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Western Press Review: Albanian Uprising Notable For Chaos

  • Don Hill

Prague, 10 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Revolt in Albania has knocked the government into confusion, outdone in chaos only by the rebels. Western commentators seek to find sense in the haze. Western commentary also generally applauds Russian President Boris Yeltsin's appointment of free-market reformer Anatoly Chubais as first deputy prime minister.

ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: The army makes the rebels appear disciplined

Lou Salome writes today in an analysis: "The popular uprising against President Sali Berisha hopscotched across southern Albania (yesterday), forcing the weakened and shaken autocrat to offer fresh compromises in an attempt to retain power and avert full-scale civil war."

Salome says: "The noise of aimless gunfire competed with the screeching tires of speeding automobiles as young men, testosterone coursing through their trigger fingers, grew braver with guns in hand. As disorganized and disheveled as the rebels are, the army makes them appear disciplined. Soldiers seem to lack the will to fight, and residents say they have sheltered some troops they considered too young to die."

DIE WELT: A European solution cannot stabilize Albania

In the German newspaper today, Carl Gustaf Strohm worries in a commentary about Albania's infection starting a Balkan disease. He says: "For some time now,(the Albanian unrest) has been about more than Berisha and his Democratic Party. It is also about human rights, democracy and press freedom -- although it is doubtful whether the opposition, in which Socialists -- read Communists -- play the leading role, would be any more tolerant and democratic than Berisha, in the event of coming to power. Already it is remarkable that in Albania - as well as in Bosnia -- there is obviously not a united line among European countries."

"A European solution cannot stabilize the Albanian state, especially as the same problems exist in neighboring places such as Kosovo, Macedonia and southern Montenegro. A spark would be enough to set off a chain of explosions extending far beyond Albania's borders."

WASHINGTON POST: Berisha proposed the overhaul of government

A news analysis today by Christine Spolar says: "Berisha, who has been under intense international pressure to quell what have been weeks of unrest and deadly turmoil, proposed the overhaul of government on a state television broadcast. Opposition leaders could be seen furiously taking notes as Berisha, who has met with three European delegations in the past few days, at times rambled on about morality, honor and the need to get on with life in Europe's poorest country."

She writes: "Albania has roiled with unrest since last summer, when parliamentary elections resulted in the overwhelming victory for Berisha's Democratic Party. Protesters who challenged the results -- which essentially turned this weak democracy into a one-party state -- were beaten by truncheon-carrying police." And adds: "Berisha's offer (yesterday) appeared grudging after a week of demands from opposition parties and the European Community and days after he was elected to a second presidential term by the lopsided parliament."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Rebels in Vlora still struggle to restore order

The U.S. newspaper carries today an analysis by Lara Santoro, who finds an oasis of order in the sandstorm of revolt. She writes: "Of the four southern towns currently under rebel control in Albania, Saranda is in a league of its own. Six days after its enraged inhabitants took over the police station and raided Army warehouses, this resort town has organized a calm and disciplined resistance with civilian patrols at every street corner and along the roads coming into the city."

Santoro says: "In contrast, Vlora is the southern coastal town that has become the symbol of Albania's insurgence against the government of President Sali Berisha. Rebel leaders are still struggling to restore order and channel the anger of Vlora's 70,000 inhabitants into a structured resistance. But Saranda already has a leader, a defense council, and a surprisingly effective chain of command."


Western commentary generally applauds Russian President Boris Yeltsin's appointment of free-market reformer Anatoly Chubais as first deputy prime minister in a redrawn Russian cabinet. But the commentators take sober note that their approval is not shared universally -- or even widely -- in Russia itself.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Chubais may be the loneliest man in Russia

Steve Liesman, analyzing the appointment in today's edition writes: "Four milestones mark Russia's path since the fall of the Soviet Union -- the freeing of prices, privatization of state industries, victory over inflation and the reelection of President Boris Yeltsin. Anatoly Chubais was in charge of all but the first."

Liesman writes: "Already a man with few friends, Mr.Chubais may be the loneliest man in Russia if he does what needs to be done. He'll have to battle the powerful oil and gas interests, which have run up huge unpaid tax bills; the big banks, who've grown rich handling and sometimes abusing government cash; and even the Russian people themselves, most of whom don't pay income taxes."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: How strongly will Yeltsin support Chubais when reform brings pain?

The paper editorialized yesterday: "(Yeltsin) looked fit, vigorous and determined when he addressed Russia's parliament the other day, an appearance that contrasted sharply with the unhealthy society he described in his annual state of the nation speech."

The newspaper said: "He has at least made a start by bringing back into the government the liberal reformer Anatoly B. Chubais, who will serve as first deputy prime minister to Premier Viktor S. Chernomyrdin. Chubais, highly regarded in the West as a first-rate administrator, will be in charge of economic reform. Real reform is going to require, among other things, slashing the size of Russia's swollen and inefficient bureaucracy, removing further obstacles to Russia's transition to a market economy and overseeing the development of a tax system that encourages investment and enterprise while providing adequate revenues to a cash-starved government."

It concluded: "The key question is how strongly Yeltsin will support Chubais when his reformist actions start to bring pain to those who have so far done quite well out of Russia's economic disarray. The answer to that is the answer to how serious Yeltsin is about trying to clean up the mess he so candidly described in his state of the nation speech."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Yeltsin can't afford for Chubais to fail

The British newspaper headlines an editorial today: "Return of the good tsar." The editorial says: "What counts now (in Russia), after a year of paralysis, is a detailed, thoughtful commitment to change. Appointing (Chubais) as first deputy prime minister is a promising first step. But one man, even one as wedded to the market as Mr. Chubais, is not enough."

The newspaper concludes: "His challenge now -- again -- is to push through a complex and almost certainly unpopular program. If Mr. Yeltsin wishes to go down in history as a good tsar, he cannot afford (for Chubais) to fail."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Chubais' appointment brought venomous reaction from Communists

Chrystia Freeland says in a news analysis today: "Mr. Chubais' appointment predictably prompted a venomous reaction from the Communists."