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A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
MILLER WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE. The Sejm voted 236 to 213, with no abstentions, on 13 June to support Premier Leszek Miller's cabinet in a vote of confidence requested by Miller following the emphatic "yes" to EU membership in a referendum on 7-8 June (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 June 2003). "I must admit frankly that I did not expect such support," Miller said on Polish Television after the vote. "I had thought that perhaps we would have a majority of three or four votes, so this is an excellent result."
Miller's cabinet was supported by 208 deputies from the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union ruling bloc, 13 independents, nine from the Peasant Democratic Party, four from the Peasant Bloc, one from the Peasant Party, and one from Self-Defense. One lawmaker from the Democratic Left Alliance and six lawmakers from Self-Defense failed to appear for the vote.
Before the vote, Miller addressed the Sejm with what was called by Polish media his "second expose" and subsequently answered questions from more than 100 lawmakers. Miller urged all political parties to help his cabinet implement tough reforms to prepare Poland for EU membership next year. He said there are "symptoms of economic revitalization" in the country but admitted they have not been felt by Polish families yet. He pledged that his minority government will boost economic growth to 5 percent, reduce the number of unemployed by 250,000 by the end of the current term in 2005, and lower taxes for entrepreneurs. Regarding his earlier proposal to introduce a flat-rate income tax, Miller cautiously said that "conceptions of an evolutionary introduction of this tax" need to be given "serious consideration."
Despite the two conspicuous victories for the leftist government -- one in the EU referendum and the other in the parliamentary vote of confidence -- Polish commentators are skeptical about Miller's chances to make a new opening and boost the economy to the extent that could bring a palpable reduction of Poland's 18 percent unemployment. This skepticism is shared by ordinary voters. In two recent polls conducted by the Demoskop and OBOP polling agencies, Miller's performance was assessed positively by 20 percent and 15 percent of Poles, respectively.
Last week, Miller nominated Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner on 11 June to be the new deputy prime minister in charge of economic strategy following the resignation of Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko. In contrast to Kolodko, who had proposed an austerity plan for overhauling the country's public finances, Hausner is generally seen as an advocate of looser budget policies. (Jan Maksymiuk)
KUCHMA'S ILLUSIVE 2004 CANDIDATE. Whom will President Leonid Kuchma choose as the pro-presidential candidate for the October 2004 elections? Discussions are under way between Viktor Yushchenko, head of the pro-reform Our Ukraine bloc, and two radical opposition groups, Oleksandr Moroz's Socialists (SPU) and Yuliya Tymoshenko's bloc, to unite behind Yushchenko.
Yushchenko has maintained his position as Ukraine's most popular politician since he was prime minister from December 1999 to April 2001. In a May poll by the Ukrainian Democratic Circle, Yushchenko obtained 27.8 percent backing (rising to 42.3percent if Moroz's and Tymoshenko's support is added) and Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) leader Petro Symonenko 17.9 percent. The opposition is likely to have two candidates -- Yushchenko and the KPU's Symonenko.
Of the two opposition candidates, Yushchenko is clearly the favorite. No Communist candidate relying solely on KPU support would be able to win elections in Ukraine. With their high ratings, both opposition candidates could possibly enter the second round, which would make a Yushchenko victory certain.
It has always been in Kuchma's interest to have the opposition vote fractured with all four opposition leaders as candidates. In May, Kuchma said that Yushchenko had made a mistake in not siding with pro-presidential centrists after the 2002 elections, and he ridiculed talk of a united opposition candidate.
An April poll by Kyiv's "Politychna Dumka" (Political Thought) journal discussed four possible scenarios for 2004. The best scenario, from the viewpoint of anti-Kuchma forces, was a joint non-Communist opposition candidate leading to Yushchenko and Symonenko entering the second round where they would obtain 53.1 percent and 28.8 percent respectively.
In these four scenarios, a pro-Kuchma candidate would have to obtain sufficient support in the first round in order to beat Symonenko into the second round. Individual opinion polls for the three potential pro-presidential candidates -- Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, National Bank head Serhiy Tyhypko, and presidential administration head Viktor Medvedchuk -- are low. But they should be added together with an additional 5 percent-10 percent from "administrative resources." Although opposition candidates have access to state television's Channel 1, they will be blocked from Channels 2 and 3 controlled by Medvedchuk.
Two separate sources inside Poland and in Kyiv have learnt that Kuchma confided in President Aleksander Kwasniewski on a visit to Poland earlier this year that his preferred presidential candidate was Tyhypko. Such a choice would certainly be logical as Tyhypko, although re-elected head of the Dnipropetrovsk clan's Labor Ukraine party at its April congress, is not commonly perceived as a corrupt oligarch. Tyhypko also has a relatively good image in the United States as a "reformer," the only such image among pro-presidential leaders. After becoming National Bank head in December, Tyhypko began a self-promotion campaign which nobody in this position had ever undertaken.
Within Ukraine both Medvedchuk and Yanukovych have drawbacks in relation to Tyhypko. Medvedchuk has made even more enemies than he already had prior to becoming presidential administration head in May 2002. The Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o), which is led by Medvedchuk, is the only oligarch party unpopular in its home base, in Kyiv. There are indications that Medvedchuk is willing to sit out the 2004 election and work towards the 2009 elections, including as head of the SDPU-o opposition party, if Yushchenko wins.
Yanukovych's rating is growing because of his dynamism since becoming prime minister in November. His visit to Paris in May was deemed a success and considered the best visit to France by any Ukrainian government. Yanukovych's usefulness to Kuchma was in converting the Donbas into a "mini Belarus," as Ukrainian commentators have described it, where he has ensured the domination of the local "party of power" (Regions of Ukraine).
Yanukovych's strength in Donbas may be his liability in the remainder of Ukraine. Although Yanukovych will be prime minister for nearly two years prior to the 2004 elections, it is not clear that this is sufficient time to change his image from governor of Ukraine's "mini Belarus" to a potential president of Ukraine.
Tyhypko has advantages over both Medvedchuk and Yanukovych as he is the best of the three to take on Yushchenko. Whether Tyhypko's image of an oligarchic "reformer" conforms to reality is difficult to say. Tyhypko's proficiency was never rated highly when he was deputy prime minister and economy minister in the Valeriy Pustovoytenko government from 1997-99. Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the eponymous opposition bloc, claims that when Tyhypko was economy minister in the Yushchenko government, he "professionally sabotaged all of my work" (P. Loza, "Nevypolnennyy zakaz," Kyiv, Taki Spravy, 2002, p.70). In May 2000 Tyhypko resigned in protest as economy minister over reforms introduced by the Yushchenko government.
The manner in which Tyhypko became National Bank head in November 2002 is also not a good indicator of his character. After failing to obtain sufficient votes, a dubious secret voting system was created to ensure the replacement of Yushchenko loyalist Volodymyr Stelmakh. Tyhypko's appointment is the first occasion the head of a political party has headed the National Bank, a factor the Ukrainian Bank Association sees negatively because of its impact on the bank's independence.
In January and July 2002, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc member and lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko sent documents to the Prosecutor-General's Office detailing accusations against Tyhypko of money laundering and transfers of hard currency from Ukraine in 1995-96, when Tyhypko was head of Pryvatbank (1992-97), "Ukrayina moloda" reported on 28 November 2002. The "Grani" website, linked to the Socialist Party, published in May 2001 the names of offshore companies linked to Pryvatbank. Ironically, one of Tyhypko's first actions as National Bank chairman was to discuss illegal capital flight which had grown to a record $2.27 billion in 2002 during the Anatoliy Kinakh government that replaced Yushchenko.
Besides being a presidential candidate, Tyhypko's major service to pro-presidential forces in the 2004 elections could be his control over financial resources. He is already indulging in monetary populism by offering to repay bank deposits at Oshchadbank lost during the hyperinflation of 1993 through issuing dollar-denominated, long-term state bonds.
"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.
BELARUSIAN, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS PLEDGE TO BOOST COOPERATION. Belarusian Premier Henadz Navitski and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych said after talks in Minsk on 16 June that their governments want to intensify mutual economic cooperation, Interfax reported. "One of the [bilateral] goals is to lift curbs on the shipment of goods between Ukraine and Belarus and form a free-trade zone," Yanukovych said. The sides failed to settle the lingering problem of Ukraine's debt to Belarus at the same meeting, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Minsk insists Kyiv owes it some $100 million, while Kyiv puts the figure at just $50 million. Belarus has not yet ratified a border treaty with Ukraine, reportedly because of Kyiv's reluctance to agree on a satisfactory solution to the debt issue. JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER URGES CAUTION IN PRONOUNCEMENTS ON VOLHYNIA MASSACRES. Lawmaker Andriy Shkil of the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc told journalists in Lviv on 17 June that Ukraine must be very careful in signing any statements in connection with the planned Polish-Ukrainian commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the so-called Volhynia massacres (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003), UNIAN and Interfax reported. According to Shkil, documents signed by the Ukrainian side on this occasion should avoid providing grounds for lawsuits by Poles who suffered as a result of the tragedy. Shkil was in Warsaw last week with a delegation of Ukrainian lawmakers who prepared a joint statement by the Sejm and the Verkhovna Rada on the Volhynia massacres. "The text of the joint resolution by the parliaments of both countries was drafted to prevent [such lawsuits]," Shkil said. "Regarding another document that was prepared by the Foreign Ministry and is to be signed by the presidents of Ukraine and Poland, it may have such legal consequences, since in it Ukraine actually acknowledges its responsibility for ethnic cleansing against the Polish population in Volhynia." JM
POLAND PUBLISHES RESULTS OF 2002 CENSUS. The Main Statistical Office (GUS) published the results of Poland's 2002 national census (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2002) on its official website (http://www.stat.gov.pl) on 16 June. According to this first census in postcommunist Poland, the country's population totaled 38.2 million, including 96.74 percent Poles, 1.23 percent representatives of national minorities, and 2.03 percent individuals whose ethnic origins GUS statisticians failed to identify. The largest minority groups in Poland, according to the census, are Silesians (173,200 people), Germans (152,900), Belarusians (48,700), and Ukrainians (31,000). JM