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Voice of America, 99-12-19
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From: The Voice of America <gopher://gopher.voa.gov>
 ITALY POLITICS (S&L) BY SABINA CASTELFRANCO (ROME)DATE=12/19/1999
INTRO: Italy's president is holding consultations to form Italy's 57th post-war government, following the resignation of Premier Massimo D'Alema late Saturday. Observers believe a new center-left government will be in place before Christmas. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.
TEXT: President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi began holding talks with institutional figures and political parties early Sunday, indicating he hopes to end the latest Italian political crisis as quickly as possible. The prime minister's decision to step down at the end of a parliamentary debate late Saturday came as no surprise to Italians. In recent weeks, deep divisions had appeared among the center-left government's coalition partners. Mr. D'Alema, Italy's first former Communist-Party prime minister, has headed the country's 56th post-war government for the past 14-months. The Italian president asked Mr. D'Alema to stay on in a caretaker capacity while consultations are under way.
// REST OPT FOR LONG //
NEB/SC/DW/RAE 19-Dec-1999 08:17 AM EDT (19-Dec-1999 1317 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
 RUSSIA CHECHNYA (L) BY PETER HEINLEIN (MOSCOW)DATE=12/19/1999
INTRO: Russian warplanes have pounded the Chechen capital, Grozny and rebel strongholds in the breakaway republic as voters in the rest of the country cast ballots in parliamentary elections. Moscow Correspondent Peter Heinlein reports a meeting between commanders on both sides ended inconclusively.
TEXT: Grozny came under a fresh barrage of air and
artillery attacks. The semi-official Interfax news
agency says warplanes and helicopters flew more than
60-sorties, pouring bombs on suspected rebel hideouts
in the largely destroyed capital.
Federal troops are said to have taken a southern
district of the city without a fight, and a Russian
general is predicting government forces will control
all of Grozny by New Years Day.
But commanders say they have no plans to storm the
city. The strategy appears to be to target one
district at a time, first pummeling it from the air to
drive Chechen fighters out, then moving in and taking
over the ruins.
Russian army Chief of Staff General Anatoly Kvashnin
reveals he held direct talks with representatives of
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov during the past few
days. General Kvashnin told the state-run ITAR-Tass
news agency he bluntly pressed the rebel leadership
for an unconditional surrender, but made no progress.
Despite a steady barrage of international criticism,
the war enjoys wide popular support among Russians.
It has boosted the fortunes of both Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin and a pro-Kremlin party running in the
parliamentary election. The Unity Party, formed only
two-months ago, is expected to become one of the
largest factions in the Duma, the lower house of
Saturday on the eve of the election, Prime Minister
Putin dismissed western news reports of heavy
casualties among civilians and Russian troops in
Chechnya as -- lies and propaganda. Russian news
agencies rarely report Russian or civilian casualties,
focusing instead on what are believed to be wildly
exaggerated reports of Chechen rebel losses.
Mr. Putin predicted relations with the West, badly
strained because of Russia's disproportionate use of
force in Chechnya, would improve rapidly once the
rebels were crushed.
President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman said Saturday the
Russian leader expects the war to be over by the time
he leaves office next August. (SIGNED)
 RUSSIA ELECT RESULTS (L UPDATE) BY PETER HEINLEIN (MOSCOW)DATE=12/19/1999
INTRO: Exit polls in Russia's parliamentary elections show the Communist Party winning the largest bloc of legislative seats, followed closely by a newly formed party supported by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. V- O-A's Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports centrist parties appear to be making the biggest gains.
TEXT: Early returns, mostly from the Far East, put the
newly-formed Unity bloc in a surprising lead over the
Communists. But an exit poll released by the
privately-owned NTV television channel indicates the
Communists will pull ahead as the counting progresses.
Nevertheless, the early results are being seen as a
huge victory for a younger generation of politicians.
Unity is led by 44-year-old Emergencies Minister
Sergei Shoigu. But it is widely seen as a vehicle for
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's presidential
Mr. Putin, who is 47, is not a member of any party,
but made clear his preference for Unity.
Other parties showing well include the Union of Right
Forces, a group of youthful politicians, which based
its campaign on an appeal to voters in their twenties.
Under a different name, the party failed to qualify
for a bloc of seats in parliament four years ago. This
time, the party seems set to capture ten percent of
Yabloko, led by 47-year-old liberal economist Grigory
Yavlinsky, is also set to surpass the five percent
barrier needed to win a share of seats, as is the
ultranationalist Zhirinovsky bloc.
Another coalition, the Fatherland/All Russia bloc led
by 70-year-old former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov
and 63-year-old Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, appears
likely to capture more than ten percent. But that
figure is far below what had been predicted when the
campaign started four months ago, and is likely to
weaken either politician's chances to mount a serious
This election is being closely watched to see who is
likely to take second place in the first round of next
June's presidential election, thereby earning the
right to face off against Communist Party leader
Gennady Zyuganov. The strong showing by Unity
indicates that candidate is likely to
be Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Most political analysts agree the Communist Party has
enough supporters to take the largest bloc of votes in
any multi-party election. But polls have consistently
shown that in a two-way runoff, the Communists have
little or no chance of winning. (Signed)
19-Dec-1999 15:39 PM EDT (19-Dec-1999 2039 UTC)
 RUSSIA ELECTION RESULTS 2ND UPDATE (L) BY PETER HEINLEIN (MOSCOW)DATE=12/19/1999
INTRO: Russia's Communist Party has taken the top spot in parliamentary elections, followed closely by a newly formed pro-Kremlin party. V-O-A Moscow correspondent Peter Heinlein reports centrist groups and younger politicians appear to be the biggest winners.
TEXT: Exit polls indicate the Communists will finish
with about 28-percent of the vote nationwide. That
had been expected.
But in an apparent breakthrough that could change the
face of Russian politics and boost hopes for economic
reform, centrist parties made large gains.
The two-month old Unity bloc, a pro-Kremlin party
allied with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, finished a
strong second, with 24-percent. Mr. Putin is not a
member of the party, but it is viewed as a possible
vehicle for his expected run for the presidency next
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the strong showing by
the Union of Right Forces, a party of young reformers
led by former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko. The
party is vying for third place with the bloc led by
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and another former Prime
Minister, Yevgeny Primakov.
A few months ago, the Union of Right Forces was given
little chance of clearing the five-percent barrier
needed to win a share of the 225 seats up for grabs,
while the Luzhkov-Primakov alliance was considered the
most likely challenger for the Communists.
Other parties expected to clear the five-percent
barrier are the Yabloko party led by liberal economist
Grigory Yavlinsky and the Zhirinovsky bloc headed by
ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
The exit poll results, if confirmed, are a big victory
for centrist parties, which appear to have captured
more than half the votes, and for youth. Prime
Minister Putin is 47; the head of the Unity Party,
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, is 44; and former
Prime Minister Kiriyenko is 37.
On the other hand, the outcome is a blow to the
electoral fortunes of Mayor Luzhkov, who is 63, and
Mr. Primakov, who is 70. Mayor Luzhkov, however, did
easily win re-election as Mayor of Moscow.
The results raise the possibility of a lower house
less dominated by Communists and more balanced between
supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Putin's
But veteran observers warn it is still too early to
draw firm conclusions. The 225 seats decided by party
percentage constitute only half the parliament. The
other half are elected in single-member districts.
Final results are not expected until late Monday, and
complete returns may not be available for more than a
19-Dec-1999 17:44 PM EDT (19-Dec-1999 2244 UTC)
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