LIKE almost everyone else in this westernmost part of Ukraine,
Viktor Chobit supported the reformist-nationalist movement that led
the fight for freedom from the Soviet Union two years ago. Now as
Ukraine heads toward its first parliamentary election as an
independent nation, he has decided not to vote.
"I have no time for politics," explains Mr. Chobit, an
electrician, stopping briefly to talk in this city's charming
market square, lined with 17th and 18th century imitations of
Italian Renaissance palazzos. He works three jobs to survive in
Ukraine's super-inflationary economy and complains that the deputy
whom his factory supported has not shown his face since the last
In a four-day swing from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in the
country's center to this western city in the foothills of the
Carpathian mountains, this sense of disillusionment and political
apathy among Ukraine's voters was widespread. After more than three
years in which a parliament dominated by old-style Communists and
bureaucrats stymied attempts at reform, it is now widely feared
that Sunday's election holds no real possibility of change.
Many observers worry as well that the country's confusing
election laws could yield a situation where no working parliament
can be seated. Western diplomatic sources in Kiev say aides to
President Leonid Kravchuk are working on plans for an interim
period of direct presidential rule if that happens.
Thrill is gone
The election mood is testament to the deep sense of
disappointment many feel over the lack of accomplishments in a free
Ukraine, the second largest and richest of the former Soviet
republics. Even in Western Ukraine, the stronghold of the
nationalist movement where anti-Communists swept to victory in 1990
elections held while the Soviet Union still existed, there is
"We won't see the enthusiasm of 1990 again," says parliament
candidate Yuri Kluchkovsky, a physicist who heads the Lvov regional
branch of Rukh, the main democratic-nationalist party. "One can
see disillusionment with politics in general and people losing hope
that anything can be changed."
Little more than a week before the vote, the lack of campaign
activity is striking. Campaign posters are hard to spot in the
capital, though more numerous in the politicized west. Television
appearances are limited by law and candidates spend their time
speaking to whatever small audiences they can find.
At every level of government, from the Rukh-controlled regional
administration in Lvov to the central government, voters express
the belief that government cannot solve their problems. "Nobody
trusts either the old parliament or the candidates," says Stepan
Pisotsky, an agronomist at a Rivne region collective farm that
includes his village of Ptycha.
No questioning independence
In the west, where the soft endings of the Ukrainian language
are the dominant tongue, there is little questioning of the
correctness of independence from Russia. "We have some questions
about the quality of our leadership but not about independence
itself," Mr. Pisotsky says.
That skepticism also extends to Rukh, which has at times backed
President Kravchuk in his wavering support for reform and Ukrainian
resistance to Russian pressures.
Rukh, which began as a broad front, has splintered into numerous
parties now competing, often viciously, against one another.
Economic depression is weakening support for moderate nationalists
here, with more extreme ultranationalists gaining some ground. …