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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 138, 01-07-24

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. 138, 24 July 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] FOUR MORE PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES QUIT
  • [02] ...WHILE SECOND ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTION
  • [03] TWO ARMENIAN OFFICIALS SAY THEY WERE SACKED
  • [04] ARMENIA REGISTERS GROWTH IN GDP, EXPORTS
  • [05] DATE SET FOR PAPAL VISITS TO ARMENIA,
  • [06] IRAN WARNS AZERBAIJAN OVER CASPIAN OIL
  • [07] FOUR ABKHAZ KILLED IN AMBUSH
  • [08] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY IMPLICATED IN
  • [09] KYRGYZ DEFENSE OFFICIAL DENIES NEW INVASION
  • [10] KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT DETAILS PLANS FOR
  • [11] KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS DUAL
  • [12] TAJIKISTAN APPLIES FOR OBSERVER MEMBERSHIP

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] BUSH VISITS KOSOVA...
  • [14] ...TO A ROUSING WELCOME FROM U.S. TROOPS
  • [15] BUSH CALLS FOR SETTLEMENT IN MACEDONIA
  • [16] MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT THREATENS
  • [17] MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS DENY
  • [18] UNHCR CONCERNED OVER RENEWED MACEDONIAN
  • [19] MONTENEGRIN MARIJUANA HAUL
  • [20] DETAILS OF CROATIAN-SLOVENIAN AGREEMENT...
  • [21] ...WHICH TOOK A LONG TIME TO PRODUCE
  • [22] CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT TO TURN SELF IN
  • [23] ROMANIA, FRANCE BOOST COOPERATION
  • [24] RAIFFEISEN TAKES OVER ROMANIA'S BANCA
  • [25] NEW ILLEGAL CHILD ADOPTION SCANDAL IN
  • [26] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS OSCE HIGH
  • [27] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES SIMEON AND
  • [28] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CONCERNED ABOUT

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [29] YUSHCHENKO INITIATES PRO-REFORM ELECTION

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] FOUR MORE PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES QUIT

    ARMENIAN PEOPLE'S PARTY...

    Deputy parliament speaker

    Gagik Aslanian and three parliament deputies quit the People's Party

    of Armenia (HZhK) on 23 July, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.

    As a result of those latest defections, the HZhK parliament faction

    has shrunk from 20 to 13 members over the past month (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 July 2001). LF

    [02] ...WHILE SECOND ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTION

    REGROUPS UNDER NEW NAME

    The Kayunutiun (Stability)

    parliament faction announced on 23 July its decision to rename the

    faction the "People's Agro-Industrial Union" (AAZhM), Noyan

    Tapan reported. Two former HZhK deputies who had left that party

    announced their decision the same day to join the new faction. Also

    on 23 July, President Robert Kocharian named Vartan Ayvazian,

    who headed Kayunutiun, as ecology minister, Noyan Tapan

    reported. Ayvazian must resign his parliamentary mandate to take up

    a ministerial post. The new AAZhM faction has 11 members, and

    one of the former HZhK deputies, Hmayak Hovannisian, was elected

    its chairman, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hovannisian, who

    is a staunch Kocharian supporter, said the revamped faction will

    follow a "centrist" and "pragmatic" line. LF

    [03] TWO ARMENIAN OFFICIALS SAY THEY WERE SACKED

    FOR FIGHTING CORRUPTION

    Outgoing Ecology Minister

    Murad Muradian told RFE/RL on 23 July that his dismissal, which

    President Kocharian announced on 21 July (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 23 July 2001), was demanded by a criminal mafia that is

    plundering Armenia's natural resources, including scarce timber. He

    suggested that Kocharian acceded to that demand out of "political

    expediency." Also on 23 July, a second sacked official, former

    Deputy Minister for State Property Vanya Mkhitarian, similarly

    blamed his dismissal on his previous revelations of the plundering of

    natural resources. LF

    [04] ARMENIA REGISTERS GROWTH IN GDP, EXPORTS

    Armenia's GDP increased by 6.4 percent during the first six months

    of 2001 compared with the same period last year, Noyan Tapan

    reported on 23 July. Exports during the first six months of 2001 grew

    by 9.3 percent and amounted to $155.8 million. LF

    [05] DATE SET FOR PAPAL VISITS TO ARMENIA,

    KAZAKHSTAN

    Pope John Paul II will visit Armenia from 25-27

    September at the invitation of President Kocharian and Catholicos

    Garegin II within the framework of the year-long celebrations to

    mark the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as

    Armenia's state religion, Noyan Tapan reported on 23 July. The

    pontiff was originally scheduled to visit Armenia two years ago, but

    that trip was cancelled due to the terminal illness of Garegin's

    predecessor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 17 and 30 June 1999).

    Prior to his arrival in Armenia, the pope will visit Kazakhstan from

    22-25 September at the invitation of President Nursultan Nazarbaev,

    Interfax reported on 20 July, quoting the presidential press service.

    LF

    [06] IRAN WARNS AZERBAIJAN OVER CASPIAN OIL

    DEVELOPMENT

    Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani on

    21 July lodged a formal protest with Azerbaijan's charge d'affaires in

    Tehran against plans by the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR

    and foreign oil companies, including BP and Exxon/Mobil, to

    develop the Araz-Alov-Sharg oil deposits that Iran considers lie

    within its section of the Caspian Sea, Turan and the "Financial

    Times" reported. Two Iranian air force planes overflew the Araz-

    Alov-Sharg deposit on the afternoon of 23 July, and later that

    evening an Iranian warship entered Azerbaijani territorial waters and

    threatened to open fire on an Azerbaijani oil exploration ship unless

    it left the area, AP reported. Azerbaijan's Prime Minister Artur

    Rasizade summoned Iranian Ambassador Ahad Gazai on 24 July to

    protest those actions, which he described as "a gross violation of

    international norms," according to Turan. LF

    [07] FOUR ABKHAZ KILLED IN AMBUSH

    Two Abkhaz army

    servicemen and two civilians died on 22 July when unidentified

    attackers opened fire on their horse-drawn cart in the demilitarized

    zone between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Press

    reported. At an emergency cabinet session on 23 July, Abkhaz

    Prime Minister Anri Djergenia blamed the killings on Georgian

    guerillas operating with impunity in the demilitarized zone. An

    unnamed Georgian spokesman rejected Djergenia's claims, and

    attributed the killings to fighting between Abkhaz criminal factions.

    Speaking in New York on 23 July, UN Secretary-General Kofi

    Annan expressed concern that the total 21 killings in Abkhazia over

    the past three months have led to the suspension of talks between the

    Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships, RFE/RL's UN correspondent

    reported on 24 July. LF

    [08] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY IMPLICATED IN

    MAJOR CORRUPTION SCANDAL

    Parliament deputy David

    Bezhuashvili of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction on

    23 July denied accusations against him made at a Georgian

    government session by Temur Shashiashvili, the governor of the west

    Georgian province of Imereti, Caucasus Press reported. Shashiashvili

    claimed that Bezhuashvili was involved in machinations intended to

    bring about the bankruptcy of Georgia's two largest industrial

    enterprises, the Chiatura Manganese Plant and the Zestafon Ferrous

    Alloys Works, and in the illegal export of silica-manganese from the

    former. Shashiashvili further alleged that Bezhuashvili has an

    influential protector in Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili.

    Shashiashvili produced documentation in support of his claims that

    has been passed to the State Security Ministry. LF

    [09] KYRGYZ DEFENSE OFFICIAL DENIES NEW INVASION

    IMMINENT

    Defense Ministry spokesman Mirbek Koilubaev on

    23 July rejected as inaccurate predictions made the previous day by

    Russia's RTR television that an incursion into Kyrgyzstan by Islamic

    militants is imminent, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported.

    Koilubaev said that separate small groups of militants have taken up

    positions on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but that

    Kyrgyz government troops are ready to repel any attempt by those

    groups to enter Kyrgyz territory. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT DETAILS PLANS FOR

    ENERGY SECTOR PRIVATIZATION

    The Kyrgyz government

    decided on 23 July to form a special commission, to be chaired by

    First Deputy Premier Nikolai Tanaev, which will oversee the

    privatization of the Kyrgyzenergo energy giant, RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau reported. As decided in January (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    10 and 15 January 2001), Kyrgyzenergo has already been divided

    on paper into five separate joint-stock companies in preparation for

    privatization, despite objections from the parliamentary opposition

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 July 2001). LF

    [11] KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS DUAL

    CITIZENSHIP

    Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court has rejected a

    proposal by some 70 parliament deputies to amend the constitution

    to allow for dual Kyrgyz-Russian citizenship (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 5 June 2001), parliament deputy Omurbek Tekebaev told

    RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 23 July. LF

    [12] TAJIKISTAN APPLIES FOR OBSERVER MEMBERSHIP

    OF WTO

    Tajikistan has formally applied for observer status with

    the World Trade Organization, Deputy Trade and Economy Minister

    Isroil Mahmudov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 23 July. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] BUSH VISITS KOSOVA...

    U.S. President George W. Bush

    arrived in Kosova on 24 July from Rome for a brief visit with U.S.

    KFOR troops at Camp Bondsteel, AP reported. He will also meet

    with Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN's civilian administration,

    and Norwegian General Thorstein Skiaker, who commands NATO

    peacekeepers. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said that

    "the president wants to thank our troops for their service there,"

    Reuters reported. The previous day, Bush said that "Americans came

    into the Balkans with our friends and we will leave with our friends."

    An unnamed "senior aide" added that "we will go out together, but

    the other part of that point, which sometimes gets forgotten here in

    Europe, is that we want to hasten the day when we'll go out together

    by building democratic institutions by deploying civil police and so

    forth." PM

    [14] ...TO A ROUSING WELCOME FROM U.S. TROOPS

    Many of

    the 6,000 U.S. KFOR troops based at Camp Bondsteel turned out to

    welcome Bush on 24 July, BBC Television reported. Bush drew

    loud cheers when he signed a military benefits and spending

    package on the spot. Bush praised the troops for their "sacrifices for

    our freedom." He also held up the U.S. military as an example of

    how people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds can work

    together. He noted the role played by KFOR in Kosova and

    indirectly in Macedonia, recalling his recent measures to cut off aid

    and support for the guerrillas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June

    2001). PM

    [15] BUSH CALLS FOR SETTLEMENT IN MACEDONIA

    In a

    statement issued to the media at Camp Bondsteel on 24 July, Bush

    said: "I call on the parties [in the Macedonian conflict] to maintain

    the cease-fire. And I call on the elected leaders to work...to overcome

    the remaining differences to achieving a settlement that will keep

    Macedonia at peace and on the road to Europe," Reuters reported.

    Referring to the Kosovars, Bush added: "Those here in Kosovo who

    support the insurgency in Macedonia are hurting the interests of

    ethnic Albanians throughout the region. The people of Kosovo

    should focus on Kosovo." Bush stressed that "our goal is to hasten

    the day when peace is self-sustaining" in Bosnia and Kosova. PM

    [16] MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT THREATENS

    OFFENSIVE

    Occasional gunfire could be heard in the vicinity of

    Tetovo on 24 July, following more serious exchanges over the

    previous two days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2001). The

    fighting on 23 July left one girl dead, 19 civilians injured, and five

    Macedonian soldiers wounded, Reuters reported. The U.S. appealed

    for calm and criticized any breach of the cease-fire. But Macedonian

    Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said that government forces

    might launch an all-out offensive against the National Liberation

    Army (UCK) unless the guerrillas pull back from Tetovo. "If the

    terrorists do not retreat to their previous positions...we will have no

    other option but to dislodge them with our offensive," AP reported.

    The minister added: "We demand that NATO secure the cease-fire,

    because NATO and the international community provided us with

    guarantees for the cease-fire. We expect NATO to ensure that the

    terrorists withdraw to their previous positions." PM

    [17] MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS DENY

    RESPONSIBILITY

    In a signed statement in Tetovo, UCK

    commander Nazmi Beqiri blamed government forces for the fighting:

    "The UCK has no reason for military operations at a time when we

    are expecting a political agreement to be signed," Reuters quoted

    him as saying on 24 July. An unnamed "senior diplomat" said that

    "the violence absolutely damages the talks because it hardens the

    positions of both sides." U.S. mediator James Pardew and his EU

    counterpart Francois Leotard said in a joint statement: "We urge

    those responsible for these actions to respect the cease-fire. Violence

    is unacceptable and does nothing to further the cause of the people in

    this region. It could only undermine the peace process while the

    political talks are still ongoing." PM

    [18] UNHCR CONCERNED OVER RENEWED MACEDONIAN

    FIGHTING

    UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva

    on 24 July that "despite the renewed fighting, there was no

    perceptible movement of people out of Tetovo" on 23 July, AP

    reported. He added that, nonetheless, the "UNHCR is deeply

    concerned at the latest cease-fire violations." Redmond stressed: "We

    fear that the longer this uncertainty and displacement goes on, the

    deeper the rift between ethnic communities." A total of 76,000

    persons have fled Macedonia to Kosova since the fighting began in

    the spring. Some 15,000 have since returned home. PM

    [19] MONTENEGRIN MARIJUANA HAUL

    Police officials said in

    Podgorica on 24 July that they have found 200 kilograms of

    marijuana on the shores of Lake Shkoder, which forms part of the

    border between Albania and Montenegro, dpa reported. In recent

    years, both countries have acquired the reputation of being centers of

    smuggling activities. The large lake accounts for much of the illicit

    traffic. PM

    [20] DETAILS OF CROATIAN-SLOVENIAN AGREEMENT...

    Information about the recent text agreed to by the Croatian Prime

    Minister Ivica Racan and Slovenia's Janez Drnovsek is beginning to

    leak out to the media, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2001). The pact stipulates that

    Slovenia will have access to the open sea through a corridor 3,600

    meters wide and 11 kilometers deep. The corridor will be flanked by

    Croatian territorial waters and will not impinge on Croatia's maritime

    frontier with Italy. "Novi List" published what it called a precise map

    on 24 July. PM

    [21] ...WHICH TOOK A LONG TIME TO PRODUCE

    Slovenian

    Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel said in Ljubljana on 22 July that the

    agreement took a decade to work out, Hina reported. He noted that

    Slovenia and Croatia came very close to an agreement under former

    Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa, but that, otherwise, relations

    have oscillated between very cordial and "very cold." He noted that

    "some people," whom he did not name, would have preferred to

    construct a "Berlin Wall" between the two countries. Other

    individuals, he added, preferred the former Yugoslavia and refused to

    accept that Slovenia and Croatia are now sovereign countries that

    need to regulate their mutual relations. PM

    [22] CROATIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT TO TURN SELF IN

    General Rahim Ademi plans to fly to The Hague on 25 July to face

    charges of war crimes, dpa reported on 23 July (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 10 and 18 July 2001). Elsewhere, a Zagreb court put an

    unnamed general on its wanted list in conjunction with a similar

    indictment by The Hague-based tribunal, Hina reported. He is

    believed to be General Ante Gotovina, who was indicted at the same

    time as Ademi. Media reports have suggested that Gotovina is

    defiant and in hiding, possibly in Herzegovina. PM

    [23] ROMANIA, FRANCE BOOST COOPERATION

    Visiting

    French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said in Bucharest on 23 July

    that Romania can rely on France's support for EU and NATO

    integration, but it should first rely on its own efforts to facilitate that

    integration process, Romanian media reported. France is the main

    foreign investor in Romania, with some $800 million. Jospin is the

    first important European leader to visit Romania since the November

    2000 elections there. Serban Mihailescu, the Romanian

    Government's general-secretary, and French Minister for European

    Affairs Pierre Moscovici signed a cooperation agreement on child

    protection. The French Eurocopter company signed a cooperation

    agreement with the IAR Ghimbav helicopter factory near Brasov

    aimed at establishing the Eurocopter Romania company, with a

    French majority stake. ZsM

    [24] RAIFFEISEN TAKES OVER ROMANIA'S BANCA

    AGRICOLA

    Romanian Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musetescu

    on 23 July signed the protocol concerning the sale of Banca

    Agricola, Mediafax reported. The government approved the

    privatization contract by which control of the bank would be handed

    over to a partnership between the Romanian-American Investment

    Fund and Raiffeisen Zentralbank Austria. The bank is to be called

    Raiffeisen Banca Agricola. The new owners paid $15 million for 98

    percent of the state-owned shares and are to raise the bank's capital

    by $37 million. ZsM

    [25] NEW ILLEGAL CHILD ADOPTION SCANDAL IN

    BUCHAREST

    The former director of Bucharest's fifth precinct

    Child Protection Office was arrested on 23 July, Mediafax reported.

    Sorin Diaconescu is charged with assisting in the illegal adoption of

    eight children from foster homes. Four children were selected for

    adoption by families from abroad through a Constanta-based

    foundation. The Romanian police are also investigating the allegedly

    illegal adoptions of 62 Romanian children by families in Greece,

    Great Britain, Italy, Israel, and the U.S. ZsM

    [26] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS OSCE HIGH

    COMMISSIONER ON NATIONAL MINORITIES

    Romanian

    Foreign Minister and acting OSCE Chairman Mircea Geoana met

    OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus on

    23 July in Bucharest, Mediafax reported. The two discussed national

    minorities in the Balkans as well as the Hungarian Status Law.

    Ekeus said that both the issue of the Status Law and problems

    relating to the Romany population should receive "European"

    responses. They also discussed the current situation in Macedonia

    and Kosova. According to Geoana, the situation of the Roma will be

    analyzed by an OSCE-sponsored conference to be convened in

    Romania in October. ZsM

    [27] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES SIMEON AND

    HIS GOVERNMENT

    Simeon Saxecoburggotski, the former king

    of Bulgaria, was approved by parliament as the country's premier on

    24 July, AP reported. The vote was 141 to 50, with 46 abstentions.

    Saxecoburggotski said after the vote that "this choice is a turning

    point in my life and I will do all I can for the country and for every

    Bulgarian." In a second vote, Saxecoburggotski's cabinet was

    approved by a 147 to 50 vote, with 41 abstentions. The new premier

    said: "I dedicate my taking the office of prime minister to the forces

    of youth and creativity," perhaps a reference to the inclusion of

    several young members in his cabinet, whose average age is 45. He

    added: "Today we stand a real chance to usher Bulgaria into the new

    21st century and take the place we deserve in a united Europe."

    Nadezhda Mihailova, the parliamentary leader of the opposition

    United Democratic Forces, said her party voted against

    Saxecoburggotski and his government because it includes two

    members of the Socialist party, the former communist party.

    Mihailova said their inclusion in the government "distorts" the

    voters' will. Most members of the Socialist party abstained from the

    votes. PB

    [28] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CONCERNED ABOUT

    MACEDONIA

    Petar Stoyanov said on 24 July that he spoke with

    Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski the previous night about the

    fighting there, BTA reported. Stoyanov said the situation in

    Macedonia amid the renewed fighting in Tetovo is "very alarming"

    and that he will be discussing it with members of the new

    government. Stoyanov said he is confident that "common sense" will

    prevail in the talks aimed at resolving the situation. PB


    [C] END NOTE

    [29] YUSHCHENKO INITIATES PRO-REFORM ELECTION

    BLOC.

    By Jan Maksymiuk

    On 15 July, from atop Ukraine's highest peak, Hoverlya in the

    Carpathian Mountains, former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko

    announced the formation of an electoral bloc named Nasha Ukrayina

    (Our Ukraine) and called on pro-reformist, democratically minded,

    and nationally conscious forces to join it. Some 2,000 members of

    Ukraine's two Rukh parties and the Reform and Order Party as well

    as journalists climbed Hoverlya to mark the 11th anniversary of

    Ukraine's sovereignty and listen to Yushchenko's announcement.

    Yushchenko's announcement had been impatiently awaited in

    Ukraine since 26 April, when he was voted out of his post as prime

    minister jointly by the Communists and oligarchical groups in the

    parliament. Shortly after the vote of no confidence, Yushchenko

    addressed his supporters outside the parliamentary building,

    pledging to return to politics soon.

    Yushchenko said on 15 July that he wants Our Ukraine to win

    next year's parliamentary elections and form a government. The bloc

    and its manifesto are to be forged this fall. Yushchenko named no

    specific forces during his 15 July pronouncement, but it is already

    clear that Our Ukraine will include the Popular Rukh of Ukraine

    (Hennadiy Udovenko's wing), the Ukrainian Popular Rukh (Yuriy

    Kostenko's wing), and the Reform and Order Party of Viktor

    Pynzenyk. Most likely, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists will

    also join Our Ukraine.

    Yushchenko is Ukraine's most popular and most trusted

    politician. A recent poll by the GfK-USM polling center found that if

    a presidential election had been held in July, Yushchenko would

    have obtained 32.4 percent of the vote. The same poll found that

    Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko would have been backed

    by 17.4 percent of voters, and incumbent President Leonid Kuchma

    by 10.2 percent. It is no wonder that the bloc headed by the former

    premier is tipped by most Ukrainian commentators to win a

    significant parliamentary representation.

    It is difficult to make any predictions regarding Our Ukraine's

    election chances some eight months before the election date, but it is

    already clear that Yushchenko must look for more allies in order to

    build a force that would be able to control the future parliament. As

    of now, he may be sure of voters' support in western Ukraine, where

    both Rukhs have most of their adherents. But in Ukraine the political

    climate is defined not by the traditionally nationalist western areas of

    the country, but by the heavily populated and industrialized east. As

    of now, Yushchenko appears to have little leverage, if any, in the east.

    There is a danger that his personal popularity may not help Our

    Ukraine's candidate in eastern constituencies.

    Yushchenko has apparently decided not to confront President

    Kuchma directly, therefore he rejected invitations to join and head

    the anti-Kuchma opposition grouped in the National Salvation

    Forum (FNP) and the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement.

    Therefore, the recently created FNP election committee -- the

    Fatherland Party, the Sobor Party, the Social-Democratic Party, the

    Republican Party, the Conservative Republican Party, and the

    Republican Party -- will most likely compete for parliamentary seats

    with Yushchenko's people. True, Yuliya Tymoshenko, a former close

    associate of Yushchenko in his cabinet and currently the head of the

    NFP election committee, said her bloc is going to propose "peaceful

    coexistence or cooperation" to Yushchenko. But it is difficult to see

    how such a goal can be achieved in practice, especially as both Our

    Ukraine and the FNP heavily rely on voting support in western

    Ukraine.

    Following in Yushchenko's and Tymoshenko's footsteps, other

    groups have also announced their political alliances for the 2002

    ballot. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said his party will

    forge an election alliance with the All-Ukrainian Party of Working

    People, the Social Democratic Party, the Party for the Protection of

    Farmers' Interests, and the Greens of the 21st Century Party. The

    pro-Kuchma parties -- the Agrarian Party, the Popular Democratic

    Party, the Party of Regions, and the Labor Ukraine Party -- signed a

    declaration to create a joint election bloc. Ivan Chyzh, the leader of

    the All-Ukrainian Association of Leftist "Justice" (and a former

    associate of Moroz), announced that he is currently negotiating the

    creation of a "very original and very powerful" election bloc. And

    two pro-Russian parties are working to create a separate coalition

    named the Russian Bloc for the 2002 parliamentary elections.

    One should also remember just how powerful the Communist

    Party is in Ukraine, with voter approval not below 20 percent. And

    there are two influential oligarchical parties, the Social Democratic

    Party (United) and the Democratic Union, which, according to

    popular opinion, possess considerable administrative, financial, and

    media leverage in Ukrainian politics. Thus, Yushchenko faces an

    uphill task in promoting his bloc in Ukraine's political arena. The

    initial conditions for his initiative are auspicious. According to some

    analysts, Our Ukraine can count on some 25 percent support among

    the electorate as of now, which means that the bloc is the country's

    most popular political force. But the election campaign has not yet

    started. And this also means that Yushchenko's rivals have not yet

    started to work toward undermining his political clout.

    24-07-01


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


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