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Western Press Review: Elections Take Center Stage

  • Don Hill
  • Katarzyna Wysocka



Prague, 22 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Elections in Russia, Europe, the Americas and Asia again capture the attention of Western commentators.

Russia

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Rutskoi's victory is another electoral setback for the Kremlin

In Russia, an obscure vote for a regional governorship attracts commentary on its potentially wider significance. Carol J. Williams, writing from Moscow, says today in an analysis: "Aleksandr V. Rutskoi, the Afghan war hero and former vice president who led an armed uprising against Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin three years ago, staged a stunning political comeback (yesterday), winning a regional governorship in the worst of several electoral setbacks for the Kremlin. With his landslide victory in the gubernatorial contest in the Kursk region, almost 300 miles south of Moscow, Rutskoi, a hard-line nationalist and retired air force general, also wins a seat in the upper house of parliament and a platform for launching new attacks on his ailing nemesis, Yeltsin."

Williams writes: "The strengthening forces of confrontation in the legislature have already rejected Yeltsin's 1997 budget proposal and have been dragging their feet on other vital bills that would provide more security for foreign investors, reform the prohibitive and ineffective tax system and allow Russians to buy land."

She adds: "Rutskoi garnered 79 percent of the vote in the four-man race in Kursk, indicating broad dissatisfaction with the political status quo. Opponents of candidates backed by the Kremlin also prevailed in the Kirov and Kaliningrad regions, and a runoff will be needed to determine a winner in the Pskov region northwest of Moscow."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The economy is the most important subject for the Russian people

In an analysis in today's edition, Miriam Neubert writes: "In local elections in Russia the former vice president and fierce Yeltsin opponent Alexander Rutskoi won the governor's post in Kursk." She says: "For the voters, the personality of the candidate is usually more important than the color of his party. Polls show that the economy is the most important subject for the people -- the building-up of the industry and the creation of new jobs, a reliable supply of electricity and heating, construction of new apartments as well as functioning hospitals and schools. In many regions in Russia, all these are tender spots. Communists and nationalists try to transform the social dissatisfaction into votes for their governor candidates."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Voters in Kursk delivered a rebuff to Yeltsin

From Moscow, John Thornhill writes today in a news analysis in the British newspaper: "The one million voters of Kursk have delivered a stinging rebuff to (Yeltsin) by electing his arch-enemy (Rutskoi) as governor of the western Russian region. (This) victory comes as a personal triumph for Mr. Rutskoi, the former vice president, who led the abortive armed uprising against Mr. Yeltsin in October 1993 and subsequently was disgraced and imprisoned."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Yeltsin is appealing for consensus rule

The paper today carries an unsigned analysis saying: "No sooner had Mr. Yeltsin rid himself of one turbulent ex-general -- his national security adviser, Aleksandr Lebed -- than General Rutskoi made a comeback to disrupt his plans for a peaceful winter." The Telegraph says: "General Rutskoi's triumph came as the Kremlin was trying to put behind it the turbulence of General Lebed's 121 days in the Kremlin, (and) Mr. Yeltsin appealed yesterday for a period of consensus rule."

Lithuania

FINANCIAL TIMES: Conservatives appear to have managed a comeback

In Lithuania, conservatives appeared yesterday to have managed a comeback from defeat four years ago by former communists. Matthew Kaminski writes from Vilnius in a news analysis: "Vylautas Landsbergis, the Lithuanian independence fighter, yesterday claimed victory for his conservative Homeland Union in Sunday's parliamentary elections." Kaminski says: "The win for the Homeland Union followed a campaign in which it painted the Lithuanian Democratic Labor party as the party of the new economic elites that profited from insider deals while the rest of the country suffered during the tough times."

Finland

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Euro-skeptics did well

From Finland, Tony Helm writes today: "Hardline Euro-skeptics did well in Finland's first elections to the European Parliament held at the weekend." He says: "The Euro-skeptical Center Party won the highest percentage of the vote."

TAGESZEITUNG: EU-friendly candidates were shunned

In today's issue of the German newspaper, Reinhard Wolff writes in an analysis: "The Finns had for the first time the opportunity to elect directly their representatives for the EU parliament. (It) is a surprising result for a country which according to polls is one of the EU friendliest. The skeptics (of the EU) -- especially of monetary union -- got massive support. Seven of the 16 new Finnish EU-parliamentarians are against the European monetary union or at least against the participation of Finland." Wolff continues: "The EU-friendly candidates on the election lists were intentionally shunned."

Japan

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The new government probably won't differ from the first ruling coalition

From Tokyo, Michael A. Lev writes in an analysis: "Fresh from his party's weekend victory in national elections, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto began organizing his second administration (yesterday) by courting coalition partners who can give his Liberal Democratic Party a majority in parliament. Depending on Hashimoto's success, analysts said the new government probably wouldn't differ substantially from his first ruling coalition." Lev says: "Any analysis is based on conjecture, however, because it is not at all clear who will join Hashimoto's ruling bloc."

He adds: "The working assumption is that the LDP, which picked up 28 additional seats in Sunday's election and now has 239, will be able to forge a solid majority from other parties' defectors, small groups and independents that will permit Hashimoto to retain power."

United States

LONDON GUARDIAN: Clinton will present a timetable for NATO enlargement

Martin Walker writes from Washington in a news analysis today: "(U.S.) President Bill Clinton will today formally present a 'concrete timetable' for the enlargement of NATO, putting the prestige of his office behind a firm deadline for the completion of negotiations by 1999." Walker says: "Mr. Clinton's speech in Detroit -- a politically important region crowded with voters of Czech, Polish and Hungarian stock -- will be his major foreign policy statement of the election campaign."

Walker writes: "The speech, with its post-election agenda, represents a clear sign of Mr. Clinton's confidence that he will beat his Republican rival, Bob Dole. Plans are already being made for a tour of Warsaw, Prague and Budapest once the accession negotiations begin next spring."

Nicaragua

LOS ANGELES TIMES: A right-wing populist may dash Ortega's bid to regain power

And from Managua, Nicaragua, Juanita Darling writes today in an analysis: "Arnoldo Aleman got into politics to defeat the Marxists who confiscated his coffee fields while his wife had terminal cancer and held him in jail when his father died. With votes still coming in from outlying precincts (yesterday), he took a lead that virtually assures him of a victory in Nicaragua's presidential election. Aleman -- a burly, right-wing populist -- dashed the bid by Daniel Ortega, the one-time rebel commander, to regain the power that his Sandinista National Liberation Front narrowly lost in 1990."

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