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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 203, 99-10-18

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. 203, 18 October 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CHARGES POWER AGENCIES WITH PREVENTING
  • [02] DIRECTOR OF MAJOR ARMENIAN PLANT CHARGED WITH MISMANAGEMENT
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN DENIES HOSTING CHECHEN INFORMATION CENTER
  • [04] REMAINING U.S. HOSTAGES RELEASED IN GEORGIA...
  • [05] ...AS GEORGIAN MILITARY ACCUSE THEM OF UNSANCTIONED
  • [06] OSCE DEPLORES ELECTION VIOLENCE IN GEORGIA...
  • [07] ...AS OPPOSITION PROTESTS HARASSMENT
  • [08] GEORGIA NOT TO QUIT CIS INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
  • [09] LAST GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS PULL OUT OF GEORGIA
  • [10] PRELIMINARY KAZAKH ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED
  • [11] FOUR KYRGYZ HOSTAGES RELEASED
  • [12] TAJIK OPPOSITION BODY SUSPENDS PARTICIPATION IN PEACE
  • [13] ...WHILE DISSENTER RULES OUT ELECTION DELAY
  • [14] TWO SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIALS SHOT DEAD IN TAJIK CAPITAL

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [15] YUGOSLAV PREMIER THREATENS MONTENEGRO WITH ARMY
  • [16] MONTENEGRIN REFERENDUM 'SOONER THAN ANYONE EXPECTS'
  • [17] SERBIAN OPPOSITION BLAMES REGIME IN BOMBING ATTACK
  • [18] SERBIAN MINISTRY FILES CHARGES AGAINST PUBLISHER
  • [19] CITIZENS' ALLIANCE JOINS UMBRELLA GROUP
  • [20] BELGRADE TO 'CONTROL' USE OF EU OIL
  • [21] ALBRIGHT, COOK DENY STORY ON CHINESE EMBASSY BOMBING
  • [22] THREE KFOR PEACEKEEPERS INJURED IN FIRE
  • [23] KFOR SAYS UCK VIOLATED AGREEMENT
  • [24] KOSOVA'S SERBS TO SEEK OWN 'PROTECTION FORCE'
  • [25] DRASKOVIC BLASTS ALBANIAN PLANS FOR KOSOVA OFFICE
  • [26] CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT REMAINS IN ZAGREB
  • [27] ROMANIAN PREMIER DISMISSES ORPHANAGE PROBLEM
  • [28] INFLATION FEARED AS ELECTRICITY PRICES GO UP IN ROMANIA
  • [29] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO LANDMARK BILLS
  • [30] BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY SCORES DISAPPOINTING WIN IN LOCAL

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] ALBANIA'S RIVAL PARTIES STICK WITH OLD LEADERS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CHARGES POWER AGENCIES WITH PREVENTING

    ELECTION FRAUD

    Meeting on 16 October with senior

    representatives of the Defense, Interior, and National

    Security Ministries, Robert Kocharian issued instructions to

    ensure that the 24 October local elections will be completely

    free and fair, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian

    termed the poll Armenia's final test on the road to becoming

    a full member of the Council of Europe, saying that the

    preconditions exist for ensuring that the conduct of the poll

    is exemplary. Some 200,000 ethnic Armenian refugees from

    Azerbaijan who are not Armenian citizens will not be allowed

    to participate in the vote, despite a 16 October ruling by

    the Armenian Constitutional Court that a provision in the

    election law barring them from doing so is unconstitutional.

    That legislation will be amended to bring it into line with

    the Armenian Constitution. LF

    [02] DIRECTOR OF MAJOR ARMENIAN PLANT CHARGED WITH MISMANAGEMENT

    Gagik Nersisian, director of Armenia's giant Nairit chemical

    plant, was charged with mismanagement of public funds on 16

    October, four days after his detention, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. Press reports quote law enforcement

    officials as saying the charges stem from barter agreements

    the plant concluded in an attempt to continue operating. Once

    the foremost producer of synthetic rubber in the USSR, Nairit

    now owes the state more than $30 million in unpaid taxes and

    electricity bills. One of the leaders of the small opposition

    Democratic Fatherland Party, of which Nersisian is a member,

    told RFE/RL on 14 October that he considers the charges

    against Nersisian groundless but not politically motivated.

    LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN DENIES HOSTING CHECHEN INFORMATION CENTER

    Russian

    media allegations that Chechen militants have established an

    information center in Baku are unfounded and intended to

    undermine Russian-Azerbaijani relations, a spokesman for

    Azerbaijan's Security Minister Araz Kurbanov told ITAR-TASS

    on 15 October. The news agency added that an unofficial

    Chechen mission in Baku that engages primarily in

    humanitarian affairs also releases information about events

    in Chechnya. LF

    [04] REMAINING U.S. HOSTAGES RELEASED IN GEORGIA...

    Having

    released four of their hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15

    October 1999), the unidentified abductors who seized six UN

    officials and their interpreter in western Georgia set free

    the remaining three UN officials on 15 October after

    receiving assurances from senior Georgian officials that

    special forces will not launch an operation to free the

    captives. Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze said

    the next day that no ransom was paid for the hostages'

    release. National Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze told

    the independent Rustavi-2 TV station on 15 October that the

    hostage-takers belong to a criminal gang and suggested that

    they were also responsible for a similar abduction last July

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999). He also expressed his

    view that the hostage-taking was timed to affect the 31

    October elections. LF

    [05] ...AS GEORGIAN MILITARY ACCUSE THEM OF UNSANCTIONED

    ACTIVITIES

    Two senior Georgian Defense Ministry officials

    said on 16 October that the helicopter that flew the UN

    observers to the Kodori gorge where they were kidnapped had

    engaged in filming unnamed "strategic facilities" in the

    gorge without the permission of the Georgian authorities,

    ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian Army Chief of Staff General

    Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili said the observers were repeatedly

    told they must inform Tbilisi in advance of any planned

    flights in the area. On 14 October, a UN political adviser

    with the observer mission had told ITAR-TASS that Georgia

    should have taken measures to ensure the observers' safety.

    LF

    [06] OSCE DEPLORES ELECTION VIOLENCE IN GEORGIA...

    The OSCE/ODIHR

    Election Observation Mission in Tbilisi issued a statement on

    14 October condemning violence during the runup to the 31

    October parliamentary elections as "totally unacceptable" and

    "contrary to both the letter and the spirit of OSCE

    commitments on free elections," Caucasus Press reported. The

    statement was pegged to a 10 October firebomb attack on the

    home of a candidate in Aspindza Raion. The OSCE mission has

    launched an investigation into that attack. LF

    [07] ...AS OPPOSITION PROTESTS HARASSMENT

    Representatives of the

    Union of Revival election bloc staged a half-hour silent

    protest on Tbilisi's main boulevard on 15 October against

    harassment of its candidates by the Georgian authorities,

    Caucasus Press reported. Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, head of the

    Socialist Party, which is one of the Union's five member

    parties, told journalists that the bloc will not allow the

    outcome of the poll to be falsified. The Union of Revival is

    the main challenger to the ruling Union of Citizens of

    Georgia. LF

    [08] GEORGIA NOT TO QUIT CIS INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

    Georgia

    will remain a member of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly,

    parliamentary deputy Eldar Shengelaya said at a St.

    Petersburg meeting of the assembly's governing body on 16

    October, Interfax reported. President Shevardnadze had said

    on 11 October that Georgia might withdraw from the assembly

    after the Russian State Duma sent observers to monitor the 3

    October presidential elections and referendum in Abkhazia,

    which Georgia had termed illegal. The St. Petersburg session

    adopted a resolution condemning the Abkhaz poll and

    referendum and calling for the renewal of talks between the

    Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships. LF

    [09] LAST GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS PULL OUT OF GEORGIA

    The final

    contingent of Russian border guards previously deployed along

    Georgia's borders with Russian and Turkey left Georgia on 15

    October, ITAR-TASS reported. The withdrawal had been

    implemented in stages under the terms of an agreement signed

    last year. LF

    [10] PRELIMINARY KAZAKH ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED

    Speaking at a

    press conference in Astana on 17 October, Kazakhstan's

    Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva

    confirmed that in the party-list voting in the 10 October

    elections to the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament, the

    pro-presidential Otan party polled 30.89 percent, the

    Communist Party 17.75 percent, the Agrarian Party 12.63

    percent, and the Civic Party 11.23 percent, Reuters and ITAR-

    TASS reported. Otan thus acquired four of the 10 seats in the

    lower house allocated under the party-list system, while the

    remaining three parties got two seats each. Balieva also

    confirmed that a second round of voting will be held on 24

    October in 47 constituencies in which no candidate garnered

    50 percent of the vote in the first round. LF

    [11] FOUR KYRGYZ HOSTAGES RELEASED

    The guerrillas who seized 13

    hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan in late August released two

    of those captives, a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry general and

    lieutenant-colonel, on 18 October, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau

    reported. Parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, who

    secured their release in talks with the hostage takers, is

    continuing talks aimed at negotiating the release of the

    remaining five hostages: four Japanese geologists and their

    Kyrgyz interpreter. Reuters on 16 October quoted unnamed

    Kyrgyz government sources as saying that the gunmen are

    demanding a $2 million ransom for the four Japanese. But

    Security Council Secretary-General Bolot Djanuzakov said that

    no ransom will be paid. Bakir Uulu succeeded in freeing five

    hostages last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 October

    1999). LF

    [12] TAJIK OPPOSITION BODY SUSPENDS PARTICIPATION IN PEACE

    PROCESS

    The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) on 18 October

    announced that it is suspending its representatives'

    participation in the Commission for National Reconciliation

    to protest the authorities' failure to meet its demands,

    ITAR-TASS reported. In a 15 October statement, the UTO had

    demanded that an emergency session of the parliament be

    convened to debate postponing the presidential election

    scheduled for 6 November, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Three

    opposition parties had called for a boycott of that poll on

    the grounds that they were prevented from collecting the

    required signatures to register as candidates (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 12 and 13 October 1999). The UTO also called for

    the election of a new Central Electoral Commission that would

    include representatives of those parties that had proposed

    presidential candidates, for equal access to state media to

    be granted all presidential candidates, and for the UN, OSCE,

    and other international organizations to supervise the

    elections. LF

    [13] ...WHILE DISSENTER RULES OUT ELECTION DELAY

    UTO First Deputy

    chairman Akbar Turadjonzoda, who is also Tajikistan's first

    deputy premier, told journalists on 16 October that the

    legitimacy of next Tajik president will be open to question

    if the presidential poll is delayed, ITAR-TASS reported. He

    added that "most" members of the UTO Presidium do not support

    the demand for a postponement of the election. Turadjonzoda

    also argued that the UTO should have made public its

    objections to the election law last year rather than wait

    until one month before the poll. Tajikistan's Constitutional

    Court Chairman Ubaidullo Davlatov issued a statement on 15

    October saying that "nobody, neither the president nor the

    parliament of the republic, has the right to alter the date

    determined by the Constitutional law on elections and the

    constitution of the country," Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF

    [14] TWO SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIALS SHOT DEAD IN TAJIK CAPITAL

    A

    colonel with the Tajik Defense Ministry was shot in the head

    near his home on the morning of 16 October, Rusian agencies

    reported. Later that day, a lieutenant-colonel with the

    Russian Border Guard forces was shot dead in Dushanbe in what

    Tajik officials said may have been a contract killing. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [15] YUGOSLAV PREMIER THREATENS MONTENEGRO WITH ARMY

    Momir

    Bulatovic said in Belgrade on 17 October that "the people"

    and army will not allow Montenegro to secede from the

    Yugoslav federation, AP reported. Bulatovic, who leads the

    pro-Belgrade faction in Montenegro, also called his rivals in

    Podgorica "cowards and traitors" for failing to resolutely

    back the Serbian regime in its conflict with NATO this

    spring. The Montenegrin authorities have frequently said they

    will hold a referendum on independence unless the Belgrade

    authorities negotiate seriously about redefining relations

    between the two republics. PM

    [16] MONTENEGRIN REFERENDUM 'SOONER THAN ANYONE EXPECTS'

    Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perovic told Vienna's

    "Die Presse" of 16 October that relations between Belgrade

    and Podgorica have never been worse. He stressed that

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is afraid of the effect

    on his power of the "Montenegrin model" of democracy and an

    open economy. Belgrade is unwilling to talk seriously with

    Podgorica about reforming bilateral relations, he said.

    Montenegrins are consequently getting impatient, and their

    government may call a referendum on independence "sooner than

    anyone expects." It has become more of a danger to Montenegro

    to remain in the same state as Milosevic than to hold a

    referendum, Perovic concluded. PM

    [17] SERBIAN OPPOSITION BLAMES REGIME IN BOMBING ATTACK

    Unidentified persons set off a bomb at the home of Democratic

    Party official Nebojsa Andric in Valjevo during the night of

    16-17 October. No one was injured. In Belgrade, Veran Batic

    of the opposition Alliance for Change said that "those who

    don't want any changes in Serbia...are using terrorist

    methods to intimidate people and prevent the inevitable,

    namely the demise of Slobodan Milosevic and his clique," AP

    reported. Batic added that "the regime is obviously losing

    its head, it is ready to use any means just to stay in power.

    We are in a very critical phase [of the campaign to oust

    Milosevic]..., but all those attempts cannot stop the

    democratization process in Serbia." PM

    [18] SERBIAN MINISTRY FILES CHARGES AGAINST PUBLISHER

    The

    Information Ministry has sued Slavoljub Kacarevic, who heads

    the printing firm ABC Grafika and publishes the private daily

    "Glas Javnosti," the Association for Independent Electronic

    Media in Yugoslavia said in a statement on 15 October. The

    ministry charged that Kacarevic has violated the draconian

    press law by publishing without the ministry's permission the

    opposition daily leaflet "Changes" and reprinting it in his

    daily. Kacarevic argues that "Changes" is not a periodical

    but rather advertising and therefore does not have to be

    registered with the authorities. PM

    [19] CITIZENS' ALLIANCE JOINS UMBRELLA GROUP

    The Steering

    Committee of the Citizens' Alliance of Serbia announced in

    Belgrade on 17 October that it will join the opposition

    coalition Alliance for Change, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. In Novi Sad, some 10,000 students and other

    opposition supporters turned out the previous night for what

    the organizers called the first day of student protests in

    Serbia. PM

    [20] BELGRADE TO 'CONTROL' USE OF EU OIL

    Yugoslav Deputy Prime

    Minister Tomislav Nikolic said in Belgrade on 15 October that

    the authorities will not prevent delivery of heating oil from

    the EU to opposition-run towns. He added, however, that

    federal government "will control" how the oil is used, AP

    reported. He did not specify how Belgrade will do that. The

    minister added that the municipal governments will not be

    allowed to charge citizens for the fuel because it is a gift

    from the EU. He argued that the "selective humanitarian help"

    would not be necessary if NATO had not bombed Serbia. PM

    [21] ALBRIGHT, COOK DENY STORY ON CHINESE EMBASSY BOMBING

    U.S.

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described as

    "balderdash" a story in the latest issue of London's "The

    Observer" to the effect that NATO deliberately bombed the

    Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May. Speaking to CNN on 17

    October, Albright said that "there is information that [the

    Chinese] were carrying on intelligence activities," but she

    stressed that the bombing was a "tragic accident." In London,

    British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that he knows "not

    a single shred of evidence to support [the weekly's] rather

    wild story." "The Observer" wrote that the NATO deliberately

    bombed the embassy because the Chinese were transmitting

    Yugoslav military communications in return for information

    about a U.S. Stealth aircraft that crashed on Serbian

    territory. PM

    [22] THREE KFOR PEACEKEEPERS INJURED IN FIRE

    Three British

    soldiers were slightly injured when a blaze that began in a

    store spread to a former Prishtina television building now

    housing KFOR troops. The fire began in the early hours of 18

    October and quickly destroyed the television building, AP

    reported. KFOR and UN police are investigating the incident.

    PM

    [23] KFOR SAYS UCK VIOLATED AGREEMENT

    NATO peacekeepers said in a

    statement on 17 October that several members of the former

    Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) violated the guerrillas'

    agreement with the Atlantic alliance by appearing uniformed

    and armed in public. The previous day, 15 UCK veterans wore

    uniforms of the new Kosova Protection Corps and five wore UCK

    garb at a gathering of 350 people in Gornje Obrinje to mark

    the first anniversary of a massacre there. Several of the UCK

    veterans carried pistols. The KFOR statement stressed: "This

    gathering is a clear violation of the undertaking for

    demilitarization and transformation [of the UCK].... KFOR is

    not going to tolerate such actions of non-compliance. An

    investigation is under way and subsequent action will be

    taken as appropriate," the text concluded. PM

    [24] KOSOVA'S SERBS TO SEEK OWN 'PROTECTION FORCE'

    Momcilo

    Trajkovic, who is the political leader of Kosova's Serbian

    minority, said in Banja Luka on 16 October that the Serbs

    will have to set up their own "protection force" as a

    counterweight to the UCK-dominated Protection Corps.

    Observers note that NATO and the UN are likely to consider

    such a move illegal. Meanwhile in Prishtina, the first 173

    graduates of the UN-sponsored Kosova police academy received

    their diplomas. The class was about 90 percent ethnic

    Albanian. PM

    [25] DRASKOVIC BLASTS ALBANIAN PLANS FOR KOSOVA OFFICE

    Serbian

    Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 17

    October that Albania is meddling in Serbian affairs and

    "destabilizing the Balkans" by wanting to open a diplomatic

    office in Prishtina. He added that setting up such a mission

    would be a "flagrant violation of international norms."

    Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said on a two-day visit

    to Kosova that Tirana wants to open an office in the Kosovar

    capital, as the U.S. and several other countries have already

    done. PM

    [26] CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT REMAINS IN ZAGREB

    The Supreme

    Court ruled on 15 October that there are no legal grounds why

    Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic cannot be extradited to The Hague,

    where the war crimes tribunal has indicted him for atrocities

    committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Tuta's lawyer

    says, however, that his client requires urgent heart surgery

    and is too ill to travel. The Hague court may send its own

    medical experts to Zagreb to investigate, a spokesman for the

    tribunal said on 17 October. PM

    [27] ROMANIAN PREMIER DISMISSES ORPHANAGE PROBLEM

    Radu Vasile

    said on 15 October that the problem of poor conditions at

    orphanages in his country is "practically solved," Mediafax

    reported. The problem was cited by the EU last week in its

    report suggesting that Romania should begin talks on joining

    the union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1999). Vasile

    said the only problems Romania still faces in joining the EU

    are those associated with the ongoing "macrostabilization

    process" of the economy. PB

    [28] INFLATION FEARED AS ELECTRICITY PRICES GO UP IN ROMANIA

    The

    government announced an increase in the price of electricity

    on 15 October, AP reported. The increase, which was made

    because of a drop in the value of the lei, means an 8 percent

    increase in utility bills for the average consumer. National

    Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu advised the government to avoid

    price hikes in fuel and utilities in the future, saying that

    such measures will lead to inflation on other consumer goods.

    Inflation was 39 percent through the first nine months of the

    year. PB

    [29] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO LANDMARK BILLS

    The parliament on 14 October approved in the first reading a

    bill stipulating that advertising must be in the country's

    official language, Infotag reported. Deputy Justice Minister

    Victor Cretu said the bill aims at ending the "alarming

    situation" where most of advertising in the media is in

    Russian. The legislature also approved in the first reading a

    bill on the prevention and fight against money laundering.

    The draft law stipulates that banks must inform authorities

    whenever the suspicion arises that deposits were acquired

    illegally. MS

    [30] BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY SCORES DISAPPOINTING WIN IN LOCAL

    ELECTIONS

    According to preliminary results, the ruling

    United Democratic Front (UDF) received 35-45 percent of the

    vote in the 16 October local elections, RFE/RL's Bulgarian

    Service and AP reported. The ex-Communist Bulgarian Socialist

    Party is reported to have garnered around 30 percent of the

    vote, which is more than was predicted. Voter turnout was

    disappointing, with only some 50 percent of the electorate

    casting their ballots. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, the head

    of the UDF, said his party is paying the price for "painful

    reforms" that included spending cuts, layoffs, and tax

    increases. The UDF held on to the mayoral posts in both Sofia

    and Plovdiv, while a UDF candidate in the country's third-

    largest city, Varna, was ahead but will face a runoff next

    week. Runoff elections will be held in some 200

    municipalities next week. PB


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] ALBANIA'S RIVAL PARTIES STICK WITH OLD LEADERS

    By Fabian Schmidt

    Members of the governing Socialist Party of Albania and

    the opposition Democratic Party have recently re-elected

    their respective leaders. Last weekend, former Prime Minister

    Fatos Nano of the Socialist Party defeated his successor in

    the government, 31-year-old reformer Pandeli Majko. And a

    week or so earlier, former President Sali Berisha of the

    Democratic Party fought back a challenge to his party

    leadership by its former secretary-general, the charismatic

    Genc Pollo.

    Nano and Berisha are bitter rivals who count among the

    older generation of Albanian politicians. The two are largely

    responsible for the polarization that has characterized

    Albanian political life since the end of communism, in 1991-

    1992. Their rivalry grew into open personal antagonism after

    the mid-1990s, when Berisha's government arrested Nano on

    dubious corruption charges. In the wake of the unrest that

    spread throughout Albania in early 1997 following the

    collapse of pyramid investment schemes, Nano managed to

    escape from prison. He won the elections in July of the same

    year and became prime minister by presenting himself to the

    voters as the main challenger to an authoritarian regime. A

    Tirana court acquitted him of the corruption charges on 5

    October 1999.

    Berisha, in return, accused Nano of being the mastermind

    of the 1997 unrest and blamed his government for the killing

    of senior Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari in Tirana

    in September 1998. The investigation into that murder has

    been deadlocked for more than a year. Democratic Party

    witnesses have refused to testify to investigators, arguing

    that they do not trust the authorities to conduct an

    impartial investigation.

    Nano resigned shortly after the Hajdari murder, when

    riots broke out during the legislator's funeral in Tirana.

    The Socialists then charged the Democrats with having

    conducted a coup attempt, a charge the Democrats vehemently

    denied. Nano and Berisha, furthermore, have not refrained

    from charging each other with involvement in corruption, arms

    smuggling, and other crimes. These exchanges have long been

    part of Albania's daily political discourse.

    Nano's resignation paved the way for a new Socialist

    government under Majko. Since taking office, he has sought to

    present himself as a dynamic, forward-looking politician who

    is willing to reconcile with the opposition for the benefit

    of the entire country by establishing rule of law and

    promoting economic recovery. The Kosova war gave Majko an

    opportunity to call for unity among all Albanians and to put

    aside old grievances. Majko also followed a policy of

    establishing good-neighborly relations with Macedonia,

    Greece, and Montenegro, and he made participation in the EU's

    Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe one of his

    government's priorities.

    But Majko's government has faced difficult tasks. It was

    unable to increase the level of public security until mid-

    summer 1999. At that time, his newly appointed Public Order

    Minister Spartak Poci launched an offensive against the

    country's most notorious gangs. Poci acknowledged in early

    October that unidentified politicians have put pressure on

    police and justice officials to have several of the arrested

    gang leaders released, thereby confirming that political

    corruption is indeed widespread. He did not disclose names,

    however.

    Before the party congress, Majko threatened to resign

    should Nano win the party chairmanship. After his defeat,

    however, he pledged to remain in office, arguing that he lost

    by a margin of only 30 votes. At the same time he stressed

    that he felt "hurt in his moral and political legitimacy";

    but while the vote indicates that his support within the

    party is fragile, his decision to stay in government is

    nonetheless based on backing from the Albanian public and the

    international community, where Majko appears to enjoy more

    support than within his party's rank and file.

    Nano, on the other hand, is unlikely to seek to oust

    Majko as prime minister and return to government, since a

    second major change of government after two years could

    derail the fragile reform process and give a boost to the

    Democratic Party's demand for new elections.

    For their part, the Democrats have maneuvered themselves

    further into a corner by re-electing Berisha. Pollo's initial

    candidature seemed to offer an alternative to Berisha's tight

    control over the party and his role in the polarization of

    political life. Pollo pledged to bring several other center-

    right political parties into a coalition, most notably the

    Republicans. But with the reelection of Berisha--whom many

    potential Democratic voters consider too authoritarian--a

    major shift in voter support from the Socialists to the

    Democrats remains unlikely.

    The two party congresses have shown that the old-

    generation leaders--who were forced to resign after scandals

    and amid charges of corruption against their respective

    governments--do still have the backing of most party members.

    The two men owe their victories probably less to any real

    popular support for themselves and to their ideas than to

    their patronage of those within the party willing to back

    them in crucial leadership votes.

    18-10-99


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


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