Kuchma's new prime minister
by Askold Krushelnycky
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma nominated Anatolii Kinakh, a parliamentarian who is the leader of the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, as candidate for the job of prime minister on May 22. The nomination was approved by a vote of the Verkhovna Rada, with 239 deputies for, two opposed and 12 abstaining.
Mr. Kuchma has been seeking a candidate for the prime minister's job since April 26 when Viktor Yuschenko lost a vote of no-confidence in the Parliament. The vote was the result of an alliance of Communists - the largest party in the Parliament - and parties loyal to the Ukrainian oligarchs.
The Communists opposed Prime Minister Yuschenko's pro-Western and pro-market reforms, while many of the oligarchs were angered by his attempts to curb their business activities.
Mr. Kinakh is not a very well known politician in Ukraine, although he served for a time as vice prime minister in charge of the industry and fuel sector.
Analyst Volodymyr Polokhalo, the editor of Political Thought magazine, told RFE/RL that President Kuchma's overriding consideration in making the nomination was to select someone as prime minister who would be obedient and 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," Mr. Polokhalo said. "[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."
Mr. Polokhalo said that Mr. Kinakh had worked closely with President Kuchma in the past, most notably when he threw the support of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs behind Mr. Kuchma during the presidential elections in 1999. The analyst also said that although Mr. Kinakh had relations with the oligarchs, he was not closely associated with them or any other political grouping.
"Anatolii Kinakh delivered [to] the president the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which contributed greatly to Kuchma's victory in the presidential elections," Mr. Polokhalo said. "This Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is extraordinarily influential in Ukraine. It unites the 'red directors' (Communists) and other industrial leaders who constitute a powerful economic and political force."
Mr. 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 Mr. Kinakh retains many of the psychological traits and habits of that old Soviet elite.
Although the Communists and oligarchs united to get rid of Mr. Yuschenko, they have shown little evidence that they are ready to vote for the same prime ministerial candidate. If Parliament repeatedly rejects Mr. Kuchma's nominee, then the president can appoint Mr. Kinakh as acting prime minister.
Parliament Chairman Ivan Pliusch said on May 21 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 Mr. Yuschenko: "Yuschenko 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 Mr. Polokhalo, Mr. Pliusch 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 added that he thinks President Kuchma will have to settle for an acting prime minister.
Mr. Polokhalo said that the way the Communists vote on Mr. 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," Mr. Polokhalo explained, "if Anatolii 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 acing prime minister or prime minister."
It still remains to be seen whether Mr. Kinakh will accept the less politically powerful role of acting prime minister if he fails to get a parliamentary majority next week.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, June 3, 2001, No. 22, Vol. LXIX
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