Agrarian Party of Ukraine
Agrarian Party of Ukraine (Аграрна партія України; Ahrarna partiia Ukrainy, not to be confused with the Peasant Party of Ukraine that was often incorrectly translated as Agrarian Party or Agrarians). Established and registered as national party no. 812 in December 1996, the party was the creation of a 27-member caucus of agrarians within the Supreme Council of Ukraine at that time who broke away from the Peasant Party of Ukraine over the question of their support for President Leonid Kuchma’s program. On its founding congress Mykhailo Zubets, a vice-prime minister in the government of that day, was elected leader. Its aim was to unite and speak for all elements of what was known as the agro-industrial complex. The following year, in March 1997, it claimed a membership of 110,000, second in numbers only to the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), and elected Kateryna Vashchuk as leader. Unlike its competitor, the Peasant Party of Ukraine, the Agrarians did not absolutely oppose the sale of farmland but considered the question premature. Regarded as President Kuchma’s ally in the countryside, it failed just barely to cross the four percent threshold (3.7 in fact) in elections on the PR ballot for the Supreme Council of Ukraine in 1998, but elected eight members in SMD districts including its leader, Vashchuk. Part of the initial profusion of would-be political parties in independent Ukraine, it soon faded from the political arena.
The Agrarian Party’s original program aimed at the rebirth of rural Ukraine, strengthening the state, promoting progressive forms of economic management, and efficient use of productive resources. It advocated social justice, defence of the constitutional order and national interests, land reform, and development of agriculture in all its forms. Priority tasks in the agricultural sector included land valuation, opportunities for farmers in business and trade (commercialization of agriculture), development of machinery and supplies manufacturing, credit and banking reform, expansion of social security and social services, and legislative enactment of agricultural reforms. The party’s orientation towards government was moderately oppositional; by comparison with the Peasant Party of Ukraine, it was judged to be more ‘patriotic’ and less ‘social democratic,’ or simply pro-presidential.
In the 2002 elections to the Supreme Council of Ukraine, the Agrarians joined four other parties in a pro-governmental electoral alliance called ‘Za iedynu Ukrainu’ (For a United Ukraine, mocked by its critics as ‘Za iedu’ [For Provisions’]) which gathered 11.8 percent of the vote for 35 seats, behind Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc and the Communist Party of Ukraine. It did not appear as a contestant in the results of subsequent national elections until 2019.
Number one position on the ‘Za iedynu Ukrainu’ list in 2002 was held by Volodymyr Lytvyn, hitherto chief of staff to President Leonid Kuchma and thereafter speaker of the Supreme Council of Ukraine. By 2004, the Agrarian Party had been renamed as the Narodna partiia (People’s Party) with Lytvyn as leader. This party became a component of Lytvyn’s People’s Bloc which in the 2006 Supreme Council elections obtained 2.4 percent of the votes and no seats. Then in 2007, Lytvyn’s Bloc won 20 seats. There was an announcement in 2011 that the party would merge with the Party of Regions, but it competed on its own and won two seats in 2012. In 2019, Lytvyn was defeated in his own constituency.
The Agrarian Party was revived and re-registered in 2006 with its leader becoming Mykhailo Zubets, a parliamentarian with the BYuT caucus of Yuliia Tymoshenko. A series of leadership changes followed, including Vitalii Skotsyk who served from 2014, but was expelled from the party in 2018. He ran as an independent candidate in the 2019 presidential election receiving less than one percent of the vote. In the interim, the party was reasonably successful in local elections in 2010 and 2015. In 2019, it obtained one-half of one per cent of the vote in the elections to the Supreme Council of Ukraine. Although the 2017 version of the party’s program describes it as a ‘right-of-centre liberal-conservative party of the European variety,’ in fact it is a conservative party in all senses. At the end of 2021, its leader was Mykhailo Poplavsky.
[This article was written in 2023.]