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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 196, 00-10-10

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. 196, 10 October 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] TALKS ON NEW ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CONTINUE
  • [02] KARABAKH PRESIDENT PLEDGES FAIR TRIAL FOR FORMER ARMY COMMANDER
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN SLAMS ARMENIA-KARABAKH COOPERATION AGREEMENT
  • [04] FORMER AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ACCUSED OF PLANNING COUP
  • [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ABKHAZ REPRESENTATIVE...
  • [06] ...ADMITS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
  • [07] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY FACTION ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN
  • [08] RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN
  • [09] OSCE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL...
  • [10] ...AS MORE PARTIES PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR OPPOSITION CANDIDATE
  • [11] KYRGYZSTAN SUMS UP CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISLAMIC MILITANTS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] NATO PLANS NO CHANGES IN BALKANS
  • [13] BALKAN STATES SET UP JOINT PEACEKEEPING FORCE
  • [14] EU LIFTS SOME SANCTIONS AGAINST BELGRADE
  • [15] FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER TO SERBIA
  • [16] IS YUGOSLAVIA SEEKING RAPPROCHEMENT WITH U.S.?
  • [17] NEW YUGOSLAV LEADERS TO LAUNCH ECONOMIC PROGRAM
  • [18] POLITICAL CHANGES CONTINUE IN YUGOSLAVIA
  • [19] REFERENDUM COMING ON SERBIAN MONARCHY?
  • [20] KOSTUNICA MAKES BIG CONCESSION TO NEIGHBORS...
  • [21] ...TAKES TOUGH LINE ON MONTENEGRO, KOSOVA
  • [22] KOSOVA'S SURROI SKEPTICAL ON KOSTUNICA
  • [23] CROATIA ALSO CALLS FOR SERBIA TO DROP NATIONALISM
  • [24] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO REOPEN WAR CRIMES CASE
  • [25] IZETBEGOVIC TAKES LEAVE OF BOSNIAN ARMY
  • [26] BOSNIAN COURT TO TRY MUSLIMS FOR WAR CRIMES
  • [27] ROMANIAN CABINET MINISTERS TO BELGRADE
  • [28] HUNGARIAN PARTY BOYCOTTS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT
  • [29] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TO VETO PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION LAW?
  • [30] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMINALS MUST FACE TRIBUNAL

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [31] POLES PREFER THE PRESIDENT THEY KNOW

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] TALKS ON NEW ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CONTINUE

    Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who is also chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the senior partner in the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc, held a further round of talks on 9 October with other parliamentary parties on possible candidates to replace Armen Khachatrian as parliamentary speaker, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A HHK deputy said that his party agreed that its junior coalition partner, the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), to which Khachatrian belongs, should propose a candidate for the post but that the HHK has not yet approved HZhK nominee Ashot Galoyan, who teaches political science at two Yerevan universities. Groong cited Snark as reporting on 6 October that President Robert Kocharian has given the two parties one week to reach agreement among themselves on the new speaker. If they fail to do so, Kocharian will propose Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun deputy Vahan Harutiunian, according to Snark. LF

    [02] KARABAKH PRESIDENT PLEDGES FAIR TRIAL FOR FORMER ARMY COMMANDER

    Arkadii Ghukasian, who is president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has promised that the ongoing trial of former Defense Minister and army commander Samvel Babayan on charges of attempting to assassinate Ghukasian in March will be fair, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Stepanakert on 9 October. Ghukasian denied that Babayan's prosecution is politically motivated. Babayan last week rejected the charges against him, while the Armenian government press criticized the conduct of his trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 6 October 2000). LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN SLAMS ARMENIA-KARABAKH COOPERATION AGREEMENT

    Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 9 October condemning as a violation of Azerbaijani and international law the inter-governmental memorandum on cooperation signed five weeks earlier by Armenian Premier Markarian and his Karabakh counterpart, Anoushavan Danielian, Turan and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2000). The statement called on Armenia to "give up this illogical and dangerous practice" and not to risk jeopardizing what it termed favorable conditions for resolving the Karabakh conflict. LF

    [04] FORMER AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ACCUSED OF PLANNING COUP

    The official Azerbaijani press published on 10 October a joint statement by the Prosecutor-General's Office and the National Security Ministry giving details of alleged arrangements by former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev to mount a coup d'etat in March of this year, Turan reported. The statement claimed that Guliev recruited for that purpose former Gyanja city police chief Natik Efendiev and the commander of the Terter military garrison, Rasim Alekperov. Those two men were charged last month with plotting a coup attempt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). The statement said that the head of the Gyanja branch of Guliev's Democratic Party of Azerbaijan had pledged to stage a mass demonstration in that city on the eve of the planned insurrection. Speaking by telephone to Turan from the U.S., where he now lives, Guliev rejected the statement as a fabrication. He added that he plans to return to Azerbaijan "soon." LF

    [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ABKHAZ REPRESENTATIVE...

    Eduard Shevardnadze held talks in Tbilisi on 9 October with Anri Djergenia, the personal representative of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, and with the UN Secretary-General's special representative Dieter Boden, Caucasus Press reported. Djergenia told journalists that he had submitted to Shevardnadze new proposals for resolving the Abkhaz conflict but did not say what they entail. Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze said that the discussion focused on the draft proposal prepared by Boden for a division of powers between Tbilisi and Sukhum. The Abkhaz leadership earlier refused to accept that draft as a basis for discussion. LF

    [06] ...ADMITS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

    Shevardnadze admitted on 9 October that criticism that human rights are violated in Georgia is justified, Caucasus Press reported. Human Rights Watch had issued a statement last week deploring the repeal by the Georgian parliament of reforms of the criminal procedural code that had increased access to courts by prisoners or detainees who alleged torture or abuse by police, the Prosecutor-General's Office, or security officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). Also on 9 October, lawyer Sevdia Ugrekhelidze told journalists in Tbilisi that staff of the Tbilisi security prison hospital arrested on charges of aiding the 1 October escape of 12 prisoners are being subjected to torture, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [07] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY FACTION ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN

    The majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliament faction elected Revaz Adamia as its chairman on 9 October, Caucasus Press reported. A former chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and security, Adamia succeeds Mikhail Saakashvili, whom Shevardnadze named last week to the post on minister of justice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2000). The parliament approved Saakashvili's nomination on 10 October. Giorgi Baramidze takes over the chairmanship of the defense and security committee from Adamia, as he had predicted on 5 October he would do. LF

    [08] RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

    Beginning a two-day official visit to Astana on 9 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, to review the state of bilateral relations, Russian agencies reported. Nazarbaev told journalists later at a joint press conference that the two countries' views coincide on "the entire spectrum of political issues." Putin attributed that consensus to the shared aspiration to seek mutually acceptable solutions to all problems that arise. The two presidents signed a joint communique, which noted that bilateral trade turnover doubled during the first seven months of this year to $2.5 billion, a memorandum on cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, and a declaration on cooperation in the Caspian Sea. That latter declaration reaffirms the agreement on dividing the northern Caspian seabed, which was signed by the Russian and Kazakh presidents in July 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). LF

    [09] OSCE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL POLL...

    Mark Stevens, who heads the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Election Observation Mission in Kyrgyzstan, told journalists in Bishkek on 9 October that his organization is concerned that the registration of candidates for the 29 October presidential poll unfairly restricted participation in that ballot, AP reported. Of 19 would-be candidates, the Central Electoral Commission registered only six (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2000). Stevens also expressed concern about the general political atmosphere in Kyrgyzstan and noted that the country's authorities have not taken measures to preclude a repeat of violations that marred the parliamentary poll in February-March 2000. He said that a lack of improvement in the preparations for the ballot could jeopardize the planned deployment of some 100 international observers to monitor the vote and vote count. LF

    [10] ...AS MORE PARTIES PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR OPPOSITION CANDIDATE

    Speaking in Bishkek on 9 October, Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan chairwoman Klara Ajybekova pledged her party's support for the presidential election alliance forged last month between the opposition Ar-Namys party and the Socialist Ata-Meken party, whose chairman Omurbek Tekebaev is one of the opposition presidential candidates, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. The Republican party, the Kairan-EL Party, and the Erkindik Party have likewise announced their support for Tekebaev's candidacy. LF

    [11] KYRGYZSTAN SUMS UP CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISLAMIC MILITANTS

    General Bolot Djanuzakov, who is secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, said in Bishkek on 9 October that a total of 30 Kyrgyz troops were killed during the fighting against militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in August-September, Reuters and Interfax reported. He estimated the Islamists' losses at 120 dead and 200 injured. Djanuzakov added that no new attacks by those forces have been registered for the past 15 days but did not exclude the possibility that some militants remain on Kyrgyz territory. On 7 October, Kyrgyz police in Batken Oblast arrested a 60-year- old Kyrgyz who confessed to providing the militants with information about Kyrgyz troop movements, Interfax reported. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] NATO PLANS NO CHANGES IN BALKANS

    NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in Birmingham, England, on 10 October that "it is too early to identify exactly how the changes in Yugoslavia will affect the region," Reuters reported. He added that the Atlantic alliance plans no immediate troop cuts in Bosnia or Kosova, noting that NATO forces there will "continue to provide a bedrock of stability as long as it is needed." PM

    [13] BALKAN STATES SET UP JOINT PEACEKEEPING FORCE

    Members of the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial (SEDM) group said in a statement in Salonika on 9 October that they will set up a 3,000- strong peacekeeping force as early as the beginning of 2001. The force will be known as SEEBRIG, Reuters reported. SEDM includes Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, and the U.S. Each member, except the U.S., will contribute one battalion to SEEBRIG. PM

    [14] EU LIFTS SOME SANCTIONS AGAINST BELGRADE

    EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 9 October to end their embargo on oil sales to Serbia and on flights by Belgrade's JAT airlines to Western Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2000). The ministers agreed to restructure trade and financial sanctions to target firms run by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, his family, and his closest supporters. A visa ban for those individuals remain in place, as does a UN arms embargo. The ministers rejected calls for sanctions to remain until Belgrade takes steps to extradite Milosevic to The Hague. The ministers also overruled calls by Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in Kosova, to link a lifting of sanctions to the freeing of Kosovar prisoners in Serbian jails. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that he hopes the Serbian authorities will send Milosevic to The Hague "in the fullness of time," AP reported. PM

    [15] FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER TO SERBIA

    Hubert Vedrine arrived in Belgrade on 10 October to inform Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica of the EU's decision on sanctions. Vedrine will also tell his host that the EU invites Serbia to join its Balkan Stabilization Pact and other aid programs, AP reported. These include a trade agreement allowing duty-free access to EU markets for 95 percent of Serbian exports. Reuters reports from Novi Sad that many Serbian businessmen are eager for a resumption of the free-wheeling economic ties that they know from the 1970s and 1980s. Some prominent German businessmen told "RFE/RL Newsline," however, that Serbia cannot expect significant Western investment until it restructures its economy, enacts legislation in keeping with European standards, and introduces modern business practices and attitudes. PM

    [16] IS YUGOSLAVIA SEEKING RAPPROCHEMENT WITH U.S.?

    Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 10 October that "without a strategic partnership with America, there is no solution for Serbian national interests," AP reported. During the campaign for the 24 September elections, Kostunica frequently lashed out at NATO and the U.S., blaming them for a wide variety of Serbia's problems. He has, however, been disappointed with Russia's failure to break quickly with Milosevic and endorse the new leadership, as most Western democracies have done (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2000). PM

    [17] NEW YUGOSLAV LEADERS TO LAUNCH ECONOMIC PROGRAM

    Mladjan Dinkic of the independent G-17 group of economists said in Belgrade on 9 October that "we want to implement Polish shock therapy, Scandinavian social security systems, and Slovenia's model of gradual privatizations. It takes brains not a fist to create an economic miracle," Reuters reported. Dinkic also plans to introduce a new currency in 2001, even though the dinar has strongly increased in value against the German mark since Kostunica took office. Serbia has an unofficial unemployment rate of roughly 50 percent, an inflation rate of 50 percent, and a communist-style economy that contracted some 30 percent in 1999. The important black market is strongly linked to the criminal underworld and political structures close to Milosevic. In several cities, workers and other local people have called for Milosevic-era managers of local companies to resign. PM

    [18] POLITICAL CHANGES CONTINUE IN YUGOSLAVIA

    Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic, and Serbian Health Minister Milovan Bojic resigned on 9 October. Bulatovic's departure paves the way for Kostunica and his supporters to form a government of experts. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and opposition leaders agreed to hold elections for the Serbian parliament on 17 December. A cabinet of experts for the politically important Serbian government is expected to be set up on 10 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Students marched in Belgrade to keep up the pressure on the Milosevic-era Serbian parliament to back new elections. PM

    [19] REFERENDUM COMING ON SERBIAN MONARCHY?

    London's "The Times" reported on 10 October that Kostunica intends to return the White Palace--where Milosevic maintained his presidential residence--to the former Karadjordjevic dynasty. Kostunica, who is a monarchist, also favors a referendum on restoring the monarchy, the daily added. British-raised and educated Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic has said repeatedly that he is willing to claim the crown if the Serbian people want him to do so. PM

    [20] KOSTUNICA MAKES BIG CONCESSION TO NEIGHBORS...

    Kostunica told the Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" that his government does not claim to be the sole legal successor to the former Yugoslavia, as Milosevic's did, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica added that he expects to quickly normalize relations with the other former Yugoslav republics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). PM

    [21] ...TAKES TOUGH LINE ON MONTENEGRO, KOSOVA

    Kostunica told French TF1 television on 9 October that independence for Kosova is "impossible," Reuters reported. He added that independence for Montenegro is "not permitted" under the Yugoslav Constitution. But in Podgorica, Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said that he expects that teams of experts from Belgrade and Podgorica will meet "very soon" to "formulate new constitutional arrangements," AP reported. The previous day, Djindjic held talks in Podgorica with Montenegrin leaders. On 7 October, Kostunica ended Milosevic's trade embargo on the mountainous republic. PM

    [22] KOSOVA'S SURROI SKEPTICAL ON KOSTUNICA

    Veton Surroi, who is the publisher of the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" and Kosova's best-known journalist, said in Prishtina on 9 October that he "understands the symbolic importance" of the EU's move to lift some sanctions against Belgrade, AP reported. Surroi added, however, that he wishes that Kostunica would release the thousands of Kosovars held in Serbian jails "as an act of goodwill." Surroi argued that "the euphoria in the EU and in the international community [over Milosevic's ouster] will change in the following weeks and months, with the [growing] understanding that things in Serbia have changed only to the extent of [replacing] the leader. The real test will be whether policy has changed" from Milosevic's nationalist line. PM

    [23] CROATIA ALSO CALLS FOR SERBIA TO DROP NATIONALISM

    A government spokeswoman said in a statement in Zagreb on 9 October that future relations with Belgrade will depend on whether Kostunica breaks with Milosevic's nationalist policies. She added that the meeting the previous day between the new Yugoslav president and Josko Paro, who acted as the envoy of Prime Minister Ivica Racan, was "good and productive," AP reported. She argued that "the prospect of further ties with Yugoslavia depends on the pace and quality of processes within the country, and particularly the abandonment of key elements of Milosevic's aggressive regime, which spawned so much evil against other former Yugoslav republics." Elsewhere, President Stipe Mesic stressed that he expects Kostunica to break with Milosevic's "expansionist and greater-Serbian policies," take a more positive attitude toward the West, and cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal if he wants Serbia to become reintegrated into the international community, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [24] CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO REOPEN WAR CRIMES CASE

    "Jutarnji list" reported on 9 October that the Croatian authorities will soon reopen an investigation into the alleged arbitrary killings of an unspecified number of ethnic Serbian civilians by Croatian troops at Pakracka Poljana in 1991. Interior Minister Sime Lucin told a press conference that "arrests will be made wherever there have been war crimes," AP reported. PM

    [25] IZETBEGOVIC TAKES LEAVE OF BOSNIAN ARMY

    Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, who retires from the joint presidency on 12 October, told Muslim army commanders in Sarajevo on 9 October that the current Croatian government is one "with which we can solve problems," AP reported. Referring to the recent political developments in Serbia, Izetbegovic said that "these events will change the history of the region. [Serbia] will either not want to or not be able to interfere in our internal affairs." He called for the integration of Bosnia's Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian forces into one army, saying that "Bosnia-Herzegovina does not need two or even three armies. Those are consequences of the [1992- 1995] war and will have to be gradually removed." Izetbegovic will leave the presidency to make way for a younger man but will retain leadership of his Party of Democratic Action. PM

    [26] BOSNIAN COURT TO TRY MUSLIMS FOR WAR CRIMES

    Court official Castimir Mandaric told reporters on behalf of a local court in Mostar on 9 October that the prosecutor is finalizing charges against 23 former Muslim soldiers for alleged atrocities committed against Croatian prisoners of war during the 1993-1994 conflict. None of the Muslims was a high-ranking officer. A local Muslim veterans' organization said in a statement that it will organize the men's defense and provide for their families. PM

    [27] ROMANIAN CABINET MINISTERS TO BELGRADE

    Foreign Minister Petre Roman and Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu are scheduled to fly to Belgrade on 10 October to discuss with the new Yugoslav leadership how to rebuild ties between the two countries and Romania's participation in Yugoslavia's reconstruction, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported the previous day, quoting a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Returning from a one-day visit to Prague on 9 October (see above), Prime Minister Isarescu said he will propose to the government at its meeting on 10 October that sanctions be lifted against Yugoslavia and appoint an ambassador to Belgrade, replacing the current charge d'affaires. MS

    [28] HUNGARIAN PARTY BOYCOTTS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT

    The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) announced on 9 October that it will boycott debates in the Chamber of Deputies to protest the chamber's refusal to urgently debate draft laws on local autonomy and local administration, Mediafax reported. Also on 9 October, UDMR Chairman Bela Marko said that during a recent visit to the U.S., he and other members of the UDMR leadership asked Washington to "closely monitor" respect for national minorities' rights in the event that the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) forms the ruling coalition after the fall parliamentary elections. Marko said the UDMR is worried by the PDSR's "nationalist rhetoric." On 7 October, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth described as "scandalous" the restitution law recently approved by the Romanian Senate, which does not address the restitution of ecclesiastical properties owned by Hungarian Churches. MS/MSZ

    [29] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TO VETO PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION LAW?

    President Petru Lucinschi has "not yet decided" whether to promulgate the recently passed law on electing the country's president under the new parliamentary republican system, presidential spokesman Anatol Golea told journalist on 9 October. Golea said Lucinschi is "taking into consideration" the opinion of experts who argue that the law restricts the right of citizens to be elected since it stipulates that a presidential candidate must be proposed by at least 15 deputies. Golea noted that this excludes the possibility of candidates' being proposed by small parliamentary parties, extra-parliamentary formations, or "groups of citizens," Infotag reported. MS

    [30] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMINALS MUST FACE TRIBUNAL

    Ivan Kostov on 9 October said that the attitude of Yugoslavia's new leadership toward the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague will be crucial in determining that country's future, AP reported. In an interview with the daily "Demokratsiya," Kostov noted that Bulgaria "staunchly believes" that all war criminals must face the tribunal. Meanwhile, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry Shelton said in Sofia on 9 October that Bulgaria is NATO's "most friendly candidate [for membership] in Southeast Europe," ITAR-TASS reported. He said the U.S. intends to continue its "partnership" with Bulgaria on a wide range of issues. Shelton met with Kostov and chief of staff General Mikho Mikhov, with whom he discussed boosting military cooperation. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [31] POLES PREFER THE PRESIDENT THEY KNOW

    By Jan Maksymiuk

    Aleksander Kwasniewski received 53.90 percent backing in the 8 October presidential elections, thereby gaining re-election in the first round to serve another five-year term. Independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski came second with 17.30 percent of the vote and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski third with 15.57 percent. Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa received only 1.10 percent backing.

    Several conclusions can be drawn from the results of the 8 October elections.

    By re-electing Kwasniewski, an ex-Communist who transformed himself into a Social Democrat, Poles have opted for continuity with regard to not only the presidency but also the country's strategic course. It was no accident that the jubilant Kwasniewski's first pledge on hearing the first, unofficial news of his victory was to declare Poland's EU entry to be the main task of his second term. It would be an outstanding achievement for the politician who saw Poland enter NATO to assist in the country's accession to the EU. And it is very likely that Kwasniewski will secure that place in history by achieving this second goal, too. Like voters in much older democracies, Poles vote not for strategic goals but rather the way to pursue them.

    Second, the Polish electorate tends to value not politicians' past deeds but rather what those politicians stand for today. Lech Walesa's 1 percent showing in the ballot provides ample evidence, as does that of current Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, who failed to win even half the support his Solidarity Electoral Action secured in the 1997 parliamentary elections. Three years ago, voters rewarded him for his contribution to the unification of Poland's factional and bickering right wing. Now, they have apparently punished him for the Solidarity-led cabinet's poor performance in implementing sweeping reforms and its lack of progress in fighting unemployment.

    Third, Polish voters are not inclined to attach much importance to some symbols that were of paramount importance 20 or even 10 years ago. The video disseminated by Krzaklewski's election team, in which Kwasniewski assists his minister in parodying Pope John Paul II, failed to damage the incumbent president's image to the extent that a second round of the election was required. By voting for Kwasniewski, a majority of Poles seem to have endorsed his performance as president and ignored his inappropriate behavior. The fact that a country in which 90 percent of citizens consider themselves to be Roman Catholics can elect a publicly declared atheist as president speaks more about Poland's transformation in the last decade than do many economic indicators.

    Fourth, Krzaklewski's defeat signals that Poles do not approve the confrontation course pursued by the Solidarity leader and prefer a more balanced and softer approach to politics--one, in fact, that is characteristic of Kwasniewski. Another politician who remained calm and good-natured during the presidential campaign--Andrzej Olechowski--was also generously rewarded by voters on 8 October. Moreover, Olechowski achieved his unexpected election result even though he had made a lustration statement saying he had collaborated with the Communist-era intelligence service.

    Krzaklewski turned down proposals to head the cabinet during the coalition crisis earlier this year, when the Freedom Union withdrew from Jerzy Buzek's government. Krzaklewski wanted to save himself for the presidential ballot. Now it seems that he may lose even more than the presidential election. Some of his colleagues have already begun to question his ability to lead the right wing in the 2001 parliamentary elections, when the post- communist Democratic Left Alliance is expected to deal a severe blow to the Solidarity bloc.

    Finally, the 8 October ballot shows that it is extremely risky for politicians in Poland to quit the country's political life even for one political campaign, as in the case of Leszek Balcerowicz, leader of the liberal Freedom Union, who did not propose either himself or someone from his party as a presidential challenger. Since making that decision, Balcerowicz's party has begun to lose popularity among the electorate. Arguably, this decision also helped Olechowski, a businessmen with liberal economic views similar to those promoted by the Freedom Union, to become a national politician with a good chance of forming a political party that will fare well in the next general elections.

    Given Krzaklewski's defeat and Olechowski's rise, both the center and right wing on the Polish political scene may undergo substantial change in the near future.

    10-10-00


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


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