|Friday, 6 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 121, 97-09-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 121, 22 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 UZBEKISTAN, RUSSIA WATCH AFGHAN DEVELOPMENTSThe Uzbek Foreign Ministry on 19 September denied that any fighters from the Afghan Islamic movement Taliban or the opposing coalition had crossed into Uzbek territory, ITAR-TASS reported. Pakistan Television reported two days later that Taliban forces had captured the town of Khairaton on the Uzbek border, while Radio Pakistan reported that forces opposing the Taliban had launched an unsuccessful counterattack to drive the Taliban away from Mazar-i-Sharif, 60 kilometers south of Khairaton (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 1997). Meanwhile, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed by telephone on 20 September the situation on the Uzbek-Afghan border, among other matters.
 RETURNING TAJIK REFUGEES WITHOUT SHELTERIn a 19 September statement to Reuters, the UN High Commission on Refugees claims that many of the Tajik refugees recently repatriated from Afghanistan are currently "without a roof over their heads." Most of the 5, 600 refugees who have returned from Afghanistan since 17 July appear destined to spend the winter without protection from the elements. The UNHCR on 1 August appealed for some $10 million for reconstruction of houses and for health, education, and employment projects; but so far it has "not received a single cent."
 INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EXERCISES CONCLUDE IN CENTRAL ASIAThe week-long military exercises in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan concluded on 21 September. The exercises, which involved troops from NATO countries and the CIS, simulated social unrest fomented by outside forces and practiced distributing aid to the civilian population in times of natural crisis. Uzbek President Islam Karimov called "Centrazbat" a "historical event." Uzbek Defense Minister Colonel-General Rustam Akhmedov described the exercises as an "unprecedented event" that "strengthens regional, national, and global security." Russian General Vitalii Sokolov, who observed the exercises, agreed with Akhmedov, saying such exercises "must be held as often as possible." Colonel James Flock, a NATO representative at the exercises, noted this was the first time troops from the alliance's U.S. Atlantic Command had participated in an exercise on the territory of a non- NATO country.
 AZERBAIJAN EARLY OIL COUNTDOWNThe first early oil from Azerbaijan's Chirag Caspian field will begin to flow, as scheduled, on 26 September but repairs to the Baku-Grozny- Novorossiisk export pipeline will not be completed by 1 October, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 20 September. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted Natik Aliev, the president of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, as saying "it will not be a catastrophe" for Azerbaijan if the oil does not begin to flow on schedule. In such an event, the Azerbaijan International Operating Company--the consortium developing Chirag--plans an oil swap that entails selling the Chirag oil to Azerbaijan for refining in Baku and receiving in Novorossiisk the same quantity of Russian crude for export. Although Russian crude is inferior in quality to Azerbaijani, this arrangement is more advantageous than postponing production, an AIOC spokesman told Reuters on 4 September.
 ARMENIAN RULING PARTY CEDES CONTROL OF KEY PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEEThe leadership of the Armenian Pan-National Movement on 20 September announced it will leave the choice of the new chairman of the parliamentary Committee on State and Legal Affairs to its junior partners in the ruling Hanrapetutyun coalition, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The movement had earlier claimed the right to appoint a successor to Eduard Yegoryan. But it reversed that decision at the request of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan, according to the movement's chairman and controversial Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan. Yegoryan was removed as chairman of the committee on 10 September after he quit Hanrapetutyun to form the Hayrenik faction. The movement had proposed Father Husik Lazaryan, Siradeghyan's predecessor as chairman of the movement's board, to head the committee. Lazaryan will now head the parliamentary Committee on Education and Science.
 GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS CONTINUEGeorgian and Abkhaz government delegations headed by Prime Ministers Niko Lekishvili and Sergei Bagapsh met in Tbilisi on 20-21 September to discuss resuming rail, road, and sea transportation and restoring communications and power supplies, Russian agencies reported. Lekishvili told journalists on 22 September he is "satisfied" with the progress made. Bagapsh noted that working groups have been created to address specific problems. The meeting was the second at which economic issues have been discussed since Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, signed a non-aggression pact in mid-August.
 LOCAL-ELECTION ROW IN GEORGIAIn a ballot behind closed doors, the Central Electoral Commission voted not to register an opposition initiative group that demands a nationwide referendum on how local mayors are elected, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 September. Four days earlier, the parliament had approved in the first reading the provision of a draft law on local government whereby the president would name the mayors of the six largest cities. The Union of Traditionalists and several other opposition parties argue that this provision is undemocratic and aimed at ensuring the victory in the next parliamentary elections of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia. They argue that mayors should be elected.
 HEAD OF UN GEORGIA MISSION RECALLEDGeneral Haroun al-Rashid, who heads the 130-strong UN observer mission in Georgia, has been recalled to New York, AFP reported on 21 September. The general will be asked to explain why he violated official policy by agreeing to pay a $7,000 ransom for two of his men and their local interpreter who were recently taken hostage by unidentified persons in western Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1997.) UN regulations forbid the payment of ransom to obtain the release of abducted personnel.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 LOW TURNOUT IN SERBIAN ELECTIONSVoter turnout was low in the 21 September presidential and parliamentary elections, independent Belgrade news media reported. Some estimates put the figure at about 50 percent in the capital. But Serbian Electoral Commission secretary Nebojsa Rodic said turnout was massive. Representatives of the ruling Socialist-led bloc are confident of victory in the parliamentary elections, but conceded a run-off election between presidential candidates Zoran Lilic and Vojislav Seselj is likely. Opposition leader Vesna Pesic says a political crisis awaits Serbia, as was the case after previous elections, "Nasa Borba" reported on 22 September. She added that the elections were not conducted in accordance with "normal democratic rules." As in the past, large numbers of Kosovo Albanians boycotted the elections.
 BOSNIAN SERB POLICE IN PRNJAVOR BACK PLAVSICLocal police in the northern Bosnian Serb town of Prnjavor near Banja Luka declared their loyalty to Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic on 21 September in her power struggle with the authorities in Pale, RFE/RL's South Slavic service reported. Meanwhile, General Pero Colic, the head of the Bosnian Serb General Staff, said in Brcko on 21 September that the Republika Srpska will not permit the resettlement on its territory of refugees from the Croatian-Muslim Bosnian Federation. He said "in the name of rivers flowing with blood," Pale opposes resettling refugees "under the guise of freedom of movement."
 ZAGREB CONDEMNS MOSTAR CAR BOMBINGThe Croatian Foreign Ministry on 20 September condemned the Mostar car bombing two days earlier as the most brutal act of terrorism against the consolidation of the Bosnia-Herzegovina federation and the Bosnian peace process, Croatian media reported. The explosion occurred near a police station in the Croat-held part of the city, injuring at least 50 people. Croatian Defense Minister Gosko Susak similarly labeled the blast an "act of terrorism regardless of who committed it," RFE/RL South Slavic service reported on 20. September.
 CROATIA CRITICIZES IMF FOR "POLITICIZING" DECISION-MAKINGMarko Skreb, the Governor of the National Bank of Croatia, told the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Hong Kong on 21 September that while Zagreb is aware of its commitments under the Dayton peace agreement, "it is not good that politics are so directly involved in the decision-making of the IMF board." In July, the IMF postponed lending Zagreb $40 million pending Croatia's active carrying out of the Dayton accords and its cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague. The World Bank subsequently postponed a $30 million loan until the same conditions are met. Skreb called on the IMF to renew its support for Croatia's stabilization and reconstruction program, which Zagreb and the IMF agreed on in 1993. He said unless new loans are forthcoming, Zagreb's credit rating may face problems.
 ALBANIAN OPPOSITION CONTINUES PROTESTSSome 1,000 supporters of the main opposition Democratic Party demonstrated in Tirana for the fourth consecutive day on 21 September to protest the recent shooting of a deputy from the party. Addressing the protesters, Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha called for protests throughout Albania to force the resignations of Prime Minister Fatos Nano and parliamentary speaker Shkender Gjinushi. The demonstrations were triggered by the 18 September shooting in the parliament in which Socialist deputy Gafurr Mazreku injured Democrat Azem Hajdari. The Tirana daily "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 21 September that at a Democratic Party rally in the northeastern town of Bajram Curri two days earlier, protesters clashed with police who fired shots into the air.
 ETHNIC HUNGARIAN ALLIANCE IN ROMANIA POSTPONES DECISIONSAt a meeting in Odorheiul Secuiesc on 21 September, the Council of Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) postponed until its October congress taking a decision on whether to transform the alliance into a political party, Romanian media reported. The council also postponed a decision on whether to abolish the function of honorary chairman. Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes, who currently holds that post, is opposed to the UDMR leadership's moderate line and to the UDMR's continued participation in the ruling coalition. UDMR chairman Bela Marko told the gathering that some representatives of the coalition partners have adopted positions that make the continuation of the partnership difficult. He also said that the opposition has fascist-like tendencies.
 ROMANIAN NATIONALISTS DEMONSTRATE IN TARGU MURESRomanian nationalists demonstrated in Targu Mures on 21 September against Hungarian ethnic minority influence on government policies. They called for an alliance of nationalist and leftist forces to be formed immediately. Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar said the UDMR should hold its congress next month outside Transylvania, Reuters and Romanian media reported. Adrian Paunescu, the first deputy chairman of the Socialist Unity Party, said Romania has been "transformed into a colony." He accused ethnic Hungarians of planning a repeat of the March 1990 inter-ethnic clashes. One day earlier, Funar said in Cluj that Targu Mures Romanians should oust the ethnic Hungarian mayor. He noted that he is willing to become acting mayor there in order to "establish order." The demonstration was attended by Party of Romanian National Unity chairman Valeriu Tabara, and Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor sent a message to the protesters.
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTS CHIEF OF CONTROL DEPARTMENTThe government on 21 September appointed Titus Duta as chief of its Control Department and Gheorghe Mocuta as his deputy, Romanian media reported. Duta replaces Valerian Stan, who was dismissed in late August for insubordination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1997). Both Duta and Mocuta studied law with Premier Victor Ciorbea. Until now, Duta was a prosecutor. Mocuta headed the Department for Combating Organized Crime within the Prosecutor-General's Office until early September when the department was abolished by newly appointed Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu. The post of deputy chief of the Control Department is new.
 RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS ATTACKED IN TRANSDNIESTERThe Russian military prosecutor's office on 21 September demanded that the authorities in the breakaway Transdniester region open an investigation into an incident three days earlier in which Russian military helicopters were fired on near Tiraspol, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September. Alexander Baranov, the deputy commander of Russian troops stationed in the region, insisted the perpetrators of the attack must be punished. He did not link the incident to tensions between the Russian military and the Tiraspol authorities over the ownership of Russian military assets in the region. BASA-press on 20 September reported that the Tiraspol leadership intends to block the planned withdrawal of Russian military equipment.
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN ITALYPetru Lucinschi on 20 September ended a three-day visit to Italy during which he met with his Italian counterpart, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and Pope John Paul II, Moldovan media reported. The two sides agreed to set up a joint committee of experts to examine boosting economic cooperation and to work out a special program for Italian economic assistance to Moldova. Six agreements on economic and cultural cooperation were signed during Lucinschi's visit.
 BIG MAC ATTACKED IN MOLDOVAArsonists set fire to the construction site of a McDonald's restaurant in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau three times within the previous week, Interfax reported on 20 September. Earlier this year, Chisinau residents demonstrated against the establishment of a branch of the U.S. chain in their city. But other Moldovans backed the popular restaurant and construction continued. The McDonald's corporation has not issued an official response to the latest attacks.
[C] END NOTE
 DEMOCRACY OR OLIGARCHY?by Liz Fuller
The aftermath of last year's presidential elections in Armenia continues to have repercussions for the country's political system.
Preliminary returns from the 22 September 1996 vote indicated that incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossyan had been reelected with 52.32 percent of the vote. But opposition candidate Vazgen Manukyan accused the Armenian authorities of falsification on a massive scale, claiming he had received an overall majority. Three days after the vote, Manukyan's irate supporters attacked the parliamentary building but were driven back by armed police. Ter-Petrossyan deployed tanks on the streets of Yerevan, and several of Manukyan's close associates were arrested. International observers questioned the official results but stopped short of ruling the elections invalid.
One year later, the impact of those events can still be felt. The country's political forces continue to realign themselves, and that process will gather momentum as the1999 parliamentary elections draw nearer. The outcome of that vote will, in turn, determine the relative chances of the various candidates for the presidency in 2001. (The Armenian Constitution bars Ter- Petrossyan from seeking a third presidential term.)
Many Armenians believed Manukyan's claim that the Armenian authorities falsified the presidential election results, just as they had been convinced that the official results of both the 1995 parliamentary elections and the referendum on the country's new constitution did not reflect how votes had been cast. (International monitors had characterized those elections as "free but not fair.") The perception that the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh)--the senior partner within the ruling Hanrapetutyun bloc--is intent on clinging to power at all costs has increasingly alienated the population from the leadership.
In a televised address one week after the 1996 disputed presidential poll, Ter-Petrossyan acknowledged that the results reflected widespread popular discontent, particularly with economic policies that had enriched a small elite of HHSh members while forcing hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers to emigrate in search of employment. Ter-Petrossyan fired Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan, who for three years had implemented privatization and radical market reforms, regardless of their social consequences. When Bagratyan's successor, Armen Sargsian, resigned in March because of a serious illness, Ter-Petrossyan named the hugely popular president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Robert Kocharyan, to replace him.
At the same time, Ter-Petrossyan initiated a dialogue with all opposition parties, excluding Manukyan's National Democratic Union (AZhM) but including the Dashnak party which he had accused of terrorist activities and temporarily banned in late 1994. The willingness of most parties in the National Alliance (formed to support Manukyan's presidential bid) to acknowledge Ter-Petrossyan as the legitimate president exacerbated tensions within the alliance, particularly between Manukyan and veteran dissident Paruir Hairikyan. Manukyan's personal popularity has plummeted over the past year, and attendance at the Friday evening rallies convened by the alliance in the spring was modest. In late May, Hairikyan announced that he no longer recognized Manukyan as leader of the alliance. Manukyan himself has admitted that the alliance lacks cohesion, and that its survival is in doubt.
Paradoxically, the1996 elections prompted a similar split within the HHSh, which is widely perceived as corrupt and lacking any consistent ideology. In July, the movement's ruling board elected as its chairman Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan, whose unquestionable popularity partly derives from his distributing largesse among the population on public holidays. Siradeghyan's election as HHSh leader precipitated the resignation from the movement of Eduard Yegoryan, the respected chairman of the parliamentary Committee for State and Legal Affairs. Yegoryan has since created his own parliament faction, Hairenik, composed mostly of like-minded defectors from the HHSh. Former Premier Hrant Bagratyan has likewise left the HHSh to create his own political party, Azatutyun (Liberty).
While such realignments testify to the HHSh's loss of authority, the emergence of new political parties and factions is unlikely to have a significant impact on domestic politics. Hanrapetutyun still has a comfortable majority within the parliament. Neither Yegoryan nor Bagratyan has yet unveiled a political program crafted to mobilize strong popular support. And Siradeghyan has admitted that in its present condition, even the HHSh cannot serve as a power base for a potential presidential candidate. He has created an advisory board charged with revamping the movement's ideological platform, although he has disclaimed any intention of contesting the presidency.
Former National Security adviser Davit Shahnazaryan recently remarked that individuals, not laws, determine the political process in Armenia. If oligarchy is defined as a system in which a privileged clique exercises despotic power, and if the difference between oligarchy and democracy is determined by the extent of citizens' participation in government, then Armenia is closer to the former than to the latter. In this context, Ter- Petrossyan's 1996 campaign slogan assumes a sinister meaning far different from the one he intended. He had promised "Victory, Stability, Progress" but not democracy.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty