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Western Press Review: The Price Of Liberty Is Eternal. . .Chaos?

  • Don Hill

Prague, 23 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Many of the governments of Central Europe are in political turmoil, each for its own reasons. Western commentators are bemused and voluble.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Vaclav Klaus' stock is nosediving

Michael Frank commented yesterday that the Czech Republic's premier, Vaclav Klaus -- that champion of free markets -- may be falling victim to insufficient attention to the free marketplace of ideas.

Frank wrote: "Klaus has an irritating habit of warding off tiresome questions by saying that he can say nothing on the subject, has not concerned himself with it, or that it is all totally unimportant. The great economic reformer is indeed reluctant to descend to the depths of political detail. Which explains why he failed to deal in time with a catastrophic decline in public confidence in his government, and him personally.

"He felt it was not really important to do anything to counteract the anger and disappointment that followed the initial belief, encouraged by Klaus, in eternal prosperity miraculously resulting from his economic policy." Frank said: "Klaus's motto has always been that the market will decide everything. He has now fallen foul of it himself, and his stock is nosediving."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Pressure is mounting on the Czech koruna

One indication of the Klaus administration's "nose-diving stock" is the condition of the Czech koruna, which has been fighting off currency speculation and rumors of devaluation. Prague journalist Dean Calbraith writes in a news analysis in today's edition: "Pressure is expected to continue to mount on the Czech koruna despite massive new sales of dollars by the Czech central bank (yesterday) and efforts to cut off financing for foreigners engaging in speculative trading of korunas.

"The situation is considered so serious that (Klaus) telephoned central bank Governor Josef Tosovsky to see if there was any way the government could help stabilize the currency. Continuing upheaval at the upper levels of the Czech government is one of the factors cited by analysts who expect continued pressure on the koruna."


Two borders eastward, in the post-communist nation of Belarus, discomfort over the government of President Aleksandr Lukashenka seems tied, not to over-reliance on free markets but instead to a clampdown of market, political and human freedoms.

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Lukashenka sets alarm bells ringing

Phil Reeves writes today in a news analysis from Moscow: "Lukashenka has exactly the characteristics that set international alarm bells ringing. He is a charismatic and dynamic speaker, a showman, who enjoys widespread popularity. He is also an erratic, profoundly anti-Western autocrat who is bent on centralizing power."

Reeves says: "International concern about Mr. Lukashenka began soon after he was elected, but last November it reached a peak when he forced through a referendum which swept away the vestiges of democracy and accorded him autocratic powers."

The analyst says: "Today, Mr. Lukashenka will be in the spotlight again. (He) will be at Boris Yeltsin's side in Moscow to sign documents drawing their Slavin nations together." Reeves writes: "There are many Russians, notably liberals, who balk at the notion of embracing a backward nation with an economy which is even more broken down than their own."


Since World War II, the generals of the Turkish army repeatedly have taken over their government when they believed the stability of the nation was at stake. Now, perceiving an Islamic party threat to Turkey's secularist political tradition, they are inhibited by international opinion from following the path of government takeover.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: There's more than one route to a coup...

But, comments Suddeutsche Zeitung commentator Tomas Avenarius today, they may have discovered there's more than one route to a coup.

He writes: "Turkey's Supreme Court is to be called upon to rule that (Islamist premier, Necmettin) Erbakan's fundamentalist Refah (Welfare) Party is unconstitutional, both in its policy and in moves it has undertaken while in office. The judges are to do the dirty work and ban the party.

"Erbakan would then be impeached and parliament would be dissolved (and) the way would be free for fresh elections in which the Islamists, who are popular enough to have polled over 20 per cent last time, would no longer be in the running. It would be a last-ditch rescue of the secular Turkish Republic, as founded by Kemal Ataturk, from fundamentalist injustice even though parliament had failed to come up with a majority for a vote of no-confidence in Erbakan."

Avenarius comments: "If the allegations of unconstitutionality are indeed referred to the court, Erbakan's coalition partner Tansu Ciller would have very little choice, no matter how reluctant she might be, but to leave the government. The very fact of having been referred to the Constitutional Court would be a stigma, and not even the unspeakable Mrs Ciller could afford to stay in a coalition government with a partner who faced any such charges.

"President Suleyman Demirel would then entrust neither Erbakan nor Ciller but Mesut Yilmaz, the leader of the other conservative party, with forming a new government."


In Russia, President Boris Yeltsin yesterday turned policy cannon on the upper levels of the Russian military, and blasted several officials, including his own defense minister, out of office.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Corruption allegations permeate the government

Here's how Carol J. Williams analyzes yesterday's volley: "President Boris N. Yeltsin's anti-corruption ax cleaved deeply into the military hierarchy. (He) fired the defense minister and chief of staff for failing to reform an army in which 'soldiers grow thinner while generals get fatter.' Yeltsin's withering ouster of Defense Minister Igor N. Rodionov and Army Chief of Staff Viktor Samsonov was the latest in a flurry of high-level hatchet jobs as the president struggles to appear tough on greed and graft."

She writes: "Corruption allegations have permeated almost every ministry of the Yeltsin government." Williams says: "In March, Yeltsin slashed through the ranks of more than 50 ministerial heads, committee chairmen and agency chiefs to pare down the unwieldy cabinet."

WASHINGTON POST: Yeltsin shares the blame for the military's state

In an analysis today of the Russian President's blasts, Lee Hockstader says there's plenty of blame to go around for the Russian military's debilitation, some of it accruing to the president. Hockstader writes: "A number of analysts, not limited to Yeltsin's political adversaries, noted that the president shares the blame for the military's pitiable state and in particular for its failure to launch any meaningful cuts or reforms."

He says: "Many military specialists in Russia and the West agree that any serious reform program would involve enormous expense, not least to finance the layoffs of thousands of generals and lower-ranking career officers. Yeltsin, while demanding military reform, at the same time has slashed military spending drastically."