By Vitaly Sych
We are publishing this article in order to let the readers know how writers of the independent or social-democratic press look at the present leadership of the CP of Ukraine.When the Communist Party re-emerged as Ukraine’s leading political force during the 1994 parliamentary elections, many political pundits predicted the party wouldn’t last very long. The party’s popularity rested largely on elderly nostalgic for Soviet times.
Eight years later, the Communists command the largest faction in parliament and are the second most popular party in the opinion polls, trailing only the bloc of centrist and right-wing parties.
Valery Mishura, the CPU party’s ideological chief, said that the party is not dying – it’s hanging strong. The CP now was allowed to re-occupy all of the regional district and city party offices it held before it was officially banned and stripped of its assets from 1991-1993.
It boasts of 140,000 members and somehow it has strong financial backing, but its members are mostly from the poorest section of the population.
Opinion polls give the party a 13-20% of the vote. Observers believe that the party would fare better and appeal to the voters more if it were not for the present leader Petro Symonenko who lacks charisma and his stodgy appearance and dull speaking style make him seem, well, a quintessential communist.
Symonenko became leader of the CPU, but despite his win he was not the party’s first choice as a presidential candidate in 1999. He won by default after Boris Olinyk turned down the opportunity. Still Symonenko made a good showing, coming in second only to Kuchma.
While the CPU is popular, its political platform is changing. The present Communist leadership preaches respect for all private business, freedom of worship and a multi-party system of democracy. The party also supports all foreign investments. There are now over 100,000 Germans who already own or are ready to own hundreds of factories, land and mineral resources.
Even though the communists opposed the bill that allows the sale of land, the bill passed because there was no complete unity in the Communist ranks.
Mishura charged that the main media ignore or pervert what the Communist Party says or does. The large demonstrations and protests organized by the party are ignored while other parties get wide coverage for their actions, as insignificant as they may be.
As an example, the November 7th demonstrations in 2001 where thousands of people in practically every region of Ukraine demonstrated… only received short snippets in the media.
So, if the Communist Party wants media coverage, they have to generate it themselves. Their main vehicle is the twice-weekly newspaper "Communist" which has a circulation of 400,000. In addition to this twice-weekly newspaper, the party publishes over 65 regional newspapers.
Sergei Kiselyov, head of the political-science department of Kiev Mohyla Academy, said that the Communist Party "doesn’t do what it says." While it shows its "opposition" to President Kuchma, Kiselyov said that the Communist Party in actual fact is loyal to the president. The appearance of Prosecutor General Mykhailo Potebenko, a Kuchma loyalist, on the Communist Party’s election list is proof of that. Potenbenko’s agency was widely blamed for stalling investigations into high-profile cases during his term in office.
Another unsavory person on the Communist Party’s list is the former Ukrainian Rada Speaker O. Tkachenko, who is accused of misappropriating $70 millions that was borrowed by a business firm he headed between 1992 and 1994 from a foreign bank under the government’s guarantee.
While the leftist parliamentary majority refused to lift Tkachenko’s immunity from prosecution, the Kuchma government later rendered the affair by simply clearing the debt of Tkachenko’s company to the state.
Most of the Communist Party support comes from the industrial regions of Eastern Ukraine and the southern parts of the country. In contrast, the party’s popularity in Western Ukraine is about seven times lower.
Kiselyov at the end of the article said that "The Communist theory appeals to many people and it is in fact, quite attractive… except from one aspect – practical application of it by the present leadership."
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