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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 161, 99-08-19

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. 161, 19 August 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE DISCUSSES PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS
  • [02] U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY VISITS AZERBAIJAN...
  • [03] ...AND TURKMENISTAN
  • [04] AZERBAIJAN CREATES WORKING GROUP ON GAS EXPORT
  • [05] GEORGIA SATISFIED WITH RUSSIAN APOLOGY FOR BOMBING
  • [06] KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY OUTLINES ELECTION PROGRAM
  • [07] HOSTAGE-TAKERS BELIEVED TO HAVE LEFT KYRGYZSTAN
  • [08] TURKMEN PRESIDENT CHAIRS CABINET SESSION
  • [09] UZBEK COURT SENTENCES ANOTHER SIX IN CONNECTION WITH TASHKENT

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] KEY BOSNIAN TOWN TO REMAIN UNDER JOINT CONTROL
  • [11] HIGH TURNOUT AT SERBIAN OPPOSITION RALLY
  • [12] U.S. CALLS ON SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO UNITE
  • [13] WARNINGS OF 'PROVOCATIONS' AT SERBIAN OPPOSITION RALLY
  • [14] SERBIAN REGIME TO OFFER EARLY ELECTIONS?
  • [15] WHAT IS DRASKOVIC'S ROLE?
  • [16] ANTI-MILOSEVIC CHANTS AT KEY SOCCER MATCH
  • [17] VALJEVO PROTEST LEADER BADLY BEATEN
  • [18] PESIC FLEES TO MONTENEGRO
  • [19] NGOS SAY MILOSEVIC REGIME BLOCKS AID TO SERBIAN REFUGEES
  • [20] UNHCR ESTIMATES THAT 180,000 SERBS HAVE LEFT KOSOVA
  • [21] ITALIAN PEACEKEEPERS WOUNDED WHILE GUARDING CHURCH
  • [22] UNMIK, KFOR URGE ALBANIANS TO COOPERATE
  • [23] ALBANIA, CROATIA PLEDGE TO INCREASE COOPERATION
  • [24] BELGRADE RECRUITING 'FEDERAL POLICE' IN MONTENEGRO
  • [25] ROMANIA, RUSSIA AGREE ON DEBT SETTLEMENT
  • [26] ROMANIAN NATIONALIST PARTY TO SUE PRESIDENT
  • [27] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
  • [28] GERMANY EXTRADITES BULGARIAN AIRLINE OFFICIAL

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [29] WHO GETS WHAT, WHEN, AND HOW

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE DISCUSSES PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS

    Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian on 18 August urged the

    parliament's economic committee to endorse his proposed

    measures to overcome the 31 billion dram ($58 million) budget

    shortfall, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Those measures

    include tax hikes, cuts in "non-essential" expenditures in

    the social, education, and health sectors, and increased

    excise duties on gasoline and cigarettes (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 29 July 1999). At the same time, under pressure

    from the IMF and World Bank, the government must find 17

    billion drams to compensate for consumers' unpaid debts to

    the energy sector. The parliament is expected to convene an

    emergency session on 23 August to discuss the proposed

    measures. LF

    [02] U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY VISITS AZERBAIJAN...

    Bill Richardson

    held talks with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, Prime

    Minister Artur Rasi-zade and with Natik Aliev, president of

    the state oil company SOCAR, in Baku on 18 August, Turan

    reported. Richardson defined the purpose of his visit as

    strengthening and stabilizing bilateral relations, noting

    that the U.S. wants to cooperate with Azerbaijan on issues

    "going beyond the Caspian region." He reaffirmed Washington's

    support for the proposed Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline,

    adding that Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan should also use that

    facility. Turkish and Azerbaijani government working groups

    are due to meet in Washington on 22-23 August with U.S. and

    international financial institutions in an attempt to

    finalize funding for that project, the estimated cost of

    which is at least $2.7 billion. The Azerbaijan International

    Operating Company, the largest international oil consortium

    operating in Azerbaijan, is reluctant to contribute to the

    Baku-Ceyhan project and would prefer to expand the existing

    export pipeline to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast. LF

    [03] ...AND TURKMENISTAN

    Meeting with Turkmen President

    Saparmurat Niyazov on 19 August in Ashgabat, Richardson

    affirmed his support for the planned Trans-Caspian pipeline

    to transport Turkmenistan's natural gas to Turkey via

    Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's correspondent in the Turkmen capital

    reported. Noting that Shell has recently joined the

    consortium to build that pipeline as the upstream partner

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 1999), Richardson said that

    negotiations have begun on the financing and route of the

    pipeline. Richardson expressed the hope, as he had done the

    previous day in Baku, that the Trans-Caspian pipeline will

    promote cooperation, not rivalry, between the countries of

    the region. John Wolf, who is adviser on Caspian issues to

    the U.S. president and secretary of state, had said in Baku

    on 18 August that the Trans-Caspian pipeline is not intended

    as competition with Russia's "Blue Stream" project (see

    above). LF

    [04] AZERBAIJAN CREATES WORKING GROUP ON GAS EXPORT

    President

    Aliev has decreed the creation of a working group composed of

    senior Azerbaijani officials and representatives of

    international oil companies engaged in Azerbaijan to

    determine the choice of route for and the construction of gas

    pipelines to transport gas from the Shah Deniz offshore

    Caspian field to world markets, Turan reported on 18 August.

    The creation of such a group suggests that Azerbaijan will be

    able to use the planned Trans-Caspian pipeline to export only

    part of its gas. LF

    [05] GEORGIA SATISFIED WITH RUSSIAN APOLOGY FOR BOMBING

    State

    Minister Vazha Lortkipanidze told journalists in Tbilisi on

    18 August that the Georgian leadership has no reason to doubt

    the sincerity of the official apology received earlier that

    day from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov for the 9

    August incident in which Russian planes dropped mines on the

    village of Zemo Omalo, close to the Georgian border with

    Daghestan, Interfax reported. Parliamentary speaker Zurab

    Zhvania similarly commented that Moscow's acknowledgment of

    responsibility indicates a desire for "new neighborly and

    civilized relations with Georgia," according to Caucasus

    Press. A bilateral commission will be established to estimate

    the extent of the damages caused by the bombing, in which

    four people were injured and several homes destroyed. Moscow

    has expressed its readiness to pay compensation for the

    damage. LF

    [06] KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY OUTLINES ELECTION PROGRAM

    Meeting in

    Almaty on 18 August, the People's Republican Party of

    Kazakhstan selected 10 candidates to contest the part list

    seats in the 10 October election to the lower chamber of the

    parliament, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported.

    Party chairman and former Premier Akezhan Kazhgeldin heads

    the list. Another 20 candidates will run in single-candidate

    constituencies, according to Interfax. Party Deputy Chairman

    Gazis Aldamzharov said the party believes that improvements

    in social and economic conditions will be possible only if

    the country's leadership structure is radically changed. He

    therefore advocated a referendum on amending the constitution

    in order to remove President Nursultan Nazarbaev from office.

    The powers of the government and parliament would then be

    strengthened at the expense of the president. Aldamzharov

    also said his party wants to annul the 1998 border agreement

    under which Kazakhstan ceded part of its territory to China.

    LF

    [07] HOSTAGE-TAKERS BELIEVED TO HAVE LEFT KYRGYZSTAN

    An anonymous

    Osh Oblast administration official told RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau on 18 August that the 21 guerrillas who held four

    Kyrgyz officials hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan earlier this

    month have probably already left the country. He said that

    Kyrgyz troops have combed the mountains where the guerrillas

    were entrenched but have failed to locate them. The Kyrgyz

    authorities have released no new information on the hunt for

    the guerrillas for two days. LF

    [08] TURKMEN PRESIDENT CHAIRS CABINET SESSION

    Saparmurat Niyazov

    chaired a cabinet session to discuss agriculture and the

    development of the textile industry on 18 August, Interfax

    reported. The previous day, Niyazov was scheduled to undergo

    a medical checkup by the German cardiologist who performed

    heart bypass surgery on him two years ago. Also on 18 August,

    Niyazov announced that Turkmenistan will donate $100,000 to

    victims of the Turkish earthquake and is prepared to send a

    team of doctors to the devastated area, according to

    Interfax. LF

    [09] UZBEK COURT SENTENCES ANOTHER SIX IN CONNECTION WITH TASHKENT

    BOMBING

    A provincial town court on 18 August handed down

    sentences ranging from eight to 15 years imprisonment on six

    men accused of participating in the 16 February bomb attacks

    in Tashkent, RFE/RL's bureau in the Uzbek capital reported.

    Two of the accused are brothers of Mohammed Solih, one of the

    leaders of the banned Erk opposition party, whom Uzbek

    President Islam Karimov has accused of masterminding the bomb

    attacks. Western journalists and diplomats and OSCE

    representatives were barred from the trial, but Reuters

    quoted an OSCE representative as saying that some of the

    accused pleaded guilty to charges of insulting the president

    and organizing criminal groups. Amnesty International and

    other human rights organizations had expressed concern that

    at least one of the defendants, prominent writer Mamadali

    Mahmudov, was systematically tortured during the pretrial

    investigation. Six men were sentenced to death in June for

    their alleged role in the bombings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29

    June 1999). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] KEY BOSNIAN TOWN TO REMAIN UNDER JOINT CONTROL

    International

    mediators have decided that Brcko will remain permanently

    under the joint administration of the Republika Srpska and

    the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation, AP reported on 19

    August. The decision makes permanent an interim ruling in

    March. The Serbs want to keep control of the town, which is a

    key transportation link between the eastern and western

    halves of the Republika Srpska. The Muslims and Croats also

    want access to Brcko's rail and river port facilities. The

    Muslims and Croats stress that they constituted the majority

    in the town before the 1992-1995 war and that to assign it to

    the Serbs would make permanent the results of wartime ethnic

    cleansing. Brcko was the one territorial issue so thorny that

    negotiators could not resolve it at the 1995 Dayton peace

    conference. PM

    [11] HIGH TURNOUT AT SERBIAN OPPOSITION RALLY

    Some 25,000 people

    attended a protest meeting in Nis against Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic on 18 August, Reuters reported. This was

    the largest turnout at any of the recent opposition rallies

    in Serbia. Zoran Zivkovic, who is the mayor of that city,

    told the crowd: "We cannot keep suffering any longer." Social

    Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic said unidentified persons

    tried to force his car off the road while he was en route to

    Nis. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic appealed to those

    present to attend the major opposition rally slated for 19

    August in Belgrade. He added that Kosovar Serb leaders

    Momcilo Trajkovic and Bishop Artemije will be there. The news

    agency reported that cheap gasoline and basic foodstuffs have

    "suddenly reappeared" in Nis after months of shortages. PM

    [12] U.S. CALLS ON SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO UNITE

    State Department

    spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 18 August that

    "the more unified [the Serbian opposition] acts, the quicker

    the chances are that Milosevic will leave the scene, and the

    quicker therefore the chances are that the people of

    Yugoslavia and Serbia will be able to live the life they

    deserve to.... We are under the impression that the vast

    majority of the Serbian people believe that President

    Milosevic must go and that the time has come for him to go,"

    Rubin added. Observers note that the Serbian opposition is

    highly fractious and that one of the key problems is personal

    rivalries between prominent leaders. PM

    [13] WARNINGS OF 'PROVOCATIONS' AT SERBIAN OPPOSITION RALLY

    Nebojsa Covic, who heads the Democratic Alternative party,

    said in Belgrade on 18 August that the regime is preparing to

    stage "provocations and incidents" at the rally slated for

    the following day, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

    Elsewhere, a spokesman for Belgrade police said that police

    arrested an unidentified man "with a highly explosive

    device." The spokesman warned of possible bomb attacks at

    unspecified "mass public gatherings," AP reported. PM

    [14] SERBIAN REGIME TO OFFER EARLY ELECTIONS?

    Ivica Dacic, who is

    a spokesman for Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, said

    in Belgrade on 18 August that the government is willing to

    hold early elections "if that's what the opposition wants."

    Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj added:

    "Whenever [the opposition] want, we can discuss the terms and

    the date" of the vote. It is unclear what offices would be

    voted on in the elections. A recent poll suggests that Vuk

    Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) would get 18

    percent of the vote and the opposition umbrella group

    Alliance for Change 15 percent. Milosevic's backers would

    take 14 percent and Seselj's party 8 percent, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. PM

    [15] WHAT IS DRASKOVIC'S ROLE?

    A spokesman for Draskovic told the

    BBC on 19 August that a report by the private Beta news

    agency that Draskovic recently met with Milosevic to plan

    early elections is "a joke." Observers note that early

    elections would benefit Draskovic's party more than most

    other opposition groups, many of which are smaller and less

    well organized than the SPO. Early elections would also give

    Milosevic an opportunity to divide the opposition by playing

    the parties off against each other. And they would benefit

    the regime by distracting attention from opposition calls for

    Milosevic to resign. Most opposition parties insist that

    Milosevic must go before new elections can be held. The

    opposition also wants a new election law, fair access to the

    media for all parties, and a large-scale presence of foreign

    election monitors. PM

    [16] ANTI-MILOSEVIC CHANTS AT KEY SOCCER MATCH

    Electric flood

    lights went out for 45 minutes at a Belgrade stadium on 18

    August during the Yugoslavia-Croatia match of the Euro 2000

    qualifiers. Crowds began to chant "Slobo go" and "you sold

    out" Kosova. They also voiced anti-Croatian slogans,

    including "kill Ustashe," which is a Serbian pejorative for

    Croats. The BBC reported that the players were aware of the

    potentially politically explosive nature of the match between

    the sportsmen from the two rival countries "and played to an

    uninspired 0-0 draw." PM

    [17] VALJEVO PROTEST LEADER BADLY BEATEN

    Serbia's Helsinki

    Committee for Human Rights said in a statement on 18 August

    that it is "deeply concerned" over the recent arrest and

    beating of Bogoljub Arsenijevic by Belgrade police (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1999). Arsenijevic is in a

    prison hospital in Valjevo with a broken jaw and shoulder. PM

    [18] PESIC FLEES TO MONTENEGRO

    Veteran Serbian opposition leader

    Vesna Pesic, who arrived in Podgorica on 18 August, said she

    wants to "remove [herself] from what is happening in Serbia."

    Pesic denied recent charges by several prominent Milosevic

    supporters and the Pancevo public prosecutor's office that

    she has called for the violent overthrow of the regime (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). She added that she has

    largely withdrawn from active participation in politics in

    recent months. In Pancevo, a spokesman for the prosecutor's

    office said that he is not sure if that office will press

    charges against Pesic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in

    prison, AP noted. PM

    [19] NGOS SAY MILOSEVIC REGIME BLOCKS AID TO SERBIAN REFUGEES

    Officials of Yugoslav Action, which includes the

    confederation of independent trade unions and some 50 NGOs,

    said in Belgrade on 19 August that the authorities are

    preventing aid collected abroad from reaching Serbian

    refugees from Kosova. One spokeswoman said that the regime

    does this to force the refugees to go home. She noted that

    the authorities followed a similar policy in regard to

    Serbian refugees from Croatia. PM

    [20] UNHCR ESTIMATES THAT 180,000 SERBS HAVE LEFT KOSOVA

    UNHCR

    spokesman Ron Redmond told Reuters in Prishtina on 18 August

    that so far around 180,000 Serbs have fled Kosova. He added

    that attacks on those who remain are still commonplace. And

    he estimated that fewer than 50,000 Serbs have stayed in the

    province. "We have no intention of conducting any large-scale

    evacuations. Sometimes, however, we have little or no choice

    but to take some vulnerable individuals to safety and we will

    continue to do so when necessary," he said (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 17 August 1999). FS

    [21] ITALIAN PEACEKEEPERS WOUNDED WHILE GUARDING CHURCH

    Unidentified attackers shot and wounded two Italian soldiers

    guarding a Serbian Orthodox church building in Gjakova, a

    KFOR official told AP on 19 August. The previous day, KFOR

    soldiers seized 50 rifles and ammunition in two separate

    raids in Gjakova and Prizren. FS

    [22] UNMIK, KFOR URGE ALBANIANS TO COOPERATE

    UN Special

    Representative Bernard Kouchner and KFOR commander

    General Sir Mike Jackson issued a joint statement on 18

    August in Prishtina calling on ethnic Albanians to

    cooperate with the peacekeepers and the civilian UN

    Mission in Kosova (UNMIK). The statement condemned "the

    illegal and threatening activities that have been taking

    place," referring to crimes committed by ethnic Albanian

    thugs against ethnic minorities. It stressed that "we

    will...only succeed in generating a secure environment

    with the full cooperation of the local population."

    Jackson and Kouchner expressed understanding for the

    fear of many Kosovar Serbs and Roma. The two men

    stressed: "We are dealing with the situation.... We are

    providing extensive protection for Serb and other

    minority communities and individuals." FS

    [23] ALBANIA, CROATIA PLEDGE TO INCREASE COOPERATION

    Croatian

    Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Albanian counterpart,

    Paskal Milo, agreed in Tirana on 18 August to increase

    bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture,

    transport, telecommunications, tourism, and education, an

    RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Albanian

    Prime Minister Pandeli Majko also met with Granic and

    proposed a meeting between the two countries' leaders and

    those of Montenegro to draw up joint projects within the

    framework of the Balkan stability pact. FS

    [24] BELGRADE RECRUITING 'FEDERAL POLICE' IN MONTENEGRO

    Unidentified people sought to recruit Montenegrins in Bijelo

    Polje for an unspecified Yugoslav "federal police force,"

    RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 18 August. The new

    recruits are almost all supporters of Yugoslav Prime Minister

    Momir Bulatovic, who is Milosevic's chief backer in

    Montenegro. Observers note that police functions are a

    republican and not a federal prerogative. The Montenegrin

    police are generally loyal to President Milo Djukanovic, who

    is Bulatovic's arch-rival. PM

    [25] ROMANIA, RUSSIA AGREE ON DEBT SETTLEMENT

    Returning from

    Moscow on 18 August, Finance Ministry State Secretary

    Gheorghe Banu said he and his Russian counterpart, Alexei

    Kutrin, have signed an agreement on settling Russia's $21.7

    million debt to Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau

    reported. Under the agreement, Russia will deliver

    machinery by 31 December 2000. Banu noted, however, that no

    agreement has been reached on the dispute concerning

    Romanian investments in Ukraine's Kryvyy Rih mineral

    extraction complex. Bucharest says it invested some 93.4

    million transferable rubles before the breakup of the

    former Soviet Union. The Russian side insists on tripartite

    negotiations involving Ukraine. According to Banu, a

    trilateral meeting might take place by the end of next

    month. MS

    [26] ROMANIAN NATIONALIST PARTY TO SUE PRESIDENT

    Party of

    Romanian National Unity (PUNR) chairman Valeriu Tabara said

    on 18 August that his formation will sue President Emil

    Constantinescu for calumny, Mediafax reported. Tabara was

    responding to Constantinescu's interview with CNN earlier

    this month, in which he said "extremist parties" such as

    the PUNR are unlikely to pass the electoral hurdle in the

    parliamentary elections scheduled for 2000. Tabara said he

    expects the PUNR to win at least 10 percent in those

    elections. He also announced he accepts his party's

    nomination as its presidential candidate in the 2000

    ballot. MS

    [27] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

    President Petru Lucinschi has asked the Constitutional

    Court to rule that the parliament's 2 July decision to

    amend the election law was unconstitutional, Infotag

    reported on 18 August. Under the amendment, the president's

    right to call a referendum was curtailed to three times

    during his four-year mandate. Lucinschi is also challenging

    the provision that the parliament must approve holding a

    plebiscite and that the Central Electoral commission must

    declare a plebiscite invalid if less than three-fifths of

    registered voters participate. MS

    [28] GERMANY EXTRADITES BULGARIAN AIRLINE OFFICIAL

    Vesselin

    Kalaydzhiev, manager of the Balkan Airlines Berlin office,

    has been extradited from Germany at the request of the

    Bulgarian Prosecutor-General's office, BTA reported on 17

    August. Kalaydzhiev has been charged with embezzlement and

    use of falsified documents. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [29] WHO GETS WHAT, WHEN, AND HOW

    By Michael Shafir

    When voters in a Prague electoral district go to the

    polls later this month to elect a replacement for the late

    Vaclav Benda, a lot more will be at stake than just another

    by-election.

    Benda represented the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in

    the upper house. Should the mandate go to one of the minor

    parties represented in the house, the ODS and the Social

    Democratic Party (CSSD) may be unable to secure the

    constitutional changes they agreed to pursue when they

    concluded the so-called "opposition pact," whereby the

    minority cabinet of the CSSD rules in exchange for the ODS's

    control over the chairmanships of the two parliamentary

    houses. To ensure passage of the constitutional amendments, a

    three-fifths majority is required in each house. The combined

    CSSD-ODS forces command that majority in the Chamber of

    Deputies (137 out of 200 deputies), but should Benda's

    mandate be lost to any formation outside the "opposition

    pact," the CSSD-ODS will not have the 49 (out of 81)

    senatorial votes necessary to implement those changes.

    Safeguarding Benda's seat, however, is only the first

    hurdle that the two political rivals-turned-partners have to

    overcome. A considerably higher hurdle is agreeing on the

    scope of those constitutional changes. The first objective is

    to limit the presidential prerogatives, making it impossible

    for Vaclav Havel or any of his successors to repeat the 1997

    appointment of a non-party figure as premier. Rather, the

    president would be obliged to appoint as premier the head of

    the strongest party that can garner a parliamentary majority.

    But while Prime Minister Milos Zeman and ODS chairman Vaclav

    Klaus still see eye to eye on this goal--as well as on

    curtailing other presidential prerogatives--they have

    disagreed over the second objective, namely reducing the

    parliamentary representation of smaller political formations.

    A joint commission of the two parties set up after the 1998

    elections has been unable to come up with a formula

    satisfying both sides, and a new commission embarked upon

    that task earlier this month.

    The ODS and the CSSD are determined to change the

    existing Hagen-Bischoff system of the proportional

    distribution of seats, which is one of the systems more

    friendly toward small parties, though not the friendliest.

    The ODS wanted to introduce a majority system, but in the

    face of CSSD opposition, it agreed to maintain the

    proportional system. To reduce the parliamentary weight of

    minor parties, the CSSD and the ODS agreed to implement what

    political scientists call "reducing district magnitude"--in

    other words, increasing the number of electoral districts

    while cutting the number of representatives elected from each

    of these districts. That change would obviously put larger

    parties at an advantage. While it has been agreed that 35-36

    districts are to replace the existing eight, disagreement

    emerged over the system to replace the Hagen-Bischoff one, as

    well as over when the change would go into effect.

    The ODS wants the Hagen-Bischoff formula replaced by the

    "Imperial system." The latter is rarely encountered in post-

    World War II democracies--for a very good reason: the system

    gives a kind of bonus to the large parties, producing

    parliamentary majorities where they do not exist in the

    electorate. Of all systems, the Imperial most resembles what

    Douglas W. Rae termed the "manufactured majority."

    Moreover, the system encourages political corruption, as

    the case of pre-1938 Romania demonstrates. In that country,

    as one observer put it, it was not electorates that changed

    governments, but governments that changed electorates. Why

    the ODS would prefer that system is obvious: while enjoying

    around 30 percent of support at present, the ODS would

    benefit under an Imperial system in that it would not only be

    the strongest party in the parliament but, given the bonus,

    would be sufficiently strong to form a government by itself.

    Precisely for this reason, the CSSD--aware that its

    popularity is at low ebb and that its chances of emerging as

    the strongest formation in the next elections are slim--would

    prefer to replace the Hagen-Bischoff system with the d'Hondt

    system of proportional distribution. Considerably more

    widespread than the Imperial, the d'Hondt favors larger

    parties but distorts electoral support less than does the

    Imperial and provides for the reduced representation of small

    parties.

    Czech political scientist Rudolf Kucera calculated that

    under the d'Hondt system, the CSSD last year would have

    gained 90 (instead of 74) mandates in the Chamber of Deputies

    and the ODS 74 (instead of 63). The small Christian

    Democratic Party and the Freedom Union would have had 10

    (instead of 20) and five (instead of 19) mandates,

    respectively. In other words, even if the CSSD does not

    emerge as the strongest party in 2002, it could still hope to

    form a coalition with one of the minor parties.

    The disagreement over the timing of implementing the

    change of system again reflects opposing calculations. The

    ODS wants the new election law, which necessitates amending

    the constitution, to go into effect one year after its

    approval. The CSSD, on the other hand, fears that this would

    terminate the "opposition agreement" and the ODS would opt

    for early elections. It therefore wants the changed electoral

    law to become effective only as of 1 January 2002. That is

    hardly surprising, particularly when one bears in mind Harold

    Laswell's definition of politics as "who gets what, when, and

    how."

    19-08-99


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


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