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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 195, 00-10-09

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. 195, 9 October 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] CIS CUSTOMS UNION PREMIERS MEET IN ASTANA
  • [02] ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR DEMANDS EIGHT-YEAR SENTENCE FOR FORMER EDUCATION MINISTER
  • [03] AZERBAIJANI CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION LIFTS BAN ON OPPOSITION PARTIES
  • [04] IRAN DENIES COMPLICITY IN MURDER OF AZERBAIJANI HISTORIAN
  • [05] RUSSIA TO CLOSE ITS SOUTH GEORGIAN BASE THIS MONTH?
  • [06] RUSSIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF EVADING DEBT REPAYMENT
  • [07] HEPATITUS EPIDEMIC HITS CIS PEACEKEEPERS IN GEORGIA
  • [08] GEORGIA, ESTONIA SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
  • [09] NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST EMBATTLED KAZAKH NEWSPAPER
  • [10] KAZAKHSTAN, NATO DISCUSS REGIONAL SECURITY ISSUES
  • [11] KYRGYZ COURT EMBARKS ON REVIEW OF KULOV CASE
  • [12] OPPOSITION CANDIDATE SAYS KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES PRESSURING VOTERS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] SERBIAN GOVERNMENT QUITS
  • [14] KOSTUNICA HAS HIS WORK CUT OUT FOR HIM
  • [15] KOSTUNICA MOVES TO REIN IN YUGOSLAV ARMY
  • [16] EU TO LIFT SOME SANCTIONS AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA
  • [17] WESTERN PLEDGES FOR YUGOSLAVIA
  • [18] FIRST CONTACT BETWEEN CLINTON, YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT
  • [19] MILOSEVIC'S FATE UNCLEAR IN SERBIA...
  • [20] ...WHILE DEL PONTE SAYS SHE'S READY TO MEET MILOSEVIC AT THE HAGUE
  • [21] CHINA BARS ENTRY TO MILOSEVIC'S SON
  • [22] VOJVODINA CATASTROPHE FOR MILOSEVIC
  • [23] KOSOVA REMAINS UNIMPRESSED
  • [24] ROMANIAN 'ROYAL' CANDIDATE LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL BID
  • [25] MOLDOVAN PREMIER SUMS UP U.S. VISIT
  • [26] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL POWERS FURTHER CURTAILED
  • [27] LIBYA POSTPONES BULGARIAN MEDICS' TRIAL AGAIN

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [28] ALBANIANS VOTE FOR CONTINUITY

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] CIS CUSTOMS UNION PREMIERS MEET IN ASTANA

    Meeting in Astana on 6 October, the prime ministers of the five member states of the CIS Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) initialed a treaty establishing a Eurasian Economic Community (modeled after the EEC) on the basis of the customs union, Interfax reported. That treaty will be formally signed by the presidents of the five states at a summit in Astana on 10 October. The brainchild of Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the new organization will be empowered to represent the interests of member states in discussions with other countries and international organizations about questions related to international trade and customs policy, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 6 October. While its initial focus will be purely economic, observers view the new union as a first step towards broader integration between the five states. As such, it could contribute to realization of Nazarbaev's grandiose 1994 vision of a new Eurasian Union. The five premiers also agreed to draft an agreement on visa-free travel between their respective countries, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 9 October. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR DEMANDS EIGHT-YEAR SENTENCE FOR FORMER EDUCATION MINISTER

    After an eight-month trial, the prosecution has demanded that former acting Education Minister Ashot Bleyan be sentenced to eight years in prison for the embezzlement of state property, according to Armenpress on 6 October as cited by Groong. A former presidential candidate and chairman of the small Nor Ughi party, Bleyan has claimed that the charges against him were fabricated for political reasons. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJANI CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION LIFTS BAN ON OPPOSITION PARTIES

    Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission on 8 October complied with a 6 October request by President Heidar Aliev to reverse its rulings barring several opposition parties from contesting the 25 parliamentary mandates to be allocated under the proportional system in the 5 November ballot, Turan reported. The commission had ruled on 7 October that there were no constitutional grounds for altering its original ban and had proposed that President Aliev raise the issue with the outgoing parliament, but the following day the commission complied with his request. Of the 14 parties that originally applied for registration, the commission registered only five and barred the influential Musavat Party and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) from running. The U.S. State Department issued a statement on 5 October deploring the ban and calling for Musavat and the DPA to be allowed to contest the poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2000). LF

    [04] IRAN DENIES COMPLICITY IN MURDER OF AZERBAIJANI HISTORIAN

    The Iranian Embassy in Baku issued a statement on 6 October rejecting as "false information" and "a political action aimed at misleading society" the claims made earlier the same day by the Azerbaijani Interior and National Security Ministries that the February1997 murder of eminent Azerbaijani historian Zia Buniatov was carried out by five Azerbaijanis recruited by an organization named Vilayet al-Fagikh Hizbollah, which operates in Iran, Turan reported. The Iranian statement denied that any organization of that name exits in Iran. Buniatov's son Heidar told Turan he considers the ministries' claim "strange and incomprehensible," noting that Hizbollah generally claims responsibility for assassinations its members carry out. LF

    [05] RUSSIA TO CLOSE ITS SOUTH GEORGIAN BASE THIS MONTH?

    Moscow and Tbilisi have reached agreement that Russia will close its military base in Akhalkalaki, southern Georgia, by the end of this month and transfer at least part of the equipment currently deployed there to Russia's military base in Armenia, Caucasus Press reported on 6 October, citing unidentified Georgian Defense Ministry sources. "Vremya novostei" on 6 October claimed that agreement on the redeployment of the Russian equipment to Armenia was reached during Armenian President Robert Kocharian's recent visit to Moscow. The Armenian Ministry on 9 October declined to comment on the report. Under an agreement reached in November 1999, Moscow pledged to close its bases in Vaziani, near Tbilisi, and Gudauta, Abkhazia, by 1 July 2001, and then discuss the timeframe for closure of its Akhalkalaki and Batumi bases. LF

    [06] RUSSIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF EVADING DEBT REPAYMENT

    The Russian Foreign Ministry on 7 October accused Georgia of failing to begin repayment of credits due in February of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. A Georgian Finance Ministry official had said in late August after talks in Moscow that agreement had been reached on continuing negotiations on rescheduling Georgia's $179 million debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000). Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 9 October that the IMF and Paris Club will discuss the problem of Georgia's debt to Russia on 9 October, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [07] HEPATITUS EPIDEMIC HITS CIS PEACEKEEPERS IN GEORGIA

    Some 25 members of the 1,800 Russian peacekeepers deployed under the aegis of the CIS along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia have been hospitalized with hepatitus-A, Caucasus Press reported on 6 October. The outbreak of the disease is believed to have been caused by drinking contaminated water. LF

    [08] GEORGIA, ESTONIA SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT

    Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and his visiting Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendriks Ilves, signed a Memorandum on Mutual Understanding in Tbilisi on 5 October, ETA and Caucasus Press reported. The memorandum covers cooperation until the end of 2001 in the spheres of information technology, Estonian training for Georgian police and border guards, public sector management and bringing legislation into line with EU requirements. Caucasus Press on 6 October quoted Ilves as saying Estonia is interested in cooperation with the GUUAM member states but does not intend to join that group. LF

    [09] NEW CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST EMBATTLED KAZAKH NEWSPAPER

    Ermurat Bapi, who is editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Soldat," has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 6 October. Bapi told RFE/RL that Kazakh customs officials recently confiscated the entire 10,000 print-run of an edition of the paper he had printed in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Publishing houses in Kazakhstan have for months refused to publish "Soldat" because of its criticism of President Nazarbaev (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 7 July 2000). Speaking in Almaty on 6 October, media expert Razana Taukina said increasing pressure on Kazakhstan's media is evidenced by the decline in the number of media outlets from 200 electronic and 8,000 print media outlets in 1993 to 25 and 4,000, respectively, today, Interfax reported. LF

    [10] KAZAKHSTAN, NATO DISCUSS REGIONAL SECURITY ISSUES

    Kazakhstan's President Nazarbaev and NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson have held a telephone exchange of information on the situation in northern Afghanistan and its possible implications for Central Asian security, Interfax reported on 6 October citing the Kazakh presidential press service. The two men also discussed the recent Centrazbat maneuvers and Kazakhstan's cooperation with NATO within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. LF

    [11] KYRGYZ COURT EMBARKS ON REVIEW OF KULOV CASE

    The Bishkek City Military Court on 3 October began reviewing in closed session the case of former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. After a six-week trial, the court had acquitted Kulov in August on charges of abuse of official position in 1997-1998, when he served as national security minister. However, the board of the Military Court last month annulled the acquittal and called for a retrial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August and 12 September 2000). LF

    [12] OPPOSITION CANDIDATE SAYS KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES PRESSURING VOTERS

    Kyrgyz presidential candidate and Social Democratic Pary chairman Almaz Atambaev told Interfax on 6 October that the Kyrgyz authorities are "unscrupulously" pressuring the population to vote for incumbent President Askar Akaev in the 29 October presidential poll. He accused local officials of trying to prevent opposition candidates from holding campaign meetings in the provinces. Atambaev compared the present atmosphere to that during the Stalinist purges in 1937 and predicted that "if the elections are fair, Akaev will lose." LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] SERBIAN GOVERNMENT QUITS

    The Constitutional Court ruled on 6 October that Democratic Opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica was elected Yugoslav president on 24 September in the first round of voting. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic conceded defeat (see below). Kostunica appeared on state-run television for a phone-in program to discuss his plans with citizens. In his inaugural speech on 7 October, he appealed for a climate of political tolerance and the cultivation of democratic values and practices. Kostunica promised to make a longer speech outlining his program "in a couple of days," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 9 October, Mladjan Dinkic of the independent G-17 group of economists said that Kostunica and his supporters will soon "ask for" the resignation of the Serbian government, which is controlled by Milosevic's supporters, AP reported. Opposition leader Velimir Ilic appealed to the Serbian government "not to ignore the will of the people." Later that day, opposition leader Zoran Djindjic told AP that the Serbian government agreed to resign and that new elections for the Serbian legislature will take place on 19 December. PM

    [14] KOSTUNICA HAS HIS WORK CUT OUT FOR HIM

    Kostunica and his supporters on 6 October began work to form a Yugoslav government. He has said he would prefer to form a government of experts rather than attempt to include representatives of all the political parties in his large coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. One of his chief problems is that he does not have a majority in the lower house of the parliament and will have to win the support of at least one or two parties that formerly backed Milosevic in order to get his cabinet approved (see "End Note," in "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2000). His second major problem will be to reach a political understanding with the reform-minded government of Montenegro, which does not recognize the 24 September elections as legal or legitimate. President Milo Djukanovic said on 7 October that he will continue to boycott federal institutions, the BBC reported. Djukanovic referred to Kostunica as 'the representative of the democratic forces in Serbia" but not as Yugoslav president. PM

    [15] KOSTUNICA MOVES TO REIN IN YUGOSLAV ARMY

    On 7 October, opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade that Milosevic "has lost all his influence over the police and military forces," Reuters reported. Djindjic added that the Serbian police recently "received some terrible, criminal orders, but they refused to carry them out and I thank them for that." Djindjic blamed Serbian police chief Vlajko Stojiljkovic for trying to "destabilize the country." Djindjic added, however, that the bugging of opposition politicians' telephones has stopped. The high command of the Yugoslav army issued a statement on 7 October saying that the military "can work with" Kostunica. The newly inaugurated president met with the top generals the next day to express "his concern about certain [unspecified] occurrences in the post-election period that were not in keeping with the constitution and [Yugoslav] law," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). Kostunica is expected to move quickly to depoliticize the army and the police. The army is a federal institution, but the police are subordinated to the Interior Ministry of Serbia. PM

    [16] EU TO LIFT SOME SANCTIONS AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA

    EU foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg on 9 October to lift some of the sanctions imposed against the Milosevic regime. The move is intended as what British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called a "swift, generous, and welcoming" response to the recent changes in Belgrade, AP reported. The ministers are expected to lift bans on oil sales to Yugoslavia as well as on flights by Belgrade's JAT airlines to Western Europe. Restrictions on issuing visas to Yugoslav citizens and controls on Yugoslav assets abroad are expected to be eased soon but will remain in place for Milosevic and his entourage. The U.S. and the U.K. continue to say that at least some sanctions should remain in place until Milosevic goes to or is sent to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal for trial. France and Germany are more willing to lift all sanctions as soon as possible, regardless of what happens to Milosevic. Deutsche Welle reported that traditionally important business ties between Yugoslavia and Germany are expected to be restored soon, once the sanctions are lifted. PM

    [17] WESTERN PLEDGES FOR YUGOSLAVIA

    On 6 October, French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris that he has invited Kostunica to an "informal EU summit" on 13-14 October in Biarritz. German officials announced an aid package on 7 October aimed at clearing the debris from destroyed bridges lying in the Danube River. The EU previously offered to remove the debris that resulted from NATO's 1999 bombing campaign but the Milosevic government attached political conditions that Brussels would not meet. Also on 7 October, Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland arrived in Belgrade. He called for an immediate lifting of sanctions and announced a Norwegian aid program for Yugoslavia. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said at a press conference with Kostunica that "Europe very much welcomes what is happening here." He added that "we see Yugoslavia as a country which has great potential for stability in the wider region of southeastern Europe and obviously has a role to play, a very important role. I am very moved to be in Yugoslavia, in Belgrade, at this historic moment," Reuters reported. PM

    [18] FIRST CONTACT BETWEEN CLINTON, YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT

    U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 6 October that Kostunica is "a leader who has often publicly disagreed with me and my policies, who is a patriotic nationalist of his country, but who believes in the rule of law and obviously the democratic process... The great lion's share of the credit [for the changes] belongs to the people of Serbia. Seventy-five percent of them showed up [to vote on 24 September] in an environment that was somewhat less than congenial," Reuters reported. On 9 October, Clinton and Kostunica spoke on the telephone for 10 minutes in what National Security Council spokesman P. J. Crowley called a "cordial...congratulatory call." Clinton "acknowledged President Kostunica has a lot of hard work ahead of him to remove the vestiges of the Milosevic regime," Reuters reported. PM

    [19] MILOSEVIC'S FATE UNCLEAR IN SERBIA...

    After a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Belgrade on 6 October (see Part I), Milosevic met for two hours with Kostunica, whom he thanked for "relieving me of this burden of office," the BBC reported. The former president delivered a televised address to the nation, which reporters described as "cheeky" and "arrogant." Milosevic said that he wants to rest, spend more time with his family, and prepare a political comeback at the head of a revitalized Socialist Party of Serbia. Kostunica has said several times in recent days that he has far more pressing things to think about than Milosevic's fate. But on 8 October, Mladjan Dinkic said that Milosevic will not be extradited to The Hague but may have to face trial in Belgrade. Dinkic added that he expects public prosecutors to file charges soon, AP reported. At least one non-governmental organization has already filed charges against Milosevic, his wife, and their son for abuse of office, theft, use of force against citizens, and several other charges, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [20] ...WHILE DEL PONTE SAYS SHE'S READY TO MEET MILOSEVIC AT THE HAGUE

    German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Munich on 7 October that the people of Yugoslavia should decide Milosevic's fate "without any outside pressure," Deutsche Welle reported. The previous day, Chirac told reporters in Paris that "for more than 10 years, Milosevic spread fear and death. Ousted from power, he will have to account for his crimes," Reuters reported. In Geneva on 8 October, Hague Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that "our objective is to indict the fallen dictator by December for crimes committed in Bosnia and in Croatia [between 1991 and 1995]. For the first time, Milosevic should be indicted for the crime of genocide," Reuters reported. Two days earlier, she said in Prishtina that "I will take this occasion to send a message to the president-elect, Mr. Kostunica, that I'm prepared to receive Milosevic in The Hague at any time," AP reported. PM

    [21] CHINA BARS ENTRY TO MILOSEVIC'S SON

    On 7 October, Milosevic's controversial businessman son, Marko, flew to Moscow with his wife and child. Reuters reported two days later that Chinese officials refused him entry in Beijing and put him on a return flight to Moscow. PM

    [22] VOJVODINA CATASTROPHE FOR MILOSEVIC

    On 8 October, the second round of voting for the Vojvodina provincial assembly gave the coalition of Milosevic's Socialists and his wife's United Yugoslav Left only two out of 120 seats, Reuters reported. The two parties had a majority in the outgoing legislature. PM

    [23] KOSOVA REMAINS UNIMPRESSED

    Hashim Thaci, who is a former Kosovar guerrilla leader turned politician, said in Zurich that Kostunica's election means that "a new era is beginning in the Balkans. But for Kosova it doesn't matter much. We want to be independent from Belgrade and from Kostunica," Reuters reported on 8 October. In Prishtina, Thaci's associate Jakup Krasniqi told Reuters that Kostunica will, like Milosevic, face defeat if he does not abandon Serbian claims to the province. Krasniqi stressed that "now Serbia is out of Kosova. Kosova will walk to independence." In Luxembourg on 9 October, Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, appealed to the EU foreign ministers to link lifting of sanctions to Belgrade's cooperation in freeing the Kosovar prisoners it holds, dpa reported. PM

    [24] ROMANIAN 'ROYAL' CANDIDATE LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL BID

    A grandson of King Carol II launched his presidential campaign on 7 October and announced he will also run for a seat in the Senate, Romanian Radio reported. "Prince Paul of Romania," as he calls himself, is the descendant of Carol and Zizi Lambrino, whose 1918 marriage was later annulled. On 8 October, National Liberal Party (PNL) candidate Theodor Stolojan officially launched his bid for the presidency amid bitter mutual accusations between the PNL and its former National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) ally. PNL First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica said the PNTCD has shown it is "unfit to govern." PNTCD secretary-general Remus Opris responded that the PNL is "about to become a leftist party" that is ready to "sacrifice democratic forces" in order to survive as the junior coalition partner of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania. MS

    [25] MOLDOVAN PREMIER SUMS UP U.S. VISIT

    Addressing a gathering at RFE/RL's Washington bureau, Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis said he has reasons to be optimistic after meetings with U.S. officials, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 6 October. He said he had discussed with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott the possibility of setting up a joint U.S.-Moldova "working group" to promote trade between the two countries and U.S. investments in Moldova. Braghis also said U.S. officials repeated that Washington is ready to help finance the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transdniester and contribute to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict there. Braghis added that the privatization of Moldova's vine and tobacco industries are "totally dependent on the parliament's decision." The IMF and the World Bank continue to regard the passage of legislation on the privatization of those industries as a condition for resuming loaning. MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL POWERS FURTHER CURTAILED

    The parliament on 6 October amended the Law on the Information and Security Service (SIS), abolishing the prerogative of the country's president to appoint the director of that service. Under the amendment, the parliament must now approve the candidate whom the president proposes for that position, while the service is subordinated to the legislature instead of the head of the state. SIS deputy directors are to be appointed by the president, on the recommendation of that institution's director, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

    [27] LIBYA POSTPONES BULGARIAN MEDICS' TRIAL AGAIN

    A Libyan court on 7 October postponed for the sixth time the trial of six Bulgarians accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus, Reuters reported. The trial is now scheduled for 4 November. The postponement was made at the request of the defense, which wants more time to study the indictment. A senior Bulgarian Foreign Ministry official told Reuters the postponement "shows the court respects the requests of the defence and acts according to the laws." MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [28] ALBANIANS VOTE FOR CONTINUITY

    By Fabian Schmidt

    The 1 October first round of local elections in Albania indicates that the governing Socialist Party (PS) is likely to win in a majority of municipalities and communities, many of which are currently held by the opposition Democratic Party (PD). The PD has clearly failed to present a credible alternative to the Socialists.

    According to preliminary results, the PS got just over 50 percent of the votes nationwide and the PD just over 33 percent. The small Social Democratic Party received over 4 percent, the ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party 2 percent, and all other parties together 7 percent.

    The PS has won in 27 cities and 105 communities and the PD in nine cities and 33 communities. In 28 cities and 87 communities. there will be a run- off. The Socialist Party has claimed victory in the capital, Tirana, a traditional PD stronghold.

    The PS's gains are likely to boost the government's self-confidence about winning the upcoming general elections early next summer. It also shows that the PD-led opposition has failed to convince most voters of its ability to pursue a policy of stabilization and economic recovery.

    International observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe acknowledged that the elections were conducted freely and fairly. They also noted that there was considerable improvement compared with the two previous general elections, in 1996 and 1997, which were marred by violence. This time there were some irregularities--mostly involving names missing from the voters' lists--but OSCE officials denied PD claims that these irregularities affected the outcome of the vote. OSCE spokesman Giovanni Porta stressed that "everything reported by our observers is positive."

    The Central Election Commission, responding to pressure from the opposition, had added about 360,000 potential voters to the voting lists in recent weeks, mostly people who are permanently living abroad. This increased the total number of voters to almost 2.7 million, the highest number of registered voters ever in Albanian history. By comparison, in the 1996 local elections there were only 2,178,110 voters registered. The large number of absent voters, however, resulted in a comparatively low turnout of only 61 percent of all those registered.

    Nonetheless, Vili Minarolli, the local PD chairman for Tirana, claimed that up to another 200,000 names were missing from the voters lists in Tirana alone. He told "Shekulli" that "the electoral process all over Albania has been completely manipulated, and for this reason the PD does not recognize the election results." Minarolli claimed that "the Albanian government organized an electoral farce, knowing full well what it was doing. It followed the example of what their fathers [the Communists] had done for 50 years."

    He argued that those missing from the lists did not have enough time to register themselves before the elections and that there were "fictitious names" on voting lists.

    PD spokesman Edi Paloka--speaking on behalf of party leader Sali Berisha-- described the vote as "invalid," arguing that "between 30 percent and 40 percent of the voting lists were manipulated." He also claimed that polling station commissions turned "tens of thousands of Albanians" away on voting day because their names were missing from the lists. Referring to incidents in which polling stations had not received enough ballot-papers for all the voters by noon, Paloka claimed that the Central Election Commission distributed the ballots according to "political geography."

    Those charges lack credibility, however. For the first time, the elections were based on Albania's new computerized Central Population Register, developed since 1997 in close cooperation with the OSCE. For his part, OSCE Ambassador to Albania Gert Ahrens stressed that the claim of electoral fraud "is a phenomenon that we have seen eight times during elections in Albania over the past 10 years." Ahrens noted that such charges are often exaggerated.

    Furthermore, the head of the PD Reform Movement, Genc Pollo, acknowledged that the PD had indeed suffered significant losses and put the blame for losing the vote on his political rival Berisha. Pollo told "Shekulli" that the declarations by several PD officials that they do not recognize the outcome are "irresponsible, undemocratic, and adventurous." He added that "these irresponsible attitudes toward democratic rules will lead the country into new tensions and clashes, which are both unnecessary and dangerous for Albania."

    Pollo stressed, furthermore, that failure to recognize election results will send "a very negative signal to Kosova, where the first free elections in its history will take place in three weeks."

    "Koha Jone" suggested that "the Albanian opposition faces its most difficult situation" yet. The daily added that PD officials "are confronted with a new situation, which forces them to readjust and accept a new political reality." That reality is that they are an opposition party that has to become more creative in developing credible policy alternatives to those of the current administration. Over the past four years, the PD's main political strategy was to ridicule the PS-dominated coalition government, often using extremely harsh rhetoric. The PD has serious problems, however, presenting itself to the voters as a constructive political force.

    The local elections suggest that the voters see some improvement in Albania's economy and security situation. Some observers suggest that Albanians, moreover, are too afraid of a return to the anarchy and violence of 1997 to vote for change. Thus those voters have once again opted for the Socialists, not because they like the PS program but because they want stability and hope that the current government will continue its economic and administrative reforms.

    09-10-00


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


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