|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 53, 97-06-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 53, 16 June 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MINSK GROUP'S KARABAKH PEACE PROPOSALS REVIEWEDThe U.S., French, and Russian co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group visited Yerevan, Stepanakert, and Baku from 12-14 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. Leaders in all three cities informed the co-chairmen of their responses to the new Karabakh peace plan proposed two weeks earlier, but there are no details either of the proposals or of the involved parties' responses. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 June quoted the Russian and French ambassadors in Yerevan as stressing the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of the negotiating process. Commenting on information leaked to Interfax by Azerbaijani sources, Russian ambassador Andrei Urnov said that the composition of a proposed Karabakh peacekeeping force is not being discussed at present.
 DEMONSTRATIONS IN YEREVANSome15,000 people took part in a demonstration on 13 June in Yerevan to demand new presidential, parliamentary, and local elections and the adoption of a new constitution, Western agencies reported. Thousands more demonstrators attended similar protests in 16 other towns. Meanwhile, Babken Ararktsyan has canceled all official meetings following his resignation as parliamentary speaker on 11 June, according to Interfax.
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ENDORSES PROPOSED ABKHAZIA CONFERENCEEduard Shevardnadze has approved the proposal by his Ingush counterpart, Ruslan Aushev, to convene a UN-sponsored conference on Abkhazia chaired by Russian President Yeltsin, according to Interfax on 13 June. Presidential press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze said Shevardnadze is ready to discuss this idea personally with Aushev, who advocated the participation at the peace conference of other North Caucasus leaders. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on14 June that his recent talks in Moscow with Russian leaders focused on the text of a Georgian- Abkhaz protocol on restoring official relations, but not on Abkhazia's future status. Ardzinba greeted the proposed creation of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Caucasus and expressed the hope that the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia will be extended beyond 31 July.
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES VOTE THEMSELVES RIGHT TO CARRY WEAPONSThe Georgian parliament on 13 June passed a law giving deputies the life- long right to carry handguns, Western agencies reported. Shevardnadze criticized the law, saying that as president he should therefore be entitled to carry a more substantial weapon, such as a grenade-launcher.
 TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER ON AFGHANISTANBoris Shikhmuradov said on returning from talks in Iran with his counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, that the countries share many views on Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June. Shikhmuradov said the two governments would help the Afghan people form a coalition government there. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to visit Tehran on 16 June to join Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk and Iranian officials for talks on the Afghan situation.
 KYRGYZ WATER NO LONGER TO BE FREE FOR NEIGHBORSThe Kyrgyz parliament on 13 June formed a special commission to draw up legislation on charging neighboring Kazakstan and Uzbekistan for water from Kyrgyz reservoirs, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service reported. Kyrgyzstan has informed those states of the forthcoming change in policy, and an agreement signed by the three states in February 1992 will be amended. Kyrgyzstan spends some $4 million annually for maintenance of the reservoirs.
 HIGH-LEVEL CAR THEFTS IN KAZAKSTANMilitia are currently engaged in a special operation against car thieves, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. The operation was launched following the theft of a jeep belonging to Procurator-General Stepan Shutkin. The search for the jeep was unsuccessful, but the militia found instead vehicles belonging to the interior minister and the prime minister. Authorities say the operation will continue and that 11 known criminal groups are being targeted.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS TRADE CHARGESPresident Sali Berisha on 15 June blamed the Socialists for the armed rebellion that has reduced much of Albania to anarchy. He told several thousand people in Vlora that pledges by the Socialists to reimburse people for their losses in failed pyramid schemes are "fraudulent, cynical, and dishonest." Socialist leader Fatos Nano recently made such offers but then denied that he ever promised anything more than to try to find the lost money and give back as much of it as possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). Meanwhile in Kucova on 15 June, Nano and Prime Minister Bashkim Fino pledged to bring prosperity to Albania. Earlier the same day in Athens, Nano said the Kosovo question can be solved only by the "Europeanization" of the Balkans and by the democratization of Serbia.
 VIOLENCE RAGES ACROSS ALBANIAAt least eight people died and many more were injured in continued violence on 13-14 June. In Vlora, gunmen attacked local Democratic Party leader Argent Grabova on 14 June and killed one of his relatives. Grabova had appeared with Berisha at a rally in Fier the previous day. "Rilindja Demokratike" blamed the Socialists for the incident. On 13 June near Shkoder, unidentified assailants killed Betim Muja, a high-ranking official of the Interior Ministry, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Muja was police chief in Shkoder from1992-1994. Journalists attributed some of the other recent violence in Kruja, Burrel, and Lezha to traditional vendettas. And in Tirana, some 300 women held a demonstration against violence on 15 June in central Skanderbeg Square, an RFE/RL correspondent reported.
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT NAMES DEPUTY CHIEF OF SECRET POLICEBerisha on 14 June appointed Dashamir Kadena to the number two slot in the secret police (SHIK). Kadena is a native of Vlora and has been a judge in Tirana since 1990, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. He does not belong to any political party, but it is unclear whether the Socialists or others in the opposition will object to his appointment on political grounds. Meanwhile, "Indipendent" reported on 15 June that the authorities have sent former SHIK chief Bashkim Gazidede and his family to the Albanian embassy in Ankara to protect him from possible revenge attacks. And in Tirana on 13 June, the lustration committee said it has disqualified 31 legislative candidates because of their previous links to the communist-era secret police (Sigurimi). Most of the candidates came from the smaller parties, including seven members of the monarchist party.
 CROATIA'S TUDJMAN WINS THIRD TERM...President Franjo Tudjman appears to have taken some 60% of the 15 June vote as returns continue to come in. This preliminary result indicates he has won a third term and will not have to face a run-off. Social Democrat Zdravko Tomac currently has 22% of the vote and Liberal Vlado Gotovac is in third place with 18%. Returns are still due from Bosnia and abroad, where Tudjman is expected to do well. Meanwhile in eastern Slavonia, journalists quoted Western diplomats as saying that many Serbs have been inexplicably dropped from the voting lists since the local elections in April.
 ...AS CONTROVERSY CENTERS ON WHY PEOPLE DON'T VOTETurnout for the 15 June elections is estimated at 57%, down from 75% in the 1992 presidential vote. A spokesman for Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community said that the drop in voter turnout reflects trends in most Western democratic countries. Opposition spokesmen, however, said many people stayed home because they were bored by the campaign. They also noted that the opposition will have to try harder to get across its message in the future. Some journalists suggested that voter interest is likely to remain sluggish as long as the present generation of older politicians remains on the scene and until the parties rejuvenate both their leaderships and their programs (see also "End Note" below).
 ARKAN SUES CNN FOR SLANDERZeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, said in Belgrade on 14 June that he has filed a slander suit against CNN in a Belgrade court. Arkan claims that CNN "doctored" footage to make him appear to be a war criminal, and he stresses that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has not indicted him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1997). Bosnia and Croatia have nonetheless asked the court to indict him, and Interpol has issued several warrants for his arrest on criminal charges. The CNN documentary argued that there is ample evidence to indict Arkan for war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and that Arkan is close to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
 NEWS FROM BELGRADEThe Student Movement of Serbia held its inaugural meeting in Belgrade on 15 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Its agenda includes defense of university autonomy and reversing cuts in government spending on education and scholarships. Representatives of the political opposition attended the meeting, which attracted student representatives from across Serbia. Also in Belgrade, the health workers' union called on clinics to halt all but emergency services starting 16 June. The new tactics also include staging more street protests and disrupting traffic near clinics. The strikes have now entered their sixth week. Meanwhile, the independent daily Nasa Borba said on 16 June that the authorities are stepping up measures to harass that paper by claiming back taxes and other payments.
 UPDATE FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIAA Sarajevo court on 14 June refused to reopen the case of the Bosnian Serb soldier Srecko Damjanovic, who is serving a prison sentence on several counts of murder. Damjanovic's lawyers said that the testimony against him should be reexamined completely following the discovery that two of his alleged victims are alive and well on Muslim-held territory. In Pristina, an RFE/RL correspondent reported that a conference of ethnic Albanians concluded that 700,000 Kosovars lack health care, 75% of the employable population lacks jobs, and 90% of the population lives near the poverty line.
 MINERS UNREST CONTINUES IN ROMANIAMiners in the Jiu valley resumed their strike on 16 June after having picketed company headquarters in Petrosani the previous two days, Radio Bucharest reported. Talks with a government team headed by Vlad Rosca, who is in charge of relations with trade unions, broke down in Deva on 13 June. The strikers had demanded that wages be increased by 45% and that the government dispatch a new negotiations team to Petrosani. The next day, the government approved subsidies to state-owned companies worth 1,053 billion lei, of which 24 billion lei ($3.5 million) is earmarked for mining companies in the Jiu valley. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara said it was "mere coincidence" that the subsidies were approved after the miners went on strike.
 LIBERAL PARTIES MERGE IN ROMANIATwo center-right formations--the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (PNL-CD) and the Liberal Party '93--merged at a congress in Bucharest on 14 June. PNL-CD leader Nicolae Cerveni was elected chairman and Liberal Party '93 leader Dinu Patriciu executive chairman of the new grouping , which plans to call itself the Liberal Party once a tribunal has ruled on the ongoing dispute within the PNL-CD. A rival PNL-CD group, headed by Senator Alexandru Popovici, does not recognize the merger, while the National Liberal Party-Campeanu Wing has decided not to join the new grouping until the dispute is clarified. Cerveni said the new party will continue to be a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR). But Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, whose National Liberal Party is the largest liberal formation within the CDR, says the new party's membership must be approved by the CDR joint leadership.
 FLOODS KILL THIRTEEN IN ROMANIAThirteen people drowned and ten were missing in floods that swept through several villages in Bihor County, in western Romania, on 15 June. A team of government experts has been dispatched to coordinate rescue operations.
 CONGRESS OF MOLDOVA'S AGRARIAN PARTYAt its fourth congress in Chisinau on 14 June, the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (PDAM) reelected Dumitru Motpan as party leader. Motpan told the gathering that the PDAM, which has a majority in the legislature, does not accept "full responsibility" for the policies pursued by Ion Ciubuc's cabinet. He also noted that the PDAM had backed President Petru Lucinschi in the second round of the 1996 presidential elections but added that the economic reform program pursued since then by Lucinschi and the government is "simplistic" and "needs to be corrected," an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. Motpan also attacked parliamentary deputy chairman Dumitru Diacov, who set up the pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova. He commented that Diacov had failed in his bid to bring about the PDAM's disintegration.
 BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO EXPANSIONForeign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova has said that while Bulgaria "respects" the U.S. decision on admitting only three new members in the first wave of NATO expansion, it "regrets" that "Bulgaria will probably be left out" of this initial group. In a statement carried by BTA on 13 June, Mihailova said her country "still believes it meets all criteria for NATO membership and can contribute to stability in the organization." She expressed hope that Bulgaria will be included among the countries to which NATO will provide assistance in the process of preparation for joining later. Mihailova also said it was important to keep in mind the "need for establishing a geographic and military-political balance in southeastern Europe."
 GEORGE SOROS DECORATED IN BULGARIAPresident Petar Stoyanov on 13 June decorated the U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros with Bulgaria's highest award, the Order of the Balkan Mountain Range, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Soros said after the ceremony that he had made an exception in accepting the award because it marked a turnaround from the suspicion displayed by the former Socialist government toward his Open Society Fund, which promotes democratic values.
[C] END NOTE
 CROATIA REELECTS PRESIDENT TUDJMANby Patrick Moore
Early returns from the 15 June elections show that Croats have reelected President Franjo Tudjman to a third term. The opposition put up a good fight but failed to overcome some barriers of its own making and others that Tudjman's party had put in its path.
Tudjman's new mandate will run until 2002. He is widely believed to be suffering from cancer and may not be able to complete his five-year term. But neither his health, his authoritarian style of rule, nor the widely-perceived corruption within his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) deterred voters from reelecting the charismatic president.
One major reason was popular disgust with the opposition. This attitude was already evident in the local elections in April, when voters handed the HDZ a clear victory in most of the country, including in the bitterly contested race for the Zagreb city council. The opposition did well only in some other cities and in Istria.
The opposition itself was largely responsible for this state of affairs. It has yet to produce a leader who could pose a credible alternative to Tudjman. Furthermore, with the possible exception of the ex-communist Social Democrats, no nationwide opposition party has developed a political program that sets it apart from the center-right HDZ. The opposition parties frequently fight among themselves and thereby sap their own strength.
This was evident in the runup to the presidential campaign. At least eight parties finally agreed to back the Liberals' Vlado Gotovac as a joint candidate. Some tiny right-wing parties, moreover, failed to get enough signatures to place their candidates on the ballot. But the Social Democrats insisted on running their own Zdravko Tomac rather than help present a united front of all opposition parties. Perhaps the Social Democratic Party felt that the time was now ripe, since it had made a strong showing in April after years on the margins of politics. The most likely reason for its gains in the spring was that it was the only party that presented itself as a clear social alternative to the HDZ in a country where most people have trouble making ends meet.
But there was no popular ground swell for Tomac. Both the Social Democrats and the coalition supporting Gotovac alike had to fight an up-hill battle in the presidential race, and they still were unable to attain even their minimal goal, which was to force Tudjman into a second round. They complained bitterly that the HDZ made full use of its prerogatives as the governing party to create an unfair environment for the elections.
First, they noted that Tudjman had recently staged--at the taxpayers' expense--several public functions that smacked of campaigning. Just one week before the vote, he took 2,000 politicians, officers, entertainers, and other guests on a train trip to Vukovar. That eastern Slavonian town has been of great symbolic importance to Croatia since the 1991 war and is slated to pass to full Croatian sovereignty in mid-July.
Second, the Vukovar trip, together with Tudjman's recent birthday gala at the National Theater and other major events, received extensive coverage in the state-run media, particularly on television, which is a HDZ monopoly. The opposition charged that its candidates were given little coverage and that most of what they received was unfavorable.
A third point of contention was the HDZ-controlled state election commission. The opposition noted that opposition monitors were not present to check voting by 300,000 ethnic Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina or by thousands more in Germany and elsewhere abroad. Tomac had told a press conference in Zagreb on 12 June that polling stations outside Croatia would provide the HDZ with a golden opportunity to manipulate the results.
A final issue was that of "dirty tricks," the last prime example of which was a decision by the Zagreb city authorities not to allow Tomac to hold a rally on central Jelacic Square on 13 June. Gotovac had spoken there two days earlier, and Tudjman the day after Gotovac. Tomac said the decision showed that he was "not an equal candidate. It's apparently thought in this country that everything begins and ends with Tudjman." This was an apparent allusion to Tudjman's address in Jelacic Square, which marked the end of the campaign for all candidates.
More serious, however, were acts of violence against the opposition. Tomac noted at his last press conference before the vote that uniformed men had stoned his van during one point in the campaign. But the most dramatic incident was in Pula on 5 June, when a uniformed army captain hit Gotovac on the head and left him with a concussion. The state-run media said the attacker was drunk and that he was immediately arrested and suspended from duty. The Liberals, however, asked why Tudjman and the HDZ did not condemn the incident. Some opposition journalists also charged that the captain was a known agent-provocateur for the regime.
Whatever the case, Gotovac did not recover fully from his injuries in time for the 15 June vote. Aware that this would be the case, he had asked the election commission to postpone the ballot by two weeks. The commission turned him down, however, saying there is no legal provision for delaying an election.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty