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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 74, 00-04-13

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. 4, No. 74, 13 April 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS POLITICAL SITUATION STABILIZING...
  • [02] ...DOWNPLAYS AZERBAIJANI STATEMENTS
  • [03] KARABAKH JOURNALIST SENTENCED
  • [04] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION REPEATS DEMAND FOR NEW ELECTION LAW...
  • [05] ...AS UN SAYS IT CANNOT SUPERVISE AZERBAIJANI POLL
  • [06] AZERBAIJAN ELECTION OFFICIAL CONDEMNS PLANNED KARABAKH ELECTIONS
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN TO ASK RUSSIA TO INCREASE OIL EXPORT QUOTA
  • [08] NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER
  • [09] RUSSIAN EMISSARY DISCUSSES REGIONAL SECURITY IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [10] KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT ASSESSES ELECTIONS AS FREE AND FAIR
  • [11] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION ACCUSE GOVERNMENT OF AVOIDING DIALOGUE
  • [12] 'RELIGIOUS EXTREMIST' ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT SETS TERMS OF COOPERATION WITH HAGUE
  • [14] NO INDICTMENTS AGAINST TOP CROATIAN BRASS?
  • [15] NATO OPTIMISTIC ON KOSOVA REFUGEE RETURNS...
  • [16] ...WHILE KOUCHNER IS LEARY
  • [17] BELGRADE WEEKLY WILL NOT PAY FINE
  • [18] DJINDJIC BLAMES SERBIAN SOCIETY FOR ITS PROBLEMS
  • [19] MILOSEVIC'S MONTENEGRIN ALLIES ABOUT TO SPLIT?
  • [20] NATIONALIST SWEEP IN BOSNIA CONTINUES
  • [21] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT BEGINS BUDGET DEBATE
  • [22] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ECOLOGICAL NEGLECT
  • [23] JOINT ROMANIA-HUNGARIAN PEACE KEEPING UNIT ENDS EXERCISE
  • [24] RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR WANTS CLOSER ECONOMIC TIES WITH MOLDOVA
  • [25] BULGARIAN MINISTER ENCOURAGED AFTER MEETING NATO AMBASSADORS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [26] WHAT FUTURE FOR CROATIA'S HDZ?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS POLITICAL SITUATION STABILIZING...

    Vartan Oskanian told a press conference in Yerevan on 12 April

    that the political situation in the country "is stabilizing day

    by day" and no longer constitutes an obstacle to the resumption

    of talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's bureau in

    the Armenian capital reported. One month earlier, Oskanian had

    said domestic political tensions had brought the mediation

    process to a standstill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2000).

    Oskanian said that the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group have

    not set a date for their next visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan,

    but he predicted that the peace process will gather momentum in

    the next few months. He confirmed media speculation that the

    possibility of a territorial exchange between Armenia and

    Azerbaijan (the so-called "Goble Plan") was raised during talks

    between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani

    counterpart, Heidar Aliev, but said the Armenian side did not

    accept it as a basis for negotiation, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

    [02] ...DOWNPLAYS AZERBAIJANI STATEMENTS

    Oskanian on 12 April

    dismissed an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry statement the previous

    day criticizing as "destabilizing" the recent joint military

    maneuvers in Armenia by Russian and Armenian troops, RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2000).

    He also said that Yerevan "does not take seriously" statements by

    a group of retired Azerbaijani military officers calling for a

    new war to return Nagorno-Karabakh to the control of the

    Azerbaijani central government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March

    2000). Oskanian said such statements do not reflect the official

    position of the Azerbaijani leadership. LF

    [03] KARABAKH JOURNALIST SENTENCED

    A Stepanakert court on 12 April

    sentenced journalist Vahram Aghajanian to 12 months in prison

    following a one-day hearing, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent

    reported. Aghajanian was accused of slandering Anushavan

    Danielian, prime minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh

    Republic, in an article published in November 1999 in the

    Karabakh opposition newspaper "Tasnerort nahang." Aghajanian's

    lawyer said the charge of slander was based on "false facts"

    presented by prosecutors. He added that the judge refused to

    question a key witness who could confirm the information

    contained in the article. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION REPEATS DEMAND FOR NEW ELECTION LAW...

    Mais Safarli, chairman of the Democratic Congress, which unites

    10 opposition parties, told Turan on 12 April that the congress

    plans to convene a protest action in Baku on 29 April unless the

    parliament begins discussing a new draft election legislation

    prepared by the opposition. The Democratic Congress argues that

    the laws on elections and the Central Election Commission

    preclude holding democratic and fair elections. OSCE Office for

    Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Director Gerard

    Stoudmann was quoted by Turan earlier this month as saying that

    his organization is working with the Azerbaijani authorities on

    drafting a new law on the election commission, which he hopes

    will be ready by mid-May. Stoudmann said it is "extremely

    important" that the new law provide for representation on the

    commission of opposition political parties, according to Turan.

    LF

    [05] ...AS UN SAYS IT CANNOT SUPERVISE AZERBAIJANI POLL

    The UN office

    in Azerbaijan has issued a statement explaining that that

    organization cannot become directly involved in the organization

    of the Azerbaijani parliamentary elections due in November 2000,

    Turan reported on 12 April. Several left-wing opposition parties

    had called earlier this year for that poll to be held under the

    aegis of the UN. They argued that doing so is the only way to

    ensure that the vote is free and fair. The UN statement said that

    organization is willing to provide electoral assistance only if

    the Azerbaijani government or election bodies request such help.

    LF

    [06] AZERBAIJAN ELECTION OFFICIAL CONDEMNS PLANNED KARABAKH ELECTIONS

    Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission chairman Djafar Veliev

    has termed the 18 June parliamentary elections in the

    unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic "a political show" that

    violates the Azerbaijani Constitution, Turan reported on 12 April

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2000). Veliev predicted that no

    country will recognize the poll as valid. LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN TO ASK RUSSIA TO INCREASE OIL EXPORT QUOTA

    Kazakhstan's Deputy Energy Minister Nurlan Qapparov told

    journalists in Astana on 12 April that Kazakhstan will ask Russia

    to increase by 1 million tons the amount of oil it may export via

    Russian pipelines this year, Interfax reported. This would bring

    the total to 11 million tons. Qapparov said that oil should be

    exported via the Atyrau-Samara pipeline, which has an annual

    throughput capacity of 11.5 million tons. He added that a

    feasibility study is being prepared on reconstruction of the

    pipeline at an estimated cost of $30 million to increase

    throughput capacity to 15 million tons. Visiting Astana on 11

    April, Russian Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Vladimir Stanev

    and Transneft President Semen Vainshtok proposed to Kazakhstan's

    Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev that Kazakhstan export up to 3

    million tons of oil annually via the newly-completed Chechen

    bypass pipeline. Doing so would entail shipping the oil by barge

    across the Caspian to Makhachkala. LF

    [08] NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER

    Kazakhstan's

    tax police have opened another criminal case against former Prime

    Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, Reuters reported on 12 April.

    Kazhegeldin is accused of abusing his position in 1995 by

    temporarily granting a sports club exemption from the tax on

    imported goods. That exemption reportedly deprived the Almaty

    city budget of "hundreds of millions of tenge," according to

    Kazakhstan state television. Kazhegeldin, who left Kazakhstan

    early last year, is also wanted on charges of tax evasion, money-

    laundering, and illegal weapons possession. LF

    [09] RUSSIAN EMISSARY DISCUSSES REGIONAL SECURITY IN KYRGYZSTAN

    Visiting Bishkek on 11-12 April, Kremlin Chechnya spokesman

    Sergei Yastrzhembskii met with President Askar Akaev to discuss

    joint measures by Russia and the states of Central Asia to combat

    terrorism, religious extremism, and drug-trafficking. He argued

    that there is a link between the fighting in Chechnya, the

    assassination attempts in 1998 and 1999 against the presidents of

    Georgia and Uzbekistan, and last summer's incursion of Islamic

    fighters into Kyrgyzstan, attributing those events to

    "forces...that would like to see new Afghanistans arising in

    post-Soviet Central Asia," according to Reuters. Yastrzhembskii

    affirmed that as a "strategic partner" and a signatory to the CIS

    Collective Security Pact, Russia would "immediately" assist

    Kyrgyzstan in the event of a new terrorist incursion. He also

    expressed approval of Kyrgyzstan's treatment of its dwindling

    ethnic Russian minority, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT ASSESSES ELECTIONS AS FREE AND FAIR

    The

    government issued a statement on 12 April describing the

    parliamentary elections on 20 February and 12 March as fair,

    democratic, and lawful, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The

    statement also deemed as lawful the arrest of opposition Ar-Namys

    party chairman Feliks Kulov and accused unnamed opposition

    politicians and parties of using illegal methods in pursuit of

    their objectives. Also on 12 April, some 100 protesters continued

    their picket in Bishkek to demand Kulov's release and the

    annulment of the election results. LF

    [11] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION ACCUSE GOVERNMENT OF AVOIDING DIALOGUE

    Several

    Kyrgyz opposition politicians, human rights activists, and

    journalists wrote to Jerzy Wienclaw, the OSCE representative in

    Bishkek, on 11 April to complain that the Kyrgyz authorities are

    trying to restrict any dialogue with the opposition, RFE/RL's

    bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. They said that the Kyrgyz

    leadership wants to restrict the talks to a discussion of

    amendments to the election law, rather than conducting a broad

    dialogue. The signatories called on the OSCE not to sponsor such

    a narrow round-table discussion. LF

    [12] 'RELIGIOUS EXTREMIST' ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN

    Police in Khojand

    on 12 April arrested and charged with anti-government propaganda

    a man whom they identified as a member of the banned Hizb-ut-

    Tahrir Islamic extremist party, Asia Plus-Blitz reported, citing

    the Tajik Interior Ministry. The man's name is given as

    Sharifullo Aliev, and he is said to be a resident of Gafurov in

    Leninabad Oblast. He was detained for disseminating Islamic

    literature calling for the overthrow of the Tajik government and

    the founding of an Islamic state. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT SETS TERMS OF COOPERATION WITH HAGUE

    TRIBUNAL

    Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 13 April

    that his government has prepared a declaration of cooperation

    with the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal, AP

    reported. Racan stressed that his government wants to cooperate

    with the tribunal, as demanded by the international community,

    but without damaging the legacy of the 1991-1995 war against

    Serbian rebels and the Yugoslav army. Racan added: "We cannot

    allow our independence war to be sullied by hiding certain war

    crimes and their perpetrators." Officials of the Hague tribunal

    recently began excavations in several caves in Gospic, where

    Croatian forces or paramilitaries are believed to have dumped

    bodies of Serbian civilians after killing them in late 1991.

    Milorad Pupovac, who is a leader of Croatia's Serbian minority,

    said that probably more than 100 Serbs died in the killings,

    "Jutarnji list" reported on 13 April. Commanders Tihomir

    Oreskovic, Mirko Norac, and Tomislav Mercep may have played key

    roles in the killings, "Globus" reported on 7 April. PM

    [14] NO INDICTMENTS AGAINST TOP CROATIAN BRASS?

    Justice Minister

    Stjepan Ivanisevic said that on her recent visit to Zagreb, the

    tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, denied press

    reports that there are secret indictments against top Croatian

    officers, RFE/RL'S South Slavic Service reported on 12 April.

    During Del Ponte's visit, government spokesmen would neither

    confirm nor deny reports that she was looking for specific

    documents about wartime Generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak, Ivan

    Korade, and Mirko Norac (see "RFRE/RL Newsline" 5 April 2000). PM

    [15] NATO OPTIMISTIC ON KOSOVA REFUGEE RETURNS...

    An unnamed official

    of the Atlantic alliance told Reuters in Brussels on 12 April

    that NATO expects some 25,000 Serbs to return to Kosova "in the

    coming months." He noted that many Serbian refugees who fled to

    Serbia are less than happy with their treatment there. Many such

    individuals now prefer to "put their faith in the international

    community and the economic lift-off that will eventually happen"

    in Kosova," the official added. He admitted that security will be

    a problem in some areas where interethnic relations are

    particularly tense, but he added that "we can't delay this

    forever or until everything's perfect. We have got to start

    somewhere." NATO will closely monitor the refugees to ensure that

    they are, in fact, Serbs from Kosova. Alliance officials will

    also try to keep out "people controlled by Belgrade," the

    official added. He noted that NATO expects some 18,000 ethnic

    Albanians to return to Kosova "in the coming months." PM

    [16] ...WHILE KOUCHNER IS LEARY

    Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's

    civilian administration in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 12 April

    that the governments of Australia and unnamed Western European

    countries should not force refugees from Kosova to go home "too

    early," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kouchner warned

    that there is no purpose in sending refugees back to Kosova

    before the infrastructure to support them is in place. PM

    [17] BELGRADE WEEKLY WILL NOT PAY FINE

    Dragoljub Zarkovic, who is one

    of the three directors of the independent weekly "Vreme," told a

    press conference on 12 April that his publication does not have

    the money to pay the several fines imposed by the government,

    "Danas" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2000). In a

    related development, "Danas" noted that a court case against the

    newspaper will open on 10 May. The state-run Tanjug news agency

    and its director, Dusan Djordjevic, are suing the independent

    daily for "misuse of free, public information" and several other

    offenses. The Milosevic regime has long sought to hound the

    independent media out of existence by bringing court cases

    against them and imposing stiff fines for violating Serbia's

    draconian media laws. PM

    [18] DJINDJIC BLAMES SERBIAN SOCIETY FOR ITS PROBLEMS

    Serbian

    Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told Vienna's "Die Presse"

    of 13 April that Serbia's main problem is that its society has

    neither grown nor developed during the 10 years that President

    Slobodan Milosevic has been in power. The authorities have had no

    trouble in politically manipulating such a society, he added.

    Djindjic stressed that observers place too much blame for

    Serbia's problems on divisions within the opposition. No

    opposition can do much if "millions of people do not know whether

    they want to fight for their rights or not." He called for less

    talk about divisions within the opposition and more attention by

    the opposition to the social and economic problems of ordinary

    people. The main single obstacle to opposition success is not

    Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic or any other

    opposition figure but rather Milosevic, Djindjic added. PM

    [19] MILOSEVIC'S MONTENEGRIN ALLIES ABOUT TO SPLIT?

    The Podgorica

    daily "Vijesti" reported on 12 April that two top officials of

    the Socialist People's Party (SNP) will soon quit that

    organization, which is the most important Montenegrin political

    party loyal to Milosevic. Predrag Bulatovic and Zoran Zizic are

    unhappy about a decision by party leaders to contest upcoming

    elections in Herceg Novi together with two-pro Milosevic parties

    based in Serbia. Bulatovic and Zizic feel that the SNP does not

    need to work with the United Yugoslav Left (JUL) of Mira Markovic

    or Vojislav Seselj's Radicals. Meanwhile in Niksic, Montenegrin

    President Milo Djukanovic said he believes that reports of a

    split in the SNP are greatly exaggerated, RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported. PM

    [20] NATIONALIST SWEEP IN BOSNIA CONTINUES

    Preliminary unofficial

    returns from 128 out of 145 municipalities in the 8 April local

    elections give Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party the

    lead in 51 areas. The Croatian Democratic Community is ahead in

    24 localities, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action in 21, and

    the Social Democrats in 17, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported on 12 April. PM

    [21] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT BEGINS BUDGET DEBATE

    Prime Minister Mugur

    Isarescu told the two chambers of the legislature on 12 April

    that the 2000 budget is geared toward halving inflation to 27

    percent and at promoting 1.3 percent growth, while keeping the

    deficit at 3 percent of GDP, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

    Isarescu warned against increasing expenditures beyond the

    envisaged 3 percent deficit, saying this may affect Romania's

    ability to service its foreign debt. He added that by staying

    within those limits, Romania will demonstrate that the

    credibility of the international Standard & Poor's rating agency

    is questionable (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2000). In

    related news, Mediafax reported that in its semi-annual "World

    Economic Outlook" released on 12 April, the IMF predicts 1.5

    percent growth in the Romanian economy in 2000 but notes that the

    country's economy as a whole continues to be "fragile." MS

    [22] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ECOLOGICAL NEGLECT

    Emil

    Constantinescu told a 12 April meeting of the National Defense

    Supreme Council that if ecological accidents become a regular

    recurrence, Romania's chances of integration into the EU will

    be negatively affected, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

    The council approved a number of "urgent measures" for the

    prevention and combating of ecological disasters.

    Constantinescu said Romania must continue bringing its ecology

    legislation into line with European standards but added that

    implementation of existing laws, rather than new legislation,

    is the main problem for Romania to cope with. MS

    [23] JOINT ROMANIA-HUNGARIAN PEACE KEEPING UNIT ENDS EXERCISE

    The

    recently-established Romanian-Hungarian peace-keeping

    battalion has ended its first military exercises, which took

    place in the Arad county, Mediafax reported on 12 April. The

    battalion simulated freeing hostages and "negotiating with

    mercenary troops." The exercise was conducted under the

    auspices of the OSCE. The battalion is to become operative in

    the fall. MS

    [24] RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR WANTS CLOSER ECONOMIC TIES WITH MOLDOVA

    Russia's Ambassador to Moldova Pavel Petrovskii said on 12 April

    that Russia wants to increase its economic ties with Moldova,

    Infotag reported. He said there are many "unused reserves" in

    those ties and praised a recent agreement to reschedule Moldova's

    debt to Russia as well as a proposal to introduce contract prices

    for Russian gas. Petrovsky said he did not discuss with any

    Moldovan officials the possibility of establishing a Russian

    military base in Transdniester (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April

    2000). He said Moscow respects Moldova's Constitution, which

    states that it is a neutral country. VG

    [25] BULGARIAN MINISTER ENCOURAGED AFTER MEETING NATO AMBASSADORS

    Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said on 12 April

    that NATO's assessment of Bulgaria's progress in its efforts to

    gain membership in the alliance is "encouraging," BTA reported.

    Mihailova was speaking after a meeting with NATO ambassadors in

    Sofia. She said the assessment stresses Bulgaria's policy in the

    Balkans, the country's support for NATO's bombing campaign in

    Yugoslavia last year, and the country's political and economic

    stability. Defense Minister Boyko Noev, who also attended the

    meeting, said Bulgaria does not need any funding from NATO's

    accession programs to reform its army. On 14 April, the North

    Atlantic Council is scheduled to discuss Bulgaria's progress in

    Brussels. VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [26] WHAT FUTURE FOR CROATIA'S HDZ?

    By Christian Buric

    Things are changing quickly in Croatian politics. Perhaps

    the biggest question is: where will the once-mighty Croatian

    Democratic Community (HDZ) find itself when the dust settles?

    Most Croats welcomed the recent change of government and the

    end of an authoritarian political culture. After the coalition of

    six parties came to power in January, scandals and revelations

    about old intrigues involving the HDZ elite began to appear

    almost daily in the press.

    The HDZ itself has begun to split, and it is unclear whether

    Franjo Tudjman's party will be in a position to play any kind of

    constructive opposition role in the near future. If open feuding

    between leading figures of the party continues, the HDZ will be

    hard-pressed to create a new political strategy and a readily

    identifiable image. In that case, there will be no clear

    political alternative to the governing coalition. Should Croatia

    lack a robust opposition, its transition to a truly Western-style

    democracy will be delayed.

    Former Foreign Minister Mate Granic founded a new party, the

    Croatian Democratic Center (HDC), in March. Granic, formerly

    known as the leader of the so-called liberal wing in the HDZ,

    wanted to distance himself from the HDZ's right wing, which is

    lead by Ivic Pasalic. Pasalic is of Herzegovinian origin and was

    Tudjman's most influential adviser in his final years.

    Vladimir Seks and Branimir Glavas from Slavonia play key

    roles in the HDZ, too. In 1989 they founded the party, together

    with Franjo Tudjman, and are now two top hard-liners.

    Significantly, even the right wing of the HDZ is no longer

    united. Pasalic told "Vecernji list" of 30 March that the

    political alliance between Glavas and Seks is shaky. As for

    Pasalic and Seks, they have long been feuding in public.

    But the birth of the HDC and mistrust within the right wing

    of the HDZ are not the only problems for the party. There is also

    a faction that calls itself the "Club of the Founding Fathers."

    Pasalic mentioned that the existence of this faction is not in

    line with party regulations. He even fears that old-timers like

    Josip Manolic or Hrvoje Sarinic could take control of the faction

    and try to destroy the party from within.

    Both me were once very prominent in HDZ affairs. Manolic

    left the party in 1994, together with Stipe Mesic, who is now

    president of the country and until recently was a member of the

    People's Party. The main reasons for their departure were

    Tudjman's policies against the Muslims in Bosnia and his tendency

    to act as if the Croatian state were his personal property.

    Sarinic left the HDZ in 1998. He was opposed to the power of the

    hard-liners, Zagreb's growing international isolationism, and the

    misuse of the secret service for political ends.

    Since Tudjman's death in December, a fight has become public

    between some of the hard-liners--who are often dubbed the

    Herzegovinian lobby-- and the moderate "technocrats." The feud is

    being played out in a press dispute over the so-called "white

    book" about INA, Croatia's biggest oil company.

    The white book is really a pamphlet, the authors of which

    are unknown. It alleges the existence of a Russian-Jewish

    conspiracy against the Croatian oil sector. Davor Stern, who was

    once director-general of INA and is of Jewish origin, belongs to

    the technocratic faction of the HDZ. He interprets the white book

    as an attempt by the HDZ's right wing to destroy the party's more

    moderate elements. In a recent interview with "Globus," Stern

    said that the goal of the white book is to show that not only the

    hard-liners are prone to scandals and corruption.

    The white book affair reflects the internal situation of the

    party and the difficulties it will encounter rising above its

    past and developing a new, modern image. A party congress at the

    end of this month is expected to deal with such questions and

    decide on a new leadership. If the process of self-destruction

    goes on, it seems unlikely that HDZ will be able to deal with

    these key issues and mount an effective opposition to the

    coalition.

    And the government has already shown itself to be in need of

    a serious opposition. The Istrian Democratic League (IDS), which

    belongs to the governing coalition, wants the government to

    support the troubled Istarska Banka, though the National Bank

    found "significant irregularities" in its activities. When Prime

    Minister Racan was still in opposition to Tudjman, he often

    criticized the HDZ for its "political meddling" in the banking

    sector. Now he has to prove to what extent he can stay true to

    his principles, despite pressures from the IDS. And if he does

    not, then at least some of the parties in the coalition should

    call him and the IDS to account.

    Pointing out governmental hypocrisy is also part of the role

    of a healthy opposition--in this case, the HDZ. President Mesic

    is another possible check on shady dealings by the government. He

    and Racan are currently locked in a dispute over how many of

    Tudjman's sweeping presidential powers should be transferred to

    the government or parliament. This discussion, too, clouds the

    political landscape. Parliamentary speaker and head of the

    Peasants' Party Zlatko Tomcic recently told "Globus: "These are

    no easy questions."

    The author is a free-lance writer based in Munich

    (christian.buric@gmx.de)

    13-04-00


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


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