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Communists Against Reformers — Crimean Style

04 December, 00:00

The time has come to hold pre-election party conferences and congresses in the Crimea. The outlines of the future elections are already discernible. It is beyond a doubt today that there will be only two centers of struggle.

According to the political technicians in the employ of Leonid Hrach, speaker of the Crimean parliament, he will conduct his election campaign under the guise of a Hrach “bloc” rather than under the Communist banner because the latter brand name attracts fewer and fewer voters. The word “bloc” is put in quotation marks because, apart from Mr. Hrach as a self-sufficient political figure, it comprises no other political forces except perhaps for some commercial and administrative-resource elements that support him. Mr. Hrach has already proclaimed himself speaker of the new parliament, where he will head a faction of at least sixty deputies. Even now he appears almost daily on television and FM radio: you are sure to see his face or hear his voice no matter what channel or frequency you pick. His spin methods are as simple as can be: as a rule, when on the air, he is asked such hackneyed questions as why there are water supply cuts or why pensions are so low and answers straight away that, if elected on March 31, he will solve these problems on April 2. As analysts rightly predicted, the Crimea’s Communist captain also deploys what might be called the ethnic weapon, that is, he projects the image of one who champions the Russian idea and the Russian language, assists the Russian fleet, Russian university, Moscow Patriarchate Crimean diocese, and encourages the establishment of a Russian “spiritual patriotic center” based on the restored Aleksandr Nevsky Cathedral. But it remains to be seen how Kyiv will react to these basically separatist efforts. On the other hand, Serhiy Kunitsyn also said at an NDP conference in Simferopol that Mr. Hrach WOULD NOT sit in the speaker’s chair. And quite a lot is already being done in the Crimea to this end. A former TUNDRA bloc has been set up, which many other party organizations are expected to join. Such forces as the SDPU(o), Democratic Party, Afghan War veterans, resurrected New Ukraine Association, and many others have already opted for some kind of cooperation. It should also be noted that the Crimean Tartars are certain to vote against the Communists. This means that the ongoing crystallization of political forces will end in the formation of an alliance already dubbed the Kunitsyn bloc. Of course, everything is not so simple. The local feeling is that the process is approaching reefs that could sink this particular boat. First, the Agrarian Party’s Crimean branch also held a conference last Saturday. Crimean government head Valery Horbatov, one of the Trudova Ukrayina (Labor Ukraine) leaders, chose to attend the conference of the agrarians, not that of NDP, as one might have expected. And although the NDP members were addressed in Simferopol by Trudova Ukrayina leader Volodymyr Teteriatnykov, the prime minister’s preferences speak volumes. Some analysts point out in this connection that the Agrarian Party and Labor Ukraine (despite its weakness in there) Crimean branches are now forming political leading centers that see Mr. Kunitsyn as an obstacle. A large number of centrist politicians are simply pursuing their own interests, since they have not yet satisfied their own practical needs and ambitions. Of course, they can play their own games. In brief, the Crimean election campaign will f eature the competition of two centers, the Hrach and anti-Hrach blocs, with the latter still in the process of crystallizing. A great deal depends on whether the perpetual attempts to oust Mr. Kunitsyn from the Crimea will be successful. But this can only be done through Kyiv, a favorite method for Mr. Hrach. Since all his other rivals are much less well known, Hrach views Kunitsyn as his main rival capable of foiling his latest attempt to climb into the sixth floor office in the former Communist Party oblast committee building. However, on their part, both Premier Valery Horbatov and Presidential Representative Anatoly Korniychuk also have strings they can pull in Kyiv. And their efforts to oust Kunitsyn will depend on the extent to which each of them (or both together) is ready to challenge Hrach.

P.S. The Crimean election campaign scheduled for Sunday failed to start because Kyiv’s Verkhovna Rada failed to pass the requisite law.

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