The second, extraordinary, congress of the six-months-old Ukrainian Labor has again confirmed adherence of this party to the “roof-to-floor” building pattern. On the Saturday before last, Trudova Ukrayina (TU, Labor Ukrainian) received a new leader in the person of Serhiy Tyhypko. Ihor Sharov, the former party leader, remained head of the TU Verkhovna Rada group, while Andriy Derkach was elected chairman of the political executive committee.
The over three hundred delegates from 23 oblasts in fact represented almost the whole party, which the organizers, to their great credit, did not conceal. As was repeatedly stressed, the party considers it more important to gain influence rather than boost its membership at any cost. The party currently wields some influence within parliament and in Dnipropetrovsk and Luhansk oblasts, the level of whose delegates and guests was in sharp contrast to that of people obviously chosen at random from regions not yet embraced by the party.
Opening the congress, Mr. Sharov again told the audience what his party, based on the second-largest parliamentary group, really is. It is the size of this group and the caliber of most of its members that require Mr. Sharov, in his words, to concentrate on faction leadership and relinquish the top party job to someone else. This person, Serhiy Tyhypko, was in fact the reason why the function called the party’s second extraordinary congress was held. A relatively young politician with a still untarnished image, former banker, former minister, and now a member of parliament, Mr. Tyhypko should become, think some Trudova Ukrayina backers, an attractive face of the new party. Recently a government official and a former Communist Youth League functionary, Mr. Tyhypko agreed to lead Labor Ukraine and immediately addressed the congress with his program speech. The new party chief spoke persuasively about the union of labor and capital (thus justifying the party name), the necessity of reforms, and harmony in society. He even remembered to mention the social contract, brandished by leaders of the French Revolutionary over two centuries ago. His speech with its Komsomol style, well balanced and reasoned, if a bit French-accented, was interesting. However, knowing the way the founding fathers of this party of labor have amassed capital, it was difficult to take at face value his words about European-type civilized market relations or the division of power and business even from such a likable gentleman as Deputy Tyhypko. But when the next speaker, Mr. Derkach, began to lay down the party’s political and organizational goals, I felt a slight pang of pity for the new chairman.
Indeed, one can speak about a 10% election vote in favor of a new party only when it relied on government support on all levels, especially if that same 10% represents the same voters targeted by several other not so weak parties whose, members are almost always deputy chairpersons of oblast administrations. When the so-far mythical party of governors (the latter do not in fact exist in Ukraine, but the idea the idea keeps popping up) promises every day to come into existence, when the newspapers and TV channel controlled by Trudova Ukrayina exert a public influence far from what was expected, and when there are several more unpalatable facts like these, you have to take with a grain of salt the party’s prospects as outlined by Mr. Derkach after a lavish meal. But, taking into account that the delegates dined separately from those sitting onstage, they were bound to have different visions of the prospects from the outset.
Was it really so necessary to rush into building a party and persuade Mr. Tyhypko to urgently head it, when its chances of success are so slim? Party propaganda can only do more harm than good to most of the Labor Ukraine deputies in safe districts. They can make it to parliament even without the party. What alarms the powerful parliamentary group was disclosed at the congress three times in the clear by People’s Deputy Ioffe. This alarm is caused by a realistic prospect of a law on proportional representation elections. Should this occur, influential Labor deputies will have to ask the now existing parties to put them on their lists. It is undoubtedly better to ask as part of a group, especially such a powerful one as the Labor Ukraine leadership. Could gaining a party post of whatever kind perhaps be the reason why the young party’s leaders are in such a hurry?