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Newsline - April 29, 1996

Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, the radical Chechen writer appointed to succeed Dzhokhar Dudaev as president on 24 April, was shot dead in a clash between rival Chechen factions during the night of 28-29 April, Russian and Western agencies reported, citing members of the pro-Russian Chechen government in Grozny. In other news, the pro-Dudaev coalition council of Chechen political parties on 27 April unanimously called for a ceasefire and peace talks, but Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev said none of the Chechen field commanders have enough authority to conduct negotiations. Zavgaev said he had met personally with Dudaev's chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, but that the latter was "out of his depth." On 28 April, leaflets were posted in Grozny threatening reprisals against the pro-Moscow Chechen government in revenge for Dudaev's death, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, thousands of people, including Chechen emigres, demonstrated in Turkey and Jordan to protest the killing of Dudaev, Turkish and Western media reported on 26 and 27 April. -- Liz Fuller and Lowell Bezanis

Thirteen leading bankers and entrepreneurs on 26 April issued a warning that because Russian society is deeply divided, the presidential election could lead to civil war no matter who wins. The statement, published in Izvestiya on 27 April, asked journalists and legislators, along with President Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov, to seek a "political compromise" before June. Among the signatories were Logovaz President Boris Berezovskii, co-chairman of the Russian Public TV (ORT) board, and Most group Chairman Vladimir Gusinskii, whose empire finances NTV. Any meaningful compromise between Zyuganov and Yeltsin seems unlikely: on 26 April, Yeltsin called Russian Communists "fanatics," ITAR-TASS reported. However, speaking to ITAR-TASS on 29 April presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits said that he would not rule out the possibility that some Communists could be offered ministerial positions in the post-election administration, if they accepted the government's general economic course. -- Laura Belin

Only a few months after urging President Boris Yeltsin not to run for re-election, Yegor Gaidar and the Moscow branch of his Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) party endorsed the incumbent on 27 April after heated debate, Russian media reported. Human rights defender Sergei Kovalev, a co-founder of the DVR, urged his colleagues to back Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii. However, most of those present were swayed by DVR deputy chairman Anatolii Chubais, who asserted that Yavlinskii has little chance of winning and that all votes not cast for Yeltsin in the first round would work to the advantage of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. -- Laura Belin

The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) on 26 April completed its review of presidential candidates, registering Kemerovo Oblast legislature chairman Aman Tuleev and former champion weight lifter turned nationalist Yurii Vlasov, Russian media reported. Tuleev was third on the Communist Party list for the parliamentary election and is considered a "back-up" candidate to Gennadii Zyuganov. Also on 26 April, the TsIK finally complied with a Supreme Court instruction to register millionaire Duma deputy Vladimir Bryntsalov for the ballot. However, citing irregularities on their signature lists, the commission denied registration to Democratic Russia co-leader Galina Starovoitova, Lev Ubozhko, head of the tiny Conservative Party, and Vyacheslav Ushakov, president of a Moscow-based investment fund. Eleven candidates will now appear on the ballot, but that number could increase if the Supreme Court finds in favor of Starovoitova, Ubozhko, or Ushakov this week. -- Laura Belin

All presidential candidates are obliged to submit income declarations to the Central Electoral Commission for 1994 and 1995, and these may be published if the candidate agrees. According to Vek (no. 17), Yeltsin had a gross annual income of 552 million rubles ($140,000) in 1994 and 27 million ($5,600) in 1995, while his main rival Gennadii Zyuganov earned 27 million in 1994 and 30 million in 1995. The top earner was former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, with an income of 2.3 billion rubles in 1994 and 1.1 billion in 1995. Candidates registered for the presidential election will receive a total of 4 billion rubles ($810,000) in government campaign funds, to be divided among them. They must submit reports showing where the money went within 30 days of the elections. Vek noted that some Duma deputies who received government funds in 1993 have yet to submit reports. -- Penny Morvant

Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov told OMRI on 28 April that he is sure there will be an attempt to falsify the results of the 16 June presidential election. Although he declined to say who he thinks will make the attempt and why, he indirectly pointed the finger at President Yeltsin. Citing information allegedly obtained from U.S. intelligence services, Zyuganov claimed that the results of the December 1993 referendum on the Russian Constitution were falsified to insure that the document endorsed by Yeltsin would pass. He said that the vote counting should be watched carefully. Zyuganov was on a three-day campaign swing through Novgorod, St. Petersburg, and Leningrad Oblast. -- Anna Paretskaya in St. Petersburg

Eighteen candidates have been registered to contest the 19 May gubernatorial election in the city of St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 April. Forged signatures were found on the petitions of the other four candidates who tried to register, according to Ekspress-khronika. The most prominent challengers to incumbent Mayor Anatolii Sobchak are former Federation Council deputy Yurii Boldyrev, who was a founding member of Yabloko in 1993 but left Yavlinskii's party in September 1995, and Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov. -- Laura Belin

At a ceremony in St. Petersburg on 29 April, the chairmen of both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly and the head of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet signed an agreement forming a Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. The new assembly was created under the terms of the 2 April agreement forming the Russian-Belarusian community. Although the final text of the 2 April agreement has not yet been published in the Russian press, a draft version in OMRI's possession provides for the parliamentary assembly to consist of 15 parliamentarians from each member-state. Apparently, the body will not have legislative authority but will instead prepare draft legislation for consideration by the Russian and Belarusian legislatures. -- Scott Parrish

The recent intensification of preparations for the eastward expansion of NATO may threaten the ratification of the START II treaty, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told a press conference on 26 April. ITAR-TASS quoted Seleznev as saying that in January 1993, when the arms control agreement had been signed, NATO expansion "was not under discussion." He said that with the prospect of NATO expansion seeming increasingly likely, deputies now have "many questions" about START II, which have not yet been adequately addressed in committee hearings. Most commentators now give START II only a slim chance for ratification. -- Scott Parrish

Russian analysts have assessed the U.S.-brokered ceasefire in Lebanon as a setback for Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, contending that despite his efforts, Russia remains marginalized in the region. Izvestiya commentator Maksim Yusin told AFP that as a result of his unproductive Middle East visit last week, "Primakov has been humiliated in the region which he considers he knows best." On 26 April, Izvestiya argued that Primakov's failed attempt to mediate a settlement in Lebanon had damaged Russian-Israeli relations, blaming Primakov for overly blunt criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. The paper argued that despite Primakov's personal contacts in the region, Russia is too economically weak to compete with the U.S. for influence there. -- Scott Parrish

A research module containing 900 kg of equipment, including devices for studying the earth's natural resources, docked successfully with the Russian space station Mir on 26 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Priroda module, which was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 23 April, is the fifth and final module to dock with Mir and marks the structural completion of the space station. Much of the equipment will be used by U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid, who will be aboard Mir for a five-month period. -- Penny Morvant

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's personal physician, Dmitrii Nechaev, was shot dead in a Moscow suburb on 26 April, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The motive for the killing is unclear. There were 216 contract killings in Moscow in 1995, up from 181 in 1994. Only about 10% of such murders are solved. -- Penny Morvant

Russia has reached agreement with the Paris Club to reschedule its debts to official creditors, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 April. Russia's debts to the 20-nation club are estimated to exceed $40 billion, half of them held by Germany. For the past three years, Paris Club debts have been rolled over on an annual basis. Talks on an "exit rescheduling" began last November, in the wake of an agreement to postpone $32 billion worth of debts with the London Club of commercial lenders. The terms of the latest rescheduling are not yet known: Russia was thought to be holding out for repayment over 25 years and a seven-year grace period before payments begin. -- Peter Rutland

Representatives of Armenian opposition parties and newspapers have protested recent moves by the Armenian authorities against the opposition press, Noyan Tapan reported on 23 and 25 April. Following a split in the ranks of the opposition Ramgavar-Azatakan Party (RAP), which resulted in the creation of a pro-government splinter party named Mission of the Ramgavar-Azatakan Party (MRAP), the Armenian Justice Ministry revoked the registration of the existing editorial board of the RAP's daily newspaper Azg ("Nation"), and ruled that the MRAP has the right to publish a paper with the same title. On 26 April, a Yerevan Court is to hear a formal complaint by the Central Electoral Commission against the weekly newspaper Ayzhm ("Now")--the organ of the radical National Democratic Union--which in its 6 April issue published data on the results of the 5 July 1995 referendum on the new Armenian constitution that contradict the official results. -- Liz Fuller

Following up on the series of meetings in China, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Kazakhstani counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, met for four hours in Almaty on 27 April and signed five bilateral accords, Russian and Western media reported. Among the agreements was a protocol reorganizing the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which is expected to break a three-year deadlock among the participant states. According to the agreement, Russia will now own 24% of the consortium shares, with the remainder divided among Kazakhstan, Oman, and the oil companies participating in the venture. In addition, agreements were signed on setting up Russian-Kazakh joint ventures, pension guarantees for residents of Baikonur, and a Kazakh commission for the Baikonur complex. In addition, Yeltsin "ruled out" any Russian territorial claims on Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Roger Kangas

The Uzbek Oliy Majlis (parliament) passed a resolution condemning the Russian State Duma's vote to annul the Belavezha accord, Russian and Uzbek media reported. The resolution called efforts to create supra-state institutions "unacceptable" but stressed the need to "integrate" within the CIS as a sovereign state, according to a 25 April Uzbek TV report monitored by the BBC. The Oliy Majlis began its 5th session on 25 April with 20 issues on its agenda, including bills on citizenship, banks, joint-stock companies, free economic zones, and national security. The deputies will also discuss the creation of a new governmental award, the Order of
Amir Timur, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported. -- Roger Kangas

A presidential decree issued on 26 April has set a ceiling on the number of ethnic Kazakhs moving to Kazakhstan from neighboring states that will be eligible to receive financial support, RFE/RL reported. Some 4,000 families moving from neighboring states will receive state aid and housing this year. Already, more than 3,400 families have moved to Kazakhstan in the first four months of 1996. The policy of state aid for ethnic Kazakhs "returning" to Kazakhstan was implemented shortly after the country became independent, but the government now seems concerned at the possibility of an influx of migrants. -- Roger Kangas

On the tenth anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, 50,000 people demonstrated in an unsanctioned rally in Minsk, international agencies reported on 26-27 April. Protestors demanded that Ukrainian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka resign after "betraying the country by belittling the Chornobyl accident." The demonstrators clashed with police and several were later admitted to the local hospital with injuries. About 200 people were arrested including several leaders of the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front and 17 Ukrainians belonging to the Rukh and UNA-UNSO parties. Lukashenka called the rally a "riot," and said he plans to ban all demonstrations in the future. The Belarusian opposition leaders Vyatsuk Vyachorka and Yurii Chodyka began a hunger strike to protest their arrest. They have been charged with organizing group activities to disturb the peace. -- Ustina Markus

The leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, Zyanon Paznyak, returned to Minsk on the tenth anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 26 April. Paznyak had been in the Czech Republic and Poland after Belarusian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest due to his role in helping organize protest demonstrations against the 2 April agreement on Russian-Belarusian integration. Just before Paznyak's return, Belapan reported that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 24 April saying that countries that officially support Paznyak risk damaging their relations with Belarus. -- Ustina Markus

On the tenth anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, Canada promised $3.5 million in aid to help upgrade the Kryvii Rih thermonuclear plant in Ukraine, AFP reported on 26 April. The upgrade is meant to help Kryvii Rih substitute for lost energy production when the Chornobyl closes. The same day, the U.S. signed an agreement pledging $3 million to open a research center in Kyiv to study problems related to the Chornobyl accident. France and Germany have also signed preliminary agreements to provide financing. -- Ustina Markus

The Estonian Rural Center Party and the Social Democratic Party held a joint congress in Tallinn on 28 April that voted to approve the by-laws of their new joint party, the Moderates Party, ETA reported. Former Prime Minister Andres Tarand, who suggested the merger in December, was elected Chairman. The former Chairmen of the two respective parties Vambo Kaal and Eiki Nestor will act as his deputies. The two parties cooperated in March 1995 parliamentary elections, winning six seats. -- Saulius Girnius

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele said on 26 April that Estonia does not yet seem ready to observe the verbal agreements on fishing and sea borders that he made with his Estonian counterpart, Tiit Vahi, on 14 April, BNS reported. Skele said that they had agreed to sign during the upcoming meeting of Council of Baltic Sea Countries in Visby an agreement that would allow Latvian trawlers to fish in Estonian waters around the island of Ruhnu until 1 August. Raul Malk, Estonian Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor, denies that such an agreement was made. -- Saulius Girnius

Former Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski said on 28 April that former President Lech Walesa ordered former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski last year to submit to prosecutors intelligence information that suggested that former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy had spied for the Soviet and Russian secret services. Walesa said on Radio Zet that he acted in accordance with the law. Oleksy maintained that charges against him were instigated by Walesa for political reasons. On 22 April, the military prosecutor closed a three-month investigation into the affair saying he found no direct proof of any crime. The Chief Military Prosecutor Gen. Ryszard Michalowski said, however, that he will review the decision and Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki has decided to publish the investigation files, Polish and international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

The Central Electoral Commission on 27 April decided that the four parties that have not paid the required election deposits will not have their candidates listed on official ballot papers for the 31 May-1 June parliamentary elections, Czech media reported. The Nationwide Citizens' Activity and Party of Czechoslovak Communists failed to deposit 200,000 crowns ($7,400) in any of the electoral districts where they intended to stand, while the Right Bloc paid only part of the sum. The Greens refused to pay deposits in protest against the decision of the district electoral commission in northern Bohemia not to register the party's candidates because the list was improperly submitted. There are now 16 parties standing in the elections, although those excluded still have the rights to campaign and to free state TV and radio airtime. The commission also ruled that the presence of members of the Entrepreneurs Party on the lists of the Free Democrats-Liberal Social National Party makes it a coalition, which requires 7% of the vote to win parliamentary seats rather than the 5% needed for individual parties. -- Steve Kettle

Ivan Vesely, Secretary of the Romani Democratic Congress (RDK) in the Czech Republic, filed a case against the extremist Assembly of the Republic-Czechoslovak Republican Party (SPR-RSC) on 24 April for alleged racial crimes, CTK reported the same day. Vesely said that SPR-RSC owns, prints, and circulates the newspaper Republika that has been publishing anti-Romani items for the past three years. The RDK, which unites several Romani parties and societies in the country, is pursuing a legal ban on SPR-RSC. -- Alaina Lemon

Jozef Migas was elected Chairman of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) during the party's congress on 27-28 April, Slovak media reported. A virtual political unknown, Migas has served as ambassador to Ukraine since 1994. Migas was a compromise candidate between the two factions of the party, which differ over the need to join the current government. Migas said the SDL will will not enter the government before 1998 elections. In other news, speaking at the SDL congress on 27 April, the Party of European Socialists' Secretary-General Jean-Francois Vallin called Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar "an obstacle to Slovakia's future membership in the EU." Meciar admitted in a Slovak Radio interview on 26 April that domestic political conditions could delay Slovakia's admission into NATO. -- Sharon Fisher

Five soldiers had died by 28 April as a result of burns suffered when their truck caught fire five days earlier in the army training grounds at Zalubica in eastern Slovakia, Slovak media reported. A cigarette caused the truck, loaded with paints and paint-thinners, to explode. A total of 18 soldiers were affected by burns. Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky on 25 April blamed the accident on the government and the Defense Ministry. -- Sharon Fisher

Several hundred diplomats, government officials, and academics attended in Budapest on 27-28 April the first conference of the Central European Forum (CEF). Poland proposed the forum in December 1995 to provide a framework for dialogue about EU enlargement. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs argued that the EU must expand to maintain its competitive edge in the global economy. Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and former French Prime Minister Raymond Barre reassured the Central Europeans that in the long term their EU membership is certain. The CEF took place just one day after the European Commission sent a 200-page questionnaire to the nine East-Central European countries applying for EU membership, which they must complete in the next three months.-- Peter Rutland in Budapest

Muhamed Sacirbey sharply denied an election-year spate of "leaks" in the U.S. press over alleged past and present links between Sarajevo and Tehran. He suggested European powers that resent America's role in the Balkans are trying to sabotage U.S. plans to "train and equip" the Bosnian army. "I think the issue in Bosnia is not so much age-old ethnic rivalries as it is European imperial rivalries that have now lasted for over a century...Why are these stories being spread? The primary U.S. relationship in the Balkans is with Bosnia, [which] upsets some other political relationships that have existed since before World War I," Onasa quoted him as saying on 28 April. -- Patrick Moore

Mass visits by Muslim refugees to pray at family gravesites now under Serbian control were expected on 28 April, the Muslim holiday of Kurban Bairam, the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported the next day. Oslobodjenje noted that some 200 Serbs near Doboj pelted refugees with stones and prevented them from crossing the border, despite provisions in the Dayton agreement assuring both the freedom of movement and the right of refugees to go home. IFOR troops kept the Muslims out of Serb territory elsewhere, such as by blocking three busloads of refugees who wanted to go to Teslic. U.S. soldiers turned back cars carrying Muslims, who sought to go to Mahala, near Tuzla. Serbs stoned and wounded a dozen Croat refugees wanting to visit their home village near Gradacac, Onasa said. IFOR's Gen. Michael Walker added that IFOR cannot guarantee freedom of movement for "larger civilian groups." -- Patrick Moore

Three individuals have been convicted on charges relating to the killings of four ethnic Croats in Serbia's Vojvodina province, Vecernje novosti reported on 28 April. A regional court in Sremska Mitrovica sentenced Goran Vukovic to 15 years imprisonment for shooting three Croats in June 1993, while Pavle Draskovic was sentenced to ten years in prison for murdering one Croat in April 1993. Meanwhile, Milan Nikolic received a prison sentence of three and one-half years for instigating "national and religious animosity" in the province. All three men are believed to have been volunteer-paramilitaries during Belgrade's war with Croatia. -- Stan Markotich

One child was killed and three others injured in a bomb explosion in Velika Reka on 28 April, Reuters reported. The Democratic League of Kosovo said unidentified culprits threw the explosive from a driving car and the bomb exploded as the youngsters, aged nine-12, examined the device. Serbian police, however, said the explosion was an accident, AFP reported. They claimed the boys found the bomb in a field near a local agricultural co-operative. Another bomb reportedly exploded outside a house in Dusanovo the previous day, causing damage but no casualties. Serbian Deputy administrator Milan Nesovic claimed that "the incidents are a desperate move by extremist elements to destroy the increasingly favorable climate created for talks on resolving the Kosovo issue," but did not say how the long-standing deadlock on negotiations could be broken in a foreseeable future. -- Fabian Schmidt

Three more Albanians were arrested following a wave of shoot-outs in Kosovo early last week on 26 April, AFP reported. Altogether more than 100 Albanians have been arrested all over Kosovo since the recent shoot-outs. The Democratic League of Kosovo has again claimed that Albanians in custody are being tortured by police. It also reported an increase in arbitrary police raids into private houses. -- Fabian Schmidt

The Slovenian government has decided to repatriate approximately 18,500 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, some 90% of whom are Muslims, by the end of 1997, Nasa Borba reported on 29 April. Representatives of the Slovenian refugee community reported that some 60% of the refugees have already indicated that they would opt to stay in Slovenia if given the chance. Nasa Borba reported that the refugees fear their homes "have been destroyed and that [their] territory, in accordance with the Dayton agreement, is now under the jurisdiction of the Republika Srpska or the the Croats." The resettlement process is scheduled to begin on 1 July 1995. -- Stan Markotich

Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler said on 26 April during a visit to Portugal that the center-left's 21 April victory in Italian elections has positive implications for bilateral Slovenian-Italian relations. Thaler remarked that the political mood in Rome has changed since the Olive Tree coalition emerged with a victory. Thaler also said that Slovenia's chances of obtaining an association agreement with the EU, as a step towards full EU integration, have improved markedly. Reuters quoted Thaler as saying,"We believe that there is a realistic chance to have our association agreement signed in the near future." -- Stan Markotich

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his Romanian counterpart, Teodor Melescanu, on 27 April failed to initial a much-delayed basic treaty, Western media reported. Primakov was quoted as saying that he saw no "visible dissension with the Romanian side," but he questioned Romania's wish to have Moscow publicly condemn the 1939 secret Ribbentrop-Molotov pact that stripped Romania of the Bessarabia and North Bukovina Provinces. Melescanu, on the other hand, suggested that Romania was ready to drop its demand that the treaty include the pact's condemnation, but wanted the issue settled in a supplementary declaration with no legal ramifications. Primakov, who came to Bucharest to attend the meeting of the Business Forum of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, also met Romanian President Ion Iliescu on the same day. -- Dan Ionescu

General John Sheehan, Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT), on 26 April met with President Ion Iliescu, Romanian media reported. The two discussed Romania's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program and in exercises staged by SACLANT last year. Meanwhile, Romania on 26 April started individual discussions on possible membership in the alliance at NATO headquarters in Brussels. -- Dan Ionescu

Moldovan President Mircea Snegur on 26 April in Bucharest met with his Romanian counterpart, Ion Iliescu, Radio Bucharest reported. They discussed bilateral cooperation and mutual support. Snegur, who was attending the Business Forum of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation group, had addressed the conference with a plea for more political and economic stability, as well as military security in the region. The four-day conference, which was attended by more than 2,000 politicians and business people, closed on 28 April. -- Dan Ionescu

Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 28 April said that the government will not amend or adjust the 1996 state budget in order to compensate for rising interest rates, Pari reported. He said the government will pressure the Bulgarian National Bank to lower the prime interest rate instead, which had been raised from 49% to 67% on 25 April. Videnov said raising the interest rate is no way of solving the state's fundamental financial problems and is detrimental to investments. He also blamed the trade unions for the situation. Trud cited Videnov as saying there is no need for ministers to resign because of the economic and financial situation. He said that "In the U.S., there is also a budget deficit, but no one resigns because of that." -- Stefan Krause

Meanwhile, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Deputy Chairman Yanaki Stoilov on 28 April demanded that several key ministers be replaced, Standart reported. He singled out Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Rumen Gechev and Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov, who are blamed for failing to deal with the financial and economic crisis, and Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev, who failed to cope with rising crime. Stoilov said "the changes have to be made now" because "trust in the government is waning." He predicted that without personnel changes, the BSP will be unable to fulfill its election platform. In other news, Reuters on 26 April cited a top police official as saying that financial losses from white-collar crime rose by 300% in the first three months of 1996 compared to the same period last year. -- Stefan Krause

The Democratic Party held a huge music spectacle, for 30,000 people in Tirana on 27 April, Reuters reported. President Sali Berisha said his agenda include "rapidly improving living standards and ensuring fast economic growth." He also promised to speed up the privatization of state industries, banks, telecommunications and mines and to invest in infrastructure projects and hospitals. Meanwhile, the number of candidates banned from elections for their past Communist-ties has reached 139. The Socialists thus lost 45 candidates, the Social Democrats 22, the Democratic Alliance 11, the Republican Party 13, while other smaller parties lost 45 candidates. Only three Democratic Party candidates were effected by the ban. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels