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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 103, 01-06-01

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 5, No. 103, 1 June 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO CALL FOR NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN GOVERNMENT
  • [02] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT: NUCLEAR FUEL SHOULD NOT FUEL EXTERNAL DEBT
  • [03] KURDS IN ARMENIA, KAZAKHSTAN DEMONSTRATE FOR OCALAN
  • [04] RUSSIAN, SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KARABAKH...
  • [05] ...AND REGIONAL SECURITY
  • [06] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DENIES ASKING FOR POSTPONEMENT OF KARABAKH GENEVA TALKS
  • [07] GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MUTINY INTENDED TO DISCREDIT COUNTRY
  • [08] ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK TO FUND KYRGYZ HIGHWAY RECONSTRUCTION
  • [09] NEW INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER TO BE LAUNCHED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [10] TALIBAN TROJAN CAMELS INTERCEPTED AT TAJIK BORDER

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] MACEDONIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS CRITICIZE GEORGIEVSKI PROPOSAL
  • [12] MACEDONIAN BATTLE FRONTS: QUIET NEAR KUMANOVO, MORTARS NEAR TETOVO
  • [13] MACEDONIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER WARNS OF 'WAR' AND 'BLOODBATH'
  • [14] ROBERTSON SAYS NATO DOING BEST TO SECURE MACEDONIA'S FRONTIERS
  • [15] MACEDONIAN COLD SHOULDER FOR TAIWAN?
  • [16] OSCE HAILS PROGRESS IN KOSOVA...
  • [17] ...BUT SERBIAN CONCERNS REMAIN
  • [18] SERBIAN POLICE DETAIN MILOSEVIC MEDIA CRONY
  • [19] BOSNIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS HARD-LINERS BLOCKING REINTEGRATION OF CROAT TROOPS
  • [20] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES NICHOLSON DRAFT...
  • [21] ...AND PREMIER ENLISTS VERHEUGEN SUPPORT
  • [22] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT BACKS (ALLEGEDLY NONEXISTENT) AMNESTY PROPOSAL
  • [23] ANTONESCU HAS STATUE IN BUCHAREST AS WELL
  • [24] PORTUGAL FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS...
  • [25] ...AND SEPARATIST LEADERS
  • [26] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS LUSTRATION BILL
  • [27] LIBYAN TRIAL OF BULGARIAN MEDICS SET TO START
  • [28] LARGE U.S. INVESTMENTS IN BULGARIA IN OFFING

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [29] BULGARIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN TAKES SHAPE

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO CALL FOR NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN GOVERNMENT

    Parliament deputies did not avail themselves on 31 May of their 24-hour window of opportunity to call for a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's government, Noyan Tapan reported. That opportunity was created by the parliament's failure on 30 May to approve the government's report on fulfillment of the 2000 budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). The failure to call for a subsequent vote of no-confidence within 24 hours means that the report on budget fulfillment is nonetheless automatically approved, parliament public relations officer Anahit Adamian said. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT: NUCLEAR FUEL SHOULD NOT FUEL EXTERNAL DEBT

    The Armenian government should avoid further purchases of nuclear fuel from Russia over the next couple of years in order not to increase its current $114 million debt to Moscow, Russian agencies quoted President Robert Kocharian as saying on 31 May. Kocharian proposed that the national energy system should pay for such fuel from the proceeds of the sale of electricity. LF

    [03] KURDS IN ARMENIA, KAZAKHSTAN DEMONSTRATE FOR OCALAN

    Several hundred people attended a demonstration in Yerevan on 31 May in support of Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan, whose trial at the European Court was to have opened that day, ITAR-TASS reported. In Almaty, the Association of Ethnic Kurds of Kazakhstan convened a press conference at which they announced their intention to hold a mass demonstration to coincide with the beginning of Ocalan's trial on 31 August, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. LF

    [04] RUSSIAN, SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KARABAKH...

    Vladimir Putin met in Minsk on 31 May with Armenian President Kocharian and Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliev for what Putin subsequently termed an open and productive discussion of the Karabakh peace process, Russian agencies reported. Earlier on 31 May, Russian agencies quoted Sergei Prikhodko, the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, as saying that no solution to the Karabakh conflict should be imposed "from outside," and that it is up to the parties of the conflict to work out a compromise peace agreement that would be acceptable to public opinion in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. He admitted that the search for such a compromise is "difficult" and said it should not be rushed. Prikhodko added that if a peace agreement is reached, Russia would be prepared to act as guarantor of its implementation. LF

    [05] ...AND REGIONAL SECURITY

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze joined Putin, Kocharian, and Aliev late on 31 May for a further meeting of the so-called "Caucasus Four." The four presidents focussed on regional problems, specifically security issues, the threat of terrorism, and the aftermath of unresolved conflicts in the Caucasus, and signed a declaration reaffirming their commitment to seeking a fair and lasting settlement to regional conflicts as a precondition for strengthening "comprehensive cooperation," ITAR-TASS reported. Such a commitment was enshrined in the so-called Kislovodsk Declaration signed by the presidents of the four countries at their first such summit in Kislovodsk in June 1996. Repeating a further point contained in the Kislovodsk Declaration, Prikhodko told Interfax that Russia considers the North and South Caucasus an indivisible whole, and for that reason "relations with the countries of the South Caucasus are a priority of Russian foreign policy." LF

    [06] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DENIES ASKING FOR POSTPONEMENT OF KARABAKH GENEVA TALKS

    Speaking to journalists at Baku airport on 31 May prior to his departure for the CIS summit in Minsk, President Aliev denied having asked the co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to postpone the next round of talks between himself and Kocharian on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. He said that Kocharian may have done so. The Minsk Group French co-chairman, Philippe de Suremain, had earlier said that the talks scheduled to take place in Geneva some time in June were postponed at the request of the two presidents. Aliev also told journalists that it would become clear during his meeting in Minsk with Kocharian whether the Geneva talks would take place as scheduled, but no announcement was forthcoming in Minsk on whether the two presidents reached such a decision. LF

    [07] GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MUTINY INTENDED TO DISCREDIT COUNTRY

    Davit Tevzadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 31 May that the 25 May protest by several hundred members of the National Guard (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 May 2001) may have been a deliberate attempt to destabilize the country on the eve of naval exercises to be held in early June in Georgian territorial waters, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He suggested that if the situation had deteriorated to the point that those maneuvers were cancelled, Georgia would have found itself in "international isolation." Tevzadze also said he considers inappropriate and unfounded the mutineers' request that the National Guard be subordinated directly to the president, rather than to the Defense Ministry. LF

    [08] ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK TO FUND KYRGYZ HIGHWAY RECONSTRUCTION

    Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev and visiting Asian Development Bank President Tadao Chino signed an agreement in Bishkek on 31 May under which the bank will provide a $126 million loan to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to fund reconstruction of the 260-kilometer highway linking Bishkek and Almaty, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev and Chino also reviewed the economic reform process in Kyrgyzstan and bilateral cooperation. LF

    [09] NEW INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER TO BE LAUNCHED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

    Bakyt Orunbaev, chief editor of the Djalalabad-based newspaper "Akyikat," told RFE/RL on 31 May that he plans to launch a new independent weekly newspaper, "Ferghana." The paper will initially appear in a print run of 5, 000, in Kyrgyz, Russian, and Uzbek; Tajik will be added later. LF

    [10] TALIBAN TROJAN CAMELS INTERCEPTED AT TAJIK BORDER

    Interfax reported on 31 May that Russian border guards intercepted six camels that had attempted to cross into Tajikistan from Afghanistan. In this way, the Russian commanders on the scene said, "a violation of the border was blocked." PG

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] MACEDONIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS CRITICIZE GEORGIEVSKI PROPOSAL

    Social Democratic leader and former Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said in Skopje on 31 May that there is a "danger that the [governing] coalition might fall apart," if the Albanians receive equal rights, as Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has suggested (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 June 2001). "RFE/RL Newsline" has meanwhile learned that there is grumbling in Georgievski's own nationalist party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), over any concessions to the Albanians under Western pressure. But in Prague, EU security chief Javier Solana warned Macedonian politicians of all ethnic backgrounds to put their bickering aside and work to end the prolonged crisis. Solana stressed that "the sooner they agree...the better for all of them," AP reported. Observers note that Macedonian politicians have an eye on the January 2002 parliamentary elections as well as on the present crisis. PM

    [12] MACEDONIAN BATTLE FRONTS: QUIET NEAR KUMANOVO, MORTARS NEAR TETOVO

    Army spokesman Colonel Blagoja Markovski told AP in Skopje on 1 June that the Kumanovo region is quiet after several days of fighting. Near Tetovo, however, guerrillas of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) in Sipkovica and Brodec fired mortar shells at government positions in the Sar Planina area. PM

    [13] MACEDONIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER WARNS OF 'WAR' AND 'BLOODBATH'

    Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Krstevski told Reuters in Dubrovnik on 31 May that NATO is not doing enough to seal Macedonia's border with Kosova. He also called on the EU and NATO to cut off the UCK's sources of money and supplies from abroad. "A situation in which the international community understands and supports the Macedonian government and the president, but without doing anything to isolate the terrorists by cutting their financial and arms channels, is unsustainable... We expect the European Union and NATO to put more pressure on all Albanian elements in the region, and to oppose any cooperation with militant groups... If security...is such that it requires raising the combat readiness, then we probably won't be able to avoid declaring a state of war." PM

    [14] ROBERTSON SAYS NATO DOING BEST TO SECURE MACEDONIA'S FRONTIERS

    NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Dubrovnik on 31 May that "we have increased patrols [in Kosova near the Macedonian border] over the last few weeks very substantially. There have been substantial interdictions of people and equipment. It's a very difficult border and there are massive difficulties involved in trying to protect it. But any supply lines that may have existed have certainly been disrupted. A lot of the people who were involved have been interdicted and detained and that will continue until the situation in Macedonia is resolved," Reuters reported. PM

    [15] MACEDONIAN COLD SHOULDER FOR TAIWAN?

    Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said in Skopje on 31 May that "we are on the way to sever ties with Taiwan," Reuters reported. She added that she will not meet her visiting Taiwanese counterpart Tien Hung-mao "even if he asks me to do so," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Mitreva belongs to the Social Democratic Party, which was strongly critical of the previous government's decision in 1999 to switch recognition from Beijing to Taipei. Prime Minister Georgievski, who also headed that government, did meet with Tien, but it is not clear what the outcome of the talks was. Taiwan has provided Macedonia with $20 million in direct investment and a further $150 million in loans and technical assistance out of a much larger package of promised aid and assistance. PM

    [16] OSCE HAILS PROGRESS IN KOSOVA...

    Daan Everts, the OSCE's top representative in Kosova, told a news conference in Vienna on 31 May that there is "good chemistry" within the Kosova delegation that arrived in the Austrian capital to discuss the 17 November elections (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 April 2001). He added that problems remain, but also that it is a good sign that Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaci, Ramush Haradinaj, and Rada Trajkovic are working together. Kosovar moderate leader Rugova said: "We will do everything for the Serbian community to have freedom of movement," adding that he hopes for Serbian participation in the elections, AP reported. PM

    [17] ...BUT SERBIAN CONCERNS REMAIN

    Trajkovic, who represents Kosova's 7 percent Serbian population, said in Vienna on 31 May that she fears that Serbian rights will not be spelled out in the projected constitution. It is not clear what she meant by that (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2001). She noted that Serbs are still subjected to physical danger and that refugees have been unable to go home. Trajkovski added that her Serbian constituents are willing to take part in the elections but want "security, the return of those who wish to return, and the disclosure of the [fate] of those who are missing" in return for doing so, AP reported. For his part, Everts replied that the OSCE-designed electoral system constitutes a "package of overrepresentation" to ensure that minority groups have a say. Out of 120 assembly seats, 20 have been set aside for non-Albanians, he noted. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, the Serbian parliament passed a declaration calling the proposed Kosova constitution "unacceptable" because it does not give the Serbs enough rights, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [18] SERBIAN POLICE DETAIN MILOSEVIC MEDIA CRONY

    Police detained Zoran Jevdjevic in Belgrade on 31 May on a court order after the former director of the state-run Tanjug news agency ignored 11 summons to appear in court in conjunction with a lawsuit by several of his former subordinates, "Danas" reported. PM

    [19] BOSNIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS HARD-LINERS BLOCKING REINTEGRATION OF CROAT TROOPS

    Defense Minister Mijo Anic, a moderate Croat, told Reuters in Sarajevo on 31 May that hard-liners in the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) are actively discouraging mutineer Croatian soldiers from reentering the Muslim- Croat army under a deal brokered recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2001). PM

    [20] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES NICHOLSON DRAFT...

    Ion Iliescu said on 31 May that the draft submitted by the European Parliament rapporteur on Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, to a commission of the European Parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001) reflects "nothing more than her personal opinions." Iliescu said that accession negotiations "are not carried with the European Parliament, but with the European Commission," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

    [21] ...AND PREMIER ENLISTS VERHEUGEN SUPPORT

    Adrian Nastase said he is in the process of preparing a written reaction to the "many errors and mistaken interpretations" included in the baroness's draft. Nastase said he has spoken on the telephone with Guenter Verheugen, the European commissioner for enlargement, who assured him that the draft is "just a proposal" that has not yet been accepted by the Foreign Affairs Commission and that, even if it were accepted, the parliament would still have to vote on it. Furthermore, Nastase quoted Verheugen as saying, "negotiations for accession are the exclusive prerogative of the European Commission" and the European Parliament cannot decide on suspending accession talks, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 31 May, the government approved five programs for coping with the problem of abandoned children -- one of the main points of criticism cited in the Nicholson draft. MS

    [22] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT BACKS (ALLEGEDLY NONEXISTENT) AMNESTY PROPOSAL

    While Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu said on the private Antena 1 channel on 31 May that the rumor about the intention to amnesty those involved in "social unrest movements" since 1989 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001) is "either a misunderstanding or misinformation," President Iliescu on the same day said "the idea is praiseworthy." He said this is not a measure aimed at solving "the Miron Cozma problem" but a "more general attempt...to bring about national reconciliation." In a reference to miners' rampages in Bucharest in 1990 and 1991, Iliescu reiterated his view that violence at that time was not started by the miners but by his then-political adversaries, who protested in Bucharest University Square and later allegedly attacked government buildings. MS

    [23] ANTONESCU HAS STATUE IN BUCHAREST AS WELL

    A religious ceremony was held on 1 June in a Bucharest church founded by Romania's wartime dictator and Hitler ally, Marshall Ion Antonescu, marking 55 years since his execution by a firing squad. A bust of the marshal was unveiled in the church's courtyard. Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor attended the ceremony, as did several generals in active service, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The event was organized by the Marshall Antonescu League and Foundation, which is headed by PRM Senator and Senate Deputy Chairman Gheorghe Buzatu and by the Pro Bessarabia and Bukovina associations. Both these organizations have long been involved in attempts to judicially rehabilitate the leader, who was executed for war crimes in 1946. MS

    [24] PORTUGAL FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS...

    Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama on 31 May met in Chisinau with his Moldovan counterpart Nicolae Cernomaz and with President Vladimir Voronin, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Portugal is currently in charge of efforts for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict as a member of the OSCE's leading "troika." Gama told Cernomaz he is "impressed" with the "promising evolution of the conflict settlement process" and that "Moldova can count on OSCE support to consolidate security in the Transdniester region." Voronin told Gama that Moldova plans to make "certain proposals that would leave Tiraspol no choice but that of accepting them." He said the planned special status to be offered to the separatist region will grant Tiraspol "enough prerogatives" and that the parliament where his Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) has an absolute majority is certain to approve the special status. MS

    [25] ...AND SEPARATIST LEADERS

    Separatist leader Igor Smirnov told journalists after meeting Gama in Tiraspol that "the Transdniester Republic must be recognized as an independent state and this will solve all problems," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Smirnov said negotiations with Chisinau will not advance until "the equal status of the two sides is respected" and "all agreements signed before [between Chisinau and Tiraspol] are ratified" by the Moldovan parliament. Gama said his visit was one of "information collecting" and that it is "important" to learn about Tiraspol's positions in order to "be in the position to present this information to international public opinion [and] in order to give an impetus to the OSCE and the other conflict mediators to advance the dialogue between the two sides." MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS LUSTRATION BILL

    The parliament on 31 May rejected a draft bill proposed by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) that would have instituted lustration for holders of the office of president, parliamentary deputy, and cabinet members, as well as for judges and journalists, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Sixty-one deputies from the PCM and three from the Braghis Alliance voted to reject the draft, which was endorsed by only 13 deputies. The envisaged bill would have also made access to personal files in the former KGB and NKVD archives possible. In presenting the bill, PPCD Deputy Stefan Secareanu said former members of the communist secret police are now "in control of [important] economic sectors" and are "blackmailing" politicians who are afraid that their past collaboration with the communist secret police will be revealed. MS

    [27] LIBYAN TRIAL OF BULGARIAN MEDICS SET TO START

    Defense lawyers for the six Bulgarian medics charged in Libya with willfully infecting children with the HIV virus told Reuters on 31 May that they plan to ask the court to accept as evidence the written opinion on the case by two prominent virologists, after the court rejected the defense's request that they be allowed to testify at the trial. The virologists are Professor Luc Montaigner of the Pasteur Institute in Paris and Professor Luc Perrin of the Geneva University Hospital. The trial is now set to start on 2 July, after having been postponed 12 times at the request of the defense. The two lawyers representing the Bulgarians say the trial's outcome is likely to be decided after either the defense or the prosecution files an appeal of the People's Court decision before a higher court. Libya has a two-tier judicial system. MS

    [28] LARGE U.S. INVESTMENTS IN BULGARIA IN OFFING

    Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 31 May announced that the government will guarantee a $1.4 billion deal with the U.S. AES and Entergy companies for the upgrading of the Maritsa-Iztok-1 and Maritsa-Iztok-3 coal-fired power plants, situated some 300 kilometers southeast of Sofia, AP reported. The two plants are the only ones in Bulgaria fueled by the country's low- quality coal deposits and the overhaul of the two units will prolong their life span by more than 18 years. The project also includes the introduction of environment-friendly technologies that will cut toxic sulfur dioxide emissions, in compliance with EU standards. Kostov said the project will bolster Bulgaria's position as a major electricity producer and exporter and will lessen the dependence on higher quality coal imported mainly from Russia. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [29] BULGARIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN TAKES SHAPE

    By Kathryn Mazur

    The official opening of the election campaign in Bulgaria last month showed that the major political parties are running on similar platforms: they all promise European and NATO integration, more jobs, and better living standards. This is the first time since 1990 that all contenders agree on the issues of major concern to the Bulgarian people. The similarities, however, end there.

    With the former king, Simeon II, entering Bulgarian politics, political reality has dramatically changed. His electoral alliance, the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), has moved into a comfortable first-place lead by all serious accounts, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported. Sociologists and political analysts are trying to explain this phenomenon as a protest vote by many disappointed and frustrated people, who are tired of Bulgaria's post-communist partisan confrontations. Some Western experts wonder how the ruling coalition lost so much support despite the fact that it saved the country from a major economic disaster four years ago and ensured stable growth for three consecutive years.

    Support for the governing Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), which was running a few points ahead of the opposition Socialist Party before the former king's arrival in April, plunged to 15 percent in May. The Socialists were marginalized to only 10 percent. It thus seems that Simeon's party is attracting not only undecided voters and those who initially did not want to vote, but that it also appeals to segments in the hardcore electorate of the two major parties.

    Although some consider that Simeon's support comes from the poorest segments of the population (over 50 percent of Bulgarians live below the poverty line), public opinion surveys show that it is equally spread among all social groups.

    Some of the Bulgarian media have compared Simeon's popular support to nationalist Vadim Tudor's success in Romania, Joerg Haider's strength in Austria, and even Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany. One Russian expert has warned that Simeon threatens Bulgaria with the establishment of an authoritarian regime of the "Balkan type." In stark contrast, others argue that Simeon's role in the upcoming elections will be beneficial for Bulgarian democracy, since "an old, decent gentleman" will gather the protest vote, instead of somebody similar to Tudor or Haider from the far right.

    Bruce Jackson, head of the nongovernmental U.S. Committee on NATO, argued at a conference in Bratislava on 11 May that the U.S. will not support the restoration of the monarchy in Bulgaria. He, too, compared Simeon to Haider and Tudor. "The Washington Post" published an editorial on 10 May claiming that Simeon's gaining power could be disastrous for Bulgaria. However, there has not been any official statement by the U.S. or any European government, including that of Russia, on the new political situation in Bulgaria.

    Although Simeon has declared that restoring the monarchy is not among his priorities, many think that this is indeed his long-term goal. Such analysts speculate that Simeon's name will not appear on the ballot because he would not want to take an oath to the republican constitution and thereby give up legal grounds for the eventual restoration of the monarchy. President Petar Stoyanov has pointed out that by not actually running for office himself, Simeon failed to fulfill his promise to allow Bulgarians to vote for him.

    The announcement on 21 May of the names of Simeon's candidates for parliament in the 17 June vote provoked mixed reactions, because along with many talented young economists and lawyers, some individuals widely regarded as compromised were also included on the lists. Some supporters from the town of Russe left the movement for this reason, and there are also some compromised candidates running in Burgas.

    There is a possibility that Simeon's campaign may incur additional negative publicity once the candidates are officially screened for collaboration with the communist-era security services, as the law requires. The NDSV was the only one that failed to request such a check before the start of the election campaign.

    The opinion research company MBMD expects that the popularity of the NDSV will drop by approximately 10 percentage points by election day. After an initial period of high emotional support for the king, people are now asking questions about Simeon's election platform.

    However, the presence of some young Bulgarians who have built impressive careers abroad -- such as the vice president of the London-based Lazard Bank, Nikolay Vasilev; Milen Velchev from Merrill Lynch; and Ljubka Kachakova from PricewaterhouseCoopers in Brussels -- may be a sufficient basis for electoral success. The young group of economists wrote the NDSV's economic program, which is based on cutting taxes, stimulating economic growth, providing incentives for reinvesting enterprise profits, and promoting the development of capital and stock markets. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has sharply criticized this platform, arguing that any changes in Bulgaria's tax system would jeopardize the country's progress toward EU accession.

    Despite the serious blow that the SDS experienced with the appearance of the king's electoral alliance, it launched an optimistic and confident election campaign. The SDS declined to make commitments regarding any postelection coalition, declaring that it will win the elections outright. The NDSV nonetheless announced that its natural partners in the next parliament will be the SDS and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, also known as the Turkish party.

    The Turkish party has experienced serious problems in this election because part of its traditional support base has now evidently opted for the king's coalition and another part for the SDS. The Turkish minority has been steadily declining over the past decade due to emigration to Turkey. This has cost the party almost half of its potential voters. It may be left out of parliament altogether if its voter support does not increase to over 4 percent. Current polls give it between 2 and 3.8 percent of the vote.

    Veteran party leader Ahmed Dogan was absent from the official campaign opening rallies in the southern town of Djebel and the northern town of Isperih on 19 and 20 May, respectively. His deputy, Osman Oktaj, said that all other political parties are trying to destroy the Movement for Rights and Freedoms by including ethnic Turks on their lists of candidates in hopes of luring Turkish voters.

    The Turkish party has been long considered by many Western experts to be one of the most important contributors to Bulgaria's multiethnic harmony, in contrast to the interethnic wars in neighboring Yugoslavia.

    If the Turks and Muslims in Bulgaria emerge from the 17 June voting without serious parliamentary representation, this may seriously damage interethnic relations and may contribute to new political tensions in an already unstable Balkans.

    Kathryn Mazur is an independent analyst based in the U.S. (KathrynMazur@hotmail.com).

    01-06-01


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


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