As earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine report," 19 March 2002), Paetz on 28 March denied the sexual molestation allegations. He said they stemmed from the fact that "my kindness and spontaneity were misinterpreted." And he added, "Not everyone understood my open attitude to people and their problems."

The Vatican appointed Stanislaw Gadecki, an auxiliary bishop from the Gniezno Metropolitan Archbishopric, as Paetz's successor. Paetz is the highest-ranking prelate to be brought down since Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer was forced to give up his duties in 1998 following allegations he molested young boys. Paetz's resignation -- or dismissal, as some media in Poland put it -- took place in an aura of scandal surrounding the Roman Catholic Church because of the recently publicized sex-abuse charges against priests in the United States and other countries.

Paetz on 28 March insisted that during his visit to the Vatican in early February he "heard no accusations or substantial charges," adding that "no verdict was issued by any competent church authority." This may mean that for the Vatican the Paetz case is closed, and no other measures will be taken against him.

Some Polish commentators assert, however, that the Vatican's delay in dealing with the Paetz case has damaged the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. The church's public role in Poland has been special, compared with that in other European countries, primarily because of the church's position as a guardian of national moral values and a defender of those oppressed by the totalitarian system in the communist era. Those commentators argue that in the post-totalitarian period the church has failed to adapt itself to the circumstances of an open democratic society in Poland and is now perceived by an ever-growing number of believers as an undemocratic and nontransparent institution.

YUSHCHENKO AND KUCHMA TO GET TOGETHER AGAIN? According to preliminary, unofficial reports from the Central Election Commission on 2 April, with nearly 99 percent of the vote counted, Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine won the 31 March parliamentary election, garnering some 23.5 percent of the vote of the nationwide constituency in a poll in which 225 parliamentary mandates were contested under a proportional party-list system, UNIAN reported. The Communist Party was supported by 20.1 percent of voters, For a United Ukraine by 12.1 percent, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc by 7.1 percent, the Socialist Party by 7 percent, and the Social Democratic Party by 6.2 percent. Other parties did not overcome the 4 percent voting hurdle to obtain mandates from the party list. It was not clear on 2 April how many seats Our Ukraine and other blocs will obtain in the new Verkhovna Rada, since vote counting in one-seat constituencies was still in progress. Estimates give Our Ukraine 110-120 seats, while For a United Ukraine may get 100-110 seats.

Such an array of parliamentary forces presents an extremely difficult puzzle to anybody trying to figure out the composition of Ukraine's future parliamentary majority and government. This is because neither Our Ukraine nor For a United Ukraine will be able to become the sole center of a reliable parliamentary majority without making serious and far-reaching political concessions. At first sight, it appears that the Communist Party, which has lost heavily in comparison to its taking of more than 110 mandates in the 1998 election, may become a kingmaker in forging such a majority. However, a formal parliamentary alliance of the Communists with For a United Ukraine, let alone with Our Ukraine, seems an improbable development because of both domestic and foreign policy considerations. At best, the Communists could aspire to providing "situational" support to the pro-presidential parliamentary grouping -- such situations have occurred in the preceding legislature and earned Petro Symonenko's party the "bogus opposition" label.

What may surprise many foreign observers of Ukrainian politics -- who perceive former Premier Yushchenko and President Leonid Kuchma as irreconcilable political opponents and clearly see the dividing line between pro-presidential and opposition forces -- is a very likely alliance of Our Ukraine with For a United Ukraine to provide legislative support to a new cabinet. Taking into account Ukraine's election arithmetic and putting moral considerations aside, such a move seems only too natural. If the combined gain of Our Ukraine and For a United Ukraine turns out to be somewhat short of the parliamentary majority of 226 votes, both caucuses will doubtless find necessary votes through recruitment from those deputies who will get parliamentary seats on an independent ticket. Thus, there should be no problems in ensuring a safe legislative majority for the cabinet.

Such a development would be politically beneficial for both Kuchma and Yushchenko. It would certainly put the issue of Kuchma's impeachment -- championed primarily by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and the Communists -- on the back burner. Yushchenko's renewed siding with Kuchma could also improve Kuchma's rating in the West and, possibly, allow the Ukrainian president to become a full-fledged player in international politics, where for more than a year he has been eyed suspiciously because of the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the "tape scandal." As for Yushchenko, forging a coalition with the pro-Kuchma bloc would mean access to advantages offered by "administrative resources" in the upcoming presidential election in 2004, should he decide to run. And no less important, such a two-bloc coalition would prevent Social Democratic Party leader Viktor Medvedchuk -- whom many see as Yushchenko's most serious rival in the anticipated presidential contest -- from obtaining access to those "resources."

Yushchenko repeatedly stressed in the election campaign that he does not view Our Ukraine as an opposition force. He also rejected numerous advances of fiercely antipresidential Yuliya Tymoshenko toward marrying Our Ukraine with her bloc in the campaign. While criticizing the authorities in general, he avoided mentioning Kuchma or even presidential administration head Volodymyr Lytvyn, the leader of For a United Ukraine. But Yushchenko did criticize Medvedchuk and even canceled a planned television debate with him, saying he did not want to boost popularity ratings for "marginal parties and politicians." In other words, there are no insurmountable obstacles to striking a coalition deal between Our Ukraine and For a United Ukraine, provided that Medvedchuk is eliminated from the process.

It remains to be seen whether Kuchma will be able to overcome his disliking of Yushchenko and accept Yushchenko's bloc in the government. For some of Kuchma's people such a development is quite acceptable. Serhiy Tyhypko, the leader of the influential pro-presidential Party of Regions, told UNIAN that a pro-government majority in the new Verkhovna Rada should be created by For a United Ukraine, Our Ukraine, and the Social Democratic Party. According to Tyhypko, the majority should consist of center-right forces that could guarantee Ukraine's transition to a market economy. Tyhypko added that he personally is not ready to join a coalition with the Communist Party.

EUROPEAN MONITORS NOTE PROGRESS IN ELECTORAL DEMOCRACY BUT REMAIN WORRIED. The 31 March parliamentary election in Ukraine was monitored by the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM), which was a joint effort of the OSCE (including the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament. On 1 April in Kyiv, the IEOM made public its statement of preliminary findings and conclusions regarding the 2002 election campaign in Ukraine. The IEOM concluded that, in general, the election on 31 March 2002 indicated progress over the 1998 parliamentary ballot toward meeting international commitments and standards, although major flaws persist.

According to the IEOM, the new election law adopted in October 2001 marked a significant improvement compared to previous legislation. A major innovation in the law was the provision allowing the formation of multiparty district and polling-station election commissions, including proportional distribution of leadership positions to participating parties. A major drawback of the law was the lack of a clear provision obliging the election authorities to publish detailed election results from each polling station. The IEOM noted, however, that the law was poorly implemented, since the distribution of leadership positions on district and polling-station commissions was skewed in favor of the pro-government For a United Ukraine bloc.

The IEOM concluded that the election was administered in an orderly and timely fashion by the Central Election Commission (CEC), whose sessions were open to political parties and blocs as well as to the media and observers. However, the mission said the printing of ballots was not sufficiently transparent, since the CEC has issued no documents on the process of their printing, storage, transfer, and delivery. The disqualification of candidates from the election race on charges of providing false property and income declarations was also problematic, according to the IEOM.

The IEOM questioned the reliability of voter lists in Ukraine, saying they contain outdated information, deceased persons, and voters who have moved to other districts or have left the country but are still listed in their former places of residence. The IEOM also disapproved of the official and massive practice of issuing absentee ballots to voters allowing them to vote in constituencies not related to their places of residence. The IEOM recorded that in this way voters were added to registers and allowed to vote in some 33 percent of polling stations visited by IEOM monitors. IEOM monitors also took note of voters being bussed across constituency lines to cast ballots.

Regarding major drawbacks in the campaigning, the IEOM said they included abuses of administrative resources by the authorities and biased campaign coverage in the media. The main, although not the exclusive, beneficiary of such violations was For a United Ukraine, which took advantage of official positions to obtain meeting venues, used official events to promote itself, and obtained uncritical coverage from regional and local media outlets. Governors and other regional officials were seen campaigning in favor of some candidates.

The IEOM concluded that the voting on 31 March was conducted in a generally calm atmosphere, although in some cases premises were inadequate and voters had to stand in long lines to cast ballots. The mission noted, however, that some 5 percent of visited polling stations appeared to have an excessive number of ballots, while in 40 percent of observations the secrecy of voting was violated. In 8 percent of monitored stations, unauthorized persons, in most cases police, appeared to be directing the polling process.

"We are encouraged by the progress made, but the final conclusion on whether these elections have brought Ukraine closer to international standards will depend on the role of the election administration and the judiciary in the post-election phase," said Bruce George, the vice president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and special coordinator of the OSCE chairman in office for these elections.

According to the IEOM, the CEC can take steps to increase the level of trust among voters and contestants by ordering the district election commissions to publish without delay all summary tables or worksheets prepared for the tabulation of results, and to list in detail the results of each polling station. This will permit an independent audit of the tabulated results by voters, media representatives, contestants, and observers alike. Such a move, or the lack of it, will influence the final conclusion of the IEOM on the Ukrainian election. Another factor affecting the final conclusion will be the resolution of election disputes and the respective roles the CEC, district commissions, and courts will have in the process.

"I haven't seen elections that were more cynical [than the 31 March ballot].... Disinformation and cynicism is the main [barrier] separating us from democracy." -- Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko in an interview with the "Ukrayinska pravda" website on 1 April.

"These elections are a watershed. Ukraine will go either toward democracy or toward dictatorship. And their characteristic trait is that for the first time the authorities directly, without intermediary structures, have sought to apply their administrative resource by intimidating voters, blackmailing managers of enterprises, and interfering in the formation of election commissions and party structures. Suffice it to say that in the Donetsk region the [pro-presidential] Party of Regions now has 480,000 members. It is more than the Communist Party had there in the Soviet era." -- Ukrainian Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz in an interview with the "Ukrayinska pravda" website on 31 March.

"All this is leading to a split of Ukraine. The western part will go under the influence of America, the east under the influence of Russia, and Crimea under the influence of Turkey.... This is a new project that is being implemented by the Ukrainian authorities.... Several scenarios are possible: the creation of a federation or confederation, or the complete split.... It was on purpose that the presidential administration sent several blocs to compete in the elections. This technique proves that the authorities have agreed to a division of the country." -- Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko in an interview with "Izvestiya" on 2 April.