Ukrainian electionsOleg Vernik, editor of Ukranian socialist paper Rabotnichii sprotiv reports.

Map of Ukraine

Sitting President Kuchma has won the first round of the Ukainian
Presidential elections with 36% of the vote. The elections can hardly be
called democratic. Opposition candidates were refused airtime on the TV
stations. In one incident, Socialist leader Alexander Moroz arrived at a
TV station to give an interview to find the studio blocked off by riot

The election was marked by dirty tactics. One of Moroz's advisors threw
two hand grenades at Natalyia Vitriyenko, the hard left candidate. She in
turn was given access to the media by the Kuchma regime in a conscious
effort to undermine the support of the Communist and Socialist candidates.

Neverthless the reslts show that people want change.The three left
candidates got over 44% of the vote. The nationalist Marchuk in the West
Ukraine gained a further 8%. Change is needed because the Ukraine has
fallen into a desperate position since the break up of the Soviet Union.
It took a further downward turn after last August's rouble crisis in
Russia. Even the better paid workers such as the miners can only expect to
earn 60 - 80 dollars a month. The Ukrainian currency, the Grivna, which
has already fallen in value by over 50% this year is expected to go down
even further after the elections.

The main left parties offered no real alternative. The Socialist programme
was very right wing. The Communist Candidate, who came second with 22% of
the vote issued leaflets to businessmen promising that the CP was for a
mixed economy and would not nationalise anything.Most of those who voted
communist did so because the word communist is associated with a more
stable and prosperous past rather then because they agreed with the
current party programme.

The most interesting feature of this election was the candidature of
Natalia Vitriyenko, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party. She has
been presented as some sort of hard line stalinist nationalist by the mass

However, this is far from the truth.Her electoral programme called for the
Ukraine to stp bowing to IMF dictates and spelt out clearly that her party
believes the the attempt to build socialism after the October revolution
ended when Stalin came to power. In other material her party quotes
Trotsky's analysis of Stalinism approvingly. Nevertheless, her party has
an unclear position on many questions including the national question. It
became clear during the campaign however that the Kuchma regime was giving
some support to this party in an attempt to attract votes from the main
left candidates.

"Rabotnichii sprotiv" the Ukrainian section of the CWI argued for a
conference of left parties and organisations to agree a common candidate
before the election. As this did not happen, we gave critical support to
Simeniyenko and Vitriyenko. The second round in two weeks will be between
the sitting Kuchma and the communist Simeniyenko. Clearly a victory for
the latter will be a blow to the bourgeois in the Ukraine. Whatever the
outcome, however, we expect a period of discussion to open up in the left
parties on the way forward, giving us more possibilities to push for the
creation of a genuine workers party.

Oleg Vernik.
Editor. Rabotnichii sprotiv.