Will Kuchma become the Big Brother?
The only obstacle to becoming our president the Big Brother can be the principal position of the West. The threat of a default due to the inability of Ukraine to pay her internal and external debts in the current year enables the West to take an unusually stern attitude to Ukraine. The question is what Ukraine and the West are ready to sacrifice to guarantee the constructive dialog. The voting on the Chechen problem in the PACE showed that a compromise is possible to reach in rather wide boundaries. Perhaps, Kuchma hopes to reach a compromise too.
President Kuchma issued a decree on holding the all-Ukrainian referendum on 16 April. The Central Election Committee has already recognized the validity of more than three million signatures collected by 379 initiative groups. The collection of the signatures was carried in the worse traditions of an authoritarian state. The top administration sent down quotas, and local bureaucrats lined up their subordinates, made them to subscribe ASAP and reported on the peoples will. Workers of budget organizations were forced to sign under the threat of sacking. In several days the needed number of signatures - more than three million - was collected.
MPs responded by adopting, on 11 January, a new law On temporary moratorium of holding all-Ukrainian and local referendums. The law reads that referendums must not be held because of the complicated social and economic state and of the absence of the needed legal base.
The main thing is the will of the people, said the President through the mouthpiece of his press secretary, and disregarded the new law. Moreover, the President declared that the referendum would be held by all means, and its results will have the direct action.
At first, few people took the initiative of holding the referendum seriously, considering that it was rather a means of pressure on the semi-red Parliament. However, Leonid Kuchma decided that it was not worthwhile to stop in midway. Rather important questions will be solved by this referendum: on making amendments to the Constitution by way of holding a referendum, on distrust to the present composition of the Supreme Rada, on the right of disbanding the Rada by the President, on widening the list of reasons for disbanding the Rada, on canceling the deputies immunity. Thus, the President decided how to amend the operating Constitution through the referendum. Now this is the only way of changing the Constitution, since it is certainly impossible, bearing in mind the present composition of the Parliament, to change anything, since such a procedure demands two thirds of the nominal composition of the Parliament. Presidents reasons and planned corrections arise great doubts. One of the corrections is to create a two-chamber Parliament. This model is typical for federal states, and in the unitary Ukraine it seems senseless.
According to the Presidents plan, the upper chamber of the Supreme Rada must consist of the regional leaders. There is a great difference with the situation in Russia, where the regional leaders are elected by the population, while in Ukraine they are appointed by the President. After the first stage of the Presidential election, Leonid Kuchma dismissed three governors (of the Vinnitsa, Poltava and Kirovograd oblasts), who appeared unable to guarantee him the victory in their regions. Thus, if this point is supported at the referendum, a part of the Parliament will be appointed by the President. (The question of electing regional bosses by the population does not enter the referendum.) Then we shall have in Ukraine a Constitutional model by Lukashenko, which the majority of democratic states and interstate unions refused to consider democratic. And what will be the attitude of the same states and organizations to Kuchma?
Lord David Russel, the PACE chairman, is said to have directed a letter to Leonid Kuchma with a request to suspend the all-Ukrainian referendum until the Venice Commission prepares the conclusion on its agreement with the principles of European democracy. Very soon the delegation of the monitoring committee of the Council of Europe will come to Kyiv, and the members of the Commission must make their conclusions concerning the Parliament opposition and the referendum in Ukraine.
On 28 January the US embassy in Ukraine spread its declaration concerning the referendum. It reads: While Ukraine is solving questions of forming the structures of her democratic institutions, this process must be rightful and must guarantee the equilibrium between different branches of power, since this is very important for a democratic society. Many questions about holding the referendum remain rather fuzzy for the USA.
A rather careful and vague reaction on the side of the Western countries to the actions of Kuchma and oligarchs standing behind his back is well explainable. An open support of Kuchmas antidemocratic activities on the side of the Western distributors of democracy is impossible. On the other hand, it is the first time when it is possible to isolate the left from power in Ukraine. At last, the non-leftish majority of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine is capable to take decisions without looking back at the left revanchists. An illustration to this situation is the revocation of the state holiday, of 7th November, the day of the bolshevik revolution in Russia.
Nine years of imitation of reforms drove the country to the catastrophic economic state. Now it is obvious for everybody. Only the will of the strong administration to pass radical reforms is able to return somehow the minimal trust of the world financial institutions. Yet, permanent compromises with the left forces whittle all the efforts. But it is a delicate question where lies the boundary between strong power and dictatorship. As the German magazine Welt writes: The logic of the Ukrainian President is such: either the reforms will be realized by authoritarian methods, or there will be no reforms at all. Such a way of development is very dangerous, especially so that the rightist opposition is very weak and the power is corrupted.
Sympathizing with Kuchmas political struggle with the left opposition, the majority of MPs, including those who support democratic principles, are noticeably slip to the support of unlimited authoritarian power of Leonid Kuchma and his oligarchic camarilla. The Ukrainian politologist Mykhaylo Pogrebinsky comments on the current events rather coolly: Frankly speaking, democracy in our country has not yet begun, so it will be an exaggeration to say that it is ending. Another well-known politologist Mykola Tomenko thinks that the referendum will lead the society to a dead-end when the President and the people will find the operating Constitution illegitimate. In his opinion, at the first stage of independence oligarchs grabbed the peoples money, and at the second stage the will of oligarchs will become the will of the people.
Meanwhile, in Lugansk the supporters of Ukrainian Rukh (the part split from the Rukh of Ukrainian people) began to collect signatures for including to the referendum one more question: making Leonid Kuchma the President for life. If they succeeded and the question were answered positively, Ukraine could become the second in Europe (after Belorus) state where MPs are appointed by the President and Leonid Kuchma would become another lifelong President after the great leader of all Turkmens Turkmenbashi Saparmurad Niyazov.