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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 123, 01-06-28

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. 123, 28 June 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO PASS BILL ON CIVIL SERVICE
  • [02] LAWYERS TO CHALLENGE RELEASE OF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL DEFENDANTS
  • [03] AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARIAN ADVOCATES RETAINING DEATH PENALTY
  • [04] RUSSIA REFUSES TO ALLOW GEORGIAN AIRLINES FLIGHT TO MOSCOW
  • [05] KAZAKHSTAN MAY EXTEND DEADLINE FOR LEGALIZATION OF CAPITAL
  • [06] GASOLINE SHORTAGE MAY JEOPARDIZE GRAIN HARVEST IN KAZAKHSTAN
  • [07] SECOND KYRGYZ EDITOR SUES JUSTICE MINISTRY
  • [08] KYRGYZ MINISTERS DECLINE TO TESTIFY TO PARLIAMENT COMMISSION

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [09] U.S. TO ATTEND SERBIAN DONORS CONFERENCE...
  • [10] ...BUT WITH CONDITIONS
  • [11] A 'YUGOSLAV MODEL' FOR TRANSITION COUNTRIES?
  • [12] ARE MACEDONIAN POLICE BEHIND 'DISAPPEARANCES'?
  • [13] BUSH CUTS OFF SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIAN REBELS...
  • [14] ...STRESSES SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIAN DIALOGUE
  • [15] NATO DEBATES ROLE IN MACEDONIA
  • [16] BUSH, SCHROEDER TO FULFILL NATO OBLIGATIONS IN MACEDONIA
  • [17] EU MACEDONIAN REPRESENTATIVE RETRACTS STATEMENT ON UCK TALKS
  • [18] BALKAN STABILITY PACT COUNTRIES SIGN FREE-TRADE AGREEMENT
  • [19] SLOVENIA'S FOREIGN DEBT NEARS $7 BILLION
  • [20] ROMANIA TO ANNUL RESITA PRIVATIZATION DEAL
  • [21] EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RECOMMEND LIFTING VISA REQUIREMENTS ON ROMANIANS
  • [22] ROMANIA, HUNGARY TO DISCUSS STATUS LAW IN JOINT COMMISSION
  • [23] U.S. GRANTS AID TO ROMANIA TO REACH NATO STANDARDS
  • [24] VORONIN TELLS PACE MOLDOVA NEEDS EUROPE, EUROPE NEEDS MOLDOVA...
  • [25] ...AND SAYS HE MAY RUN FOR PRESIDENT OF TRANSDNIESTER
  • [26] INTERNATIONAL AGENCY DOWNGRADES MOLDOVA'S RATING
  • [27] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT URGES SDS TO JOIN COALITION
  • [28] OVER 120 FORMER BULGARIAN OFFICIALS COLLABORATED WITH COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICES

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [29] ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS LEAD IN ELECTION RETURNS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO PASS BILL ON CIVIL SERVICE

    A controversial bill aimed at improving the professional level of Armenia's civil servants failed to pass in the second reading on 27 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. It was similarly rejected during the first reading in February. While 63 deputies voted in favor and only two against, the vote was invalid as fewer than half the 131 legislators participated. Opposition parties argue that the bill will augment the already broad powers of the president by giving him the exclusive right to nominate all seven members of a supervisory body that would rule on all civil service appointments. Communist Party deputy Frunze Kharatian said that the bill is therefore unconstitutional. Some deputies from the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), the junior partner in the majority Miasnutiun coalition, boycotted the vote, thereby fuelling the widespread perception that differences between the HZhK and its partner, the Republican Party of Armenia, will lead to Miasnutiun's disintegration. LF

    [02] LAWYERS TO CHALLENGE RELEASE OF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL DEFENDANTS

    Lawyers representing the families of victims of the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings said in Yerevan on 27 June they will appeal the parliament's decision last week to amnesty six men on trial for their role in the killings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2001), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The lawyers claim the decision to release the six men, who include three police officers who were on duty at the parliament building on the day of the shootings, was made at the behest of the Armenian leadership in an attempt to influence the outcome of the trial. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARIAN ADVOCATES RETAINING DEATH PENALTY

    Gulamhusein Aliev (Azerbaijan Popular Front Party-Reformist wing), who is a member of the Azerbaijan parliament delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has argued in Strasbourg that Azerbaijan should have the right to retain the death penalty until the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh is finally resolved, according to Turan on 27 June. He argued that doing so would not conflict with Azerbaijan's international obligations. LF

    [04] RUSSIA REFUSES TO ALLOW GEORGIAN AIRLINES FLIGHT TO MOSCOW

    A Georgian airlines flight from Tbilisi to Moscow was cancelled on 27 June after the Russian air administration refused to allow it to enter Russian airspace, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Deputy Transport Minister Giorgi Karbelashvili said the same day that Russia has no right to cancel flights without prior warning, and that Tbilisi will complain to the International Civil Aviation Organization. The plane took off from Tbilisi for Moscow on 28 June. Russia had unilaterally imposed a ban on Georgian flights 10 days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001). LF

    [05] KAZAKHSTAN MAY EXTEND DEADLINE FOR LEGALIZATION OF CAPITAL

    Speaking to parliament on 27 June, Kazakhstan's Finance Minister Mazhit Esenbaev proposed extending for a further 10 days, from 4 July to 14 July, the deadline for bringing back to Kazakhstan capital illegally transferred to foreign banks, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Esenbaev argued that some individuals involved may need more time to decide whether to do so. National Bank officials said on 26 June that since 14 June, when the bid to legalize shadow capital got underway, some $60 million has been returned to Kazakh banks. Also on 27 June, it was announced that all tax returns filed between 1995-2000 will be destroyed next month. LF

    [06] GASOLINE SHORTAGE MAY JEOPARDIZE GRAIN HARVEST IN KAZAKHSTAN

    The Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) on 27 June discussed the recently announced decision by the Canadian-owned Shymkent Oil refinery to suspend operations for an indefinite period, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Some deputies noted that this is the third consecutive year in which the refinery, which is Kazakhstan's main producer of gasoline, has suspended operations at the start of the grain harvest. Some deputies attributed the refinery's move to a desire to drive gasoline prices up and thus increase profits. Representatives of Kazakhstan's state oil company KazakhOil and of the export organizations KazTrans and KazTransGaz who were asked to report to the session on the activities of those companies failed to appear at the session. Hearings on those companies' activities were postponed until an unspecified date this autumn. LF

    [07] SECOND KYRGYZ EDITOR SUES JUSTICE MINISTRY

    Opposition People's Party of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Melis Eshimkanov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 27 June that he has brought a law suit against the Justice Ministry in connection with its decision to rescind the registration of 16 new media outlets registered since 1 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 June 2001). Three of those are newspapers that Eshimkanov owns. A second editor, Aleksandr Kim, has already brought such a lawsuit against the ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). LF

    [08] KYRGYZ MINISTERS DECLINE TO TESTIFY TO PARLIAMENT COMMISSION

    Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, Defense Minister Esen Topev, and Justice Minister Jakyp Abdrakhmanov on 27 June ignored a request to testify before the parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs concerning the controversial border agreements signed with China in 1996 and 1999, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 14, 20 and 22 June 2001). Instead, the ministers sent lower-ranking officials who were unable to answer parliament deputies' questions. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [09] U.S. TO ATTEND SERBIAN DONORS CONFERENCE...

    State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in Washington on 27 June that Secretary of State Colin Powell "has decided that the United States will participate in the June 29th European Commission and World Bank donors conference for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to be held in Brussels," RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 27 June 2001). Reeker noted that "U.S. participation has been made possible by the recent steps taken by the Yugoslav and Serbian governments to meet Belgrade's obligation to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and by Belgrade's commitment to transfer indicted war criminals to The Hague and fulfill all legal obligations to the tribunal." The spokesman called U.S. participation a way of "expressing strong support for building a democratic and progressive society...and overcoming the legacy of [former President] Slobodan Milosevic. We also strongly support the steadfast commitment of the Yugoslav authorities to economic reform." PM

    [10] ...BUT WITH CONDITIONS

    Reeker also said in Washington on 27 June that the eventual "disbursement of the U.S. assistance pledged at the conference will be contingent upon Yugoslavia's further steps to cooperate fully with the tribunal... It's in the interests of the United States that Yugoslavia remain on the democratic path, that they be allowed to move forward now that they're rid of Milosevic and his regime; that they can move forward with economic reform, continue with their democratic reforms, and pursue a progressive, more prosperous society. It's in our interests, and so we will support that and going to this donors conference is an expression of that support." VOA reported that Powell made his decision after a telephone call with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. PM

    [11] A 'YUGOSLAV MODEL' FOR TRANSITION COUNTRIES?

    "The Washington Post" wrote on 28 June that "the Bush administration...has demonstrated in the case of Yugoslavia that insisting on principles of human rights can strengthen fragile democratic governments. Yugoslavia's democrats and some of their defenders in Europe were slow to accept that truth. For months after Mr. Milosevic's overthrow last year, they argued that arresting him would cause the new democracy to break down, that turning him over to The Hague would reignite Serbia's destructive nationalism. Several European governments appeared more than ready to accept these arguments. However, the Bush administration made clear that U.S. support for Yugoslavia's economic reconstruction would depend on cooperation with the international criminal court. That stand forced Yugoslavia's political elite to make hard choices -- and strengthened those who most favor democratic reforms and alignment with the West... As the West grapples with other European nations hoping to make that transition in the next few years, including Ukraine and Russia, Yugoslavia may offer a model." PM

    [12] ARE MACEDONIAN POLICE BEHIND 'DISAPPEARANCES'?

    The "International Herald Tribune" wrote on 28 June that Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and his police may be behind the recent unexplained disappearances of several ethnic Albanian community leaders. Interior Ministry officials said that they are investigating the cases in question. But Mayor Tahir Hani of Velesta said that "the message is clear. It is to scare the Albanian people from pursuing political issues and to scare Albanians from speaking out and [taking action] in Macedonia." Elsewhere, "The Independent" wrote that hard-liners led by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski are increasingly calling the tune in the Macedonian government. PM

    [13] BUSH CUTS OFF SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIAN REBELS...

    President George W. Bush said in Washington on 27 June that he will stop supporters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) from traveling to the U.S. He will also block their attempts to raise funds in that country. He said: "We've got some evidence that the ethnic Albanians, the extremists, are raising money not only in America, but in Europe [as well. We] will do our part to make sure that moneys do not go to fund extremist activities that become a destabilizing influence for a democratically elected government in Macedonia." The White House said in a statement that "the purpose of these two actions is to send a clear message to the extremists and their supporters in the region, who actively obstruct and undermine peace and stability, that such tactics are unacceptable and that we will use the means at our disposal to isolate these groups and individuals and cut their access to financial support," Reuters reported. PM

    [14] ...STRESSES SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIAN DIALOGUE

    The White House said in a statement on 27 June that "the United States has joined with its European allies and other countries of the United Nations in strongly condemning the terrorist violence perpetrated by armed extremists determined to destabilize the democratic, multiethnic government of Macedonia. Their violent tactics threaten U.S. and international efforts to promote regional peace and stability and pose a potential danger to U.S. military forces and other Americans supporting peacekeeping efforts," Reuters reported. The statement added that "Macedonian President [Boris] Trajkovski has asked for our support to combat these extremists, who are undermining the political dialogue currently underway among Macedonia's legitimately elected leaders. This dialogue offers a real opportunity for a negotiated and peaceful settlement." PM

    [15] NATO DEBATES ROLE IN MACEDONIA

    NATO ambassadors discussed a plan in Brussels on 27 June aimed at disarming UCK rebels, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The operation has been code-named "Essential Harvest" and would last for approximately one month. The U.K. has expressed a willingness to lead the mission, and France has offered to perform a substantial role. Other interested countries include Greece, Spain, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Some observers have referred to the possible participants as a "coalition of the willing." The discussion will continue on 29 June. PM

    [16] BUSH, SCHROEDER TO FULFILL NATO OBLIGATIONS IN MACEDONIA

    When asked by reporters about a possible role for the U.S. military as part of a yet unspecified NATO mission in Macedonia, Bush said in Washington on 27 June: "I take no option off the table in terms of the troops. We're a participant in NATO," Reuters reported. In Berlin, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also said that Germany will stand by its commitments to its allies once NATO clarifies its goals and intentions in Macedonia, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Schroeder stressed that Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping will have the means at his disposal to fulfill Germany's obligations. PM

    [17] EU MACEDONIAN REPRESENTATIVE RETRACTS STATEMENT ON UCK TALKS

    Francois Leotard, whom the EU has nominated to be its representative in Macedonia, said in a statement in Paris on 28 June that "the position of the EU has not changed: the Albanian guerrillas have no place in the political dialogue," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2001). He added that his "activity in Skopje as EU Macedonia representative will be wholly based on this policy." Leotard told French radio journalists that "if this war develops in Macedonia, it will call into question everything we [in the international community] have been doing for 10 years" to bring peace and stability to the Balkans, AP reported. PM

    [18] BALKAN STABILITY PACT COUNTRIES SIGN FREE-TRADE AGREEMENT

    The governments of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia signed a free-trade agreement in Brussels on 27 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The signatories intend to create a network of bilateral free-trade agreements by the end of 2002. By that time, at least 90 percent of trade within the region is expected to be tariff-free. The governments of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Yugoslavia also adopted a plan to resettle or integrate some 1.25 million people across the region within two years. The seven Stability Pact countries welcomed Moldova's intention to join the free trade pact as soon as it is admitted into the EU's Stability Pact. The pact is a clearing house for aid, security, and development projects, but does not fund its own projects or incorporate any military component. RFE/RL/PM

    [19] SLOVENIA'S FOREIGN DEBT NEARS $7 BILLION

    The Slovenian news agency STA reported from Ljubljana on 27 June that the foreign debt stands currently at $6.71 billion. Foreign exchange reserves amount to $4.91 billion. PM

    [20] ROMANIA TO ANNUL RESITA PRIVATIZATION DEAL

    Privatization Authority Minister Ovidiu Musatescu on 27 June announced that the government has decided to launch judicial proceedings to annul the contract under which the Resita steel-producing company CSR was sold to the U.S. Noble Ventures company, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Musatescu said Noble Ventures had "acted in bad faith" and failed to fulfill the contract's terms. The decision was due to "the risk of losing control over the extremely serious Resita situation, which could trigger [countrywide] economic and social destabilization." Musatescu said the judicial procedure may take between two to three months and in the interim period the Resita workers would "probably be best served if they applied for unemployment benefits." He also said the government has "no intention" of taking over CSR again and will look for an alternative investor. The striking workers in Resita celebrated "victory" upon hearing the news, Mediafax reported. MS

    [21] EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RECOMMEND LIFTING VISA REQUIREMENTS ON ROMANIANS

    A report prepared for the European Commission and placed on its agenda for 29 June says Romania has made "considerable progress" in coping with the struggle against illegal immigration and recommends that visa requirements be lifted if the Romanian cabinet fulfills all the obligations it has assumed, Mediafax reported on 27 June. The agency said this does not necessarily mean that visa obligations will be abolished very soon, since the report is only a recommendation that has yet to be discussed by the EU interior and justice ministers. The earliest date visa requirements could be abolished is January 2002. The EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, said on 28 June that "the result of our monitoring in Romania was surprisingly positive." In other news, Romania on 27 June closed the seventh chapter in accession negotiations with the EU and continues to lag behind all other candidate countries. MS

    [22] ROMANIA, HUNGARY TO DISCUSS STATUS LAW IN JOINT COMMISSION

    Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has accepted a Hungarian proposal that the dispute over the Status Law be discussed by the countries' joint commission established within the framework of the basic treaty between them, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), told journalists after meeting with Nastase that "neither the UDMR nor the [ethnic] Romanian political parties are interested in the continuation of the current tense situation" and added that he believes "defusing the situation soon is possible." Meanwhile, on 27 June a Hungarian parliamentary delegation headed by Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Istvan Szentivanyi began a visit to Romania and heard from Romanian parliamentarians the main reasons for their opposition to the Status law. Szentivanyi said the law will go into effect on 1 January 2002 and that discussions between the sides will continue till that date. MS

    [23] U.S. GRANTS AID TO ROMANIA TO REACH NATO STANDARDS

    The United States has granted Romania $17 million in aid to help its military forces make progress in reaching compatibility with NATO, Reuters reported on 27 June, citing the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. The funds are to be used before 2007. MS

    [24] VORONIN TELLS PACE MOLDOVA NEEDS EUROPE, EUROPE NEEDS MOLDOVA...

    Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on 27 June, President Vladimir Voronin said, "Moldova needs Europe, just as Europe needs Moldova," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Voronin said his country remains faithful to the Council of Europe's values and that the country's democratization is one of the main objectives of its current administration. He said Moldova cannot fully reach European standards until it solves its three main problems: the Transdniester conflict, poverty, and corruption. Voronin said the conflict with the separatists is "not an interethnic, but a political conflict" and added that Moldova has on numerous occasions offered Tiraspol a special status, provided Moldova's territorial autonomy and sovereignty are safeguarded. He said the transition to a market economy is "difficult" and the price paid by the population is "very high... A poor person is never a free person," he said, adding that poverty also breeds corruption. MS

    [25] ...AND SAYS HE MAY RUN FOR PRESIDENT OF TRANSDNIESTER

    According to an Infotag report, Voronin also told the PACE that if the separatists in Tiraspol persist in their refusal to recognize the government in Chisinau, he is "prepared to make a presidential bid there." He said he is a native of the region and has a "much better economic and social record than [separatist leader] Igor Smirnov." In response to a question by Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu, Voronin said Moldova cannot be held responsible for the continued detention in Tiraspol of three members of Ilascu's group because his government "does not exercise control there." MS

    [26] INTERNATIONAL AGENCY DOWNGRADES MOLDOVA'S RATING

    The Fitch international rating agency on 27 June downgraded Moldova's country risk rating from CCC-plus to CC, citing as the reason the likelihood that Chisinau will fail to pay $3.7 million for servicing the interest on an outstanding Eurobond issue by 3 July. The agency also said that the chances that Moldova will default on servicing its external debt are high, Infotag reported. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said in reaction that the agency's decision was "premature" and that "we are doing our best to honor our Eurobond obligations on time," but refused to say how Moldova intends to do that. Tarlev also said that the Fitch announcement also has "a positive side," as he now expects "an inflow of programs designed to improve Moldova's balance of payments." He also said that talks with the IMF have made progress and he expects the arrival of an IMF mission to arrive in Chisinau in mid-July. MS

    [27] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT URGES SDS TO JOIN COALITION

    Petar Stoyanov on 27 June urged the outgoing ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) to join the coalition led by the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), saying that "at a time of difficult post-communist reform, it is better to distribute the burden on many shoulders," Reuters reported. Ekaterina Mihailova, the new SDS chairwoman, said she does not rule out joining such a coalition, but "we have to have some kind of [formal] invitation" from the NDSV "before discussing the matter." But observers cited by Reuters said the recent change at the head of the SDS was merely "cosmetic" and that former SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov, who opposes a coalition with the NDSV, still has a strong grip on the party. Plamen Panayotov, the likely NDSV parliamentary group leader, told Reuters that negotiations will "begin soon" and will be conducted "with political parties on the basis of mutually acceptable principles, not with personalities." MS

    [28] OVER 120 FORMER BULGARIAN OFFICIALS COLLABORATED WITH COMMUNIST SECRET SERVICES

    Several ministers and scores of other senior officials who served in Bulgaria's post-communist governments were agents of the communist secret police, AP and Reuters reported on 27 June. A parliamentary commission set up to review the files of the secret police said it found evidence that 121 former top government officials served as agents, including two former premiers whose names were not disclosed because the evidence that they collaborated is insufficient. The largest number of collaborators -- 12 -- was found among members of the Socialist Party, while in the United Democratic Forces cabinet set up in 1997 only one official, with the rank of deputy minister, was found to have been a collaborator. Among those Socialist ministers listed are former Foreign Affairs Minister Lyuben Gotsev, former Foreign Economic Relations Minister Petar Bashikarov, and two former defense ministers, Alexandar Staliiski and Valentin Alexandrov. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [29] ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS LEAD IN ELECTION RETURNS

    By Fabian Schmidt

    Preliminary parliamentary election returns suggest that the Socialists will stay in power. The opposition, however, is likely to make gains.

    According to the preliminary results of the 24 June general elections, the Socialist Party (PS) has managed to win 46 percent of the votes countrywide, clearly ahead of the opposition Union for Victory coalition, which received only 34 percent, the "Albanian Daily News" reported.

    The outcome gives a boost to the Socialists, who have been running the government since 1997 when they won the general elections after the country had plunged into anarchy. Since then, the government has conducted numerous and significant reforms to improve public administration, speed up privatization, legalize private media, and introduce a better system of checks and balances in the country's institutions. The opposition, however, could emerge in better shape after the 2001 elections than it did in 1997.

    The New Democrat Party (PD e Re) founded by legislators close to the reform-oriented Genc Pollo won nearly 8 percent of votes. The party split off from the Democratic Party (PD) of former President Sali Berisha at the end of last year. The PD is the leading force in the Union for Victory, which also includes the Republican Party (PR), the monarchist Legality Movement (LL), the National Front (BK), and the Liberal Party (PL).

    Four other smaller parties barely managed to win more than 2.5 percent of the vote each, which is the minimum needed to enter parliament. Three of the four are the Social Democrats (PSD), the Democratic Alliance (AD), and the ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party (PBDNJ). All three have been in a coalition with the Socialists since 1997. Voter turnout was around 60 percent.

    PS candidates appear to have won 35 direct seats in parliament, while the opposition won in only 17 constituencies. Another 47 direct seats will be decided in a second round of voting on 8 July. Due to administrative irregularities, voting did not take place in Lushnja, a traditional stronghold of the PD. Elections will be held there as well in July. An additional 40 parliamentary seats will be divided by proportional vote.

    Central Election Commission (KQZ) Chairman Ilirian Celibashi said late on 25 June that more than 20 polling stations had been reluctant to hand over their records of the voting and of the count, as they are supposed to do. Celibashi blamed unnamed political parties for the delays. Most heads of polling-station commissions are opposition officials. Celibashi warned that commissioners will be fined up to $600 if they refuse to cooperate with the KQZ.

    According to Celibashi, there were some technical problems during the voting, but he added that they were not sufficient to call the validity of the elections into question. He concluded: "The election was free and fair." OSCE officials shared that view.

    Just before the elections, on 23 June, the KQZ barred all but five out of 114 independent candidates from running, arguing that they had received support from one or another of the main political parties. The PD and especially the PS had tried to increase their chances of winning a parliamentary majority by nominating formally independent candidates.

    After having claimed irregularities in the voting on 25 June, PD officials issued a statement the following day, saying that the vote took place in "an acceptable way." Berisha had claimed initially that police forced some polling stations to close at 6:00 p.m. and thus deprived some voters of their right to cast their ballots. Opposition officials filed 150 complaints with the KQZ and the OSCE, including charges of violence used against opposition election commission members.

    According to officials from the Public Order Ministry, one man shot and injured two others, including an election official, in Tirana on voting day. Neither was seriously hurt. In the village of Lekbibaj, in the lawless north of the country, armed men burst into a polling station and set fire to voting papers. No other significant incidents were reported, however. This was Albania's most peaceful and orderly election since the fall of communism a decade ago.

    Meanwhile, PD officials invited representatives of the PD e Re and the other smaller parties to join coalition talks. It seems more likely, however, that Prime Minister Ilir Meta will eventually be able to form a coalition government, should he manage to win a significant number of direct seats in the runoff. Meta said he is "sure that the PS will have more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament, including those from the second round." Meta pledged to continue his reform policy: "I am very satisfied with the [electoral] process that helped the country take another remarkable step toward European standards."

    28-06-01


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


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