Oleksandr MOROZ: “There is a difference between a marriageable daughter and a presidential candidate”
A: I am glad the issue was brought forth and dealt with. Now we know for sure the stand of each and every faction and even individual members. How can one support a government which violates the Constitution and other laws — I mean social rights and so on? Why didn’t the Cabinet do anything about the edicts on the excise duty on alcoholic beverages, raw sugar and oil import-export procedures, documents that were inherently damaging to the nation? Who will answer for several hundred million dollars’ worth of losses sustained by the budget because of these decisions, as well as for all this money going into the pockets of shadow businessmen? How can one respect a government which does not respect all those pension fund and state budget debtors made ones against their will and exposed to all kinds of humiliating, unlawful, and for the most part ineffective procedures?
These rhetorical questions are about different things but they all imply the same thing. Now who says that Parliament wants the government to fall? Is it just Parliament and not someone from the President’s entourage? Or clans that fought the one backing the Cabinet because it suited them just fine?
Also, we all — society and the President — seem to forget that we will have an altogether different legal environment after June 1999 when the President loses the right to issue economic edicts as he does now under the Constitution’s Transition Clauses and when the Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet get automatically stronger. Will this President find it in himself to cooperate with Parliament and Cabinet, no longer able to interfere in so many governmental functions? I think it’s about time we came to the right conclusion. Beginning in 1992-93, all conflicts in Ukraine emerged from one side (remember Premier Kuchma and his demand for extraordinary powers? Also, the three times on which he threatened the public and Parliament with resignation, then making a U-turn, and all the conflicts that followed in 1994-98, which Verkhovna Rada never caused?). So, again, can this President adopt an altogether different logic as Chief Executive?
Q: Suppose you are the next President. Are there any guarantees that you would do better than Mr. Kuchma? In some interviews you are quoted as saying that there is no one except you to replace him. Don’t you think that one might accuse you of immodesty?
A: A sharp question calls for a sharp answer, something like “Anyone in his place could do better.” I will not go that far, although my actions make it clear that I will not put up with the present government in the next elections. Here the problem is not Leonid Kuchma as a person but the policy being conducted by President Kuchma with an enviable consistency which is costing Ukraine so much.
Thus, I say over and over again: this political course must be changed, and to do so we must replace those in power. Without replacing the President we will never do so. And I don’t mean Moroz as the next President — by the way, all that fuss about my presidential ambitions in the media is premature. The SPU’s Political Council merely recommended the party convention consider my nomination. However, for a number of reasons the other contenders can hardly expect to win the next campaign in the current political situation. I can, and I am not afraid of accusations of being self-conceited or impertinent. There is a difference between a marriageable daughter and a presidential candidate. If I do not trust my own abilities how will the people trust me? I do and people in the President’s entourage know it. Hence the attitude toward me on the part of some persons directly dependent of the Administration.
Q: Many sources indicate that Pavlo Lazarenko is backing you aiming to become Premier again. Is it true?
A: I’ve heard this and I’ve heard different allegations. It’s all hearsay.
Q: Very well, you consider yourself an honest, decent man. How about your political connection with Hromada whith its image?
A: I don’t have to consider myself an honest man, because I am one. As for my political connection with Hromada, it is situational and its program has quite a number of clauses which the Socialists will continue to support. At present, Hromada’s objectives make it a centrist party. We accept it as such and it would be unreasonable to stop cooperating with it as a real political force.
In addition, I also maintain normal political contacts with Rukh, the United Social Democrats, Green, Labor, Agrarian, Communist, Peasant, and other parties. No one seems to mind. So why should I adjust myself to someone else’s views?
There is a lot of talk about Pavlo Lazarenko’s abuses as Hromada leader. I am not going to defend him and I am aware of his changeable attitude toward Parliament, the SPU, and me personally. I bear all this in mind when dealing with him, but I must state here and now that the accusations thrown his way had been generally known even before he was appointed First Vice Premier. So what’s happening now looks very much like political retribution. I will take no part in this farce, for I consider it humiliating. Also, no one can deny his administrative and managerial talent. The man is a topnotch professional. Ambitious? Yes. Unstable? Hard to deny. Hotheaded? Holding oneself in check in his position is easier said than done.
Q: The Socialist Party is advocating changes in the Constitution that would result in a parliamentary republic. Why then bother about presidency? Would you prefer to become President or help with the changes that would make his functions purely symbolic?
A: Being conditional is not proper in politics. If I were sure that the Constitution could be changed, I would support the changes. If we had this possibility while I was Speaker, our interview would be different. But the realities are different, and one must act accordingly.
As for the popular assumption about the President’s “symbolic powers,” no one seems to notice them in the US or French President, although everyone agrees that there is a genuine interconnection and mutual responsibilities between the Cabinet and Parliament. And the same is true of Germany, Hungary, and many other European countries. Many in Ukraine consider that the President is necessary as another tsar or khan (thank God, not as another Godfather!). We say we want to become European, so why not prove it and adjust the vehicle of state power in conformity with European standards?
Under the circumstances, given the current alignment of political forces, knowing the other presidential contenders and the electorate’s attitude toward the economy and reasons behind its lamentable condition, I can say that I stand a better chance than the rest. I say this as a political analyst.
Q: You sound quite confident about your chances. How much do you rely on foreign polls that are being thoughtfully discussed by your opponents backstage: Ukraine’s eastern regions show 24% in your favor, with Mr. Kuchma lagging way behind?
A: I will correct you now. Leonid Kuchma has 6%, meaning that Petro Symonenko with his 13 or 14% is in between. Of course, one must bear this in mind when starting the marathon that this data is very relative. Like in a race when a runner on the first track is suddenly overtaken by the one on the third track, especially if someone trips the front-runner. I mean that things can change dramatically and one has to live to see the campaign. Everyone knows the ratings as well as I do, including people who are only too well aware of what they stand to lose if the current President is replaced. I mean these people can take double precautions and I may have to pay a very dear price for all my trouble. I know this, so I say we shall see what we shall see.
Q: About double precautions and dear price, did you mean this literally or figuratively, knowing as we all do that the big gun, to use a military metaphor, is Moroz?
A: I meant this literally. And I know everything about the decisive direction, as well as about other projects. I consider this further evidence that the President has no team, no matter what he says. They have so many eggs from their golden goose they don’t know where to put them all. So they are taking precautions, focusing now on this candidate, then that, then another one, and the same applies to political forces, stands, you name it. This is more proof that the President’s people are busy with everything except what they should be. Their intrigues simply leave no room for serious work, and this is our tragedy.
Q: Despite the fact that the Cabinet issue was presented point blank, lobby topics included the one about Oleksandr Tkachenko, your comrade-in-arms, as the most likely leftist presidential candidate. What do you think?
A: Mr. Tkachenko has on more than one occasion stated that he has no intention to run for President and that any allegations to the contrary are stupid hearsay. I am not going to add anything to this, the more so that we ran for election in the same bloc.
Q: As fate would have it, the Peasants and Socialists found themselves on different sides. Any comment?
A: Why fate? What happened was the Presidential Administration’s doing, serving the President’s interest. I mean why not call a spade a spade?
Q: Isn’t there a note of bitterness in your voice? Do you carry grudges a long time? Do you bear many grudges, say, against the President?
A: I am not vindictive, but I remember being offended. Take monetary reform. Can you imagine a Speaker learning about such important thing from the newspapers? And this despite the fact that the National Bank is accountable to the Verkhovna Rada and to the Cabinet. As for my relationship with the President, I will tell you quite frankly: I often tried to get across to him, even allowing for his personal traits, the more so that I have an experience in dealing with student audiences. Besides, I had sufficient sensitive and authentic information to know exactly what was behind practically any statement he made and what steps had to be taken to persuade him to steer a middle course, reach an understanding with Parliament, and so on. And believe me: in all such cases my personal attitude did not matter. Not a bit! I respect everyone’s stand, but his character is very controversial and there are traits, not his best, that are skillfully used by people in his entourage.
Q: You are leaving for the United States shortly after this interview. The trip could be your political preview. Are you prepared to try to play America’s new heartthrob?
A: Let’s not forget that this preview thing is standard procedure for every politician. Maybe I am going there to see if they are doing things right and tell them what they’re doing wrong, teach them a few things, you know... Seriously, I learned from Tolstoy when to speak out and when to hold my peace. Hence, when in America I will speak so as not to broach any unnecessary subjects, leave adequate room for maneuver, and make decisions which I consider useful for Ukraine. If this trip turns into a preview, I think I will keep in my usual vein; I will defend the interests of this country, proceeding from its important geopolitical role in this part of the globe. I am sure that we must uphold this role, whether the experts like it or not.