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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 156, 99-08-12

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 156, 12 August 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS GOVERNMENT CRISIS OVER
  • [02] ARMENIAN, GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN TIGHTENS SECURITY ON BORDER WITH DAGESTAN...
  • [04] ...AS GEORGIA PREPARES TO ADMIT UNARMED REFUGEES
  • [05] FIRST KURDISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED IN GEORGIA
  • [06] MORE FALLOUT FROM KAZAKH ARMS SALE SCANDAL
  • [07] FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER TERMED ELIGIBLE ELECTION CANDIDATE
  • [08] RUSSIA MAKES FIRST CASH PAYMENT FOR BAIKONUR RENT
  • [09] KAZAKH DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS NEW TALKS WITH IMF DUE IN
  • [10] NO PROGRESS IN KYRGYZ HOSTAGE CRISIS
  • [11] TAJIK COURT LIFTS BAN ON OPPOSITION PARTIES

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] U.S. SOLDIERS RESCUE RUSSIANS FROM ANGRY KOSOVARS
  • [13] KOSOVARS PROTEST ARREST OF ARMED UCK SOLDIERS
  • [14] KFOR KEEPS MITROVICA BRIDGE SHUT
  • [15] LDK COUNCIL PLEDGES REFORMS
  • [16] UCK MINISTER PLEDGES TO RESPECT KFOR
  • [17] ARTEMIJE CHARGES THACI WITH HYPOCRISY
  • [18] U.S. GENERAL CALLS VIOLENCE AGAINST SERBS 'ORGANIZED'
  • [19] UNHCR CRITICIZES 'TERROR' AGAINST KOSOVA SERBS...
  • [20] ...SAYS MOST KOSOVAR SERBS HAVE LEFT
  • [21] DJINDJIC PREDICTS SERBIAN GENERAL STRIKE
  • [22] CALL UP OF SERBIAN STUDENTS?
  • [23] SERBIAN TELEVISION BLASTS U.S. 'MEDIA TERRORISM'...
  • [24] ...WHILE WASHINGTON REJECTS CHARGES
  • [25] SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES DEL PONTE
  • [26] OSCE CONCERNED OVER KILLING OF SERB IN CROATIA
  • [27] ROMANIAN ANTI-TRUST COUNCIL PROBING RENAULT DEAL
  • [28] EXTREME NATIONALIST ROMANIAN SENATOR INDICTED AGAIN
  • [29] ROMANIAN SOCCER OFFICIAL DENIES ACCUSATION OF ANTI-
  • [30] ECLIPSE BLACKS OUT TV SCREENS IN BULGARIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] HOW WILL MACEDONIA'S PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT AFFECT THE RULING

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS GOVERNMENT CRISIS OVER

    General Seyran Ohanian, who was named defense minister of the

    unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic last week, told

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 11 August that his appointment

    marked the end of a serious government crisis in Stepanakert.

    He said his candidacy was acceptable to both rival factions

    in the Karabakh government, including that of his powerful

    predecessor, General Samvel Babayan. He added that the

    political situation in Karabakh is "quiet" at the moment and

    will remain so. Ohanian rejected speculation that Yerevan

    sought to weaken Babayan's influence in a bid to neutralize

    his hard line on how to settle the conflict with Azerbaijan.

    LF

    [02] ARMENIAN, GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET

    Vagharshak

    Harutiunian and David Tevzadze held what was described as a

    "secret" meeting in Akhalkalaki on the evening of 10 August,

    Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. No details of the

    talks were divulged. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN TIGHTENS SECURITY ON BORDER WITH DAGESTAN...

    Azerbaijan National Security Ministry spokesman Araz Gurbanov

    told Interfax on 11 August that Azerbaijan is introducing

    unspecified additional security measures on its border with

    Dagestan. The previous day, National Security Minister Namig

    Abbasov told Reuters that the Lezgin separatist movement

    Sadval is taking advantage of the destabilization in Dagestan

    to intensify its operations in Azerbaijan. Nasyr Primov,

    leader of the radical wing of Sadval, which is campaigning

    for an independent Lezgin state composed of northeastern

    Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan, was arrested in southern

    Dagestan last month, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LF

    [04] ...AS GEORGIA PREPARES TO ADMIT UNARMED REFUGEES

    Lieutenant-

    General Valerii Chkheizde, the head of Georgia's border guard

    service, said in Tbilisi on 11 August that orders have been

    given to allow refugees fleeing the fighting in western

    Dagestan to enter Georgia provided they are unarmed, Reuters

    reported. LF

    [05] FIRST KURDISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED IN GEORGIA

    The

    first issue of a monthly newspaper for Georgia's 60,000

    strong Yezidi Kurdish community was published on 12 August,

    Caucasus Press reported. For decades, Georgia has provided

    Kurdish-language education for that minority, primarily in

    Tbilisi. LF

    [06] MORE FALLOUT FROM KAZAKH ARMS SALE SCANDAL

    Kazakhstan's

    National Security Committee appointed a special commission on

    11 August to investigate the circumstances of the

    controversial sale of obsolete MiG fighters, Interfax

    reported. The scandal resulting from that botched deal

    prompted President Nursultan Nazarbaev to dismiss Defense

    Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev and National Security Committee

    Chairman Nurtai Abykaev earlier this week (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 10 August 1999). Altynbaev told the press the

    following day he had been "called to account for someone

    else's mistakes." President Nursultan Nazarbaev also issued a

    decree removing the Defense Industry Committee from under the

    aegis of the Ministry of Defense and subordinating it to the

    Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Trade, "Nezavisimaya

    gazeta" reported on 12 August. LF

    [07] FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER TERMED ELIGIBLE ELECTION CANDIDATE

    At

    a press conference for foreign journalists in Almaty on 11

    August, Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission chairwoman

    Zaghipa Balieva said that the new election law does not

    prohibit persons found guilty of an administrative offense

    from contending the upcoming parliamentary elections,

    RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Former

    Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin was barred from participating in

    the January 1999 presidential elections because of such an

    offense. But Balieva added that persons convicted of a

    criminal offense, including tax evasion, may not run for

    election. Kazhegeldin, who is currently abroad, has been

    charged with tax evasion. His lawyer said Kazhegeldin will

    return to Kazakhstan only if President Nazarbaev guarantees

    his personal safety and only after he has registered as an

    election candidate. Balieva said she believes the new

    election law is acceptable to the OSCE, which criticized the

    January presidential poll as undemocratic. LF

    [08] RUSSIA MAKES FIRST CASH PAYMENT FOR BAIKONUR RENT

    Kazakhstan's Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Oraz

    Dzhandosov told journalists in Astana on 11 August that the

    previous day Russia paid the first $12.5 million installment

    of the $165 million annual fee for the lease of the Baikonur

    cosmodrome, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Dzhandosov said

    Russia will pay a further $50 million in cash in November and

    the balance in commodities. Since the signing in 1994 of a

    bilateral agreement allowing Russia continued use of the

    Soviet-era facility, Moscow has not paid a single penny for

    the lease. That failure and the explosion last month of a

    Russian Proton rocket launched from Baikonur led the Kazakh

    government to threaten to ban future launches from Baikonur.

    LF

    [09] KAZAKH DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS NEW TALKS WITH IMF DUE IN

    SEPTEMBER

    Dzhandosov also said on 11 August that an IMF

    delegation will visit Kazakhstan in September to discuss the

    terms for a new three-year loan, RFE/RL's Astana

    correspondent reported. The fund recently expressed regret

    that the Kazakh government has refused to meet its demand to

    expedite reforms and reduce the current 3.7 percent budget

    deficit in order to qualify for a new Extended Fund Facility

    loan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1999). But Interfax on

    11 August quoted Dzhandosov as saying that no further budget

    cuts will be made. LF

    [10] NO PROGRESS IN KYRGYZ HOSTAGE CRISIS

    Negotiations are

    continuing on securing the release of four Kyrgyz officials

    taken hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan last week by ethnic

    Uzbek guerrillas, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau

    reported on 11 August. Members of the Kyrgyz presidential

    administration declined on 11 August to comment on

    unconfirmed reports that the guerrillas are demanding a

    ransom. LF

    [11] TAJIK COURT LIFTS BAN ON OPPOSITION PARTIES

    In compliance

    with the 1997 agreement that ended the civil war in

    Tajikistan, the Tajik Supreme Court on 12 August lifted its

    1993 ban on four opposition parties, ITAR-TASS reported.

    Those parties are the Democratic Party, the Islamic Revival

    Party, and the Rastakhez and Lali Badakhshan movements. The

    lifting of the ban was conditional on the disarming of

    military formations subordinate to the United Tajik

    Opposition. That process was completed last week (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 4 August 1999). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] U.S. SOLDIERS RESCUE RUSSIANS FROM ANGRY KOSOVARS

    A crowd of

    ethnic Albanians armed with rocks and sticks attacked Russian

    peacekeepers in a village near Gjilan on 11 August, Reuters

    reported. The Russians needed help from U.S. troops to fend

    off the mob, but no injuries were reported. U.S. Brigadier-

    General John Craddock suggested that the protests were in

    response to the 9 August murder of an ethnic Albanian man in

    the nearby village of Koretin. Craddock said that local

    ethnic Albanians earlier spread the rumor that the killers

    were Russians, but he stressed that there is no evidence to

    support the charge. He added that "there appears to be a

    significant disinformation campaign against the Russian unit.

    There is a preconceived Albanian notion that the Russians

    will favor the Serbs." Craddock stressed that the Russians

    "have shown restraint and control. They have been executing

    their duties in a...professional way." FS

    [13] KOSOVARS PROTEST ARREST OF ARMED UCK SOLDIERS

    About 200

    ethnic Albanian protesters confronted U.S. soldiers in Gjilan

    on 11 August and demanded the release of 10 men whom KFOR had

    arrested the previous day, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. The protest ended peacefully. Those arrested

    belonged to a group of 60 ethnic Albanians whom U.S. soldiers

    rounded up in a school where peacekeepers found an arms

    cache. Some of those arrested were armed and wearing uniforms

    of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). On 10 and 11 August,

    KFOR arrested a total of 78 crime suspects throughout Kosova.

    FS

    [14] KFOR KEEPS MITROVICA BRIDGE SHUT

    A KFOR spokesman told

    an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in

    Prishtina on 11 August that "KFOR soldiers prevented in

    a very professional way an escalation [of tensions in

    Mitrovica] by closing the main bridge to all traffic.

    They thereby prevented 200 Albanians from crossing over

    to [confront] the 200 waiting Serbs on the other side."

    A spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said

    that "it is clear...to us that extremists and outsiders

    are playing a dangerous role in Mitrovica." FS

    [15] LDK COUNCIL PLEDGES REFORMS

    The General Council of the

    Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), the highest body of

    that party between party congresses, met on 11 August in

    Prishtina after a break of more than a year. Spokesman

    Melazim Krasniqi told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service

    correspondent that the council decided that the LDK

    "must consolidate [and] develop a profile as a political

    party [rather than] that of a movement." He added that

    the delegates pledged to "cooperate with UNMIK and KFOR

    at all levels [to help] rebuild Kosova." They also

    agreed to "cooperate with all political and military

    factors in Kosova," a formulation referring to the rival

    UCK and its provisional government. The correspondent

    noted that some party members harshly criticized the

    leadership for doing little during the recent conflict.

    The correspondent added that the LDK will organize a

    party congress in October. FS

    [16] UCK MINISTER PLEDGES TO RESPECT KFOR

    Rexhep Selimi, who is

    interior minister in the UCK's provisional government, issued

    a statement in Prishtina on 11 August saying that his

    government "will not stand in the way of KFOR." He declared

    void the illegal permits he had given some UCK officials to

    carry out arrests, confiscate property, and carry arms.

    Selimi said that "we recognize the need to revise our

    identification permits." Last week, KFOR seized an arms cache

    at Selimi's headquarters. Peacekeepers also confiscated

    illegal identity cards stating that the holder of the card

    has the right to make arrests and confiscate property (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 1999). FS

    [17] ARTEMIJE CHARGES THACI WITH HYPOCRISY

    Bishop Artemije, who

    is the leading Serbian Orthodox cleric in Kosova, said in

    Gracanica on 11 August that UCK leader Hashim Thaci is

    encouraging the ethnic cleansing of Serbs. Artemije said that

    Thaci "tells one story for the international public, while he

    has another story for his followers. When speaking publicly,

    he says he is for a multi-ethnic [Kosova], while at the same

    time he has another message for his followers. [That message

    is] to continue with ethnic cleansing," AP reported.

    Following Artemije's remarks, UN Balkan envoy Carl Bildt said

    that if Thaci is unable to control his followers, then the

    international community should reconsider whether he is "the

    right person to talk to." PM

    [18] U.S. GENERAL CALLS VIOLENCE AGAINST SERBS 'ORGANIZED'

    General Craddock also said in Prishtina on 11 August that

    "rogue elements" of the UCK or "disaffected former members"

    of that organization have been at the center of recent

    violence against Serbs. He added that "there appears to be a

    pattern [of intimidation]. It is organized. It's more than

    just the neighbors...getting upset at each other," Reuters

    reported. He noted that the UCK is meeting its disarmament

    deadlines but only with KFOR prodding. Craddock added: "There

    is another element out there among the [UCK] and other

    parties and factions we deal with. It may be criminal,

    political, or military, we're not sure. We know there are

    disaffected people who have left the [UCK and insist on]

    bearing arms." He noted that the UCK has sometimes sought to

    acquire police prerogatives for itself in violation of the

    June peace agreement. Craddock added, however, that it is not

    his soldiers' job to carry out police duties until the UN

    police arrive. PM

    [19] UNHCR CRITICIZES 'TERROR' AGAINST KOSOVA SERBS...

    UNHCR

    spokesman Ron Redmond told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service

    correspondent in Prishtina on 11 August that some ethnic

    Albanian Kosovars are systematically intimidating local

    Serbs. He said that most Serbs who stayed in Kosova are

    elderly or handicapped, adding that "it is highly unlikely

    that these people were involved in the persecution of

    Albanians. But that does not seem to matter to the thugs who

    are now terrorizing them." Redmond said that many Serbs

    received anonymous letters ordering them to leave their

    homes. Later, ethnic Albanians intimidate them personally and

    sometimes kill them, he noted. "We are sure that the vast

    majority of the Albanian population...wants nothing to do

    with those who terrorize and shoot old women and employ some

    of the same disgusting tactics that were used against the

    Albanians themselves just a few weeks ago," he concluded. FS

    [20] ...SAYS MOST KOSOVAR SERBS HAVE LEFT

    UNHCR spokesman Dennis

    McNamara said in Prishtina on 11 August that only about 2,000

    Serbs remain in Kosova out of the 40,000 or so who lived

    there before the recent conflict. He added that about 170,000

    Serbs have fled Kosova in recent months. Serbia is now host

    to some 700,000 people who fled their homes as a result of

    Milosevic's wars in Croatia, Bosnia, or Kosova, Reuters

    reported. PM

    [21] DJINDJIC PREDICTS SERBIAN GENERAL STRIKE

    Serbian Democratic

    Party leader Zoran Djindjic told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 12

    August that the Serbian Renewal Movement's "Vuk Draskovic

    expects that after [the planned demonstration in Belgrade on]

    19 August, Milosevic's Socialist Party, or important elements

    of this party, will be prepared to accept our transition

    government." Should that fail to happen, Djindjic added, he

    will lead a second phase of the protest to force Milosevic

    from office. The opposition's tactics will include a general

    strike as well as protests and acts of civil disobedience,

    Djindjic added. PM

    [22] CALL UP OF SERBIAN STUDENTS?

    Many university students in

    Serbia have recently received letters ordering them to report

    for military duty, VOA's Croatian Service reported on 12

    August. Yugoslav students are normally exempt from military

    service until they have finished their studies. PM

    [23] SERBIAN TELEVISION BLASTS U.S. 'MEDIA TERRORISM'...

    State-run

    television (RTS) said on 11 August that the U.S. jams its

    broadcasts and seeks to "enslave Serbia and its people" by

    installing a "puppet government." According to RTS, "NATO

    countries, led by the U.S., have prepared a project called

    Ring Around Serbia in order to jam RTS's programming and

    broadcast Western Serbian-language programs in their place."

    RTS added that the alleged U.S. plan violates international

    norms in telecommunications and constitutes a "classic form

    of state terrorism." Observers note that Ring Around Serbia

    is a Western response to Serbia's restrictive media laws that

    date from October 1998. Transmitters in several countries

    bordering Serbia broadcast programs of RFE/RL, VOA, BBC,

    Deutsche Welle, and Radio France International. PM

    [24] ...WHILE WASHINGTON REJECTS CHARGES

    State Department

    spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 11 August that

    RTS's charges are false. "In the future we may expand

    transmissions using new wavelengths," he commented. "If we do

    so, we will do so only if we can identify frequencies not

    officially registered by public and private entities in

    Serbia. We have taken great care not to jam [Serbian]

    broadcasts and will continue to do so." Rubin observed that

    "if the Serbian authorities were to overturn their draconian

    media law and allow real independent media inside Serbia,

    there would be much less of a need for the international

    community to broadcast into Serbia from adjoining areas. I

    think the Serbs would probably do well to focus a little bit

    more on what's going on inside of Serbia," he added. PM

    [25] SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES DEL PONTE

    The UN's highest body

    unanimously approved Switzerland's Carla del Ponte to succeed

    Louise Arbour as the Hague court's chief prosecutor. Del

    Ponte takes up her duties on 15 September. PM

    [26] OSCE CONCERNED OVER KILLING OF SERB IN CROATIA

    A spokesman

    for the OSCE said in Zagreb on 11 August that his

    organization is concerned about several "politically

    motivated incidents" in the village of Berak in eastern

    Slavonia in recent months. On 9 August, he noted, a group of

    four or five Croats beat a Serb to death there. The spokesman

    stressed that the OSCE expects the Croatian police to arrest

    those responsible and thoroughly investigate the incidents.

    PM

    [27] ROMANIAN ANTI-TRUST COUNCIL PROBING RENAULT DEAL

    The Anti-

    Trust Council on 11 August said it is probing the terms

    under which the government granted the French Renault

    company tax breaks and other advantages that may unfairly

    strengthen the company's position on the Romanian car-maker

    market, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Renault had

    demanded such advantages in the July deal whereby it

    acquired a 51 percent stake in the Pitesti Dacia car maker.

    The Daewoo company, which took over the Craiova Olcit car

    maker, last week demanded that it be granted the same

    advantages as Renault, threatening to otherwise terminate

    its activity in Romania. The council said the government

    did not consult it over the Renault deal. The council has

    30 days to examine the terms of the deal. MS

    [28] EXTREME NATIONALIST ROMANIAN SENATOR INDICTED AGAIN

    The

    Prosecutor-General's Office on 11 August said it has

    indicted Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor

    for "offending the authorities" and the spread of libelous

    information, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The

    indictment, which is the latest in a series of accusations

    that Tudor has faced since being deprived of his

    parliamentary immunity, follows Tudor's allegation on a

    television program that President Emil Constantinescu was a

    U.S. agent during communist rule (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20

    July 1999). MS

    [29] ROMANIAN SOCCER OFFICIAL DENIES ACCUSATION OF ANTI-

    SEMITISM

    Dumitru Dragomir, deputy chairman of the Romanian

    Soccer Federation, has denied allegations that he is

    involved in anti-Semitic activities as publisher of the

    "Atac la persoana" weekly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August

    1999). In an interview with the daily "Cotidianul" of 11

    August, Dragomir said he could not be involved in the

    activities of anti-Semitic groups in Romania "for the

    simple reason that such groups do not exist" there.

    Dragomir also said "Atac la persona" was "not an anti-

    Semitic but a scandal publication." He also commented that

    "no one can touch me" because "to convict me of anti-

    Semitism could take up to eight years" owing to lengthy

    court procedures preceding a final verdict. MS

    [30] ECLIPSE BLACKS OUT TV SCREENS IN BULGARIA

    Bulgarian

    Television on 11 August failed to broadcast live pictures

    of the total eclipse owing to a technical fault. Faced with

    a black screen at the crucial moment, astronomy experts

    were asked to describe what the event normally looks like,

    while producers hurriedly dug out pictures of the last

    eclipse in Bulgaria, in 1961, AFP reported. For several

    weeks, the television network had urged Bulgarians to watch

    the eclipse "in the safest possible way, on your television

    screen." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] HOW WILL MACEDONIA'S PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT AFFECT THE RULING

    COALITION?

    by Stefan Krause

    Earlier this year, it seemed a foregone conclusion that

    the presidential elections scheduled for this fall would hold

    few surprises. The ruling coalition reportedly intended to

    field a joint candidate who, it was believed, would win hands

    down. But strife within the coalition has made this scenario

    increasingly unlikely, raising questions about the

    consequences for the coalition itself.

    When the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-

    Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE)

    and the Democratic Alternative (DA) formed an electoral

    alliance ahead of last year's parliamentary elections, the

    parties' leaders were thought to have struck a far-reaching

    deal. It was believed that VMRO-DPMNE leader Ljubco

    Georgievski would become prime minister and DA chairman Vasil

    Tupurkovski the parties' joint presidential candidate. While

    Georgievski went on to became prime minister of a coalition

    of those two parties and the Democratic Party of Albanians

    (DPA), Tupurkovski's chances to succeed veteran politician

    Kiro Gligorov as the country's president look increasingly

    slim.

    Tupurkovski, Macedonia's last representative on the

    collective presidency of socialist Yugoslavia, reemerged on

    the political scene in March 1998 when he formed the DA.

    Ostensibly a centrist party with a civic orientation, the DA

    is primarily a vehicle to promote its leader's presidential

    ambitions. Its platform for the 1998 parliamentary elections

    was little more than a plan for distributing the $1 billion

    in foreign aid and investment that Tupurkovski assured would

    be forthcoming if his party went into government. When he

    masterminded the diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in January

    1999, it was assumed that this would be the source of "Cile's

    billion" (Cile is Tupurkovski's nickname). But thus far,

    little money from Taipei has reached Macedonia, and Taiwanese

    officials have made it clear that their government never

    pledged to give Macedonia such a huge sum with no strings

    attached. Sizeable foreign investment, they argue, depends

    mostly on whether the Macedonian government creates favorable

    conditions for investors, something it has so far failed to

    achieve.

    As a result, Tupurkovski's rating plummeted. The poor

    performance of some of his party's cabinet ministers, his

    absence from Macedonia during the Kosova crisis, and a host

    of minor political blunders also contributed to the weakening

    of his position. According to the latest opinion polls,

    Tupurkovski would lose against almost any other potential

    presidential candidate.

    But an even more serious threat to Tupurkovski's

    presidential ambitions is posed by the VMRO-DPMNE's attitude

    toward him. Although Georgievski may still be keen to contest

    the elections with a joint coalition candidate, his party is

    less than enthusiastic about Tupurkovski. At a meeting of the

    party's Executive Committee in late July, all members except

    for Georgievski reportedly wanted the party to field its own

    candidate. Georgievski has the final say within the VMRO-

    DPMNE, and he is expected to announce later this month who

    his party will support. Under the current circumstances, the

    lesser evil for Georgievski would be to alienate Tupurkovski

    rather than his own party.

    Thus, all the indications are that VMRO-DPMNE will field

    its own candidate. That candidate will most likely be Deputy

    Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski, who is popular among the

    public and gained prominence during the Kosova crisis.

    According to opinion polls, Trajkovski has the best chance of

    all presidential hopefuls to win the presidency.

    The main question is what Tupurkovski will do if he

    fails to get the support of VMRO-DPMNE. With regards to the

    presidential elections, he has three options, none of which

    is very attractive for him. First, he could run without the

    backing of his bigger coalition partner. In such a case, he

    would almost certainly fail to reach the second round since

    no other major party is likely to support him. Second, he

    could support the VMRO-DPMNE candidate, but he would then

    have to write off his ultimate political ambition of becoming

    Macedonian president. Third, he could decide neither to run

    in this year's presidential elections nor endorse any

    candidate. Again, this would probably spell the end of his

    presidential ambitions.

    Equally interesting, however, is what the impact will be

    on the ruling coalition. If Tupurkovski decides to keep his

    party in the government, little will change superficially,

    although the DA and its leader will doubtless lose political

    influence and frictions will mount. Tupurkovski could

    threaten to pull his party out of the government, but his

    partners would remain largely unimpressed by such threats for

    a number of reasons. First, VMRO-DPMNE and the DPA alone hold

    60 of the 120 seats in the parliament. Second, the Liberal

    Democrats, who are represented in the government although

    they are not a formal part of the coalition, have already

    nominated former speaker of parliament Stojan Andov as their

    presidential candidate. Nonetheless, they could decide to

    continue supporting the government, which would then command

    64 seats in the assembly. And third, VMRO-DPMNE has a good

    chance of winning over some of the DA's deputies if that

    party leaves the government. Such a development would also

    secure a parliamentary majority for what would be left of the

    coalition.

    Meanwhile, all that would be left to Tupurkovski would

    be the one presidency he currently holds, namely that of the

    Macedonian Olympic Committee.

    The author is a Skopje-based political analyst with the

    International Crisis Group (ICG).

    12-08-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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