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Newsline - June 3, 1996


CFE DEAL ANNOUNCED IN VIENNA.
Diplomats at the CFE treaty review conference have agreed to give Russia three more years to meet the "flank limits" on heavy military equipment specified in the 1990 agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported on 1 June. Under the deal, Russia will have until 31 May 1999 to comply with the flank limits, which it has been violating since last November. Until then, Russia will freeze its deployments in the flank zone at their current levels: 1,897 tanks, 4,397 armored personnel carriers, and 2,422 pieces of artillery. According to Reuters, the deal also redefines the flank zones by shrinking them. As a result, even after May 1999, Russia will be permitted to deploy significantly more heavy weapons along its northern and southern borders than would have been permitted under the original terms. -- Scott Parrish

FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES.
Despite the ceasefire which supposedly took effect at midnight on 31 May, Chechen separatist forces attacked a Russian roadblock in the village of Shuani on 1 June, taking 26 Russian troops hostage, and ongoing hostilities in Shali claimed deaths on both sides, Russian media reported. ORT quoted the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, as claiming that the ongoing hostilities demonstrate that acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev cannot control his field commanders. The Russian-Chechen talks on disarmament, scheduled to take place on 1 June in Makhachkala, were postponed and will now be held in the Ingush capital of Nazran on 4-5 June, according to Russian TV (RTR) and ITAR-TASS. Four Russian troops died on 2 June when their armored vehicle was blown up in Grozny, Reuters reported. Chechen warlord and convicted murderer Ruslan Labazanov was killed in his home base of Tolstoi-Yurt during the night of 31 May-1 June, NTV reported. Chechen sources reject ITAR-TASS's claim that he was killed in a shoot-out with his own bodyguards. -- Liz Fuller

CHECHNYA TO DISCUSS POWER-SHARING WITH RUSSIA.
President Yeltsin decreed on 28 May that a public discussion will begin in Chechnya in June on a power-sharing treaty with Russia, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 31 May. The draft treaty admits Chechnya's right for self-determination and guarantees it special status within the Russian Federation, although it does not give the republic any special powers. The Chechen and the federal governments would share responsibility for foreign relations, the economy, and the demarcation of Chechen administrative borders, according to the draft. By the end of the month, a new version of the treaty will be submitted to President Yeltsin to consider based on the Chechen responses. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN WAR CHEST NEARS LEGAL LIMIT.
President Boris Yeltsin's campaign had collected 14.365 billion rubles ($2.9 million) by 27 May, just short of the 14.437 billion limit set by the electoral law, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May, citing the Central Electoral Commission. Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov took in only 3.274 billion rubles, up only 250,000 rubles since 15 May. Aleksandr Lebed showed the greatest increase, going from 155.5 million rubles on 15 May to more than 5.7 billion. Vladimir Zhirinovsky collected 7.2 billion and Grigorii Yavlinskii raised 5.9 billion. Yeltsin also led in spending, with 6.78 billion rubles, followed by Yavlinskii (5.42 billion), Zhirinovsky (3.36 billion), and Zyuganov (3.25 billion). Going into the last two weeks of the campaign, Yeltsin has a considerable amount of money at his disposal, while Zyuganov only has 20 million rubles. Most observers believe that these figures have little relationship to the candidates' actual spending. -- Robert Orttung

GAZPROM BACKS YELTSIN.
The annual general meeting of shareholders in the energy giant Gazprom took place on 31 May, and adopted a resolution urging the re-election of Boris Yeltsin,Trud reported on 1 June. The statement said that the other candidates were unacceptable because "none of them have experience in government, their populist programs are divorced from real life, and are aimed at another revolutionary upheaval." Meanwhile. on 1 June the full text of Yeltsin's lengthy electoral program was published in the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti.. -- Peter Rutland

COMMUNISTS REJECT SATAROV COMMENTS.
Valentin Kuptsov, head of Gennadii Zyuganov's campaign staff, denied presidential advisor Georgii Satarov's statement that the Communists have a plan to seize power illegitimately, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 1 June (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 May 1996). Kuptsov called Satarov's comment a "provocative lie aimed at discrediting the Communist Party and its leader, Gennadii Zyuganov, on the eve of the election." The Communists may file a libel suit against Satarov, NTV reported on 31 May. Kuptsov argued that Zyuganov's popularity was 10-12 points higher than President Yeltsin's and that it would be impossible for the president to catch up, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Most polls show the candidates even or Yeltsin pulling into the lead. -- Robert Orttung

ANOTHER POWER-SHARING TREATY SIGNED.
During a campaign swing through Perm Oblast late last week, President Yeltsin signed a power-sharing agreement with the oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, which is situated within the oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. After the ceremony, Yeltsin said that such agreements strengthen Russian statehood, but many Russian politicians, including Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, have denounced power-sharing treaties for widening inequality between regions. Perm is the 20th federation subject to sign such a deal with the government and the eighth to sign during Yeltsin's election campaign. -- Anna Paretskaya

ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR LOSES ELECTION.
St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak narrowly lost the second round of the city's gubernatorial election on 2 June, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 3 June. According to the preliminary results, former First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev received 47.5% of the vote, while Sobchak won 45.8%; turnout was about 43% of eligible voters. The last week of the campaign was marked by a series of scandals. For instance, nationalist Duma deputy and television journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov, campaigning on TV for Yakovlev, said he had evidence that appeared to suggest that a criminal case had been launched against Sobchak; this was later denied by Procurator General's Office. Meanwhile, one of Sobchak's campaign advertisements implicitly accused Yakovlev of corruption, showing his huge, luxurious home, NTV reported on 2 June. In 1991, Sobchak was elected mayor in the first round with 66% of the vote. -- Anna Paretskaya

STRIKING WORKERS RALLY IN NORILSK.
At a rally on 2 June, about 3,000 people in the Arctic city of Norilsk called on the president and government to resolve the problems facing the Norilsk industrial region, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, more than 10,000 workers at the Norilsk Nickel copper and nickel combine went on strike to demand the delivery of winter supplies to the city and the payment of overdue wages, estimated by a union official at 1.3 trillion rubles ($260 million). Mining has stopped at one pit, and smelting is at a standstill. The strike is scheduled to continue until 4 June, when the company's president and representatives of ONEKSIMbank, the main shareholder, arrive for talks. Wage arrears were an issue in the struggle earlier this year for control over the combine (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February and 15 April 1996). -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN ON ARREARS . . .
During a visit to Mordoviya, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised decisive action to deal with the continuing problem of non-payments, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. He said special teams of accountants will be sent to some of the 70 firms that top the list of debtors, accounting for around two thirds of all arrears. Chernomyrdin also said that a special non-budget fund will be created to assist defense conversion, on top of the 2 trillion rubles ($400 million) allotted in the 1996 budget. The same day, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets reported that defense plants will be granted a tax waiver of 1.2 trillion rubles to help them pay electricity bills. -- Peter Rutland

. . . AND ON HELP FOR MORDOVIYA.
Chernomyrdin also told local leaders in the Mordovan capital of Saransk that the federal government will contribute 5 trillion rubles ($1 billion) over the next five years to a special program to revive the republic's economy. The conversion help that Chernomyrdin announced will be particularly welcome in Mordoviya, which has a heavy concentration of defense plants. Our Home Is Russia finished second to the communists in Mordoviya in the December elections. President Yeltsin will have to win in places like Mordoviya if he is to gain re-election. -- Peter Rutland

WORLD BANK GIVES RUSSIA $80 MILLION ENVIRONMENTAL GRANT.
The World Bank will give Russia an $80 million grant to finance two environmental projects, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. The first project is to subsidize cuts in the production of chemicals that damage the ozone layer; the second aims at protecting rare animals and plants in the interest of biodiversity. -- Natalia Gurushina

AEROFLOT AND TRANSAERO ANNOUNCE PLANS TO COOPERATE.
Russia's two rival aviation companies, Aeroflot and Transaero, have announced that they will consolidate their efforts in order to cut costs and to push foreign competitors from the Russian market, Kommersant-Daily reported on 1 June. The companies plan to carry out joint operations at Sheremetevo, Russia's main international airport. Aeroflot, which accounts for 90% of the country's international flights, will transport passengers from abroad, while Transaero will carry them across Russia and to other CIS states. Aeroflot is a descendant of the Soviet company with the same name. Transaero was created in September 1991 by a group of avionics enterprises, and was the first private Russian airline to lease foreign-built aircraft. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA FORMALLY ADOPTS RUBLE CONVERTIBILITY ON CURRENT ACCOUNT.
Russia formally adopted the IMF's Article 8 provisions on current account convertibility on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported. This means that the government will no longer require Russian exporters to immediately exchange 50% of their foreign currency earnings. However, restrictions on capital account operations will remain in place. The move will further ease foreign trade and foreign investment in Russia. It is also possible that the ruble will soon be traded on foreign exchanges. -- Natalia Gurushina



MORE ARRESTS IN AZERBAIJAN.
Five men said to be members of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front have been arrested in Nakhichevan in connection with an alleged attempt to assassinate President Heidar Aliyev in 1993, Reuters reported on 1 June, quoting a source in the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry. A spokesman for the Azerbaijan Popular Front has denied that the men are members of the organization. -- Liz Fuller

OSCE PRAISES UZBEK PARLIAMENTARIANS.
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Frank Swaelen praised Uzbekistan's parliament as a "factor of stability" in the entire region, and said he hoped it would provide an example to Uzbekistan's neighbors, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. Uzbekistan had just received similar praise from the German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 May 1996). -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKHSTANI MAJILIS REJECTS PENSIONS BILL.
The lower house of the Kazakhstani parliament, the Majilis, rejected a bill on pensions, claiming that it is too harsh on the elderly, according to a 24 May Express report monitored by the BBC. The bill's proposals to raise the retirement age and abolish special benefits for various social groups such as teachers, miners, and the victims of the nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk are aimed at saving about $8 billion. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN LAUNCHES NEW PROGRAM TO CURB NARCOTICS FLOW.
Kazakhstani legal authorities have launched a new anti-drug operation called "Mak (poppy) 96" to halt the production and sale of narcotics and to prevent them from being transported through the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 June. Special police brigades, provided with helicopters, have blocked access to areas where hemp is grown; about 140,000 hectares of land in the Chu valley alone are thought to be used for this purpose. About two metric tons of narcotics have already been seized this year. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN'S UIGHURS CONCERNED OVER CHINESE CRACKDOWN IN XINJIANG.
Muhidin Mukhlissi, spokesman for the Uighur opposition United National Revolutionary Front (UNRF) of Western Turkestan, told AFP on 31 May by telephone from Kazakhstan that 20 people had died in clashes between Uighur separatists and Chinese officials in the Uighur Autonomous province of Xinjiang in China. Chinese officials have denied these reports as "pure lies," AFP reported on 1 June. Leaders of the UNRF and two other Uighur separatist movements based in Kazakhstan allege that a major Chinese crackdown on Uighur separatists in Xinjiang began just after the 26 April summit in Shanghai between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan's government has pledged support to China in combatting separatist activities on the border. -- Bhavna Dave

TAJIK-RUSSIAN INTEGRATED ENERGY PLAN.
Russia and Tajikistan signed a protocol establishing an integrated energy plan on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Tajikistan has enormous hydroelectric energy potential, but the reports did not mention how the energy would be transported through the countries that separate Russia and Tajikistan. The visiting Russian delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, also held meetings with Tajik officials on repayment plans for Tajikistan's debt to Russia, and Tajikistan's possible membership in the customs union with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported. -- Bruce Pannier



LAST NUCLEAR WARHEADS REMOVED FROM UKRAINE.
Ukraine became a nuclear-free state on 1 June, when the last of some 1,600 strategic warheads located on its territory were removed to Russia, international agencies reported. When the Soviet Union broke apart, Ukraine inherited 130 SS-19 missiles and 46 SS-24 missiles, as well as 2,500 tactical nuclear weapons. The tactical weapons were all removed in 1992. After prolonged negotiations over disarmament aid and security guarantees, Ukraine signed a trilateral agreement with Russia and the U.S. in January 1994, which promised $1 billion in compensation to Ukraine, mostly in the form of fuel rods for Ukraine's five nuclear power stations. U.S. President Bill Clinton praised Ukraine for its "remarkable achievement," and Russian President Boris Yeltsin said he welcomed Ukraine's nuclear-free status. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma stressed Ukraine's commitment not to deploy, produce or receive nuclear weapons, and said he hoped aid to Ukraine would continue after all the provisions of the trilateral agreement were fulfilled. -- Ustina Markus

CFE FLANK-ZONE CHANGES BENEFIT UKRAINE.
The Vienna review conference for the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which ended on 1 June, agreed to shift Ukraine's Odesa oblast out of the treaty's "flanks" zone, Western media reported. Like Russia, Ukraine had complained that the limits placed on arms that could be stationed in this zone were unreasonable. Under the original treaty terms Ukraine could have no more than 10% of its arms in an area making up 23% of its territory. This restricted area is now appreciably smaller, consisting of 4 oblasts rather than 5. -- Doug Clarke

MORE ON 30 MAY DEMONSTRATION IN MINSK.
The Belarusian Ministry of Interior announced that 84 people were arrested during the 30 May demonstrations, international agencies reported the following day. Trials began on 31 May with judges going from one prison cell to the next and issuing sentences up to 15 days. Eight people including two policemen were wounded when security forces broke up the demonstration. NTV reported that the parliament set up a special commission to look into the methods of the security forces in breaking up the demonstration. The special forces reportedly used gas and truncheons to break up the rally. Reuters reported former speaker Mechyslau Hryb warning that such arrests and police beatings were setting a dangerous precedent, while presidential official Yuryi Kulakausky blamed demonstrators for "running amok." -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA'S WAY SUPPORTS ULMANIS FOR PRESIDENT.
Latvia's Way (LC) Chairman Valdis Birkavs announced on 31 May that his party would vote for incumbent President Guntis Ulmanis in the Saeima on 18 June, BNS reported. Prime Minister Andris Skele also came out in support of Ulmanis noting that he was able to act "constructively and determinately in the complicated political situation. " LC deputy Janis Adamsons, however, said that he would vote for the Democratic Party Saimnieks candidate, Ilga Kreituse. LC leaders said that Adamsons would have to leave the party if he did not vote for Ulmanis, but since the voting will be secret they will not be able to check how Adamsons voted. Latvia's Farmers' Union, Latvia's Christian Democratic Union, and Latvia's National Independence Party have announced their support for Ulmanis, as have several deputies from the Popular Concord Party and two independent deputies. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT, PARTIES MEET OVER PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS.
Algirdas Brazauskas held talks on 31 May with leaders of the parties represented in the parliament, BNS reported. The president rejected the proposal by opposition parties to hold parliamentary elections three weeks earlier than the announced date of 20 October. However, Brazauskas agreed that the second Sunday of March would be a better date for future elections, and said the Constitution would have to be amended to make this change. This would result in the next parliament serving six months longer, or until March 2001. The meeting also concurred that voters be asked to choose concrete names on party lists, which would help determine which candidates would be elected. It was agreed that the necessary barrier for all parties to gain parliament seats would be 4%, abolishing the previous exception that set a lower barrier of only 2% for parties representing national minorities. -- Saulius Girnius

PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE APPROVES DECISION TO DROP OLEKSY CASE.
Colonel Wlodzimierz Pospiech, spokesman for the Supreme Military Prosecutor's Office, said on 31 May that the decision to drop the investigation into spying allegations against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and definitively close the case was justified, Polish and international media reported on 1 June. The office had reviewed the 22 April decision to discontinue the investigation into allegations that the former prime minister had spied for Moscow, and concluded that an analysis of the evidence justified the decision to discontinue the investigation. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH ELECTIONS END IN STALEMATE.
Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won the Czech parliamentary elections held on 31 May-1 June, with 29.6% of the popular vote, followed by the Social Democrats (CSSD) with 26.4%, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) with 10.3%, the Christian Democratic Union (KDU) with 8%, the Republican Party (SRP) with 8%, and the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) with 6.3%. Although the Central Electoral Commission will announce the final seat allocation on 3 June, projections show that the right-of-center coalition of the ODS, the ODA, and the KDU, that has ruled in the past four years has gained only 99 seats, 2 less than a simple majority in the 200-seat parliament. President Vaclav Havel will meet with the leaders of the three coalition parties and the CSSD on 23 June to discuss possible ways of forming a government, Czech media report. The real winner of the elections is the CSSD, as it will determine the fate of any minority government that the three right-of-center parties could form. A CSSD leader has been quoted by CTK as saying his party may support a minority government but not with Vaclav Klaus as prime minister. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS PROTEST AT STATE TV BUILDING.
A group of human rights activists, representing the newly formed Action Initiative to Preserve Freedom, on 31 May attempted to enter the Slovak Television (STV) building in Bratislava to demand more objective news coverage, international press reported. The activists tried to deliver a critical memorandum to STV director Jozef Darmo, but STV guards prevented them from entering the building. STV spokesman Eduard Ivancik called the protesters' choice of action "extremist". The undelivered memorandum urges STV's leadership to serve not just the ruling party, but all citizens, whose funds help keep the station afloat. The initiative, comprised of some 20 non-governmental organizations, was formed earlier this year to fight proposed amendments to the penal code that would curb such democratic rights as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



HIGH LEVEL MEETING ON BOSNIA OPENS IN GENEVA.
The presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina began meetings on 2 June with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt, and top officials of the Contact Group countries. This is the latest in a series of summits designed to prop up the Dayton agreement, but which to date have largely led only to a repetition of unkept promises. High on the Americans' agenda is the political future of Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The BBC suggested that the U.S. delegation nonetheless accepted the view of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic that Belgrade is unable to force Karadzic to resign -- let alone deliver him to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague -- and that the best one could hope for would be to "neutralize" him politically, Nasa Borba added on 3 June. -- Patrick Moore

HOW CERTAIN ARE THE BOSNIAN ELECTIONS?
Christopher seems anxious to secure Milosevic's cooperation in meeting a key U.S. objective, namely the holding of elections by mid-September as specified in the Dayton agreement, the BBC noted on 3 June. To that end Washington is apparently willing to believe that the Serbian leader is unable to control the Bosnian Serbs, on whose behalf he signed the treaty. That document also specifies that indicted war criminals have no political future in Bosnia and must be sent to The Hague. A European diplomat noted that the Bosnian elections will go ahead nonetheless because the Clinton administration is determined to have them over before Americans vote in November. Nasa Borba, however, quoted Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic as saying that there cannot be fair elections unless Karadzic is in The Hague. Bosnia's UN ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey said that the international community and the U.S. in particular are pressuring his government to hold elections "at any price." -- Patrick Moore

TOPIC SAYS MOSTAR WILL REMAIN DIVIDED CITY.
Jadranko Topic, the president of Mostar branch of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), the strongest Croat party both in Croatia and Bosnia, said the elections will firmly demonstrate the existence of the three Croat and three Muslim municipalities in Mostar, Oslobodjenje reported on 3 June. According to Topic, a forthcoming elections are just an opportunity for people to have fun, while verifying "the struggle of the Croat people in these areas...Eventually, the Bosnian Federation will have to be organized like Mostar, ...it will have to comprise Croat and Muslim municipalities, cantons and regions," Onasa on 31 May quoted him as saying. Meanwhile, EU administrator for Mostar Ricardo Peres Casado announced an election amendment establishing voting polls in a number of European countries, pending their approval. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CHANGES CERTAIN IN RUMP YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT.
The federal rump Yugoslav government, headed by Premier Radoje Kontic, is slated to undergo "a reconstruction", Nasa Borba reported on 31 May. According to the daily, one new ministry is likely to be created, and up to four new ministers will be named. The only news that was certain is that Minister without Portfolio Vuk Ognjanovic is leaving the cabinet. The news of this latest restructuring came only two days after the Serbian government announced its own restructuring, which saw adherents and sympathizers of Serbian President Milosevic's wife's party, the United Yugoslav Left, promoted into that republic's cabinet -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER AND THE ITALIAN QUESTION.
Zoran Thaler, Slovenia's foreign minister, announced on 1 June that Slovenia is likely to sign an association agreement with the EU in Luxembourg on 10 or 11 June, international media reported that same day. Thaler hinted that Italy's objections, centering around disputes over ethnic Italians who fled what is now Slovenia after the Second World War and their property rights, had been overcome, paving the way for the signing. Thaler's high-profile announcement has also renewed speculation that he may attempt to hold on to the foreign ministry post at least until new elections are held. Thaler lost a no confidence vote on 16 May, which prompted the announcement of his resignation. -- Stan Markotich

MACEDONIA NAMES AMBASSADOR TO BELGRADE.
Macedonia appointed its ambassador to rump Yugoslavia, international media reported on 2 June. Slavko Milosavlevski is the first ambassador of a former Yugoslav republic to Belgrade. His appointment follows the mutual recognition of Belgrade and Skopje on 8 April. In other news, Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 31 May accused Macedonia of not being "flexible enough" to solve the language dispute between the two countries, Reuters reported. Videnov said Sofia had suggested many compromises but Skopje did not accept them. Bulgaria was the first country to recognize independent Macedonia, but has so far not recognized the existence of a separate Macedonian nation or language. The issue has delayed the signing of intergovernmental agreements in recent years. It is also believed to have been the reason for Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski last-minute cancellation on 22 April of a visit to Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause

LOCAL ELECTIONS IN ROMANIA.
Romania held local elections on 2 June, Radio Bucharest reported. Some 16 million were eligible to vote in nearly 3,000 constituencies to elect mayors, as well as members of local and county councils. Most of the attention was focused on the race for mayor in Bucharest, with former tennis star Ilie Nastase running for the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. According to preliminary reports, the turnout appears to have been extremely low nationwide. Radio Bucharest quoted Emil Constantinescu, the leader of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania, as speaking of a "record of absenteeism" that would force a repeat of the polls in many places. The law provides for a new round of voting within two weeks in constituencies where the turnout was under 50%. Final returns are not expected before 5 June. -- Dan Ionescu

FORMER MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER IN TIRASPOL.
Ivan Bodiul, former first secretary of the Communist Party of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic, met in Tiraspol with Igor Smirnov, the president of the self-proclaimed "Dniester republic," BASA-press reported on 31 May. The two exchanged views about the Dniester conflict and its possible settlement. Observers of the local scene believe that Bodiul might be asked by some political circles to broker the ongoing negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol. The 78-year-old Bodiul, who was Moldova's party boss in the 1960s, currently lives in Moscow. He is reportedly on a private, fact-finding visit in the Republic of Moldova and its breakaway Dniester region. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DEFEATED IN PRIMARIES.
Zhelyu Zhelev on 1 June was clearly defeated by Union of Democratic Forces Deputy Chairman Petar Stoyanov in primaries aimed at determining a joint presidential candidate of the anti-Socialist opposition, Bulgarian media reported. According to preliminary results, Zhelev received around 35% against Stoyanov's 65%. The turnout was around 12%; all Bulgarians over 18 years were eligible to vote. According to unofficial results from regional electoral commissions, Stoyanov won in most regions, with the notable exception of those with an ethnic Turkish majority, where Zhelev got 74-84% of the vote. The final results are expected to be announced on 3 June. -- Stefan Krause

PROTESTS AGAINST BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT CONTINUE.
Protests against the latest government-imposed price hikes and austerity measures continued on 31 May, when some 20,000 people demonstrated in Sofia under the motto "Let's Save Bulgaria," Reuters reported. At the meeting, Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski called for early parliamentary elections. Sofia taxi drivers and public transport workers announced that they will strike on 3 June. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 1 June told state TV that there will be changes in the government, but not under the pressure of an ultimatum. Socialist legislators have repeatedly demanded the replacement of several key ministers they accuse of incompetence. Videnov said those matters will be discussed at the next meeting of the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) Executive Bureau on 8 June. The BSP candidates for president and vice president will be picked at the same meeting, Videnov said. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES DECLARE HUNGER STRIKE.
Members of the Socialist Party, the Social Democrats, and the Democratic Alliance began a hunger strike on 31 May to protest alleged manipulations and irregularities during the parliamentary elections on 26 May. Parliamentary candidates from all over Albania participate in the protest which the parties are holding in their respective headquarters in Tirana. The Socialists declared an indefinite hunger strike, demanding new elections, while the other two parties told OMRI they would do it for three days. The three opposition parties together with the Agrarian Party, the Party of the Democratic Right, and the Party for National Unity, meanwhile, have called for a protest rally in Tirana on 4 June. The demonstration will be held in the Ali Demi stadium outside the city center, since another demonstration on central Skanderbeg square was violently broken up by police the previous week. -- Fabian Schmidt

LOW VOTER TURNOUT IN ALBANIAN RUN-OFF ELECTIONS.
Following the withdrawal of opposition parties from the electoral commission and a call to boycott the second round of the poll, the voter turnout on 2 June was very low. No official results have yet been published, but international agency reports suggest that far less than 50% of the voters may have participated in the ballot. Run off elections took place in ten electoral districts and no irregularities were reported. Candidates from the ruling Democratic Party are likely to win in all districts due to the opposition boycott. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on 1 June urged Albania to repeat the elections in some areas. It is unclear if the opposition would participate in such a partial rerun, but Gazeta Shqiptare speculated that they might agree to a repeat of the ballot in some 40 out of 150 districts. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Ustina Markus











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