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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 212, 99-11-01

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. 212, 1 November 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] SLAIN ARMENIAN LEADERS BURIED
  • [02] U.S., RUSSIA EXPRESS SUPPORT
  • [03] ARMENIAN MILITARY DENY TENSIONS WITH PRESIDENT
  • [04] PROCEDURAL VIOLATIONS MAR GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY POLL...
  • [05] ...WHILE RULING PARTY HEADED FOR VICTORY
  • [06] U.S. DIPLOMAT IN TBILISI
  • [07] POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS AZERBAIJAN...
  • [08] ...AND KAZAKHSTAN
  • [09] OSCE PRAISES KAZAKHSTAN'S LANGUAGE POLICY
  • [10] KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE IN INVESTIGATING ROCKET
  • [11] TAJIK OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PRESIENTIAL

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE AHEAD IN FIRST ROUND OF
  • [13] VIOLENT INCIDENTS REPORTED DURING MACEDONIAN VOTING
  • [14] TWO OPPOSITION PARTIES WITHDRAW FROM ANTI-MILOSEVIC STREET
  • [15] SOME 10,000 ATTEND ANTI-MILOSEVIC DEMONSTRATION IN CACAK
  • [16] YUGOSLAV OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVES FLY TO U.S.
  • [17] NATO COMMANDER CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SERBIAN CONVOY
  • [18] ETHNIC CROATS EVACUATED FROM KOSOVA
  • [19] MONTENEGRO TO START USING GERMAN MARK
  • [20] BOSNIAN CROAT WAR CRIMES SUSPECT REFUSING TREATMENT
  • [21] INVESTIGATION CONTINUES INTO CAR BOMB ATTACK ON BOSNIAN SERB
  • [22] GERMAN CHANCELLOR PRAISES LEADERSHIP OF JOINT PRESIDENCY IN
  • [23] NUMBER OF U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA TO BE REDUCED
  • [24] CROATIAN LAWMAKERS PASS ELECTION LAW
  • [25] NEW ALBANIAN CABINET SWORN IN
  • [26] EU COMMISSIONER PROPOSES MONITORING OF ROMANIA'S ECONOMIC
  • [27] ANOTHER ANTONESCU STATUE TO BE ERECTED IN ROMANIA
  • [28] GAZPROM CUTS ENERGY SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVA
  • [29] BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET
  • [30] BULGARIAN TURKISH PARTY BOYCOTTS MAYORAL INAUGURATION

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] ALBANIA'S PRIME MINISTER CALLS IT QUITS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] SLAIN ARMENIAN LEADERS BURIED

    Up to 100,000 people,

    including former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, attended the

    31 October funeral services in Yerevan of slain Prime

    Minister Vazgen Sargsian, parliamentary speaker Karen

    Demirchian, his two deputies, a government minister, and two

    parliamentary deputies gunned down in the legislature on 27

    October. The eighth victim of the shootings was buried on 30

    October. Also attending was a large Russian delegation,

    including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, State Duma speaker

    Gennadii Seleznev, and former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev,

    as well as Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Belarusian

    Premier Syarhei Linh, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal

    Kharrazi, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, and

    Turkish state minister Ali Irtemcelik. Speaking at the

    funeral ceremony, President Robert Kocharian termed the

    killings "an irreparable loss" and called on Armenians to

    "close ranks and stand by the Republic of Armenia," RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau reported. LF

    [02] U.S., RUSSIA EXPRESS SUPPORT

    Meeting with President

    Kocharian in Yerevan on 29 October, U.S. Deputy Secretary of

    State Strobe Talbott offered his condolences over the

    shootings and assured Kocharian of his country's readiness to

    offer "every kind of support" in overcoming the crisis, Noyan

    Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Talbott added

    that that he believes the democratic process in Armenia is

    irreversible. During talks with Kocharian the following day,

    Russian Premier Putin similarly expressed Moscow's support

    for the Armenian president. Putin also noted that the

    murdered men were all "true friends of Russia." LF

    [03] ARMENIAN MILITARY DENY TENSIONS WITH PRESIDENT

    Leaders of

    Sargsian's Republican Party of Armenia on 30 October denied

    that there are differences between the military and President

    Kocharian over the choice of a new prime minister and

    cabinet, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian told

    journalists on 30 October after his talks with Putin that an

    entirely new government will probably be named. According to

    press reports, the military also oppose the appointment of

    Republican Party Chairman Andranik Markarian to succeed

    Demirchian as parliamentary speaker. The Republican Party on

    30 October endorsed the Defense Ministry's call two days

    earlier for the sacking of the interior and national security

    ministers. Meanwhile the five gunmen have been charged with

    terrorism and pre-meditated murder, Noyan Tapan reported on 1

    November. LF

    [04] PROCEDURAL VIOLATIONS MAR GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY POLL...

    More

    than 60 percent of the Georgian electorate cast their votes

    in the 31 October parliamentary elections. Both pro-

    government and opposition figures cited violations of

    election procedure, including restrictions on voting in some

    constituencies in Adjaria and the mountain region of

    Lentehki, the theft of a ballot box in Gori, an attempt by an

    opposition member of the Central Electoral Commission to hack

    into the commission's computer, and an attempt at ballot

    stuffing by a commission member who belongs to the ruling

    Union of Citizens of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [05] ...WHILE RULING PARTY HEADED FOR VICTORY

    With 60 percent of

    the ballot papers counted, the Union of Citizens of Georgia,

    which has a majority in the outgoing parliament, had won more

    than 30 of the 75 seats allocated in single-mandate

    constituencies plus some 44 percent of the party-list vote.

    The Union for the Revival of Georgia polled 23 percent of the

    party list vote. Its leader, Adjar Supreme Council chairman

    Aslan Abashidze, claimed that the authorities had falsified

    the results, according to Reuters. The Labor Party and the

    bloc Industry Will Save Georgia are close to surmounting the

    7 percent barrier for representation in the new parliament.

    LF

    [06] U.S. DIPLOMAT IN TBILISI

    U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

    Talbott and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met in

    Tbilisi on 29 October to discuss regional conflicts,

    including Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and preparations for

    the OCSE Istanbul summit later this month, ITAR-TASS and

    Caucasus Press reported. They also focused on the planned

    construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline and the

    Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Talbott endorsed the Georgian

    leadership's economic policy and its crackdown on corruption.

    LF

    [07] POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS AZERBAIJAN...

    Visiting Baku on 27-28

    October, Aleksandr Kwasniewski met with his Azerbaijani

    counterpart, Heidar Aliev, to discuss Poland's support for

    Azerbaijan's accession to the World Trade Organization and

    integration into European structures, including full

    membership in the Council of Europe, Turan reported. Possible

    Polish involvement in the GUUAM alignment (Georgia, Ukraine,

    Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) was also discussed.

    Kwasniewski said Poland is ready to help prepare NATO's

    Caucasus strategy. The two presidents also discussed Polish

    participation in the construction of cement plants and sugar

    mills in Azerbaijan and the prospects for the export via

    Poland of Azerbaijani oil transported via the Baku-Supsa

    export pipeline. A memorandum on cooperation between Poland's

    state oil and gas company and the Azerbaijani state oil

    company SOCAR was signed at the meeting. LF

    [08] ...AND KAZAKHSTAN

    On 29 October, Kwasniewski held talks with

    his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, in Astana,

    RFE/RL's bureau in the Kazakh capital reported. Those talks

    focused on preparations for the OSCE Istanbul summit and the

    prospects for Polish participation in construction projects

    in Astana as well as in the export of Kazakhstan's oil via

    Ukraine to the Polish port of Gdansk, ITAR-TASS reported.

    Nazarbaev termed the $100 million annual trade turnover

    between the two countries "not bad." LF

    [09] OSCE PRAISES KAZAKHSTAN'S LANGUAGE POLICY

    Meeting in Astana

    on 29 October with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart

    Toqaev, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van

    der Stoel positively assessed both Kazakhstan's language law

    and efforts by the country's leadership to promote the use of

    the Kazakh language, Interfax reported. Toqaev quoted

    President Nazarbaev as aiming to establish trilingualism,

    given the growing importance of English. LF

    [10] KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE IN INVESTIGATING ROCKET

    EXPLOSION

    The Russian and Kazakh government commissions

    formed to investigate the 27 October explosion of a Russian

    Proton rocket shortly after blast-off from Baikonur announced

    on 29 October that they will set up a joint headquarters and

    three working groups, Interfax reported. But Kazakhstan's

    Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Kiyanitsa said that an

    assessment of the financial damage caused will be made only

    after the commissions complete their work, according to ITAR-

    TASS. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Toqaev had said the

    previous day that Kazakhstan will probably demand

    compensation exceeding the $260,000 paid by Moscow after a

    similar explosion in July. LF

    [11] TAJIK OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PRESIENTIAL

    POLL

    At a news conference in Dushanbe on 29 October, three

    opposition would-be presidential candidates again called on

    the country's leadership and international organizations to

    agree to delay the 6 November presidential elections,

    RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Equality Party leader

    Saifiddin Turaev, Democratic Party (Tehran Platform) leader

    Sultan Kuvatov, and Islamic Renaissance Party candidate and

    Economics Minister Davlat Usmon proposed that incumbent

    President Imomali Rakhmonov's term in office be extended

    until June in order to give time to prepare for free and fair

    elections. All three candidates had earlier called for a

    postponement of the poll on the grounds that local officials

    prevented them from collecting the minimum 145,000 signatures

    required for registration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October

    1999). The Central Electoral Commission nonetheless

    subsequently registered Usmon, who on 29 October formally

    requested that his registration be termed invalid. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE AHEAD IN FIRST ROUND OF

    MACEDONIAN ELECTIONS

    Early results from the 31 October

    Macedonian presidential elections show that Social Democratic

    candidate Tito Petkovski and Deputy Foreign Minister Boris

    Trajkovski will advance to the second round, Reuters reported

    on 1 November. With neither of the two leading candidates

    likely to win 50 percent of the vote, a second round of

    voting will probably be held on 14 November. Early returns

    showed Petkovski with 340,000 votes, Trajkovski with 214,000

    votes, and a third candidate, Vasil Tupurkovski, with 158,000

    votes. Voter turnout was reported to be relatively high.

    Trajkovski ran on the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary

    Organization's (VMRO) ticket, while Tupurkovski was the

    Democratic Alternative's candidate. Both parties are members

    of the governing coalition. VG

    [13] VIOLENT INCIDENTS REPORTED DURING MACEDONIAN VOTING

    At least

    three incidents of violence were reported during Macedonia's

    31 October presidential election. A representative of the

    Social Democrats said one of the party's activists was shot

    in the leg in the town of Kumanovo during a fight with a

    representative of the governing coalition. Other violent

    incidents were reported in the villages of Morane and

    Velesta. Meanwhile, various parties have accused one another

    of violating electoral rules that forbid campaigning on

    election day. VG

    [14] TWO OPPOSITION PARTIES WITHDRAW FROM ANTI-MILOSEVIC STREET

    PROTESTS

    Opposition leaders Mile Isakov and Nenad Canak on

    29 October announced their intention to withdraw from daily

    street protests against Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic, Reuters reported. Isakov said the daily protests

    are wasting energy without providing a "plan." Canak added

    that the opposition should search for other ways of opposing

    Milosevic. "The point is not to hold rallies but to

    participate in the toppling of Milosevic's regime," he said.

    VG

    [15] SOME 10,000 ATTEND ANTI-MILOSEVIC DEMONSTRATION IN CACAK

    About 10,000 people protested against Milosevic in the town

    of Cacak on 29 October. Cacak is considered to be an

    opposition stronghold and the turnout was regarded as

    relatively high amid dwindling attendance at opposition

    rallies in other cities. Some key opposition leaders,

    including Zoran Djindjic, addressed the rally. VG

    [16] YUGOSLAV OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVES FLY TO U.S.

    A group of

    Yugoslav opposition leaders flew to Washington, D.C., in a

    bid to convince Bill Clinton's administration to ease

    economic sanctions against the country. Slobodan Vuksanovic,

    the deputy head of the opposition Democratic Party, said the

    U.S. should "establish a distinction between Milosevic's

    regime and the citizens," AP reported. VG

    [17] NATO COMMANDER CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SERBIAN CONVOY

    NATO's

    commander in Kosova, General Klaus Reinhardt, said on 30

    October he is "furious" at a recent attack by some 1,500

    ethnic Albanians on a convoy of 155 Serbs (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 29 October 1999). Reinhardt said he believes the

    attack was spontaneous and noted that measures are being

    taken to increase the security of ethnic Serbs in Kosova. VG

    [18] ETHNIC CROATS EVACUATED FROM KOSOVA

    Almost 300 ethnic Croats

    have been evacuated from Kosova to Zagreb, AP reported on 31

    October. The ethnic Croats say they had suffered harassment

    in Kosova. VG

    [19] MONTENEGRO TO START USING GERMAN MARK

    Montenegrin Deputy

    Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda on 1 November confirmed

    reports that Montenegro would introduce the German mark as

    its second currency on 2 November. "Vjesti" had reported that

    Montenegrins would start receiving their salaries and

    pensions on that day. The change is viewed as a first step

    toward the introduction of a separate Montenegrin currency

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). The decision must

    still be formally approved by the Montenegrin parliament.

    Yugoslav officials on 29 October had dismissed Montenegro's

    stated aim to introduce its own currency. VG

    [20] BOSNIAN CROAT WAR CRIMES SUSPECT REFUSING TREATMENT

    Mladen

    Naletilic is rejecting any further treatment at a Zagreb

    hospital following recent heart surgery, AP reported. Doctors

    at the hospital say Naletilic's heart surgery was a success

    but added that another operation is urgently needed.

    Naletilic has been indicted on 17 counts of war crimes during

    the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Doctors have

    assigned him to a psychological team, hoping that it will

    persuade him to undergo more surgery. The war crimes tribunal

    in The Hague on 28 October accused the Croatian government of

    stalling in handing over Naletilic as well as documents to be

    used as evidence in the case. The international community

    view the Naletilic case as a litmus test of Croatia's

    willingness to cooperate with the tribunal. VG

    [21] INVESTIGATION CONTINUES INTO CAR BOMB ATTACK ON BOSNIAN SERB

    JOURNALIST

    Bosnian Serb journalist and publisher Zeljko

    Kopanja has had both his legs amputated after being seriously

    injured in a car bomb explosion on 22 October (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 22 October 1999), AP reported on 29 October.

    Experts from the UN international police force in Bosnia-

    Herzegovina have reportedly recommended that the wrecked car

    be investigated by Scotland Yard. Kopanja's newspaper

    "Nezavisne Novine" recently ran a series of articles on war

    criminals. Several newspapers and magazines from the Serbian

    as well as Muslim and Croatian parts of the country have run

    front-page headlines demanding an investigation into the

    assassination attempt. VG

    [22] GERMAN CHANCELLOR PRAISES LEADERSHIP OF JOINT PRESIDENCY IN

    BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

    Gerhard Schroeder on 29 October said he

    is pleased to find "common views" among the visiting members

    of the joint presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, dpa reported.

    He said the three leaders, Ante Jelavic, Alija Izetbegovic,

    and Zivko Radisic, expressed a strong desire for their

    country to be admitted to the Council of Europe. The German

    leader noted that Bosnia will have to undertake reforms

    before being admitted to the organization. VG

    [23] NUMBER OF U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA TO BE REDUCED

    NATO officials announced on 30 October that the number of

    U.S. troops taking part in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in

    Bosnia-Herzegovina will be reduced by 30 percent by next

    April. Major General James Campbell, commander of

    Multinational Division North, said the cut is part of an

    overall NATO plan to reduce the number of troops in the

    country, resulting from an improvement in local security

    conditions. VG

    [24] CROATIAN LAWMAKERS PASS ELECTION LAW

    The lower house of the

    Croatian legislature on 29 October passed a controversial new

    election law, Reuters reported. The law, which was proposed

    by the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ),

    guarantees representation to the diaspora in December's

    parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October

    1999). Croats living abroad tend to be pro-HDZ. The EU has

    criticized the law, saying it "calls into question the

    government's commitment to free and fair elections." VG

    [25] NEW ALBANIAN CABINET SWORN IN

    Key figures from the previous

    government have retained their posts in the cabinet of newly

    appointed Prime Minister Ilir Meta, which was sworn into

    office on 29 October. The defense, interior, foreign affairs,

    and finance ministers of the previous cabinet have all

    retained their posts. The newcomers include Deputy Prime

    Minister Makbule Ceco, Kastriot Islami as minister of

    economic cooperation, Bashkim Fino as minister of local

    government, and State Minister Prec Zogaj, AP reported. Meta

    said his government will focus on restoring public order,

    fighting illegal drug trafficking, and economic development

    (see also "End Note"). VG

    [26] EU COMMISSIONER PROPOSES MONITORING OF ROMANIA'S ECONOMIC

    PERFORMANCE

    Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of

    enlargement, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Radu Vasile

    proposing that the IMF, the World Bank and the EU draft a

    medium-term strategy for economic development and set up a

    body to monitor the plan's implementation, Romanian media

    reported on 31 October. Vasile has not responded to the

    proposal, but Deputy Premier Vasile Stoica rejected it,

    saying that the monitoring of Romania's economic performance

    would make sense only after the IMF approves the disbursement

    of the second tranche of the $547 million stand-by loan

    approved in August. IMF official Thomas Dowson was quoted by

    Romanian Radio as refusing to confirm reports that the fund

    is ready to agree that Romania borrow $100 million on the

    international financial market to cover its budget deficit.

    Earlier, it had insisted that the country borrow $470 million

    for that purpose. MS

    [27] ANOTHER ANTONESCU STATUE TO BE ERECTED IN ROMANIA

    The Cluj

    local council has approved Mayor Gheorghe Funar's proposal

    that a statue to Romania's wartime leader and convicted war

    criminal, Marshal Ion Antonescu be erected, "Romania libera"

    reported on 1 November. On 11 previous occasions, the council

    has rejected such a proposal. Its change of mind comes after

    Funar presented a "political compromise" whereby statues of

    National Liberal Party leader Ion C. Bratianu, National

    Peasant Party leader Iuliu Maniu, and King Ferdinand will

    also be erected. The compromise proposal was backed by

    representatives of two parties on the local council and

    opposed only by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of

    Romania and the Alliance for Romania. On 30 October, Greater

    Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor laid a wreath at

    Antonescu's statue in Slobozia. MS

    [28] GAZPROM CUTS ENERGY SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVA

    As of 1 November,

    Gazprom will cut its energy supplies to Moldova by 40

    percent, Infotag reported on 29 October. The same day,

    Gazprom Deputy Chairmen Aleksander Pushkin and Vasilii Fadeev

    handed over to Moldovan government representatives a letter

    from Gazprom Chairman Rem Vyakhirev saying that Moldova has

    failed to pay on time for current gas deliveries and reduce

    its outstanding debt. Fadeev said that negotiations are under

    way on restructuring the Moldovan debt, which Moldovan

    officials say now totals $489 million. Of that sum, $310

    million is owed by Tiraspol. An additional $277 million is

    due in fines for overdue payments. Flux reported that energy

    supplies from Romania and Ukraine will be diverted to

    Chisinau to avoid plunging the capital into darkness but that

    this will cause serious problems in the countryside. MS

    [29] BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET

    The government on

    28 October approved a draft 2000 budget providing for 4

    percent GDP growth, a deficit equal to 2.3 percent of GDP,

    and an annual inflation rate of 2.8 percent, BTA reported.

    Finance Minister Muravei Radev said that 15,000 people

    employed in the government administration will be laid off in

    2000 to reduce budget expenditures. Wages in the public

    sector are to increase by 5 percent, while the minimum wage

    will increase by 8 percent and pensions by 13 percent. MS

    [30] BULGARIAN TURKISH PARTY BOYCOTTS MAYORAL INAUGURATION

    The

    Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) on 29 October

    boycotted the opening session of the newly elected local

    council in Kurdzhali, BTA and AP reported. The DPS claims

    3,000 ballots were incorrectly declared invalid by the

    electoral commission. It has appealed to the local court to

    order a recount. The DPS lost its majority on the local

    council and also lost the town's mayoralty to a candidate

    representing the ruling Union of Democratic Forces. On 29

    October, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov denied in the parliament

    that he called the DPS "a curse for Bulgaria." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [31] ALBANIA'S PRIME MINISTER CALLS IT QUITS

    by Fabian Schmidt

    Prime Minister Pandeli Majko announced his resignation

    on 26 October. His successor, Ilir Meta, is likely to

    continue his reformist policies but will be in a more

    vulnerable position, facing interference by influential

    Socialist Party leader and former Prime Minister Fatos Nano.

    In resigning, Majko drew the consequences of his defeat

    in the vote for Socialist Party leader at a congress in early

    October. His rival, Nano, beat him by a small margin in that

    ballot. Majko's resignation nonetheless came as a surprise,

    since he initially had pledged to continue as premier,

    despite his defeat in the party leadership vote. He had

    argued that he still enjoys considerable support from within

    the party and especially among Socialist legislators.

    But during the days that followed, Nano increased

    pressure on Majko, whom he had harshly attacked in the past

    for his conciliatory political approach. Nano, along with

    Democratic leader Sali Berisha, carries the most

    responsibility for the polarization of political life between

    the Socialists and Democrats. Not surprisingly, he is

    considerably less willing than Majko to cooperate with the

    Democrats and has repeatedly criticized Majko for maintaining

    contacts with opposition politicians. Majko's approach,

    however, appealed to many voters who are sick of the

    polarization that has dominated Albanian politics throughout

    most of the 1990s.

    After the congress, Nano challenged the election of 36

    members of the 116-strong Steering Committee, most of them

    Majko supporters, because they received less than 50 percent

    of the vote. Under party statutes, all members of the

    Steering Committee must be elected with more than 50 percent

    of the vote. Nonetheless, many Albanian political observers

    and journalists regarded Nano's initiative as an attempt to

    remove Majko's supporters from the committee and to

    strengthen his position vis-a-vis the government. Some

    observers pointed out that Nano did not call run-off votes at

    party congresses in 1992 and 1996, when he was firmly in

    charge and the candidates were all loyal to him

    Subsequently, Majko and another 66 members of the

    Steering Committee boycotted the ballot on 22 October in

    Tirana, arguing that Nano was aiming to change the balance of

    power in the committee. In the end, 73 percent of the

    deputies to the congress took part in the run-off vote,

    indicating that Nano remains able to mobilize large parts of

    the party's rank-and-file. The "Albanian Daily News" noted

    that "the session showed the undisputed authority of Nano in

    the party." By the same token, the session showed that the

    position of the 31-year-old former prime minister remains

    precarious among his fellow Socialists.

    Nano failed, however, to get his loyalists elected at

    the expense of Majko's. The delegates approved the

    controversial election of the 36 in a vote that appears to

    have been a compromise between Majko's backers and Nano's

    supporters. Delegates seemed to have realized that the two

    rival wings need each other. While Nano's supporters within

    the party are more numerous than Majko's, the latter's appeal

    to the public is stronger than that of the combative Nano.

    Majko, nonetheless, realized that his ability to make policy

    beyond the reach of the powerful Nano had been considerably

    limited as a result of the congress and therefore opted to

    resign.

    Majko's resignation, however, does not mean that the

    conservative wing of the Socialist Party has taken over the

    government. "Koha Ditore" on 27 October noted that new

    Premier Meta is clearly from Majko's reformist wing within

    the party. Meta was deputy prime minister under Majko and is

    also the head of the Socialist Youth Forum, known as the

    Eurosocialists. But he will have a more difficult task ahead

    of him than did Majko before the party congress. Nano is now

    clearly the most powerful party leader and is likely to

    repeatedly challenge the government on general policy

    questions.

    The resignation of Majko marks the third major

    government reshuffle since the Socialists came to power in

    1997. The opposition is likely to revive its calls for new

    elections, but the Socialists are unlikely to agree to an

    early vote, fearing this would severely hamper the

    government's reform plans shortly after the Kosova war and

    possibly reduce their two-thirds majority in the parliament.

    Meta will now have to prove that he can continue the work of

    the government without becoming involved in politically

    motivated disruptions.

    01-11-99


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


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