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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 162, 99-08-20

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. 162, 20 August 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS TO HOLD FURTHER
  • [02] AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST MURDERED
  • [03] ABKHAZ PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR SECOND TERM
  • [04] A GEORGIAN POLICEMAN'S LOT IS NOT A HAPPY ONE
  • [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY CONFIDENT
  • [06] ...WHILE OPPOSITION PARTY THREATEN TO BOYCOTT
  • [07] KAZAKH OFFICIAL CASTS DOUBT ON RESUMPTION OF
  • [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP INDIA
  • [09] KYRGYZSTAN BOMBS GUERRILLAS' ASSUMED POSITIONS
  • [10] KYRGYZSTAN RE-REGISTERS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
  • [11] U.S. CALLS FOR FOUR-WAY AGREEMENT ON TRANS-
  • [12] UZBEKISTAN SCHEDULES PARLIAMENTARY, PRESIDENTIAL
  • [13] UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS TAJIK AUTHORITIES CANNOT
  • [14] ...SAYS ETHNIC UZBEKS FIGHTING IN DAGHESTAN
  • [15] HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION CONDEMNS UZBEK

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [16] MASSIVE TURNOUT FOR BELGRADE RALLY...
  • [17] ...INCLUDING DRASKOVIC
  • [18] CEKU SAYS UCK MEETS DISARMAMENT DEADLINE...
  • [19] ...CRITICIZES UN POLICE RECRUITMENT
  • [20] KOSOVARS DISCOVER MORE MASS GRAVES
  • [21] ALBANIAN TELECOM TO EXTEND LINES INTO
  • [22] OVER 1,000 KOSOVAR ROMA ARRIVE IN ITALY
  • [23] STATE DEPARTMENT OBJECTS TO BOSNIAN CORRUPTION
  • [24] ...BUT 'NEW YORK TIMES' STANDS ITS GROUND
  • [25] CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER BOSNIAN CORRUPTION
  • [26] ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS 'NO ALTERNATIVE' TO
  • [27] ROMANIAN MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC CONTINUES SPREADING
  • [28] MOLDOVAN HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS MAY RECEIVE
  • [29] BULGARIA COUNTS ON NATO MEMBERSHIP BY 2004

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: SEEKING A

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS TO HOLD FURTHER

    TALKS

    Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev will meet his

    Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, in Geneva on 22

    August for a second round of confidential talks aimed at

    trying to resolve the Karabakh conflict, Reuters and ITAR-

    TASS reported on 19 August. Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy

    Adviser Vafa Guluzade told RFE/RL's Armenian service on 19

    August that the meeting bodes well for peace in the

    disputed enclave. Following an earlier meeting in Geneva in

    mid-July, President Aliev said both sides should be prepared

    to compromise in order to achieve a settlement of the

    conflict. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST MURDERED

    Telman Didirov, a

    journalist with the independent television station DM in

    Balaken Raion, was stabbed to death on the station's

    premises by unknown persons on 17 August, according to a

    press release issued two days later by Reporters sans

    Frontieres. That organization has called on Azerbaijan's

    Justice Minister Sudabah Hassanova to launch an investigation

    into the crime and determine whether the murder was

    directly related to Didirov's journalistic activities. LF

    [03] ABKHAZ PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR SECOND TERM

    Vladislav

    Ardzinba has agreed to run as a candidate in the 3 October

    presidential elections, Caucasus Press reported on 20

    August, quoting Central Electoral Commission chairman

    Vyacheslav Tsugba. Ardzinba's candidacy has been proposed

    by numerous public organizations in the unrecognized

    breakaway republic. No other challenger has yet been

    registered for the poll, the legality of which is not

    internationally recognized. The deadline for registration is 24

    August. Candidates must have lived in Abkhazia for five years

    prior to the poll. LF

    [04] A GEORGIAN POLICEMAN'S LOT IS NOT A HAPPY ONE

    Police in several districts of western Georgia continue to

    perform their constabulary duties without being paid.

    Policemen in Terjola and the town of Kutaisi have not

    received wages for one year, while their colleagues in

    Sachkhere Raion have not been paid for 42 months,

    according to "Rezonansi" on 19 August. LF

    [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY CONFIDENT

    OF VICTORY IN PARLIAMENTARY POLL...

    Leading members

    of the Otan (Fatherland) Party, which was formed shortly

    after the January 1999 presidential elections to support

    Nursultan Nazarbaev, told journalists in Almaty on 19 August

    that they are confident Otan will win a majority in the

    parliamentary elections on 17 September and 10 October,

    Reuters reported. OTAN plans to field 10 candidates to

    contest the 10 seats allocated under the proportional

    system. It will also field 55 candidates in the 67 single-

    mandate constituencies. Otan's election campaign is

    spearheaded by parliamentary speaker Marat Ospanov, who

    has consistently criticized the cabinet of Nurlan Balghymbaev.

    Ospanov said on 19 August that Balghymbaev's cabinet has

    "failed miserably" and "turned the majority of the people

    against economic reform." He added that Otan advocates

    radical changes to the government's present economic

    policy. LF

    [06] ...WHILE OPPOSITION PARTY THREATEN TO BOYCOTT

    BALLOT

    Vitalii Voronov, who heads the election campaign

    staff of former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin's People's

    Republican Party of Kazakhstan, told journalists in Almaty on

    19 August that the party will boycott the poll if Kazhegeldin

    is not permitted to register as a candidate, Interfax

    reported. Kazhegeldin was barred from running in the January

    presidential poll because earlier he had been found guilty of

    an administrative offense. Under the new election law, such

    offenses do not disqualify potential candidates, but it is

    unclear whether Kazhegeldin's conviction for contempt of

    court makes him ineligible. Voronov said the new election law

    is inconsistent with international democratic standards.

    Meeting with President Nazarbaev in Astana on 18 August,

    U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones expressed approval of the

    amendments to the election law and said he hopes that all

    political parties will be granted an equal opportunity to

    participate, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. LF

    [07] KAZAKH OFFICIAL CASTS DOUBT ON RESUMPTION OF

    BAIKONUR LAUNCHES

    Kazakhstan's Aerospace Agency

    Director Meirbek Moldabekov told Interfax on 19 August that

    he doubts whether Kazakhstan will lift by 31 August the

    current ban on launches of Russian Proton rockets from the

    Baikonur cosmodrome. Kazakhstan imposed the ban last

    month after a Proton rocket exploded shortly after blast-off

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 1999). On 18 August,

    Russian Space Agency First Deputy Director Valerii Alaverdov

    predicted the imminent lifting of the ban. But Moldabekov said

    that prediction reflects only Alaverdov's "personal

    prognosis." Moscow made the first $12.5 million payment last

    week toward its annual $165 million lease for the Baikonur

    facility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1999). LF

    [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP INDIA

    VISIT

    Visiting New Delhi on 17-18 August, Kasymzhomart

    Toqaev met with Indian Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee and with

    senior government officials to discuss expanding and

    economic trade cooperation, including in the oil and gas

    sector, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on

    19 August. The two sides signed several agreements

    including one on cooperating to fight international crime. LF

    [09] KYRGYZSTAN BOMBS GUERRILLAS' ASSUMED POSITIONS

    Kyrgyz military helicopters on 18 August bombed the region

    of southern Kyrgyzstan where Uzbek guerrillas had held four

    Kyrgyz officials hostage earlier this month, RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau reported on 19 August, quoting Presidential

    Administration official Bolot Dzhanuzakov. It is unclear

    whether the guerrillas remain in the region or whether any of

    them were injured in the bombing raids. LF

    [10] KYRGYZSTAN RE-REGISTERS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE

    Ramazan Dyryldaev, who is chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee

    for Human Rights (KCHR), told a press conference in Bishkek

    on 19 August that the Justice Ministry has finally re-

    registered his committee, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported.

    The committee's registration was revoked in September

    1998 after its members had criticized the planned

    referendum on amendments to the country's constitution.

    Dyryldaev said the Justice Ministry also withdrew the

    registration certificate issued to a body formed by members

    who broke away from the KCHR and registered a rival body

    with the same name in April 1999. Dyryldaev and his

    supporters have been campaigning since then for the re-

    registration of their committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13

    May and 2 June 1999). LF

    [11] U.S. CALLS FOR FOUR-WAY AGREEMENT ON TRANS-

    CASPIAN PIPELINE

    Speaking to journalists in Ashgabat on

    19 August following his talks with Turkmen President

    Saparmurat Niyazov, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson

    urged Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to sign

    a legal agreement committing their support for the planned

    Trans-Caspian gas export pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported.

    Richardson said the swift signing of such an agreement would

    expedite the solution of financing problems. A protracted

    dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over

    ownership of Caspian oilfields is perceived as an obstacle to

    such an agreement. Richardson also told journalists that

    Niyazov had agreed that Azerbaijan should be entitled to an

    unspecified amount of the pipeline's estimated annual

    throughput capacity from its recently discovered Shah Deniz

    reserves, according to Interfax. Also on 19 August, the U.S.

    Agency for Trade and Development gave Ashgabat a

    $150,000 grant toward consulting services for drafting the

    legal foundations for the pipeline project, AP reported. LF

    [12] UZBEKISTAN SCHEDULES PARLIAMENTARY, PRESIDENTIAL

    ELECTIONS

    President Islam Karimov told journalists on 19

    August that a new parliament and local councils will be

    elected on 5 December and presidential elections will take

    place on 9 January, Reuters and Interfax reported. The

    parliament, which reconvened on 19 August following the

    summer recess, must endorse those dates. Karimov did not

    confirm that he will run for re-election. He was elected to that

    post in 1991, and his mandate was prolonged in a 1995

    referendum. LF

    [13] UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS TAJIK AUTHORITIES CANNOT

    CONTROL SITUATION...

    During a break in the 19 August

    parliamentary session, President Karimov criticized the

    government of neighboring Tajikistan, which, he said, is

    unable to control the situation in the eastern part of the

    country. Noting that states are obliged to ensure the safety

    of their borders, Karimov blamed the Tajik authorities for

    permitting a group of armed militants, including ethnic Uzbeks,

    to cross into neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where they took four

    Kyrgyz officials hostage. Also on 19 August, the Russian

    Foreign Ministry expressed its regret at the 15 August

    bombing by Uzbek combat aircraft of border districts in

    Tajikistan, describing that action as a violation of Tajikistan's

    sovereignty. The Russian statement expressed the hope that

    the raid will not adversely affect relations between Tajikistan

    and Uzbekistan. The Kyrgyz authorities had asked Uzbekistan

    to bomb the region of southern Kyrgyzstan where the

    guerrillas were entrenched (see above). LF

    [14] ...SAYS ETHNIC UZBEKS FIGHTING IN DAGHESTAN

    President Karimov also said that his government knows that

    an unspecified number of young Uzbeks are currently fighting

    in Daghestan on the side of the Islamists, Interfax reported.

    He said the young men concerned had been trained by

    Jordanian-born field commander Khottab. LF

    [15] HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION CONDEMNS UZBEK

    SENTENCES

    Human Rights Watch on 19 August accused

    Uzbekistan of torture and political persecution following the

    sentencing the previous day of six men accused of

    participating in the February bombings in Tashkent, Reuters

    reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). Five of

    the six were members of the Erk Party, which was banned in

    1992. All had been repeatedly tortured during the pre-trial

    investigation. According to Human Rights Watch, their only

    transgression was ownership of a banned newspaper and

    their political convictions. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [16] MASSIVE TURNOUT FOR BELGRADE RALLY...

    Some

    150,000 people attended a demonstration in Belgrade on 19

    August to demand the resignation of Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic. Several opposition leaders, academics,

    and Serbian Orthodox clerics addressed the gathering.

    Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told enthusiastic

    listeners that the opposition will hold daily street protests if

    Milosevic does not resign within two weeks. Observers noted

    that the Yugoslav leader is unlikely to bow to his opponents'

    demands. The opposition's main hope is to encourage

    Milosevic's colleagues and supporters to abandon the

    Yugoslav leader and join the opposition in daily displays of

    "people's power" on the streets of Serbia's main cities and

    towns. PM

    [17] ...INCLUDING DRASKOVIC

    Vuk Draskovic, who is the

    mercurial leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement,

    unexpectedly turned up at the 19 August Belgrade

    gathering. He told listeners that no one should attempt to

    "take power from the streets," calling instead for early

    elections to be held by the end of November. Draskovic said

    recently that he would not attend the meeting. One of his

    spokesmen told the BBC on 20 August that Draskovic

    "happened to be in the center of Belgrade" and was

    "compelled" by supporters to speak to the crowd. Observers

    suggested that he may have intended to address the

    gathering all along but did not make his intentions known until

    the last minute in order to increase the dramatic effect. He

    may also have wanted to reaffirm his standing as an

    opposition leader in the wake of rumors that he recently

    made a deal with Milosevic to hold early elections (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). PM

    [18] CEKU SAYS UCK MEETS DISARMAMENT DEADLINE...

    General Agim Ceku, who is chief of the General Staff of the

    Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 19 August

    that the UCK has met NATO's second deadline for its

    disarmament, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent

    reported. Ceku pledged to complete the UCK's

    demilitarization by 19 September, which is the scheduled end

    of the third and final phase of disarmament. An unidentified

    KFOR official told Reuters "I don't think there will be any

    problem with our saying that they have met the deadline, but

    we can't announce it officially yet." In June, the UCK pledged

    to hand in by 19 August all heavy weapons, all long-barreled

    weapons, such as Kalashnikov rifles, and 60 percent of all

    automatic small arms. FS

    [19] ...CRITICIZES UN POLICE RECRUITMENT

    Also on19

    August, Ceku criticized the UN Mission in Kosovo

    (UNMIK) for including only a small number of former UCK

    members among the first group of local police recruits.

    According to dpa, only three UCK members have been

    accepted in the initial recruiting stage for the force.

    Some 200 people have been recruited during this first

    stage. The recruits will undergo five weeks of training at

    a police academy scheduled to be inaugurated on 21

    August. Ceku stressed that "since it was founded, the

    Kosova Liberation Army has made it very clear that it is

    determined to achieve a democratic society in Kosova,

    which will be multi-ethnic and based on tolerance and

    respect for diversity," Reuters reported. FS

    [20] KOSOVARS DISCOVER MORE MASS GRAVES

    Ethnic

    Albanians discovered a mass grave site near Dragodan

    on 19 August, AP reported. Fadil Batalli, director of

    Prishtina's Forensic Institute, said that the bodies of up

    to 200 ethnic Albanians may be buried there. KFOR

    spokesman Roland Lavoie said KFOR troops will notify

    the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former

    Yugoslavia about the site. FS

    [21] ALBANIAN TELECOM TO EXTEND LINES INTO

    KOSOVA

    Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in

    Tirana on 19 August that the state-owned Albanian

    Telecom will invest $200,000 to establish a microwave

    telephone link between Albania and Kosova and to install

    30 pay phones in Gjakova, an RFE/RL South Slavic

    Service correspondent reported. Majko made the

    remarks after a meeting of Telecom's board of

    directors. Majko recalled that in late July the

    governments of Albania and Montenegro agreed to link

    Shkodra and Podgorica with a fiber-optic telephone

    cable. He expressed hope that the two projects will

    promote regional integration. The Albanian government

    is planning to build similar links with Macedonia and

    Greece, Reuters reported. FS

    [22] OVER 1,000 KOSOVAR ROMA ARRIVE IN ITALY

    A fishing-

    boat carrying more than 1,100 Roma refugees, mostly from

    Kosova, arrived at Italy's southern coast on 19 August. The

    boat contained mostly women and children. FS

    [23] STATE DEPARTMENT OBJECTS TO BOSNIAN CORRUPTION

    REPORT...

    State Department spokesman James Rubin said in

    Washington on 19 August that a recent report in "The New

    York Times" on corruption in Bosnia-Herzegovina

    exaggerated the extent of the problem (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 17 August 1999). He added: "It's hard enough to

    get support in this country for foreign assistance as it is. To

    have a false and unjustified and unsubstantiated perception

    that a billion dollars in foreign aid money has been stolen by

    the Bosnians...harms that cause.... We would like to see

    corrective measures taken that create the truth and not this

    false perception," Rubin noted. PM

    [24] ...BUT 'NEW YORK TIMES' STANDS ITS GROUND

    "The New

    York Times" Foreign Editor Andrew Rosenthal told Reuters on

    19 August that, after talks with Rubin, the newspaper will

    publish corrections to three "details" of its story. Rosenthal

    stressed, however, that its story is largely correct. "We have

    reviewed all of [Rubin's'] complaints and found a couple of

    minor points on which we think we made factual errors, which

    we are going to correct in the paper tonight. The basic

    premise of the story is completely sound," the foreign editor

    noted. The previous day, the paper wrote that all of the

    "lost" $1 billion was international aid. U.S. government

    spokesmen have said that the aid component of the money

    embezzled is a tiny proportion, perhaps less than 2 percent.

    A spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang

    Petritsch said recently in Sarajevo that most of the stolen

    funds were Bosnian public money. PM

    [25] CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER BOSNIAN CORRUPTION

    Chris Hedges, who wrote the article on corruption for 'The

    New York Times," said that he stands by his story, RFE/RL's

    South Slavic Service reported on 20 August. He rejected

    recent charges by Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic

    that the article constitutes a "witch hunt against the Bosnian

    authorities." In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska Deputy Prime

    Minister Ostoja Kremanovic said that "corruption does not

    exist" in the Bosnian Serb entity. He acknowledged, however,

    that there may be "isolated cases" in which individuals have

    used their public office for personal gain. PM

    [26] ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS 'NO ALTERNATIVE' TO

    ECONOMIC POLICY

    In an interview with RFE/RL on 19

    August, Prime Minister Radu Vasile said there is no alternative

    to the government's austerity program. He noted that the

    National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) may

    have to pay the political price for the austerity program but

    added that any government formed after the 2000 elections

    will have to pursue the same policy and respect the

    conditions the IMF has imposed on Romania. Vasile added that

    the PNTCD must "take into consideration the country's

    realities." If it wants to stay in power after 2000, the PNTCD

    cannot ignore the political strength of social democracy, he

    said. He explained that this does not "necessarily" mean,

    however, that the PNTCD must form a coalition with the Party

    of Social Democracy in Romania, which, he said, many had

    understood him to be advocating. MS

    [27] ROMANIAN MENINGITIS EPIDEMIC CONTINUES SPREADING

    Some 200 new cases of meningitis are registered in Romania

    every day, according to data released by the Health Ministry,

    RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The number of

    registered cases now totals 2,160, of which 77 percent are

    under the age of 19. Meanwhile, an epidemic of chronic

    conjunctivitis has broken out, with most cases being

    registered in Bucharest. MS

    [28] MOLDOVAN HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS MAY RECEIVE

    COMPENSATION

    Moldovan Jews and Roma who survived the

    Holocaust may become eligible for compensation under the

    $1.25 billion collective suit filed in the U.S. against Swiss

    banks, according to Olga Tichovskaya, coordinator of the

    compensation information program for Roma. Flux on 18

    August reported her as saying that her task is "extremely

    difficult" because about one-third of Moldovan Roma are

    illiterate. Therefore, the information will also be disseminated

    by enlisting the help of the four Moldovan Roma ethnic

    organizations. According to unofficial estimates, about

    100,000 Roma live in Moldova. MS

    [29] BULGARIA COUNTS ON NATO MEMBERSHIP BY 2004

    Bulgaria believes it will be invited to begin NATO membership

    talks in 2001 and that the negotiations will be successfully

    concluded by 2004, Deputy Defense Minister Velizar

    Shalamanov said on 19 August, according to ITAR-TASS. The

    same day, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry released an "action

    plan for NATO membership," in line with U.S. suggestions for

    countries seeking NATO admission. The plan is divided into

    five sections that deal with political, economic, defense, legal,

    and security issues. Shalamanov said a program will be

    worked out next year that includes specific target dates and

    how the funds will be provided to meet those dates. He

    added that the goal of the plan is to demonstrate the

    irreversibility of military reforms in line with the NATO

    principles of civilian control over the army and of operational

    capability. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [30] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: SEEKING A

    DISTINCTIVE IMAGE

    by Jan Maksymiuk

    By the 1 August deadline, Ukraine's Central Electoral

    Commission had registered nine candidates for the 31

    October presidential elections: President Leonid Kuchma,

    parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, Communist Party

    leader Petro Symonenko, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr

    Moroz, Progressive Socialist Party chairwoman Natalya

    Vitrenko, former Premier Yevhen Marchuk, Cherkasy Mayor

    Volodymyr Oliynyk, as well as Hennadiy Udovenko and Yuriy

    Kostenko, leaders of the two splinter groups of the Popular

    Rukh.

    Following complaints by six other aspirants, the Supreme

    Court ordered the commission also to register Social

    Democratic Party leader Vasyl Onopenko, Mykola Haber of

    the Patriotic Party, Oleksandr Rzhavskyy of the Single

    Fatherland party, Oleksandr Bazylyuk of the Slavic Party,

    Vitaliy Kononov of the Green Party, and Yuriy Karmazin of the

    Party of the Fatherland's Defenders.

    The sheer number of presidential hopefuls makes an

    analysis of their election prospects a complicated task.

    Moreover, virtually all of the incumbent president's main rivals

    come from the left of the political spectrum, as a result of

    which their election programs are frequently similar, if not

    identical, on a variety of issues. But this state of affairs is

    problematic not only for analysts. The candidates themselves

    are experiencing difficulties forging their own distinctive

    political identity among the dozen or so competitors. For this

    reason, the main candidates are not only presenting their

    political platforms but are also seeking to project a

    "mythologized" image. Such images are usually limited to a

    handful of slogans, but it seems that such devices may be at

    least as important as official programs in mustering votes on

    31 October.

    Incumbent President Kuchma is constantly present in the

    Ukrainian media and therefore has no need to seek to

    project his image in any special way. His re-election bid is

    handicapped, however, by Ukraine's disastrous economic

    situation. While keeping silent on economic issues, Kuchma's

    image-makers advertise him as a world statesman and the

    only Ukrainian politician who has some clout in the West.

    According to them, Kuchma is the only guarantor of Ukraine's

    transformation, and his re-election would mean the

    continuation of current reforms.

    Communist Party leader Symonenko lacks luster as a

    politician, but his assets include the unwavering support of

    the largest caucus in the parliament as well as that of

    disillusioned pensioners and the unemployed, who are openly

    nostalgic for the Soviet era. Symonenko promotes himself as

    the defender of the "ordinary people," an enemy of

    international financial organizations, and a proponent of

    Ukraine's integration with Russia and Belarus.

    Progressive Socialist Party chairwoman Vitrenko is the

    most radical and populist presidential candidate among those

    on the left wing. While earlier she had vehemently promoted

    herself as the only "true Marxist" in Ukraine, she now prefers

    to underscore her economic education and doctorate. Her

    "reform" program advocates reintroducing a command

    economy, halting privatization, and breaking all relations with

    the IMF and the World Bank. She sharply criticizes both

    Communist Symonenko and Socialist Moroz as "opportunists"

    and "betrayers" of the socialist idea.

    Socialist Party leader Moroz trails far behind Symonenko

    and Vitrenko in the polls, but this has not stopped him from

    asserting that he is the only leftist candidate able to defeat

    Kuchma. (It is expected that no candidate will win the first

    round of elections on 31 October and that Kuchma will face a

    left-wing rival two weeks later.) Moroz claims to be a

    moderate leftist who can attract communist, socialist, and

    social democratic votes. His party's newspaper, "Tovarysh"

    (Comrade), promotes him as an "intelligent" and "decent" man.

    Former Premier Marchuk is presented--especially by the

    newspaper "Den," which he sponsors--as a "strongman," a

    kind of Ukrainian General de Gaulle, whom the country

    urgently needs as it sinks into socio-economic chaos and is

    plagued by widespread corruption. Marchuk's campaigners

    make much of his former capacity as Ukraine's Security

    Service chairman--with the rank of general, no less--as proof

    that he is able to do away with corruption. (By the same

    token, they fail to mention his Soviet KGB activities). His main

    election slogan affirms that Ukraine can overcome the current

    crisis "on its own." He also tries to pose as a centrist equally

    suited to representing both the western ("nationalist") and

    eastern (more Russia-oriented) parts of Ukraine.

    While Tkachenko emphasizes his grass-roots origins and

    political career (he was born into a peasant family and

    ascended all steps of the Soviet state and party hierarchy,

    from raion party secretary to first deputy prime minister), he

    projects the image of the people's savior (who has a

    program of economic revival until 2015) and of a statesman

    equal in rank and importance to the incumbent president. "I

    am not the first person in Ukraine, but neither am I the

    second" is his well-publicized self-appraisal. Tkachenko is also

    another staunch supporter of Ukrainian integration with

    Russia and Belarus.

    Other candidates appear less outspoken than the six

    "heavyweights" listed above. However, their role in the

    overall distribution of votes on 31 October should not be

    underestimated. While lacking significant electoral support

    and/or distinctive media images, they may nonetheless have

    an influence on the final tallies of those leading the polls. And

    by voicing their preferences for the anticipated second

    round, they may tip the election balance in favor of one of

    the two final candidates.

    20-08-99


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


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