- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2002

March is not exactly harvest time in Ukraine, but Valeriy Khoroshkovsky thinks next month's parliamentary elections could prove a fruitful time for his new "Winter Crop" reformist bloc.
Boasting an unusual name and an even more unlikely recruiting process, the Winter Crop Generation Team bills itself as a liberal, pro-market party frankly devoted to ending once and for all the legacy and leadership of Ukraine's long Soviet Communist past.
Mr. Khoroshkovsky, an entrepreneur, a member of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament) and an adviser to former Prime Minister Viktor Pushtovoitenko, said in a Washington visit last week that the party's name reflects its founders' conviction that it is time for a new generation of leadership in Ukraine.
"We want to bring new policymakers into the political system, those of a new generation ready to move ahead," said Mr. Khoroshkovsky, 33. "And we want not just politicians, but businessmen, professionals, teachers, journalists and those who are interested in moving beyond the policies of the old generation."
The Winter Crop refers to the hardy strain of wheat planted typically in autumn in Ukraine, once known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union for its vast agricultural acreage. The wheat survives the harsh winters underground to bloom in the springtime.
"Even with independence in 1991, it has been another 10 years of winter while our generation has been growing under the snow," he explained. "Now, we feel, the time has come to blossom."
Key figures in the fledgling movement, all in their 30s and 40s, include Inna Bohoslovska, a high-profile reformist in the Rada, as well as business owners Vadym Hurzhos, who operates a dairy, and Iryna Horyna, owner of a laundry chain in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov.
The Rada's 450 seats will be up for grabs March 31, with candidates from some 35 parties registered to compete. Half the seats will be contested in districts, while the other half will be apportioned based on how parties fare in the national vote.
Ukrainian political analysts say the election could prove critical to President Leonid Kuchma, the onetime Soviet-era factory manager whose second term has been marred by scandals and the mystery surrounding the murder of an opposition journalist in September 2000.
Pro-government parties, including many Ukrainian "oligarchs" in the legislature, are expected to vie with reformist former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc for control of the Rada, with Ukraine Communist Party and Kuchma critics such as Oleksandr Moroz and Yuliya Tymoshenko also projected to win seats.
Mr. Kuchma, whose treatment of the press and opposition groups has earned him criticism in the West, told an audience of foreign diplomats last week he hoped for a "competent and structured parliament." A Rada hostile to his administration could make life difficult for Mr. Kuchma through the next scheduled presidential contest in 2004.
The Winter Crop Generation Team plans to run about 100 candidates in the March elections, but political analysts predict it will have a hard time challenging the more established figures.
The Winter Crop bloc has already smashed one political tradition by using the Internet and a nationally televised, interactive quiz show to help determine its candidate list.
As Mr. Khoroshkovsky described it, party organizers first distributed an Internet questionnaire to potential candidates, using four regional competitions to determine the 55 finalists invited to Kiev.
From this group, a final seven, including a 30-year-old public relations executive and a 21-year-old university student, then made brief presentations to a panel of Winter Crop leaders and answered a series of questions all under the gaze of a national audience watching the televised proceedings.


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