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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 202, 99-10-15

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. 202, 15 October 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN NATIONALIST PARTY WARNS AGAINST KARABAKH
  • [02] MOVEMENT IN SUPPORT OF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT GAINS
  • [03] FOUR UN HOSTAGES RELEASED IN WESTERN GEORGIA
  • [04] KAZAKH OPPOSITION QUERIES OFFICIAL POLL RETURNS
  • [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT COMPLETES CABINET RESHUFFLE
  • [06] NEGOTIATOR SAYS ONE KYRGYZ HOSTAGE KILLED...
  • [07] ...AS GUERRILLAS' LEADERS THREATEN REPRISALS
  • [08] DEMANDS ON KYRGYZSTAN'S BUDGET MULTIPLY
  • [09] TAJIK OPPOSITION MAY SUSPEND COOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] KOSOVARS TRY TO STORM BRIDGE IN MITROVICA
  • [11] ANNAN CALLS FOR MULTI-ETHNIC KOSOVA
  • [12] ALBANIA'S MILO WARNS AGAINST NEGLECTING KOSOVA
  • [13] TURKISH PRESIDENT VISITS KOSOVA
  • [14] NEW LICENSE PLATES FOR KOSOVA
  • [15] SERBS MOVE PRISHTINA UNIVERSITY FACULTIES
  • [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION AGREES ON ELECTION TERMS
  • [17] SERBIAN PRESIDENT STONED IN NIS
  • [18] UN SAYS NATO CAUSED NO ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE IN SERBIA
  • [19] SFOR PEACEKEEPERS STONED IN MOSTAR
  • [20] PETRITSCH CALLS ON BOSNIAN OFFICIALS TO VACATE APARTMENTS
  • [21] TUDJMAN SEEKING SPECIAL TREATMENT AT VATICAN?
  • [22] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT WANTS MORE TV AIR TIME?
  • [23] CROATIAN OIL COMPANY TO CALL IN DEBTS
  • [24] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CHINA
  • [25] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT DECIDES TO COMPENSATE ANTI-COMMUNIST
  • [26] MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OKAYS INITIATIVE TO AMEND
  • [27] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS COUNTRY MAY HAVE TO AMEND

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [28] AUSTRIA'S EX-COMMUNIST NEIGHBORS RESPOND TO HAIDER'S

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN NATIONALIST PARTY WARNS AGAINST KARABAKH

    CONCESSIONS

    Hrant Khachatrian, one of the leaders of the

    hard-line Right and Accord parliamentary bloc, warned

    Armenian President Robert Kocharian on 14 October not to

    agree to any peace deal that does not provide for the

    unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to become fully

    independent or be unified with Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. Khachatrian warned that if Kocharian does

    agree to major concessions he may share the fate of his

    predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrossian, who was forced to resign

    in February 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1998).

    Right and Accord, which has eight seats in the parliament, is

    backed by former Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan. LF

    [02] MOVEMENT IN SUPPORT OF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT GAINS

    MOMENTUM

    The committee to protect the rights of exiled

    former President Ayaz Mutalibov has collected 150,000

    signatures in support of its demands to allow him to return

    to Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 14 October, citing the daily

    "Yeddi gun" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 35, 2

    September 1999). Committee chairman Abdul Mahmudov said that

    on average its members collect an additional 10,000

    signatures a day. The present Azerbaijani authorities have

    accused Mutalibov of theft of arms and ammunition,

    instigating and participating in mass public disturbances,

    and complicity in the alleged coup attempts against President

    Aliev in October 1994 and March 1995. LF

    [03] FOUR UN HOSTAGES RELEASED IN WESTERN GEORGIA

    The

    unidentified gunmen who seized six UN observers and their

    interpreter in the Kodori gorge on 13 October upped their

    ransom demand from $200,000 to $250,000 on 14 October and

    threatened to shoot one of their captives. Later, however,

    they unconditionally released four of the hostages. Georgian

    parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said on 15 October that

    no ransom had been paid and that he is sure the remaining

    hostages will soon be freed. He added that the gunmen are

    negotiating security guarantees with the Georgian leadership,

    ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [04] KAZAKH OPPOSITION QUERIES OFFICIAL POLL RETURNS

    Opposition

    candidates continue to complain to the OSCE monitoring

    mission of irregularities during the 10 October election to

    the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, Reuters

    reported on 14 October. The agency quoted an OSCE spokesman

    as saying the mission has "serious concerns" about the

    validity of the results in the three districts of Almaty.

    Petr Svojk, who heads Kazakhstan's opposition Azamat

    (Citizen) Party, told Reuters that the preliminary results

    are "a catastrophe for democracy in our country." According

    to the outcome of the party list vote, Azamat failed to

    overcome the 7 percent threshold to qualify for parliamentary

    representation. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin

    said the voting procedure was more democratic than during the

    January presidential poll but that the voting tallies are

    being revised to ensure that the leadership's "favorite"

    candidates receive parliamentary mandates. LF

    [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT COMPLETES CABINET RESHUFFLE

    Nursultan

    Nazarbaev on 14 October appointed Vladimir Shkolnik as

    minister of industry, trade and energy, and Nikolai

    Radostovets as minister of labor and social protection,

    Interfax reported. The agriculture, justice, and interior

    ministers retained their posts in the new cabinet. Nazarbaev

    began a short vacation later the same day. LF

    [06] NEGOTIATOR SAYS ONE KYRGYZ HOSTAGE KILLED...

    Kyrgyz

    parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, who recently

    secured the release of five of the 13 hostages seized by

    guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan in late August, told

    journalists in Bishkek on 14 October that the guerrillas had

    killed one of the Kyrgyz hostages before 4 October, RFE/RL's

    Bishkek bureau reported. He did not give the name of the

    hostage allegedly killed. Bakir Uulu advocated talks between

    the Uzbek government and the opposition Islamic Movement of

    Uzbekistan, to which the hostage-takers reportedly belong. He

    also said that the Japanese government should accede to the

    kidnappers' demand to send a representative to negotiate

    terms for the release of the four hostage Japanese

    geologists, whose lives he said are in danger. LF

    [07] ...AS GUERRILLAS' LEADERS THREATEN REPRISALS

    Bakir Uulu

    brought a further message, dated 6 October, to the Kyrgyz

    authorities from the leadership of the Islamic Movement of

    Uzbekistan announcing its decision to release the hostages in

    stages and to declare a unilateral cease-fire. The statement

    threatened reprisals against Kyrgyz leaders who cooperate

    with the "dictatorial regime" of Uzbek President Islam

    Karimov. LF

    [08] DEMANDS ON KYRGYZSTAN'S BUDGET MULTIPLY

    In his annual

    address to the parliament on 14 October, Kyrgyzstan's

    President Askar Akaev vowed that the government will pay all

    wage and pension arrears before the end of 1999, RFE/RL's

    bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. He said that the

    guerrilla incursions into southern Kyrgyzstan over the past

    two months and the military response to that threat have cost

    a total of 200 million soms (about $5 million) and that 1.5

    billion soms must be spent on national security over the next

    four years. The previous day, Finance Minister Sultan Mederov

    told a cabinet meeting that the draft budget for 2000 must be

    amended to provide an additional 200 million soms for the

    newly created Batken Oblast. He estimated wage costs for the

    region's 160 administrators alone at 12 million soms. In

    addition, Kyrgyzstan must repay some $80 million next year on

    loans from Russia and international financial organizations.

    LF

    [09] TAJIK OPPOSITION MAY SUSPEND COOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT

    United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri told

    journalists in Dushanbe on 14 October that the UTO may

    suspend its participation in the work of the National

    Reconciliation Commission to protest the authorities'

    restrictions on opposition activities, ITAR-TASS and Asia

    Plus-Blitz reported. Nuri said that at a meeting the previous

    day, he had handed to President Imomali Rakhmonov

    documentation proving that local administrators had violated

    the election law by preventing three opposition politicians

    from collecting the required number of signatures to register

    their candidacy in the 6 November presidential poll (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 October 199). Nuri urged

    Rakhmonov to ensure that the poll is democratic. Also on 14

    October, a group of investigators from the Dushanbe branch of

    the Tajik Interior Ministry were subjected to artillery fire

    in the capital, ITAR-TASS reported. Six police officers were

    wounded in the ensuing shootout. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] KOSOVARS TRY TO STORM BRIDGE IN MITROVICA

    Some 3,000 ethnic

    Albanians on 15 October tried to force their way across the

    Ibar River bridge that links the Albanian and Serbian parts

    of Mitrovica, Reuters reported. French KFOR troops and

    Italian riot police fired stun grenades and tear gas to force

    the Kosovars back, according to AP. Other KFOR soldiers fired

    into the air to warn Albanians and Serbs alike to stay back

    from the bridge. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

    Ethnic Albanians demand an end to what has become in effect a

    partition of Mitrovica into a northern Serbian sector and a

    southern Albanian one. PM

    [11] ANNAN CALLS FOR MULTI-ETHNIC KOSOVA

    UN Secretary-General

    Kofi Annan said in Prishtina on 14 October that his goal is

    to promote a multi-ethnic Kosova. He added that the UN is

    "not here to prepare the people for independence." Local

    media have recently suggested that the UN will soon share

    administrative authority with Hashim Thaci of the former

    Kosova Liberation Army, which seeks independence. Annan is on

    a Balkan visit that has already taken him to Bosnia. PM

    [12] ALBANIA'S MILO WARNS AGAINST NEGLECTING KOSOVA

    Foreign

    Minister Pascal Milo said in Tirana on 14 October that the

    international community should devote as much energy and

    attention to the post-war reconstruction and development of

    Kosova as NATO did to its military action against Serbia in

    the spring. He also appealed to Kosovars not to engage in

    violence lest they jeopardize their chances of eventually

    achieving a political settlement in the province, dpa

    reported. PM

    [13] TURKISH PRESIDENT VISITS KOSOVA

    Suleyman Demirel told

    representatives of Kosova's 60,000 ethnic Turks in Mamusa on

    15 October that they should live in harmony with their

    Serbian and Albanian neighbors. He also visited Turkish

    troops stationed nearby. Kosova was part of the Ottoman

    Empire for nearly 500 years. Many of the province's ethnic

    Turks have long resented what they regard as attempts by

    ethnic Albanians to assimilate them. PM

    [14] NEW LICENSE PLATES FOR KOSOVA

    UN police began issuing new

    license plates in Kosova on 15 October. The aim is to control

    a growing market in stolen cars, AP reported. Most cars have

    no license plates. Owners often claim that Serbian forces

    confiscated their license plates and registration papers, but

    UN officials believe that many cars were stolen in Western

    Europe or from local Serbs. PM

    [15] SERBS MOVE PRISHTINA UNIVERSITY FACULTIES

    The Serbian

    government decided on 14 October to "temporarily" move the

    Serbian faculties of Prishtina University to northern

    Mitrovica and Krusevac, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. PM

    [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION AGREES ON ELECTION TERMS

    Representatives

    of most Serbian opposition parties signed an agreement in

    Belgrade on 14 October in which they set down their demands

    to the government for holding early elections (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 14 October 1999). The opposition wants a round-

    table with the authorities to discuss an early ballot but did

    not set a deadline for the government to respond. This is the

    first time in 10 years that the opposition has agreed on a

    common electoral platform, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. Elsewhere, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav

    Seselj said that his Radical Party is willing to discuss key

    issues with other parties. He did not elaborate. PM

    [17] SERBIAN PRESIDENT STONED IN NIS

    Some 6,000 angry protesters

    hurled stones at Serbian President Milan Milutinovic in Nis

    on 14 October. He reopened a bridge damaged by NATO air

    strikes in the spring of 1999. Milutinovic, who is an

    indicted war criminal, said "the reconstruction of Serbia

    does not mean only rebuilding but also making changes. [We

    need to introduce] a modern market economy and inter-ethnic

    equality, and to strengthen and develop democratic

    institutions," Reuters reported. Protesters booed him in June

    in Nis, which is Serbia's third largest city and an

    opposition stronghold. PM

    [18] UN SAYS NATO CAUSED NO ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE IN SERBIA

    Pekka Haavisto, who heads UN environmental investigators in

    the Balkans, said in Stockholm on 14 October that NATO's

    spring air campaign did not produce an ecological

    catastrophe, as the Milosevic regime has claimed. Haavisto

    noted that Serbia was already a heavily polluted country

    before the war. He added that previous pollution and the

    effects of bombing have produced dangerous situations in

    Pancevo, Kragujevac, Novi Sad, and Bor. PM

    [19] SFOR PEACEKEEPERS STONED IN MOSTAR

    Angry ethnic Croatian

    civilians pelted an unspecified number of SFOR troops with

    stones in Mostar on 14 October, injuring four of the

    soldiers. At least one civilian was hurt, but the

    circumstances are unclear, Reuters reported. The peacekeepers

    were searching a weather station, police building, television

    station offices, and other unspecified sites for illegal

    weapons. A NATO spokesman said in Sarajevo that "local

    authorities have consistently failed to tackle illegal

    activities, making it necessary for SFOR to act in the Mostar

    area...to ensure the peaceful establishment of a multiethnic

    and law-abiding community in the Mostar area," AP reported.

    The spokesman provided no details of the mission. Western

    Herzegovina, of which Mostar is the main city, has

    traditionally been the home of the most militant Croatian

    nationalists in the Balkans. Since 1995, local officials and

    armed paramilitaries have doggedly resisted the international

    community's attempts to enable Muslims to return to their

    homes in western Herzegovina. PM

    [20] PETRITSCH CALLS ON BOSNIAN OFFICIALS TO VACATE APARTMENTS

    A

    spokeswoman for the international community's Wolfgang

    Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 14 October that local

    politicians who live in apartments belonging to other people

    should vacate the premises. She noted that such a move would

    demonstrate their personal commitment to respecting the

    Dayton peace agreement, which guarantees the right of

    refugees to go home. Petritsch's office receives "daily"

    complaints from persons wanting to return to their apartments

    but who are unable to do so because government officials are

    living in them, she added. The process of enabling refugees

    to go home would receive a great boost if officials and

    government workers would set an example, "Oslobodjenje"

    commented. PM

    [21] TUDJMAN SEEKING SPECIAL TREATMENT AT VATICAN?

    Croatian

    President Franjo Tudjman has asked that Cardinal Angelo

    Sodano, who is the Vatican's "foreign minister," personally

    administer Holy Communion to him and his party in the crypt

    beneath St. Peter's when Tudjman visits Italy later in

    October, "Jutarnji list" reported on 15 October. The Zagreb

    daily cited "Church sources" as saying that it is not common

    for visiting foreign dignitaries to "order" a Mass, to

    specify who is to say it, or to ask for it to be held in the

    crypt. The Vatican has included a Mass in St. Peter's in

    Tudjman's schedule "in order not to have a diplomatic

    scandal," the newspaper added. The schedule does not give any

    particulars regarding the Mass. Tudjman uses Roman Catholic

    events for his own political purposes but does not claim to

    be a religious man. He has long sought to keep the Church

    from acquiring a voice in politics. PM

    [22] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT WANTS MORE TV AIR TIME?

    A majority of the

    members of the government said they oppose Croatian public

    television's (HRT) rule that news coverage given to

    individual government officials be counted as part of the air

    time allotted to their respective political parties. Foreign

    Minister Mate Granic, who disagreed with his colleagues, said

    that HRT's policy is fully in keeping with international

    standards, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. HRT is

    widely regarded as a mouthpiece of the governing Croatian

    Democratic Community. PM

    [23] CROATIAN OIL COMPANY TO CALL IN DEBTS

    The state-owned oil

    monopoly INA is seeking to call in debts, which now exceed

    $200 million, AP reported on 14 October. The biggest debtors

    are the state-owned electric company, which owes $28.6

    million, and the Petrokemija plant, whose debts amount to

    $21.4 million. It is unclear what INA will do if customers

    fail to pay. The oil company itself has made losses of more

    than $58 million in the past eight months and has debts

    amounting to $114 million. PM

    [24] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CHINA

    Andrei Plesu met with

    Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and Foreign Minister Tang Jianxuan

    in Beijing on 14 October, the BBC reported, citing Xinhua.

    According to the Chinese news agency, Plesu said Romania

    "firmly supports" China's position on both Taiwan and Tibet

    (Plesu had visited the latter before arriving in China).

    Mediafax, however, quoted him as saying that relations

    between Romania and China remain good "despite differences."

    Plesu noted that economic relations are "lagging behind" the

    two countries' political relations. Plesu and Tang signed an

    agreement for a "$600,000 non-refundable credit" to Romania,

    according to Mediafax. MS

    [25] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT DECIDES TO COMPENSATE ANTI-COMMUNIST

    GUERRILLAS

    The Chamber of Deputies on 14 October approved a

    law on the rehabilitation of and compensation to those who

    used military means to resist the Communist regime. Under the

    law, that compensation will be equal to that received by

    those who were political prisoners under communism. The law

    was drafted by 17 deputies representing the National Peasant

    Party Christian Democratic and has still to be approved by

    the Senate. Observers note that the law is controversial

    because many anti-Communist guerrillas of the late 1940s and

    the 1950s were Iron Guard members or sympathizers. Persons

    (or their descendants) eligible for compensation must first

    apply for rehabilitation. If they are rehabilitated, all

    confiscated property must be returned to them (or their

    descendants). Those executed or killed in prison after being

    captured are to be granted the title of "Martyr-Hero." MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OKAYS INITIATIVE TO AMEND

    CONSTITUTION

    The Constitutional Court on 14 October ruled

    that the initiative of 39 parliamentary deputies to amend the

    basic law is in accordance with constitutional provisions,

    Infotag reported. Under existing legislation, the initiative

    can be moved in the legislature six months after the court's

    ruling. The aim of the initiative is to stop President Petru

    Lucinschi's drive to switch to a presidential system by

    strengthening the powers of the government. The proposed

    amendments stipulate that the government will have the right

    to ask the parliament to pass legislation under emergency

    procedure. In addition, the parliament will be able to grant

    the government temporary legislative powers. MS

    [27] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS COUNTRY MAY HAVE TO AMEND

    CONSTITUTION

    Addressing the parliament on 14 October, Ivan

    Kostov said Bulgaria may have to amend its constitution

    "because some of its provisions do not allow access to the

    EU," AP and BTA reported. Kostov did not specify which

    articles of the basic document must be amended, but earlier

    he had suggested that it may be necessary to strike the

    provision forbidding the sale of land to foreigners. Kostov

    added that the problem of the Kozloduy nuclear plant will

    have "to be sorted out" with the EU, saying "we have no

    option..., we must not miss this chance." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [28] AUSTRIA'S EX-COMMUNIST NEIGHBORS RESPOND TO HAIDER'S

    ELECTORAL SUCCESS

    by Michael Shafir

    The electoral success of Joerg Haider's far-right,

    populist, and xenophobic Freedom Party in Austria's 3 October

    parliamentary elections triggered different reactions from

    that country's former communist neighbors.

    Only Istvan Csurka, leader of Hungary's Justice and Life

    Party, dared go as far as to openly voice satisfaction,

    saying he was "delighted" with the results because "all

    nations have a right to defend their own living space and

    their particular way of life against foreigners." In this

    context, Csurka used the Hungarian equivalent of the Nazi

    term "Lebensraum," for which he had been harshly criticized

    in the past. And he suggested that the Austrian elections

    might foreshadow Hungary's future political scene, in which

    "the liberals could be swept out from the parliament."

    The event was ignored by like-minded parties elsewhere

    in the region. In Slovakia, the National Party (SNS) was

    preoccupied with an internal power struggle that saw its

    former leader, Jan Slota, replaced by Anna Malinkova, a

    woman--the ultimate insult to the macho Slota. But as the

    daily "Pravda" remarked on 6 October, Malinkova is much

    closer to Haider than the coarse Slota ever was. And like

    Haider, she will probably embark on a process of making the

    party's image more sophisticated, while conserving its ultra-

    nationalist, anti-minority, and anti- European integration

    postures.

    In the Czech Republic, the anti-German postures of

    Miroslav Sladek's Republican Party (SPR-RSC) would not allow

    that group to display pro-Haider sympathies. After all, the

    SPR-RSC was dealt a serious blow when it was revealed that,

    its rhetoric notwithstanding, the party had been financed

    from the purse of the German ultra-right Republicans. At the

    time of the Austrian elections, the SPR-RSC was preparing for

    a visit by the leader of France's National Front chairman,

    Jean Marie Le Pen, which began on 14 October.

    Haider's rhetoric against European integration (or, as

    Csurka calls it, his "anti-globalism"), his insistence on

    property restitution to German-speakers forced to leave

    Austria's neighboring countries, and his demands that the

    status of the largely insignificant German minorities there

    be improved are reason enough to make those countries'

    governments apprehensive. Even without Haider, those

    countries' relations with Vienna are strained: Austria

    threatens to veto EU accession unless the controversial

    nuclear plants at Krsko (Slovenia), Temelin (Czech Republic),

    and Mochovce and Jaslovske Bohunice (Slovakia) are

    immediately shut down. And there is also the problematic

    issue of the 1945 Benes decrees, which an Austrian government

    that includes the Freedom Party would pursue far more

    rigorously than has been the case to date. Indeed, on 13

    October, in London, Haider said the Czechs' admission to the

    EU could not proceed before they abrogated those decrees.

    Just as applause for Haider came only from Budapest, so

    did the strongest criticism. Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 6

    October said that Haider's position against EU enlargement

    "is in conflict with Hungary's own interests." "To put it

    bluntly," he continued, "we are interested in an Austrian

    government coalition made up of parties...supporting

    Hungary's EU membership."

    Reactions from Slovenia were initially more restrained.

    Foreign Minister Boris Frlec on 4 October said he feared the

    elections "could have awe-inspiring consequences,

    particularly for the Slovenian ethnic minority" in Austria.

    But two days later, Premier Janez Drnovsek expressed the hope

    that Haider may "turn out to be more pragmatic and reasonable

    than the initial impression suggests." By 12 October,

    however, Deputy Foreign Minister Franko Juri was calling

    Haider's post-electoral statements on Austrian-Slovenian

    relations "blackmail."

    Intimidated by the prospect of an Austrian veto against

    its EU membership, Slovak Foreign Ministry State Secretary

    Jan Figel on 5 October said he does not expect Haider to

    enter the government but Bratislava "will discuss

    [contentious issues] with any democratically elected

    government." Jaroslav Volf, leader of the Social Democratic

    Party had said the previous day that Haider's electoral

    success "could not please him" but it at least demonstrated

    that "political extremism does not apply to Slovakia alone."

    The bluntest comment came from Estonia. Alluding to

    criticism of his country's treatment of the Russian minority,

    Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves commented on 11 October

    that "if a political force similar to the Freedom Party had

    come second in elections in Estonia, one can well imagine

    what a row the OSCE would have made."

    In the Czech Republic, there was unexpected "fallout"

    from the Austrian elections. On 4 October, Premier Milos

    Zeman remarked that the vote demonstrated that a party

    advocating "xenophobe and racialist moods" can garner serious

    support even in an economically prosperous country and that

    this was "food for thought." Freedom Union Deputy Chairman

    Petr Mares volunteered the comment that a de-facto two-party

    coalition has also emerged in the Czech Republic and that, as

    in Austria, this may push the electorate to support a radical

    alternative. Only in the Czech case, Communist leader

    Miroslav Grebenicek would play the role of Haider.

    Mares's ideas were unexpectedly embraced by Civic

    Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus. He said that the

    elections' outcome demonstrated that Austria's 13-year-old

    "grand coalition" of the Social Democratic Party and People's

    Party has "lasted too long." While refraining from

    criticizing the results, Klaus was ready to use them to

    embark on ending a partnership that was only 16 months old

    but, doubtless according to his viewpoint, has also "lasted

    too long."

    The minority government of the Social Democrats has been

    ruling by the grace of the ODS. That grace's time is now up.

    Vienna politics have thrown Prague politics into turmoil, but

    not for the first time in history. And that, to quote Zeman,

    is indeed "food for thought."

    15-10-99


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


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