Ukraine has never been so close to an oligarchic system of power. We are witnessing the first stage of a coup d'etat that started inside the walls of parliament.--Ukranian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, December 18, 2002
THESE DRAMATIC words reflect a developing political crisis in what is arguably the most delicately situated major country in Europe today. On the one hand, the oligarchic regime is becoming ever more authoritarian and President Leonid Kuchma ever more unpopular, with an approval rating hovering around 7 percent. On the other hand, political opposition and civil society have gathered strength, and new forces may soon come to power. The natural showdown is the next presidential election, scheduled for November 2004, but the preparations for that showdown will determine the outcome.