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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 2, 00-01-04

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. 2, 4 January 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] FELLOW PRESIDENTS COMMENT ON YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION...
  • [02] ...AND PUTIN'S ELEVATION TO PRESIDENCY
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN'S OPPOSITION DEMANDS NEW MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
  • [04] KAZAKHSTAN ALLOCATES SPECIAL PREMIUMS TO NEW YEAR BABIES
  • [05] ANOTHER KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY FACES ELECTION RESTRICTIONS
  • [06] TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTIES HOLD PRE-ELECTION CONGRESSES

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [07] CROATIAN OPPOSITION SWEEPS TO VICTORY
  • [08] BIG TURNOUT AMONG CROATS ABROAD
  • [09] BOSNIAN BORDER POLICE WAITING FOR DUTY
  • [10] GENERAL JACKSON REJECTS CRITICISM OF BRITISH FORCES
  • [11] REINHARDT PRAISES BELGIAN KFOR
  • [12] ALBANIAN EMIGRATION BALANCE
  • [13] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ANTI-SEMITISM 'ISOLATED AND
  • [14] RUSSIA SAYS YELTSIN'S DEPARTURE WILL NOT INFLUENCE

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [15] Croatian Opposition Confronts Challenge Of Governing

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] FELLOW PRESIDENTS COMMENT ON YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION...

    Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev has suggested that former

    Russian President Yeltsin stepped down "because he was unable

    to work any more," according to Turan on 3 January. Georgian

    President Eduard Shevardnadze on 31 December praised

    Yeltsin's move as courageous, adding that he "made a unique

    contribution to democratic reforms in Russia," according to

    Caucasus Press. A spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's President Askar

    Akaev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 31 December that

    Yeltsin's move was "the right one," and will strengthen

    democratic institutions in Russia. Tajikistan's Imomali

    Rakhmonov said Yeltsin made "a resolute and wise move,

    opening the way to the young," according to ITAR-TASS on 4

    January. Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov

    termed Yeltsin's resignation the only correct decision in the

    circumstances, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. LF

    [02] ...AND PUTIN'S ELEVATION TO PRESIDENCY

    Acting President

    Putin held telephone conversations on 3 January with Aliev,

    Rakhmonov, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov, according to

    ITAR-TASS. Neither Aliev nor Shevardnadze publicly commented

    on Putin's elevation to the post of acting president, but

    both expressed the hope that bilateral relations with Russia

    will now improve. Akaev and Rakhmonov both sent messages of

    congratulation to Putin. Rakhmonov also expressed confidence

    that cooperation between Tajikistan and Russia will continue,

    according to ITAR-TASS. Karimov on 3 January said he believes

    the expectation of many people both in Russia and abroad that

    Putin will restore Russia to its former superpower status are

    entirely justified. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN'S OPPOSITION DEMANDS NEW MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

    Nine

    Azerbaijani opposition parties, including Musavat and the

    Azerbaijan National Independence Party but not the Azerbaijan

    Popular Front, have issued a joint statement calling for new

    municipal elections, Turan reported on 3 January. The

    statement notes that the 12 December 1999 elections should

    have taken place two years earlier according to the

    constitution. It added that opposition proposals were ignored

    during the process of drafting the electoral legislation. The

    statement further called for criminal proceedings to be

    brought against officials and members of electoral

    commissions who either committed procedural violations or

    turned a blind eye to them during the election campaign. LF

    [04] KAZAKHSTAN ALLOCATES SPECIAL PREMIUMS TO NEW YEAR BABIES

    The

    first 2,000 infants born in Kazakhstan in 2000 will receive

    allowances of 100,000 tenge ($700) apiece from the country's

    Demographic Fund, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 4

    January. The allowances are part of a program to boost the

    birthrate and reverse the decline in the country's

    population, which has fallen from 17 million to 14.9 million

    since 1991. But the effectiveness of such incentives may be

    undercut by the government's decision to reform the medical

    system by shifting the onus of funding medical facilities

    from the central government to the regional administrations

    as of 1 January. LF

    [05] ANOTHER KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY FACES ELECTION RESTRICTIONS

    A Bishkek district court on 3 January rejected an appeal by

    the opposition Ar-Namys (Conscience) Party against a ruling

    by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) that the party does

    not qualify to nominate candidates for the party-list seats

    in the 20 February election to the lower chamber of

    Kyrgyzstan's new parliament, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau

    reported. The Justice Ministry had advised the CEC not to

    register the party, arguing that the electoral code requires

    parties to be registered at least one year in advance of an

    election date in order to participate. Ar-Namys was

    registered in August. But a spokesman for Ar-Namys argued

    that the electoral code was based on the 1991 Law on Public

    Associations, and that the Law on Political Parties adopted

    in 1999 does not impose any comparable restrictions on

    election participation. LF

    [06] TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTIES HOLD PRE-ELECTION CONGRESSES

    Addressing a congress of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP)

    on 31 December, party chairman Said Abdullo Nuri affirmed the

    party's commitment to building a fair and democratic society

    and observing the constraints of Tajikistan's Constitution in

    its efforts to create an Islamic state, Asia Plus-Blitz

    reported on 3 January. In an allusion to the November 1999

    presidential elections, Nuri noted that his party had

    acquired experience in election campaigning despite

    "artificial obstacles created by some bureaucrats." He said

    the IRP is the sole realistic opponent to the ruling People's

    Democratic Party of Tajikistan. Delegates to the congress

    approved a list of 22 candidates who will contend the 63

    seats in the new lower house of parliament to be elected on

    27 February. In other news, the Communist Party of Tajikistan

    named 22 candidates for the poll at a 27 December congress,

    according to Asia Plus-Blitz. In all, six parties will

    compete. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [07] CROATIAN OPPOSITION SWEEPS TO VICTORY

    Preliminary unofficial

    results of the 3 January parliamentary elections show that

    the coalition of Social Democrats (SDP) and Social Liberals

    (HSLS) will likely take 71 seats in the approximately 150-

    seat lower house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2000).

    Their allies in a coalition of four smaller parties appear to

    have won 24 seats. The governing Croatian Democratic

    Community (HDZ) will have 40 seats. Reports suggest that the

    HDZ is leading in only one of the 10 electoral districts.

    Under the system of proportional representation, four seats

    will go to tiny right-wing parties. The turnout was about 78

    percent. The SDP's Ivica Racan, who is expected to be the new

    prime minister, said: "We shall do our best to justify the

    voters' confidence," AP reported. HDZ leaders Mate Granic and

    Ivic Pasalic conceded defeat and promised to provide a robust

    opposition (see "End Note" below). PM

    [08] BIG TURNOUT AMONG CROATS ABROAD

    Tens of thousands of

    Croatian citizens cast their ballots abroad without any

    serious incidents or problems, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported on 3 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January

    2000). Turnouts were large across Bosnia-Herzegovina, except

    in Banja Luka. "Vecernji list" reported that 120,000 persons

    in Bosnia took part in the vote. In federal Yugoslavia, large

    numbers of people cast their ballots in Belgrade and Kotor in

    particular. The polling place in Ljubljana ran out of ballot

    papers because an unexpectedly large number of Croats

    vacationing in Slovenia turned up to vote. PM

    [09] BOSNIAN BORDER POLICE WAITING FOR DUTY

    Some 30 Bosnian

    border police completed their training course in Austria on 3

    January, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. They include

    10 Muslims, 10 Serbs, and 10 Croats. They cannot take up

    their duties patrolling the frontier until the joint

    parliament approves their mandate. Bosnian Serb politicians

    in particular are reluctant to allow persons who are not from

    their own ethnic group to take up border duty in the

    Republika Srpska. Most Bosnian Serbs interpret the Dayton

    peace agreement primarily as an affirmation of the

    sovereignty of the Republika Srpska rather than as the re-

    establishment of a unified Bosnia. PM

    [10] GENERAL JACKSON REJECTS CRITICISM OF BRITISH FORCES

    General

    Sir Mike Jackson, who commanded NATO forces during their

    entry into Kosova in June, denied charges in a reported

    British government study that British forces in Kosova

    suffered from poor command and control structures and were

    badly equipped. Jackson told the BBC on 4 January that the

    report, excerpts of which the BBC broadcast the previous day,

    described a situation that was "difficult to recognize from

    my experience." He stressed that British forces would have

    been able to launch a successful ground assault on Serbian

    forces had they been ordered to do so. The report suggested

    that British troops had to borrow equipment from other NATO

    forces because their own was unreliable, and that their

    communications were so insecure that Serbian monitors "could

    hear every word." AP reported from London that the study was

    designed to be as critical as possible as part of a standard

    review process following any British military operation. PM

    [11] REINHARDT PRAISES BELGIAN KFOR

    General Max Reinhardt, who

    succeeded Jackson as KFOR commander, on 3 January visited the

    1,000-strong Belgian contingent that patrols Kosova's

    northern frontier with Serbia. He told the Belgians they

    "have one of the most challenging and busy boundary control

    operations. I am very pleased with the professionalism and

    proficiency in which they carry out their duties," AP

    reported. Critics have charged that Serbian paramilitaries

    and other forces continue to pass between Serbia and Kosova,

    which Serbian forces were supposed to have left in June under

    an agreement with NATO. PM

    [12] ALBANIAN EMIGRATION BALANCE

    The Ministry of Economic

    Cooperation and Trade said in a report issued in Tirana on 3

    January that more than 15 percent of Albania's 3.2 million

    people have left the impoverished country during the past 10

    years, dpa reported. About 400,000 Albanian emigrants are

    currently in Greece, while 150,000 others are in Italy. About

    50,000 have gone to Germany, the U.S., Canada, Switzerland,

    France, England, Turkey, or Belgium. Much of the emigration

    has been legal, but large numbers of illegal migrants have

    gone to Italy and Greece. The often difficult living and

    working conditions of the Albanians in Greece have been an

    occasional source of tension between the two countries. Many

    Greeks blame Albanians for crime-related problems. PM

    [13] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ANTI-SEMITISM 'ISOLATED AND

    MARGINALIZED'

    Speaking at the Yad-Vashem Holocaust

    Memorial in Jerusalem, President Emil Constantinescu said

    he wishes Romania were in the position to claim that it

    defended "all its Jews" during the Holocaust.

    Unfortunately, he said, this is not so. Only some of them

    were protected, while others had to suffer "persecutions

    and humiliations" and others yet were "deported and...fell

    victim to pogroms" under the "Ion Antonescu dictatorship."

    Constantinescu said he wanted to once more express his

    "profound regret" for those times, as he did back in 1997.

    But he denied that anti-Semitism plays any role in his

    country today. He said Romania's authorities and civil

    society "categorically reject" it and that "anti-Semitic

    voices" are a "very isolated" phenomenon, present

    "particularly in the media." The authorities, he said, "are

    investigating" those responsible for publishing such

    articles. MS

    [14] RUSSIA SAYS YELTSIN'S DEPARTURE WILL NOT INFLUENCE

    TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT RESOLUTION

    The Russian Foreign

    Ministry says the resignation of President Yeltsin will

    have no influence on the position of Moscow toward the

    Transdniester conflict, Flux reported on 3 January. The

    ministry sent a statement to the separatist authorities in

    the Transdniester explaining that Russia will continue to

    be a mediator in the conflict and a "guarantor" of the

    implementation of the understandings that have been reached

    so far. The ministry reiterated Moscow's position that the

    withdrawal of Russian forces from the Transdniester must be

    "co-ordinated" with the acceptance of a common

    understanding on the special status of the Transdniester.

    MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [15] Croatian Opposition Confronts Challenge Of Governing

    By Patrick Moore

    The two Croatian opposition coalitions appear headed for

    a landslide win over the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ),

    which has held power for nearly 10 years. Once in office, the

    coalitions will have their work cut out for them.

    The 3 January parliamentary elections were remarkable

    for at least two reasons (see "RFE/RL Newsline" above).

    First, they mark the end of the HDZ's long grip on power

    through most of Croatia. During the past decade, opposition

    parties won control of Istria and several cities, but the

    HDZ's control of the central government was complete. For the

    first time since gaining independence in 1991, Croats will

    now experience a peaceful transition of authority to the

    opposition (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 November 1999).

    Second, as some pre-election polls anticipated, the

    winners' margin of victory was a large one. Voters clearly

    wanted a change and failed to be swayed by the HDZ's appeals

    for a sympathy vote in honor of the late President Franjo

    Tudjman, who died in December. Preliminary returns suggest

    that the two coalitions will have approximately 95 out of

    about 150 seats in the lower house. The largest coalition,

    which consists of the Social Democrats (SDP) and the Croatian

    Social Liberal Party (HSLS), seems likely to take 71 seats.

    The SDP's Ivica Racan is set to head the new government,

    while the HSLS's Drazen Budisa will be his coalition's

    candidate in the 24 January presidential vote to replace

    Tudjman. The smaller coalition of four centrist parties will

    likely win 24 legislative seats. The HDZ's share has fallen

    from 75 in the 1995 elections to a more modest 40 this time.

    The margin of victory could prove a poisoned

    chalice for the coalitions, however, because the voters will

    expect a government with such a strong mandate to deliver on

    its pre-election promises. These involve social and economic

    progress, democratization, and putting an end to

    international isolation.

    The key issue for most voters was the need to

    improve the standard of living in a country with an

    unemployment rate of more than 20 percent and a monthly per

    capita income of about $400. Tudjman's election slogan

    earlier in the decade was "from victory to prosperity," but

    it has proven empty for most Croats, including many veterans

    of the war for independence. Once the war ended in 1995 and

    people's attention turned increasingly to economic concerns,

    the SDP began a steady rise from the margins of political

    life to become the largest opposition party. Its platform

    centers on bread-and-butter issues and shuns nationalist

    rhetoric; the SDP is the only major party that does not

    include the word "Croatian" in its name.

    The second area in which voters will have great

    expectations of the new government will be in

    democratization. As was the case in post-Meciar Slovakia, the

    new Croatian government has pledged to investigate the many

    dubious privatizations carried out by its predecessor. A

    major source of resentment against the HDZ was the popular

    perception that party insiders grew ever richer at a time

    when most Croats had difficulty making ends meet. The

    coalitions have pledged to clean out these Augean stables.

    The new government has also promised to end

    political manipulation of the media--particularly of state-

    run television--and of the intelligence services. Tudjman's

    imperial presidency, moreover, will be reduced in scale, and

    many of his powers transferred to parliament in a move that

    even the HDZ has pledged to support.

    The victorious coalitions will also likely examine

    the constitutional provisions that give full citizenship to

    ethnic Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who are also citizens of

    that republic. The central issue is the provision granting

    the Herzegovinians--who include many hard-line nationalists--

    the right to vote in Croatian elections. By curbing or

    eliminating that right, the new government would deny the HDZ

    a large block of electors. The government would also gain

    favor with the international community, which regards the HDZ

    as bent on realizing Tudjman's dream of a greater Croatia at

    Bosnia's expense. It was no accident that one of the first

    reactions to the coalitions' victory came from prominent

    Bosnian Muslim politician Mirza Hajic, who said: "That is

    good news for Bosnia and Herzegovina."

    This leads to the third area in which the new

    government will seek to make good on its promises, namely the

    need to end Croatia's international isolation on account of

    the HDZ's policies on democratization and on Bosnia. Nowhere

    was the isolation more painfully evident than at Tudjman's

    funeral, at which only Turkey was represented by its head of

    state; most Western countries sent only their ambassadors.

    When Slovenia and Croatia became independent in 1991, they

    were at the same place on the road to Euro-Atlantic

    integration. Now Slovenia is at the forefront of most post-

    communist countries in this respect, but Croatia has slid

    behind even Albania and Macedonia. Those two Balkan countries

    are in NATO's Partnership for Peace Program, which Croatia

    has not been invited to join.

    But to the extent that the coalitions institute

    democratic reforms at home and cut ties to the Herzegovinian

    nationalists, they are likely to find a quick and warm

    response from Washington and the EU. Encouraging words have

    already come from those quarters. And the large diaspora can

    serve as a bridge between Croatia and its Western allies.

    Additional pitfalls nonetheless remain. The

    coalitions will need to remain united and not fall prey to

    squabbling among themselves, as has happened in post-Meciar

    Slovakia. This will be all the more important if the HDZ's

    moderate and popular Mate Granic defeats Budisa for the

    presidency, and if the fractious HDZ itself remains united.

    The new government will also need to define a position on

    allowing ethnic Serbian refugees to return that will please

    both the international community and the voters. Precious

    little of this will be easy.

    04-01-00


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


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