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The Moulding of Ukraine

Kataryna Wolczuk

Chapter four. Simulating reforms amidst constitutional disarray: ukraine under kravchuk’s presidency

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1Despite the momentous demise of the USSR, the Ukrainian political landscape was hardly affected by independence; not only were no first democratic elections to the parliament announced, there was not even a change of prime minister or the government. The only innovation, albeit a major one, was the election of a president: the office went to a prominent member of the communist elites, Leonid Kravchuk. At the same time, constitutional reform became a matter of urgency not only for legitimising the new polity, but also in dealing with the pragmatic and urgent task of governing a newly sovereign state and coming to terms with the consequences of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Yet hardly any sense of urgency could be detected amongst the elite; a master plan for constitution making was missing. The unreformed agency, post-communist elites, having abandoned their commitment to socialism in the very final days of the Soviet Union, proved unable to show the way out of the growing constitutional chaos. The search for some kind of transitional institutional formula came to dominate the period after the 1991 presidential elections. The search became even more frantic as the economic collapse deepened in 1993. Yet, despite repeated tampering with the constitutional framework, the pre-independence dilemmas about the form of government were not resolved. As in Russia, the origins of the constitutional paralysis, which engulfed Ukraine in 1993, can be traced directly to the half-baked reforms of 1991, as a result of which the system of soviets was married to the popularly elected presidency.

2While the former opposition, organisationally weak and divided on the issue of strategy, lacked the muscle to push the process forward, the communist majority in parliament lost any remaining cohesion. By early 1992 the pre-independence divisions dissolved and political blocs and groupings, however informal, fell into disarray; they could not provide lasting support for any particular configuration of actors and powers. Even if individual office holders exploited the ample opportunities to expand their institutional competencies under the banner of state building, they could not turn their temporary gains into permanent solutions. The constitutional process reached a blind alley by 1994.

3The aim of this chapter is to examine the political interactions as a result of which Ukraine slid into a constitutional vacuum during the first years of independence. The first section sketches out the main ideological orientations in Ukraine, and the main political groupings, which represented them in order to highlight the essential volatility and confusion brought about by independence and abolition of the Communist Party of Ukraine. It is followed in the second section by an analysis of executive–legislative relations, which demonstrates how the key actors, the president, prime minister and chairman of parliament, failed in their attempts to re-assign powers to their own advantage on a more permanent basis under the banner of reforms and state building. Piecemeal institutional reforms were undertaken while the new constitution was being slowly drafted so that the two processes became intertwined. Hence, the third section traces the progress of drafting a ‘proper’ constitution and reveals the extent to which the content of the drafts closely reflected the interests of the incumbents.


  • 1 For an overview of the Ukrainian political spectrum see Taras Kuzio, ‘The Multi- Party System in U (...)

4The passage to independence was not followed by free, democratic elections. While the amorphous mass of former nomenklatura stayed at the helm of the new state, they avoided the test of a ballot box. The fledging political parties, which could not enter the political space on new terms, lingered on the fringe of politics, and, as a result, played a relatively modest role in constitutional reforms in 1992–1993. Despite the fact that the situation had changed radically since the semi-free elections in March 1990, political parties had no opportunity to contest the popularity of their ideological platforms.1

5Nevertheless, in early 1992 the broad ideological orientations of post-Soviet Ukraine began to crystallise: the left, the national-democrats, and the liberal/socio-democratic centre. The latter two orientations emerged from the disintegrated Narodna Rada, which over 1990– 1991 united various groupings in a broad platform of anti-communism, reforms and independence. After the passage of independence the allembracing, democratic opposition was not sustainable, as the members of the opposition divided on the priorities of the new state, and the Rada disintegrated by January 1992 into centrist New Ukraine and the so-called national-democratic bloc.

  • 2 Because deputies did not win their mandates through party membership, factions of political partie (...)
  • 3 In parliament the three orientations were represented by the following factions, groupings and all (...)
  • 4 Andrew Wilson, ‘Ukraine: two presidents and their powers’, in Ray Taras (ed.), Postcommunist Presi (...)

6However, in organisational terms those orientations were represented in a number of fluid, overlapping and fast changing factions, parties, alliances, and ad hoc initiatives. In particular, the Supreme Council still did not make much progress in transforming itself from a gathering of delegates of the amorphous trudiashchykh mass (working masses) to a structured parliament. It was populated by a plethora of fuzzy caucuses as the parliamentary rules allowed deputies to belong to two factions simultaneously.2 The fluctuation and overlapping membership in factions does not make it possible to break parliament neatly down into factions, which would represent the three orientations.3 It is estimated that out of 450 deputies, 244 (54 percent) were former communists with preservationist views on economic and political reform, 129 (29 percent) were national-democrats and only 77 (17 percent) were liberal/social-democratic centrists.4 The remainder of this section will provide an overview of these three blocs in terms of their membership, organisational structures, strategies and ideologies.


  • 5 The term ‘national-democrats’ was derived from the name of the National- Democratic Party, which w (...)
  • 6 In organisational terms Rukh remained an umbrella ‘civic’ association, and, apart from individuals (...)

7Even if during 1990–1991, the anti-communist opposition worked towards a split within the communist majority, the speed with which the national communists embraced the cause of independence and the subsequent demise of the USSR took the national-democrats by surprise. The swift passage to independence was organised by their former adversaries, who, as a result, retained their positions in the political and economic institutions of sovereign Ukraine. Thus, the national-democrats faced an unhappy predicament: either to assist the old ex-communist elites in consolidating independence or remain in the opposition, and try to dismantle the old regime by pushing for political and economic reforms. The question of strategy towards the former nomenklatura, in general and the concentration of power in the hands of the ex-communist president, in particular, threatened the unity of Rukh as the umbrella oppositionist movement.6

  • 7 See The Ukrainian Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 9, September 1992, pp. 1–4.
  • 8 Mykola Riabchuk, ‘Authoritarianism with a Human Face?’, The East European Reporter, Vol. 5, No. 6 (...)

8The presidential elections of December 1991 left the national-democratic bloc weakened and divided. By borrowing their pro-independence slogans in the electoral campaign, Kravchuk took the edge off their distinctive and easily identifiable agenda. Moreover, an internal rift developed within the bloc as several of its prominent members, Chornovil, Yukhnovskyi and Lukianenko, competed against each other in the presidential elections. Unable to agree on the support for Kravchuk, Rukh splintered in the summer 1992, when the Congress of National-Democratic Forces (CNDF) was created by the Ukrainian Republican Party (URP), the Democratic Party of Ukraine (DPU), and several smaller right-wing parties (also many individual members of Rukh joined it).7 Overall, nationalism took the upper hand over anticommunism in the Congress as its platform was based on the premise that opposition to the popularly elected president would jeopardise independence and the acceptance of the need for a ‘stronger hand’ in order to strengthen the state.8 In contrast, Rukh under the leadership of Chornovil declared ‘constructive opposition’ to Kravchuk, which meant support for presidential policies as long as they did not contradict Rukh’s priorities, which, apart from the consolidation of statehood, included political and economic reforms. At the fourth congress in December 1992 Rukh finally transformed itself into a fully-fledged political party with 50,000 members.

  • 9 To counteract the pressure from the Left to re-legalise the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Narodn (...)

9Nevertheless, in spite of organisational divisions and divergence on strategies, the national-democrats shared the ideological platform, which included pro-Ukrainian language and cultural policies, marketoriented reforms, abolition of the system of soviets, anti-Russian/CIS foreign policy orientation, and integration with European institutions. However, cultural issues took priority over economic ones. While, because of the urgent desire to boost popular support for independence, their economic proposals remained vague and often bordered on populism, they concentrated heavily on promoting the state’s security, and cultural and linguistic ‘de-colonisation’ of Ukraine. Their own numerical weakness forced them to rely on the ex-communists to pursue these goals. Similar to the CNDF, Rukh felt compelled to support Kravchuk or at least to curb its criticism of the president.9 At the same time, Kravchuk courted the national-democrats and called for support for his efforts to build an independent state through unity in order to boost his own popularity. The national-democrats were given minor ministerial posts (for example, of education, culture, ecology), made presidential advisers, presidential representatives at the local level, and were allocated diplomatic postings. Despite being largely symbolic, their cooptation into governmental positions created the impression of the tightening alliance between the national-democrats and the former communists, which blurred the pre-independence divisions between the conservatives and reformers.


  • 10 By the end of 1992, New Ukraine consisted of the Liberal Democratic Party of Ukraine, the Green Pa (...)

10This orientation was mainly represented by the liberal alliance ‘New Ukraine’, which had its roots in the cosmopolitan, pragmatically oriented wing of the Democratic Platform of the CPU. The Platform had transformed itself into the Party of Democratic Revival of Ukraine in 1991, and became a collective member of the oppositional Narodna Rada. New Ukraine was created in January 1992 by liberal and social-democratic politicians and entrepreneurs, once it became evident that the Narodna Rada could not contain ideological diversity within its ranks. The alliance was headed by Volodymyr Filenko, and its members included Russophone Volodymyr Hryniov, industrialist Vasyl Yevtukhov and pro-market reformer Volodymyr Lanovyi.10 New Ukraine prioritised economic liberalisation and protection of political freedoms and opposed their subordination to the project of state building as advocated by Kravchuk. As the creation of the market economy was a precondition for democracy, New Ukraine supported market-oriented reforms including privatisation, anti-monopoly measures, price liberalisation, foreign investment, and a free system of trade and supply. Economic co-operation with Russia and the CIS was supported insofar as it assisted in economic recovery; thus, New Ukraine opposed the rushed secession of Ukraine from the rouble zone in 1992, before steps had been taken to build an independent financial system capable of serving the national needs. Because of Kravchuk’s ambivalent economic policy and increasingly isolationist, anti-Russian stance, New Ukraine declared its opposition to the president in June 1992. New Ukraine’s pre-occupation with economic issues meant that to a large degree it remained a one-issue alliance. In parliament, the centrist bloc was the smallest; New Ukraine consisted of 56 deputies in February 1992, while the total number of centrist deputies was about 70–80. However, because of its high-profile membership in the otherwise amorphous and fluid political structures in parliament, New Ukraine emerged as one of the key factions, even if it lacked internal organisation and voting discipline (for example, before parliamentary votes it used to give only recommendations to its members). Despite its influence New Ukraine did not transform itself into a political party and remained a loose grouping of liberal politicians, directors of state enterprises and fledging business circles in Ukraine. This catch-all membership and weak grass roots weakened its cohesion and strength as a political actor. By the time it held its second congress in March 1993, New Ukraine had already lost much of its initial vitality, despite the fact that one of its members—Leonid Kuchma—served as prime minister. It briefly enjoyed a new lease of life when Kuchma emerged as the main competitor to president Kravchuk in the June/July 1994 presidential elections.


11After the banning of the CPU in August 1991, the ideologically motivated leftist forces consolidated around Oleksandr Moroz—the leader of the Socialist Party of Ukraine, which was created in October 1991. The party managed to attract only a small number (60,000) of the 2,700,000 members of the CPU. Nevertheless, the SPU emerged as the biggest party in Ukraine (while Rukh was still a civic movement until December 1992). The party’s leadership represented a progressive, Gorbachevite strand of the CPU and accepted political pluralism and the multi-party system as pillars of the new order. Party leaders such as Oleksandr Moroz, Ivan Chyzh and Borys Oliynyk attempted to revive the Ukrainian social-democratic traditions embodied in the early twentieth century parties, such as the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers Party and the Ukrainian Party of Social Revolutionaries, which had striven to simultaneously resolve the ‘national’ and ‘social’ questions. While accepting the results of the referendum on independence, the SPU emphasised the pivotal role of the Soviet period and its social achievements in the formation of an independent Ukraine, and opposed the exclusive prioritising of the national question over socio-economic issues. Condemning the transition to capitalism as well as the isolation of Ukraine from other post-Soviet states and the CIS, it called for the creation of a common economic space within the territory of the former USSR. However, the party’s rank and file had a more hard-line profile, as the SPU sheltered many disoriented, orthodox communists from Southern, Eastern and Central Ukraine. Because of this catch-all membership, the party oscillated between social-democratic and communist positions. In parliament, the socialists accounted for 30–40 deputies. The socialists’ main ally was the Peasant Party of Ukraine (SelPU), which was created in Kherson in January 1992 (with Serhiy Dovhan as a leader) on the basis of the Soviet Peasant Union. Its parliamentary faction consisted mainly of chairmen of collective farms, and as such acted as an agricultural lobby, while on other questions its views coincided with those of the SPU.

  • 11 The CPU claimed a membership of 130,000–140,000. Andrew Wilson, ‘The Ukrainian Left: In Transition (...)

12However, the SPU with its social-democratic leanings did not replace the Communist Party of Ukraine. After the latter was de-legalised and its property nationalised after the coup in August 1991 in a resolution of the presidium of the Supreme Council, the Left continued to argue the unconstitutionality of this decision. The issue of re-legalisation of the CPU simmered throughout 1992, and finally came back on the parliamentary agenda in the spring of 1993, despite the vehement protests of the national-democrats. The party re-emerged (although it had to register as a new party) as a successor to the unreformed, hard-line stance of the pre-independence Central Committee, and had not relinquished the Marxist–Leninist ideology: a centrally administered economy and the restoration of the Union of Sovereign Soviet States were all part of the manifesto. The re-legalisation of the CPU in June 1993 reshuffled the leftist bloc by strengthening its conservative wing. Many traditional communists (in particular pensioners and war veterans) returned to the fold of the CPU. Although the SPU proved more attractive to the intelligentsia, it was the orthodox CPU that emerged by far the biggest party in Ukraine on the eve of 1994 elections.11

  • 12 Volodymyr Lytvyn, Politychna arena Ukrainy (The Political Scene of Ukraine) (Kyiv, 1994), p. 293.

13Even if the CPU as an organisation collapsed, the organisational disarray did not prevent the former communists from shaping the political developments of Ukraine, as by that time the higher echelons of CPU apparatchiks had en masse entered the state and economic structures. The communist ‘group of 239’, although it was often referred to as a parliamentary majority before independence, was never formalised. After August 1991, only the remnants of the ‘group of 239’ joined the left-wing parties, while the bulk of the central and regional bureaucrats, former party officials and economic nomenklatura (accounting for over half of all deputies in parliament) eschewed party membership and lingered unaffiliated. As argued in chapter 3, while overwhelmingly standing on the platform of independence, they had no ideological convictions on the future path Ukraine should take, and seemed predominantly pre-occupied with their immediate pursuits. Their influential positions and opportunistic attitudes earned them the nickname of the ‘party of power’. The non-affiliated, ex-communist deputies consistently opposed holding pre-term elections to parliament, something Rukh and New Ukraine repeatedly called for. Although those deputies were not organised in a faction, the group retained some cohesion; when someone from their rank, Leonid Pliushch, was to replace Kravchuk as the chairman of the Supreme Council on the recommendation of the newly elected president, 261 deputies voted for Pliushch.12 Overall, they backed the presidency, although their loyalty waned in the course of 1993, when Kravchuk’s presidency hit the rocks.


14Having surveyed the key ideological orientations, none of which was numerous and consolidated enough to set Ukraine on the path of constitutional reform, this section will examine the executive–legislative relations over 1992–1994. The period between the referendum on independence and the first free elections was characterised by a frantic search for a form of government capable of counteracting the economic decline. In this search three key stages can be distinguished: the first was marked by the growth in prominence of the president, the second was characterised by the strengthening of the prime minister, and the final one by the descent into a political crisis. Despite the urgency created by the worsening economic situation, the search for a quick fix solution to the institutional paralysis not only proved futile, but also interfered with, and hampered, the process of drafting the new constitution.


15The formal affirmation of independence in the referendum on 1 December followed by the Belovezha Agreement prompted Kravchuk’s calls for an immediate revision of the institutional framework. Having emerged as the key political figure, Kravchuk was well positioned to claim more institutional power. In December, he won a popular mandate, which made his standing stronger vis-à-vis the Supreme Council, as the latter had been elected in the semi-free elections in 1990, and, thus, lacked democratic credentials. Moreover, Kravchuk came first in the elections way ahead of any other candidate, as the three national-democratic candidates together won 31 percent of votes in comparison to Kravchuk’s hefty 61 per cent. As argued in chapter 3, the presidency had essentially been designed as a buffer against Moscow and its powers in the domestic context were left ill defined and vague in the sketchy ‘Law on the Presidency’ (adopted in July 1991). Despite being named ‘chief executive’, the presidency hardly had any ‘teeth’, as the little executive powers it was granted were not backed by an effective mechanism to exercise them. To a large extent, this design reflected the concerns of the hard-line communists in 1991 that the popular legitimacy of the presidency could become a basis for an alternative to the parliament’s monopoly of power.

  • 13 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 1, p. 88.

16To overcome this limitation, Kravchuk embarked on a rapid extension of presidential power along horizontal and vertical axes. In February 1992 he proposed a strengthening of the presidency on the grounds that ‘without a strong executive branch, it would not be possible to implement economic and political reforms’.13 Overall, Kravchuk did not encounter heavy opposition, as the Supreme Council acquiesced in the president taking direct control over the stabilisation and reform of the economy during the turbulent early days of independence for a lack of a better alternative. After scaling down some of the presidential powers proposed by Kravchuk (such as, for example, the right to appoint all judges of the Constitutional Court), parliament proceeded to adopt constitutional changes by a constitutional (two thirds) majority in February 1992.

  • 14 Kravchuk took the first steps toward increasing his power in December 1991 when he made himself a (...)
  • 15 For the text of amendments see Pravda Ukrainy, 7 April 1992.

17According to the revised 1978 constitution, the president was made responsible for ‘defending the rights and freedoms of citizens, the state sovereignty of Ukraine and implementation of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine’ (art. 14-5.1) and was named the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (art. 114.5-2.1).14 He was given new rights to ‘lead and direct’ the activities of the cabinet of ministers of Ukraine, to re-organise administrative structures and set up consultative bodies (art. 114.5-7.1), to issue decrees on economic matters (having the force of law, if they were not regulated by existing laws) (art. 114.5-6), to appoint and dismiss ministers and senior officials (although in the case of seven key ministries and committees the approval of parliament was still necessary), to propose the state budget in parliament and report on its implementation (art. 114.5-4.1). The president was also required to outline his policies to parliament in an annual report (art. 114.5-5). Despite obtaining new powers to create and reform the executive branch, the president did not gain any leverage against the Supreme Council. He was denied the right to dissolve parliament and call for new elections.15 The parliament retained its right to override a presidential veto by a simple majority and the prime minister could only be dismissed by the president with parliamentary consent.

  • 16 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 23, p. 16.
  • 17 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 23, p. 80.
  • 18 Overall, out of 24 deputies who spoke on Kravchuk’s proposal on the first day of parliamentary deb (...)
  • 19 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 30, p. 84.
  • 20 Vidomosti Verkhovnoi Rady, No. 23, 1992.

18The constitutional amendments of February 1992 turned the president into a chief executive, yet his powers were confined to the centre. At the local level the soviets and their executive committees (vykonkomy), which united both state and self-governing functions remained the institutional backbone of the state after the demise of the CPU. Their inability to assume the self-governing functions and the perceived lack of control over the regional and local level fuelled demands for ‘reinstating authority at the local level’ and ‘to increase the role and responsibility of the state in overcoming the crisis’.16 Thus, the institution of presidential representatives (predstavnyky), which was envisaged by the Concept of the New Constitution but then dropped from the ‘Law on the Presidency’ (see chapter 3), came back to the agenda. Kravchuk argued that predstavnyky were to act as a transmission belt for reform from the centre to localities and to prompt local soviets to ‘stand up to the conditions of independence’.17 All political groupings— ranging from the Socialist Party of Ukraine, New Ukraine and the majority of national-democrats—supported this innovation.18 After relatively minor changes to Kravchuk’s draft, on 5 March 1992 the ‘Law on the President’s Representatives’ was adopted by the Supreme Council with 280 votes in favour.19 The law granted the president the right to appoint his representatives as heads of the local state administration, which were ‘the highest body in the state executive structures’ in oblasts and districts, and in Kyiv and Sevastopol (art. 1), and who were nominated for the presidential term (art. 2). Representatives’ powers could be divided into two spheres: as the executive arm of local councils and as the agent of the centre in oblast and regions. Firstly, they were to implement local budgets and the programme of socio-economic development of the territory adopted by oblast and local councils (art. 6). Secondly, they were responsible for overseeing the implementation of laws, presidential decrees and resolutions of central state organs (such as ministries) by local self-government (art. 7). Also, the presidential representatives could suspend office holders, and challenge in court the decisions of local self-governing bodies, if they violated the law and the constitution (art. 12). Their decisions were binding in the respective oblast/regions for local administration, industry, organisations and institutions, and civic associations (art. 14). Presidential representatives were accountable upwards to the higher-level representatives and the president, and could only be recalled by the latter (art. 2). Also, the president could grant them additional powers in an emergency (art. 15).20 The law created a unitary vertical executive structure, which was to co-exist with the local radas that were grossly emasculated and limited to mostly representative functions.

19By the spring of 1992 Kravchuk had accumulated extensive executive powers. The Ukrainian presidency as defined in early 1992 encompassed four major prerogatives: to lead the activities of the cabinet (although parliament retained some appointive powers); to restructure the executive branch; to issue decrees with the power of law on economic issues, and to appoint state representatives at the local level. As Kravchuk’s pursuit of more powers was indistinguishable from measures to secure independence and counteract the institutional inefficiency, the changes in the constitutional framework encountered hardly any concerted opposition. Therefore, in early 1992 Ukraine followed a pattern common across post-Soviet states, whereby the presidents were granted more authority on the grounds that this was indispensable for the consolidation of statehood. However, in contrast to other post- Soviet states, in the case of Ukraine the incumbent refrained from using the formal powers granted to the presidency.


  • 21 The Council was headed by the president while the prime minister was deputy, with four collegia on (...)

20Initially, Kravchuk set to use his constitutional powers to reform the executive arm of the state. By a presidential decree a State Council (Duma) was created in February 1992. The Council was conceived as a taskforce to establish the main directions for internal and international policy and to co-ordinate activities of executive agencies of the state.21 Other ad hoc bodies proliferated (such as the Security Council and a special taskforce to oversee economic reforms), the creation of which was part of Kravchuk’s declared agenda to strengthen the executive capacity of the state.

21Kravchuk’s reforms, however, provoked an immediate backlash. In particular, the former communists feared that the extra-constitutional Duma—staffed by the national-democrats—had shifted decision making beyond the cabinet of ministers. They argued that:

  • 22 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 45, p. 14.

The creation of yet another high executive body will destroy the cabinet of ministers, which is accountable and subordinated (vidpovidalnyi and pidzvitnyi) to the Supreme Council, whereas the Duma takes over the function of the cabinet of ministers, and yet is accountable only to the president.22

  • 23 The Presidential Administration (occupying the former CPU headquarters) not only did not supplant (...)

22Thus, the Supreme Council scrutinised the presidential decrees and debated whether the president had exceeded his constitutional rights.23 Parliament re-asserted its exclusive constitutional powers to determine both the institutional infrastructure of the state (art. 80 of the revised 1978 constitution) and the general direction of policy making (art. 97). Even if the pro-reform lobby, the national-democrats and the New Ukraine, remained supportive of the presidential initiatives, the debates in parliament vividly reminded Kravchuk of the limits of his powers and volatility of parliament, which granted him the powers.

  • 24 The Presidential Administration remained relatively small, in early 1992 it was about 150 people. (...)
  • 25 Holos Ukrainy, 5 June 1992.

23By the summer 1992, Kravchuk’s focus drifted away from domestic affairs, as he began to closely co-ordinate foreign and military affairs, seeing the promotion of Ukraine on the international arena as a precondition for safeguarding Ukrainian independence. The far-reaching institutional reform announced by Kravchuk remained largely unrealised, apart from a half-hearted reshuffle of central administrative institutions in February and March 1992. The potentially influential State Council (Duma) was abolished at the end of 1992. Kravchuk also rejected calls from Rukh and New Ukraine for new parliamentary elections and for more active use of his powers at the local level. Presidential activity in the legislative arena dried up after the first few months.24 When the reformers in parliament suggested that Kravchuk should take direct charge of the government, he stated that he ‘will not act like Boris Yeltsin and, apart from being the head of state, he will not perform the function of the head of the government’. In Kravchuk’s view, the president ‘should construct the state while the economy should be the domain of the government’.25

  • 26 The strategy of the government of prime minister Fokin relied on maintaining price controls despit (...)

24Throughout 1992, in spite of the popular expectations of economic prosperity in independent Ukraine, the country’s economy entered into a free fall. The heavy regulation of the economy, extremely soft and accommodative macroeconomic policy and the impact of external shocks fuelled inflation and caused a drastic worsening of all economic indicators.26 Under such circumstances, the pro-reform forces (Rukh, ‘New Ukraine’ and even the pro-presidential CNDF) closed their ranks on the necessity to remove the Fokin government in June 1992, and proposed a vote of no confidence in the cabinet. The president, however, defended Fokin. The reformist forces succeeded in ousting Fokin in September 1992, and Kravchuk fulfilled his presidential duty by proposing a candidate for premiership—the little known Leonid Kuchma, a director of Yuzhmash, the biggest missile factory in the world in Dnepropetrovsk who, as a non-controversial, technocratic candidate, was swiftly approved by parliament. Being closely linked with the League of Ukrainian Industrialist and Entrepreneurs and ‘New Ukraine’, Kuchma was a representative of the so-called industrial lobby in parliament, who favoured an ‘evolutionary’, ‘specifically Ukrainian’ path towards a market economy. Kravchuk left the task of appointing the ministers and reforming the structures of the cabinet to Kuchma. Kravchuk’s consent to Kuchma’s ministerial appointments and plans to reform the cabinet hallmarked the president’s tacit agreement to disengage from the direct leadership of the executive branch, several months after claiming executive powers.

  • 27 Wilson, ‘Ukraine: two presidents and their powers’, p. 71.
  • 28 Wilson, ‘Ukraine: two presidents and their powers’, p. 78.

25In 1992, the presidential sphere of authority remained profoundly unsettled. The president as the head of state and chief executive could direct both the cabinet of ministers and the state administration at the local level. However, without a new constitution, the powers of the presidency were fluid, ill defined, and ultimately depended on parliament, which had the exclusive right to interpret and change the 1978 constitution. Striving to rise above politics as a non-partisan founder of the state, Kravchuk did not join or create any party in an attempt to widen his power base. This strategy, however, taking into account the polarised and fragmented nature of the Ukrainian political spectrum, resulted in chronic vacillation between various political agendas. As Wilson points out Kravchuk was elected in December 1991 by the same electorate that voted for the preservation of the USSR in March 1990 and the outlook of the unorganised ex-communist majority in parliament and the president coincided.27 To placate this element, Kravchuk backed preservationist economic policies. He also tried to seduce the national-democrats by bringing some of them into the key positions. Yet the president lacked a consolidated power base in parliament. Out of 450 deputies, nearly half were conservatives, national-democrats had around one third of all seats, and only 77 (17 percent) were centrists;28 none of them was strong enough to support him nor could he command their support on all issues. The fact that the boundaries of the presidential sphere of competence remained ambiguous allowed various political groups in parliament to bring the issue of presidential prerogatives back onto agenda, and summon the president whenever his policies infringed on their interests. Ultimately, the president’s powers and policies depended on a vacillating majority in parliament, which necessitated building fragile coalitions on each issue. Despite securing an array of executive powers, Kravchuk eschewed using them in order not to estrange any element in his wide yet precarious coalition of support.


  • 29 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Sixth Session), 1992, No. 21, p. 14. On the condition of the Ukr (...)
  • 30 See text in Holos Ukrainy, 19 November 1992 or Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Sixth Session), 1 (...)

26The new prime minister, Leonid Kuchma, proved eager to take over responsibility for the executive branch, and despite the problem of garnering support in the Supreme Council for his cabinet in October 1992, he succeeded in the first overhaul of government in independent Ukraine. He quickly gained clout with his blunt and—as was seen by deputies—realistic assessment of the state of the economy: ‘our state is bankrupt’.29 On the grounds that ‘critical focus of state building has moved to the economic issues’,30 Kuchma secured for his cabinet emergency law making powers for six months (until May 1993). The government was given the right to issue decrees on practically all economic matters, except the budget, while the presidential right to do so was simultaneously suspended. In sum, in November 1992 the prime minister undermined the powers of the president as chief executive. One of the key presidential prerogatives—the right to issue decrees with the force of law—was transferred from the president to the cabinet.

  • 31 Dąbrowski, ‘The Ukrainian Way to Hyperinflation’, p. 6.
  • 32 Kravchuk appointed local figures such as former heads of local councils or vykonkomy rather than o (...)

27However, once again the ad hoc redistribution of powers failed to provide a solution to the crisis of ungovernability. Despite having been equipped with decree-making powers, the government failed to rescue the economy.31 Not only was the decline of the GDP not halted but inflation grew into hyperinflation by June 1993. Kuchma blamed the Supreme Council and the president. Indeed, Kravchuk refused to dismiss his presidential representatives who, according to prime minister, obstructed economic reforms at the local level.32 Also, parliament did not relinquish its constitutional prerogatives to issue resolutions on the economy, often in contradiction to the government’s policy.


  • 33 He also demanded the subordination of the National Bank, Anti-Monopoly Committee, and the State Pr (...)
  • 34 Holos Ukrainy, (20 May 1993).

28While the economic imbroglio deepened, the extraordinary powers of the cabinet of ministers expired on 17 May 1993, and the issue thus again appeared on the parliamentary agenda. Arguing that a minimum period of two years should be allowed for economic stabilisation, Kuchma proposed not only the extension of decree-making powers, but also demanded additional authority.33 The president’s role was to be confined to outwardly directed representative and symbolic functions. Kuchma argued that the economy was the key to the consolidation of the Ukrainian state, and his remarks such as ‘a flag, anthem and emblem, this is not yet statehood’ ridiculed Kravchuk’s fixation with symbolic attributes of independence.34

  • 35 See K. Mihalisko, ‘Public Confidence in the Ukrainian Leadership’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. I, (...)

29However, wary of Kuchma’s growing appetite for authority and his own waning popularity, Kravchuk decided to re-establish his tarnished position as that of an active chief executive and even outlined a proposal to abolish the post of prime minister and to create a presidential council, which would replace the cabinet.35

30There was no way out of the stalemate between Kravchuk and Kuchma. Even though in response to Kravchuk’s proposal Kuchma backed off, and filed his resignation, parliament could not come up with a solution for the stand-off. It refused to extend extraordinary powers to the government, yet 223 deputies voted against releasing Kuchma from the premiership. At the same time only 90 deputies voted in favour of Kravchuk’s draft law, which would allow the president to take over direct control of the cabinet. In mid-1993, the president and prime minister clashed in their attempts to become the sole heads of the executive branch. This was a result of the half-hearted incorporation of elements of the presidential system, which posed the vexed question of the division of powers between the two constituent parts of the executive branch. As Kuchma persisted in securing more decision making powers, Kravchuk attempted to restore his damaged authority. The unstructured parliament emerged as an arbiter in the intra-executive tussle, which presaged the deepening constitutional crisis in Ukraine in the second year of independence.

  • 36 Kravchuk cancelled the decree once parliament conceded to the miners’ demands by resolving that a (...)

31The impasse unfolded into a full-blown crisis. Triggered by consumer price rises, in June 1993, a miners’ strike broke out in Donbas. By putting forward an overtly political platform, as well as making economic demands, the strike threatened further political destabilisation in Ukraine. The strike leaders (in close alliance with the regional state apparatus) demanded, apart from political autonomy for Donbas, referenda on confidence in parliament and the president. In order to deal with economic demands, Kravchuk brought the Mayor of Donetsk, Efim Zhviagilsky, to Kyiv to take up the influential post of first deputy prime minister. While the issue of autonomy moved onto the backburner, the striking miners demanded a special session of parliament, which convened on 14–16 June. The debates fully unveiled the scale of paralysis at the centre. Parliament engaged in mutual recriminations; all main parties and factions declared themselves to be in opposition to each other and to the executive branch. Both the right- and left-wing accused the government of implementing the policies of their adversaries. At that time, Kravchuk once again hesitantly attempted to combine the presidency with the premiership by issuing a decree in which he allocated prime minister Kuchma the role of head of the Special Economic Commission, while he would be in charge of the ‘power ministries’ (interior, justice and security).36

  • 37 By 24 September, two days before the referendum, it became evident that no preparations had been m (...)

32Over the summer 1993 little was done to make the referendum happen, something which reflected both the president’s and the parliamentarians’ reluctance to undergo a test of popular support.37 Instead, in September parliament resolved on pre-term parliamentary and presidential elections. The elections, scheduled for the autumns of 1994 and 1995, respectively, were brought forward to March and June 1994. Parliament’s decision was undoubtedly prompted by Yeltsin’s dissolution of the Russian parliament on 21 September 1993. Aware of its critically low popularity in society, the Supreme Council feared that the result of the referendum would not be favourable, so that the pre-term elections would have to follow anyway.

33Nevertheless, the impasse between the branches of power continued. Shortly after Kuchma finally resigned in September 1993, Kravchuk issued a decree in which he subordinated government to the president, suspended the post of prime minister, and appointed a caretaker government with Efim Zhviagilskyi as acting prime minister until the spring 1994 elections. Having had second thoughts about the pre-term elections, Kravchuk began to put pressure on the Supreme Council to rescind its September 1993 resolution. However, parliament scorned pleas and even some threats by Kravchuk and pressed ahead with the presidential elections in June/July 1994 (see chapter 5).

  • 38 Holos Ukrainy, 18 March 1992.

34Undoubtedly, the chairman of the Supreme Council, a prominent member of the national-communist nomenklatura and former colleague of Kravchuk, Leonid Pliushch, who was aiming at the presidential office, played a role in the unbending of parliament. Pliushch set about circumventing Kravchuk’s powers by dismantling the presidential executive structure in the regions. Having developed presidential ambitions, Pliushch had a vested interest in preserving the structure of the soviets in order to use them as a vehicle for the presidency. With the support of the rejuvenated Left in parliament (see above), Pliushch mastered a growing coalition for the re-endowment of the soviets with executive authority, claiming that being highly democratic ‘the system of soviets has to be given a chance’.38 Thus, the presidential representatives were first weakened by parliament’s measures (for example, by making the approval of a candidate by the local radas obligatory) and then the ‘Law on Elections to Local Councils’ adopted in February 1994 envisaged their abolition after the June 1994 local elections (which were held together with the first round of presidential elections).39

35The first two years after Ukrainian independence witnessed a frantic search for quick fix solutions to the institutional disarray. By autumn of 1993, the collapsing economy and political stalemate forced the elites to resort to the ballot box as a way out of the crisis. The drafting of the fully-fledged constitution became caught in the same tug-of-war between the key members of the elites, and the content of the drafts mirrored the changing political fortunes of the main office holders. In contrast to the intra-executive conflict between president Kravchuk and prime minister Kuchma, constitution-drafting became a battlefield between Kravchuk and Pliushch.


36Apart from its leadership, the composition of the Constitutional Commission hardly changed between 1990–1994. When its chairman Kravchuk was elected president, he proposed that the chairman of parliament Pliushch be co-opted as his deputy in order to make the Commission more representative. However, as the Constitutional Commission was a parliamentary commission, the Supreme Council insisted on Pliushch becoming chairman. A compromise emerged when Pliushch was appointed co-chairman with Kravchuk in April 1992. This leadership of the Commission to a large extent determined the form of government envisaged in the consecutive drafts, irrespective of the agreed provisions of the 1991 Concept. Initially, it was Kravchuk who was well positioned to turn the aggrandisement of the presidency in early 1992 into a pillar of the new constitutional edifice, whereas in 1993 Pliushch took over the initiative.

37The first fully-fledged draft was published in June 1992, a year after the Concept of the new Constitution was approved in the Supreme Council. In terms of the form of government, the draft envisaged a presidential system. The wide-ranging powers granted to the president in the spring 1992 were not only copied in the constitutional draft, they were widened even further. The cabinet, for example, was to be ‘subordinated to the president, accountable to him and in its activities guided by his programme and decisions’, while the prime minister was defined as ‘a deputy of the president’ (art. 190). The issue of bi-cameralism, first raised in 1991, re-emerged on the agenda, but no agreement was reached. Thus two versions—one with a uni- and the other a bi-cameral legislature—were prepared (despite the fact that the Concept envisaged a uni-cameral parliament). According to the bi-cameral version, the legislature (Natsionalni Zbory) would consist of a Rada Deputativ (lower chamber) and Rada Posliv (upper chamber); the latter would consist of 5 representatives of each oblast.

38The draft proposed a centralised model of the state, and stressed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which was defined as a ‘single (yedyna), indivisible (nepodilna), inviolable (nedotorkana), and integrated (tsilisna) state’ (art. 7). However, a major breakthrough was made as the system of soviets was finally abandoned. Despite the fact that the system of soviets (radas) was retained in the Concept, the 1992 draft envisaged a ‘de-statisation’ of the radas, that is they were only to embody self-governing functions, whereas ‘state powers’ would be performed by presidential representatives. Representatives at the oblast and raion level were to be appointed by the president from a list proposed by respective councils. The draft left the issue of the form of elections— whether direct or indirect—to councils at the oblast and raion level indeterminate (there were two variants in art. 228). Thereby the role of oblast and raion remained unclear. Self-government was explicitly guaranteed only at the community level (cities and villages). The Crimean Republic was defined as a state-territorial organisation of power and self-government of the population of Crimea (art. 110). However, because of the ongoing confrontation between Kyiv and Simferopol, its powers were not outlined in the constitution.

39While the 1992 draft followed many proposals of the working group in 1991 (see chapter 3), the chapters on the form of government were specifically written with Kravchuk in mind. Yet the incumbent did not seek quick ratification of the constitution, perhaps realising the difficulties in mastering a constitutional majority for such a pro-presidential constitution in the Supreme Council where he lacked a stable powerbase. Public discussion and consultations on the draft took place in the second half of 1992, at a time when Kravchuk’s authority began to wither away. Following the consultations a revised draft of the new constitution was ready in July 1993, debated in parliament on 5–8 September and finalised by the end of October 1993. By that time, Ukraine was engulfed in the political crisis and new constitution was anything but priority.

40The October draft reflected the changed distribution of power: a weaker president and stronger chairman of parliament. The weakening of the presidency in the 1993 draft reflected not only the elites’ reduced trust in Kravchuk’s leadership skills, but also the presidential ambitions of the chairman of the Supreme Council, Leonid Pliushch. The latter utilised his position as a co-head of the Constitutional Commission to circumvent Kravchuk’s powers and eliminate the main pretender to the presidential office in the 1994 presidential elections. The draft endorsed the superiority of the uni-cameral legislature (the name Verkhovna Rada was preserved). It was the only institution authorised to represent the people, with powers to decide on any issue that was not defined in the constitution as lying exclusively in the competencies of other state or self-governing institutions. The executive functions were concentrated in the hands of the cabinet of ministers, which was defined as a ‘higher body of executive power’ (presumably parliament was ‘the highest’).40 The role of the directly elected president was defined as that of ‘head of state’ and confined to representative functions, especially in external relations. The cabinet was to carry out the programme of the president, but be accountable to the Supreme Council. Presidential law making powers were circumvented: decrees, which he had the right to issue, were defined as lower than laws (pidzakonni). The vertical structure of presidential representatives was abolished in the draft. The only major prerogative of the president was the right to veto laws, which could be overridden by a twothirds majority. The draft put a heavy stress on the instruments of direct democracy (narodovladia), such as referenda, consultations, and people’s right to propose laws. Even if the draft retreated from the presidential form government, it did not quite go back to the soviet system. The territorial division of power in the draft was a hybrid containing elements of the system of soviet and self-government. Oblast councils would embody both functions of territorial autonomy, which their executive committees were defined as ‘bodies of state power’.

41Despite publication of the October draft, the constitution-making process ground to a halt when it became evident that there was no possibility of adopting a new constitution before the 1994 elections, because of the prevailing disarray in the Supreme Council. After October 1993, the Supreme Council did not resume debates on the draft constitution. The last meeting of the Constitutional Commission in January 1994, to which also heads of oblast councils, presidential representatives, and representatives of political parties were invited, amounted to a last desperate attempt to find a way to pass the constitution. Whilst a constitutional conference, constitutional assembly, and a referendum were being considered, the total lack of direction for the constitutional process became only too evident. Kravchuk undoubtedly added to the confusion when he tabled the ‘Law on Power’ for the consideration of the Constitutional Commission, as a temporary solution to the constitutional crisis. The law was to reinstate his lapsed authority. By that time the Commission members were even unclear as to what was the purpose of the meeting and subject of the debate.

42In sum, over 1992–1993, co-headed by Kravchuk and Pliushch, the Constitutional Commission proved itself unable to rise above the agenda of its co-chairmen. The constitutional lawyers ended up rewriting the constitutional draft to suit the aspirations of the power holders. With the key actors driven by narrowly defined self-interest, there was not much chance to re-think and elaborate on the broad principles of the new constitutional order. While pre-term elections were opted for in order to defuse the political stalemate in Ukraine, the 1993 draft constitution was put onto the backburner, and effectively forgotten, especially as it did not suit the new president. When in 1994 the process was re-launched it started virtually from scratch.


43It has been widely noted that in post-communist countries, when the old political regimes crumbled, the political actors, such as individuals and political parties, were provided with a unique opportunity to mould the institutional framework to their own advantage. Yet such actions do not necessarily lead to lasting changes to the institutional structure. The case of Ukraine exemplifies a situation whereby actors fail to engineer the institutional outcomes by mutually ‘neutralising’ each other, despite their repeated attempts.

44While the vast majority of post-communist states had already passed their new constitutions, in Ukraine institutional reform reached a dead end after a prolonged search for quick-fix solutions without a determined attempt to adopt a new constitution. This path of constitutional reform was a direct consequence of the mode of Ukraine’s extrication from communism and the Soviet Union. Because of the abolition of the CPU in the aftermath of the August 1991 coup, the political class of communists—unlikely architects of a new order—came out unscathed from the turmoil of the collapse of the USSR, and found itself at the helm of a new state. Although the national-democratic forces campaigned for the ‘de-communisation’ of Ukraine through lustration modelled on states such as the Czech Republic, the issue of limiting the political rights of former communists has never seriously entered the political debate. Moreover, even if in 1991 the counter-elite advocated independence and extensive reforms as a package, independence ‘tied their hands’. The tensions surrounding the Black Sea Fleet and denuclearisation fuelled the perception that both Russia and the West treated Ukrainian sovereignty as a temporary phenomenon, while Crimean separatism vividly demonstrated the fragility of the new state under the pressure of centrifugal forces. Under the circumstances, in what Wilson refers to as a ‘Grand Bargain’,41 many national-democrats backed the former communists in their efforts to secure independence, rather than remaining in the opposition and exposing the misdeeds of their former adversaries. In any case, the former opposition could hardly act as an agent of reform, not only because its conflicting priorities, but also because of its relative numerical weakness.

45As the members of the Soviet nomenklatura, who largely abstained from taking on political party affiliations, retained key positions in the political and economic structures of the state, they also took charge of constitution making, despite a lack of inspiration into how the new state should be constituted. In 1992–1993 institutional Kompetentz became the object of a ‘tug-of-war’ within the triangle of the president, the chairman of the Supreme Council, and the prime minister. They attempted to re-assign the Kompetentz on an almost daily basis, as a wealth of opportunities and dearth of constraints spawned a chaotic search for instant institutional powers. The members of the excommunist elites, Kravchuk, Kuchma and Pliushch, attempted to reshuffle the prerogatives on the grounds of state building, a demanded strengthening of executive authority (which was to be vested in the president, government and parliament, respectively). In their hectic tinkering with institutional powers, the individuals focused only on particular prerogatives such as, for example, decree-making powers without an overarching vision of the form of government. As this frantic search failed to produce the outcome desired by any of the actors, they resorted to the ballot box to resolve the conflict.

46At the same time, while playing with the individual pieces, there was little interest in putting the whole constitutional jigsaw together by passing a new constitution. While other states were busy promulgating new fundamental laws, the ritualistic public ‘discussions and consultations’ on the draft constitution in 1992–1993 and inconclusive debates in the Constitutional Commission could hardly be taken as a sign of a commitment to finalise the task in Ukraine. This diffidence comes as a surprise in light of the desperate need to counteract the growing political disarray and the economic crisis.

47The net result of the piecemeal constitutional reform over 1992– 1993 was that the 1978 constitution lost any internal consistency with its array of contradictory rules. It could not offer much of an organising framework and ceased to be respected by all political forces. This clumsy approach only worsened the problems stemming from the essentially hybrid nature of the institutional framework as initially amended in 1991. Ukraine’s form of government over 1992–1993 did not match any recognisable ideal type and remained an amorphous and inherently contradictory combination of a system of soviets, and a parliamentary republic with elements of presidentialism. While the expanded presidency existed alongside the vertical of soviets subordinated to the Supreme Council, their respective domains of authority were unclear. The rushed and ill thought-out constitutional amendments resulted in numerous contradictions and loopholes.

48Elster at al argue that ‘a core symptom of failed consolidation is violence, which may take the forms of international war, civil war, violent repression, or “civic” violence of ordinary crimes’.42 However, despite the unmistakable signs of breakdown in rules governing the polity, Ukraine avoided the escalation of conflict and eruption of political violence, in contrast to Russia, where a similar standoff resulting from extensive overlapping powers of parliament and the president culminated in a violent showdown in October 1993. Why did Ukraine escape such a scenario? Essentially, the key actors were not strong enough to impose their preferences. Fragmented elites and cross-cutting cleavages prevented any one individual or grouping from garnering lasting support and from being in control of the developments for a prolonged period. Moreover, the lesson from the Russian experience timely prompted the Ukrainian elites to search for a consensual way to diffuse the potentially explosive situation in the autumn of 1993. Thus, pre-term elections were opted for.

49Over 1992–1993, the prevailing, lofty rhetoric of state building, in which, in particular, Kravchuk excelled, starkly contrasted with the limited actual transformation taking place in the domestic politics. The period illustrates the idiosyncrasy of the state-building processes. Not all planks of statehood could be erected simultaneously, and while the external dimension (embassies, army, currency, international recognition) was swiftly taken care of by the elites, other fundamental issues, such as deciding on the form of government, remained unresolved. Yet, despite the symbolic affirmation of unity, the inability to check the political and economic disarray led not only to a constitutional crisis, but also to a threat to the new state because of the intensification of centrifugal tendencies (see next chapter).

50When the first free elections were held in 1994, the country had regressed almost to where it had started its constitutional reforms prior to independence. But by 1994 the necessary differentiation between the governing functions could be delayed no longer. The desperate need for economic stabilisation and the organisation of centre–periphery relations meant that the question of what kind of institutions Ukraine should be furnished with had to be resolved. Yet, while the early elections were opted for, Ukraine missed its ‘window of opportunity’, when the (relatively straightforward) question of the institutional powers dominated the constitutional debates and the left-wing bloc was still in disarray. As will be argued in the next chapter, the 1994 elections marked the revival of the Communist Party of Ukraine and the rejuvenated Left emerged as the strongest political orientation with the platform of restoring the status quo ante. Once constitution making got under way again, the Right and Left put forward diametrically different conceptions of statehood, and in particular, the highly charged problem of nationhood surfaced and got entangled with other issues, which further compounded the complexity of constitution making in Ukraine.


1 For an overview of the Ukrainian political spectrum see Taras Kuzio, ‘The Multi- Party System in Ukraine on the Eve of Elections’, Government and Opposition, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Winter 1994) and Andrew Wilson and Artur Bilous, ‘Political Parties in Ukraine’, Europe–Asia Studies, Vol. 45, No. 4 (1993).

2 Because deputies did not win their mandates through party membership, factions of political parties did not generate much loyalty, and suffered from notoriously poor voting discipline. Party factions were denied formal recognition and material resources, and co-existed with groups of deputies created on the basis of profession, e.g. agrarians, industrialists and other ad hoc groupings. The Soviet-era deputatsii (groups of deputies representing the same oblast) remained the main organisational units in the Supreme Council, even if by that time members of the deputatsii belonged to different parties and/or had different ideological orientations. Representatives of the deputatsii were still granted the right to speak on a par with party-based factions.

3 In parliament the three orientations were represented by the following factions, groupings and alliances: The Left: ‘Zemlia and Volia’ (the faction of the Agrarian Party of Ukraine supported by about 76 deputies); the faction of the Socialist Party of Ukraine (30–40 deputies); the faction ‘For Social Justice’ (communist supporters under the leadership of Borys Oliynyk); the Centre: ‘The Party of Democratic Revival’ (37 deputies); ‘New Ukraine’ (58 deputies); the Right: the ‘People’s Rukh of Ukraine’ faction (40 deputies); the group of ‘Democratic Deputies’, faction Narodna Rada (re-created in early 1993, consisted of 90 deputies); group ‘Democratic Revival of Ukraine’; the group of the Ukrainian Republican Party (10–11 deputies), and the ‘Independence and Democracy’ group (pro-Kravchuk national democrats, mainly the URP and DPU, but also including some Rukh members, 70 deputies); the faction of the Democratic Party of Ukraine (about 25 people).

4 Andrew Wilson, ‘Ukraine: two presidents and their powers’, in Ray Taras (ed.), Postcommunist Presidents (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 78.

5 The term ‘national-democrats’ was derived from the name of the National- Democratic Party, which was formed in Western Ukraine in 1890 on the basis of the Narodna Rada. The national-democratic bloc encompassed a number of smaller parties and associations, such as the Peasant Democratic Party of Ukraine, Christian Democratic Party of Ukraine, Ukrainian Christian Democratic Party, the Ukrainian Language Society ‘Prosvita’ and the Union of Ukrainian Students. Further to the right were more radical, nationalist parties, which to a large extent remained outside parliament. On the ultranationalist parties and groups see Bohdan Nahaylo, ‘Ukraine’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 3, No. 16 (22 April 1994), pp. 42–9 and Taras Kuzio, ‘Radical Nationalist Parties and Movements in Contemporary Ukraine before and after Independence: The Right and Its Politics, 1989–1994’, Nationalities Papers, Vol. 25, No. 2 (1997), pp. 211–42.

6 In organisational terms Rukh remained an umbrella ‘civic’ association, and, apart from individuals, it had also collective members, such as the Ukrainian Republican Party (the successor to a dissident Helsinki Union), and the Democratic Party of Ukraine (founded by the Soviet-era establishment cultural intelligentsia).

7 See The Ukrainian Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 9, September 1992, pp. 1–4.

8 Mykola Riabchuk, ‘Authoritarianism with a Human Face?’, The East European Reporter, Vol. 5, No. 6 (November–December 1992), p. 54. Apart from Chornovil, the majority of Rukh’s parliamentary deputies, including Horyn and Lukianenko (leaders of the Ukrainian Republican Party, which was a collective member of Rukh) advocated support for Kravchuk’s state building measures. Lukianenko complained at the ‘bunker psychology’ of many national-democrats, who did not understand that ‘since 24 August [1991] these are now our [Ukrainian] organs and we have to co-operate with them’. The Ukrainian Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 2, p. 5. Because of its unconditional backing for Kravchuk, the CNDF was even nicknamed the ‘presidential party’.

9 To counteract the pressure from the Left to re-legalise the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Narodna Rada was briefly resuscitated in early 1993, with 90 deputies. Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Seventh Session), 1993, No. 10, p. 10.

10 By the end of 1992, New Ukraine consisted of the Liberal Democratic Party of Ukraine, the Green Party of Ukraine, the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, the United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, the Party of Democratic Revival of Ukraine, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Ukraine (Kuzio, ‘The Multi-Party System in Ukraine’, p. 125). None of those parties had any large following. New Ukraine was joined by people’s deputies, some ministers, trade unions officials and directors of state enterprises, and enjoyed close links with nascent business circles, such as the Ukrainian League of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

11 The CPU claimed a membership of 130,000–140,000. Andrew Wilson, ‘The Ukrainian Left: In Transition to Social Democracy or Still in Thrall to the USSR’, Europe– Asia Studies, Vol. 49, No. 7 (1997), p. 1302.

12 Volodymyr Lytvyn, Politychna arena Ukrainy (The Political Scene of Ukraine) (Kyiv, 1994), p. 293.

13 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 1, p. 88.

14 Kravchuk took the first steps toward increasing his power in December 1991 when he made himself a commander-in-chief of the newly created Ukrainian forces by decree.

15 For the text of amendments see Pravda Ukrainy, 7 April 1992.

16 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 23, p. 16.

17 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 23, p. 80.

18 Overall, out of 24 deputies who spoke on Kravchuk’s proposal on the first day of parliamentary debates, 22 were in favour, albeit some proposed modifications. Once again only Chornovil criticised the presidential aggrandisement and mocked Kravchuk’s law as the ‘Law on the Usurpation of Powers’; his objections were put down to his dashed presidential ambitions. Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 23, p. 37.

19 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 30, p. 84.

20 Vidomosti Verkhovnoi Rady, No. 23, 1992.

21 The Council was headed by the president while the prime minister was deputy, with four collegia on economic, scientific–technical, humanitarian and legal affairs. Most importantly, three out of four collegia were headed by prominent Narodna Rada activists. The following people were appointed: Mykola Zhulynskyi (Culture/Education), Ihor Yukhnovskyi (Science/Technology), Oleksandr Yemets (Law), and Oleksandr Yemelianov (Economics).

22 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 45, p. 14.

23 The Presidential Administration (occupying the former CPU headquarters) not only did not supplant the cabinet, but it did not even emerge as a competing decision making centre, as it did not define the political course on domestic matters (in contrast to the international arena). Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Fifth Session), 1992, No. 45, p. 9–100. See also Pravda Ukrainy, 3 April 1992.

24 The Presidential Administration remained relatively small, in early 1992 it was about 150 people. This included the staff of two departments, which were transferred from the Supreme Council to the Administration (of Citizenship and Amnesty, and of Awards). See interview with the Secretary of the Administration of the President of Ukraine, H. G. Khomenko in Pravda Ukrainy, 29 February 1992, p. 2.

25 Holos Ukrainy, 5 June 1992.

26 The strategy of the government of prime minister Fokin relied on maintaining price controls despite increasing inflation, supporting the volume of production at any cost and relaxed fiscal and monetary policies, mainly because of the pressure of the powerful industrial and agricultural lobbies. Marek Dąbrowski, ‘The Ukrainian Way to Hyperinflation’, Communist Economics and Economic Transformation, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1994).

27 Wilson, ‘Ukraine: two presidents and their powers’, p. 71.

28 Wilson, ‘Ukraine: two presidents and their powers’, p. 78.

29 Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Sixth Session), 1992, No. 21, p. 14. On the condition of the Ukrainian economy in the autumn of 1992 see Simon Johnson and Oleg Ustenko, ‘Ukraine on the Brink of Hyperinflation’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 1, No. 50 (18 December 1992), pp. 51–9.

30 See text in Holos Ukrainy, 19 November 1992 or Biuletyn Verkhovnoi Rady Ukrainy (Sixth Session), 1992, No. 21.

31 Dąbrowski, ‘The Ukrainian Way to Hyperinflation’, p. 6.

32 Kravchuk appointed local figures such as former heads of local councils or vykonkomy rather than outsiders as presidential representatives. The national-democrats criticised presidential representatives as throwbacks to the past, and cited plenty of examples of the former high-ranking members of CPU being appointed to those pivotal state positions. It was pointed out that only 11 out of 26 representatives could be considered democrats, and those were mainly confined to Western Ukraine. Out of 26 prefects, 12 were former heads of their respective oblast councils (or their executive committees), 5 were deputy heads and 3 were heads of city councils (Ukrainian Reporter, June 1992, Vol. 2, No. 6, p. 5). Furthermore, presidential representatives formed a new vertical structure parallel to that of radas, which resulted in dual authority and, as a result, fuelled tensions over the respective sphere of competencies between the presidential representatives and the disfranchised heads of the soviets.

33 He also demanded the subordination of the National Bank, Anti-Monopoly Committee, and the State Property Committee to the Cabinet, along with the dual subordination of the local state administration (to the cabinet of ministers and the president).

34 Holos Ukrainy, (20 May 1993).

35 See K. Mihalisko, ‘Public Confidence in the Ukrainian Leadership’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. I, No. 43 (1992) and K. Mihalisko, ‘Ukrainians and their Leaders at a Time of Crisis’, RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. II, No. 31 (1993), pp. 54–61.

36 Kravchuk cancelled the decree once parliament conceded to the miners’ demands by resolving that a referendum on confidence in president and parliament was to be held on 26 September 1993.

37 By 24 September, two days before the referendum, it became evident that no preparations had been made for a referendum, as even voting slips were not approved by parliament and printed.

38 Holos Ukrainy, 18 March 1992.

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