Peasant Party of Ukraine

Peasant Party of Ukraine (Селянська партія України or СельПУ; Selianska partiia Ukrainy or SelPU). Founded in Kherson on 25 January 1992, and registered on 3 March 1992, with a membership of 20,000, in effect the rural or agrarian wing of the socialist (ex-Soviet Communist) political tendency. (Not to be confused with the Agrarian Party of Ukraine registered in December 1996, and intended to serve as a ‘party of power’ under President Leonid Kuchma alongside the People’s Democratic Party.) Its program described the SelPU as the defender of the interests of the rural population and employees of the agro-industrial complex. Led initially by Serhii Dovhan, it supported Ukraine’s sovereignty while also promoting the country’s integration into the Commonwealth of Independent States. Although it supported a gradual transition to a market economy, it categorically opposed the sale and purchase of land as well as any headlong rush to privatization. In fact, the SelPU was the defender of the interests of the well-entrenched managerial elite of the existing system of state and collective farms, adamantly opposed to private ownership within and marketization of agriculture. In 1996, the party had over 100,000 members and a contingent of 21 deputies in the Supreme Council of Ukraine.

In the 1998 elections the SelPU formed an electoral alliance with the Socialist Party of Ukraine, which put forward 201 candidates (one third from SelPU) and together won 8.6 per cent of the party list vote for 29 seats; the SelPU won an additional 2 seats in single-member districts. When the new parliament first began its work in May 1998, this ‘Left Center’ fraction consisted of 35 deputies. Oleksandr Tkachenko of the Peasant Party was elected speaker of parliament on 7 July 1998. On 1 October 1998, however, S. Dovhan led his 14 SelPU deputies out of the socialist-peasant bloc and formed a separate caucus (fraction). Tkachenko was then ousted during the parliamentary crisis of January-February 2000, instigated by President Leonid Kuchma against his left-wing opponents, and did not regain his position. Tkachenko had withdrawn his candidacy for the presidency in 1999 and thrown his support behind Petro Symonenko of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Kuchma’s principal opponent in that race. The party’s parliamentary fraction was liquidated as of 29 February 2000 due to lack of numbers. At that point, Dovhan and four other deputies migrated to the newly-formed ‘Solidarity’ fraction, created the same day, containing 21 deputies as of 13 June 2001.

In the 2002 elections to the Supreme Council of Ukraine, the SelPU managed just 0.38 per cent of the vote; in 2006, 0.31 per cent. The leader at that time and no. 128 on the party’s 2006 list was Lidiia Prechkina, a businesswoman and senior manager. The party did not contest the 2007 elections, nor those of 2012 or 2014. In 2011, it attempted to join the Socialist Party of Ukraine, but this was ruled illegal by the Ministry of Justice responsible for party registrations. In 2019, the SelPU supported Yuliia Tymoshenko for president, and again did not participate in the elections to the Supreme Council of Ukraine.

In 2008, a new leader was elected in the person of Zenovii Kholodniuk, a civil servant like his predecessor. As with all those before him, he called for a rebirth of the village throughout Ukraine, preservation of its heritage and traditions, and a prosperous life for peasants and their progeny. Rebirth of the SelPU would be a prerequisite for achieving these goals.

Bohdan Harasymiw

[This article was written in 2020.]

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