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Newsline - October 31, 1996


MORE DENUNCIATIONS OF BEREZOVSKII APPOINTMENT.
Politicians across the spectrum denounced the decision to make Boris Berezovskii, head of the LogoVAZ empire and the dominant figure at Russian Public TV (ORT), a deputy secretary of the Security Council, Russian media reported on 30 October. Critics blamed the appointment on Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii described the appointment as "outrageous incompetence," while Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called it "ridiculous and insulting." Even Duma Deputy Roman Popkovich of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction told NTV that he was "astonished" by the criteria used in choosing Security Council staff, since Berezovskii was not a "professional" in such matters. According to the 31 October Komsomolskaya pravda, the appointment reflects the growing power of the "Chubais clan." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said he saw nothing "extraordinary" about Berezovskii's appointment. -- Laura Belin

REACTION TO SELEZNEV'S BOYCOTT THREAT.
Officials loyal to the president held the line against Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's demand that Chubais resign and his threat to boycott all meetings of the Consultative Council while Chubais stands in for Yeltsin. Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin advised Seleznev not to interfere in presidential appointments; Yastrzhembskii added that Chubais would remain on the so-called "permanent four" regardless of Yeltsin's health. Chernomyrdin dismissed Seleznev's threat as a "game." He told ITAR-TASS that the first meeting of the Consultative Council will go ahead whether Seleznev attends or not, but said it will be postponed until next week to allow Seleznev and Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev to attend a CIS parliamentary assembly on 1 November. ORT, the network at which Berezovskii is a top executive, suggested that Seleznev's threat would bring him "dubious glory" as a provocateur or a "political terrorist." -- Laura Belin

BEREZOVSKII TO BE PUT IN CHARGE OF CHECHNYA.
Berezovskii initially indicated that he would cover economic matters on the Security Council, and Chernomyrdin at first said Berezovskii would be in charge of business questions. However, Chernomyrdin and Rybkin announced on 30 October that Berezovskii would be responsible for settling the Chechen conflict, Russian media reported. Meanwhile, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed again accused Berezovskii of trying to intimidate him after Lebed signed a peace agreement with Chechen separatists in late August. Lebed told Radio Rossii that Berezovskii accused him of ruining good "business" in Chechnya. Lebed first made that charge immediately after being fired on 17 October. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON REGIONAL LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS.
President Boris Yeltsin on 30 October vetoed a bill that would have ordered regional legislatures that extended their terms to hold new elections within six months , ITAR-TASS reported. Numerous legislatures were elected to two-year terms in 1994 and then extended their stay in office for an additional two years, following a September 1995 presidential decree (see OMRI Regional Report, 23 October 1996). Yeltsin claimed that the bill arrogated for the federal government the regional governments' right to set the date of the elections and the length of the term to which regional representatives would be elected. The Duma had approved the bill only after overcoming a veto by the Federation Council, half of whose membership is made up of the chairmen of regional legislatures, many of whom do not want to face new elections. Yeltsin's action is likely an attempt to buy off the upper house in order to use it as a buffer against the more opposition-minded Duma. -- Robert Orttung

DICTATORSHIP IN UDMURTIYA.
The State Council of the Urals republic of Udmurtiya is imposing a dictatorship, according to a NTV report on 30 October. Anatolii Saltykov, the elected mayor of the capital Izhevsk, remains in the hospital following his removal from office (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 October 1996). The report said he and his supporters are under surveillance and their phones are tapped. State Council Chairman Aleksandr Volkov is also canceling broadcasts or removing journalists from their jobs after critical reports. Volkov claims that the crackdowns are necessary to prevent unfair criticism of ailing local industries, like Izhmash, which produces Kalashnikovs, and the oil company Udmurtneft. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN'S CHECHEN TRIP IN JEOPARDY.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin may postpone a planned trip to Chechnya because of hard-line statements reasserting Chechen independence by acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov at the All-National Congress of the Chechen People on 27 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Viktor Medveditskov, the Russian presidential envoy in Chechnya, told ITAR-TASS on 30 October that he will lodge an official complaint with the Chechen leadership following an attack by Chechen militants on a Grozny airport in which three Russian soldiers were wounded. -- Liz Fuller

ABM AGREEMENT COLLAPSES.
Last-minute demands by Russia have triggered the cancellation of a planned 31 October Geneva ceremony at which an agreement on tactical ballistic-missile defenses was to be signed, Western agencies reported on 30 October. The agreement, endorsed by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher on 23 September (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 September 1996), clarifies the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty. A second follow-up agreement covering higher-speed interceptors was then to be negotiated. However, last week Moscow reversed its earlier position, insisting that the first agreement not enter into force until the second agreement was concluded, a demand which Washington rejected, leading to the impasse. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER TO TAKE A BIT LONGER.
Revising an earlier prediction, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said on 30 October that a formal Russian-NATO charter would not be signed in 1996 but expressed hope that it could be concluded by mid-1997 when a NATO summit is due to name the first Eastern European candidates for membership, Western agencies reported. Although President Yeltsin has argued that a Russian-NATO charter should be signed before NATO enlarges, Solana insisted that "there is no relationship" between the charter and NATO enlargement, saying the two processes would not proceed in "sequence," but "converge." -- Scott Parrish

SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER IN RUSSIA.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Swedish counterpart Goeran Persson signed a protocol on crime fighting and a communications agreement at their 30 October Moscow meeting, Russian and Western agencies reported. The two men also discussed a proposed gas pipeline linking Russia and Sweden via Finland. ITAR-TASS reported that Chernomyrdin complained to Persson about the treatment of the Russian minority in Estonia and Latvia. Publicly, however, Chernomyrdin said he was "impressed" with Sweden's policies toward the Baltics, while Persson declared that the Baltic states were "honestly working" to resolve the Russian minority issue. -- Scott Parrish

DEBATE OVER FORMING MILITARY POLICE.
Competing proposals for a military police force were aired at a 30 October press conference by Lt.-Gen. Vladimir Kulakov, head of the service troops department of the General Staff, and Nikolai Karlov, a staffer from the Duma Defense Committee, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 October. While both men agreed that a new military police force is needed to combat crime and corruption in the armed forces, Kulakov said such a force should be subordinated to the Defense Ministry, while Karlov, whose views are supported by the other "power ministries" with uniformed troops, argued that an independent organization should be created. -- Scott Parrish

TOP PHYSICIST COMMITS SUICIDE.
Vladimir Nechai, the 60-year-old director of the Federal Nuclear Center in Snezinsk, near Chelyabinsk, shot himself, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 October. Colleagues said that Nechai, who also headed the All-Russian Technical Physics Institute, was depressed over budgets cuts and his inability to pay his staff their salaries. -- Peter Rutland

FURTHER DECLINE IN RUSSIA'S POPULATION.
Russia's population decreased by 350,000 people during the first nine months of 1996, reaching 147.6 million people, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October, citing the State Statistics Committee. This decline was offset by net in-migration of around 150,000 during the first half of 1996, as reported by Radio Rossii on 20 October. The death rate is 14.5 per 1,000 and the birthrate 9.1 per 1,000. The Statistics Committee did note, however, that the mortality rate began decreasing in 1995. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

PENSION DEBTS MOUNT.
Pensioners are owed 17 trillion rubles ($3 billion) in unpaid pensions, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 October. That figure includes 1.7 trillion rubles owed from August and 5.8 trillion from September. Of Russia's 89 regions and republics, 22 are able to pay pensions from their own receipts, and 67 rely on subsidies from the federal fund. Pension Fund official Natalya Petrova told ITAR-TASS that firms owe 48 trillion rubles in pension contributions, and the fund is also owed money from the federal budget. She said the fund had been forced to take loans from commercial banks, but has exhausted its creditworthiness. -- Peter Rutland

STRIKE STATISTICS AFTER THREE QUARTERS.
Some 3,767 enterprises and organizations have participated in work stoppages in the first nine months of 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October, citing the State Statistics Committee. The strikes involved some 356,000 workers and nearly two billion work hours were lost. The main motive of the strikes was wage arrears. Educational institutions and coal mines had the largest number of strikes. The greatest loss of working hours occurred in the mining regions of Rostov and Kemerovo Oblasts and Krasnoyarsk and Primore Krais. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

FEDERAL BANKRUPTCY COMMITTEE'S WORK IN 1996.
The Federal Bankruptcy Committee secured the repayment of 4.9 trillion rubles ($900 million) of tax arrears to the consolidated budget from January through September, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 October, citing its head Petr Mostovoi. Of that, some 2.6 trillion rubles were raised in August and September. Mostovoi confirmed that the Tatarstan truck manufacturer KamAZ has been taken off the bankruptcy list. Earlier this week, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev held meetings with Viktor Chernomyrdin and Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, and it was agreed that KamAZ will pay the reduced sum of 51 billion rubles ($9 million) in back taxes, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 October. -- Natalia Gurushina

MONEY SUPPLY STILL TIGHT.
In the first nine months of 1996, money emissions stood at 18.6 trillion rubles, down from 30.6 trillion rubles over the same period in 1995, AFP reported on 29 October. From July to September the Central Bank issued no new money, and withdrew some 6.5 trillion rubles from circulation. Many firms and regions now complain of an acute shortage of cash. Members of the regional association "Siberian Accord" called on the government to print more money in an appeal reported by ITAR-TASS on 30 October. -- Natalia Gurushina

SIBNEFT OIL COMPANY SELLS SHARES.
The Rifanoil company won an investment auction for a 15% equity stake in Sibneft by offering to invest $35 million over the next three years, Segodnya reported on 29 October. In December 1995 the government sold 51% of Sibneft to Stolichnyi Bank Sberezhenii and Neftyanaya Finansovaya Kompaniya for a $100 million loan under the controversial loans-for-shares scheme. -- Natalia Gurushina



ARMENIAN POWER MINISTERS ACCUSED OF PLANNING COUP.
Former Armenian National Security Minister David Shahnazaryan accused the country's "power" ministers of plotting a coup d'etat and demanded their resignation, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October citing Vremya. Shahnazaryan, who used to be one of the closest figures to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, called for a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition. According to him, fresh parliamentary elections are a "political necessity." Meanwhile, acting presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan said Armenia's political situation is returning to normal and praised the opposition for its efforts to "return to legal activity," Noyan Tapan reported on 30 October. -- Emil Danielyan

NEW POLITICAL OFFICE CREATED IN UZBEKISTAN.
In an address to the cabinet, Uzbek President Islam Karimov announced that Qobiljon Obidov will be appointed to the newly-created position of first deputy prime minister with special responsibility for agriculture and water resources, Uzbek TV reported on 29 October. Given recent poor harvests in the Syrdarya and Jizzak regions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 October 1996), Karimov has called for greater oversight and a more defined division of labor in the presidential apparatus. -- Roger Kangas

MESHETIAN TURKS OF KYRGYZSTAN TO HOLD CONGRESS.
A congress of Meshetian Turks will be held in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on 2 November, RFE/RL reported. The leader of the Turk Association of Kyrgyzstan, Maksut Izzatov, claims there are presently 57,000 Meshetian Turks living in Kyrgyzstan, the majority of whom would prefer to move to Turkey. Large numbers of Meshetian Turks were forcibly relocated in Central Asia during World War II from the Caucasus, and in 1989 some were forced to flee Uzbekistan when rioting broke out in areas where they lived. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

TURKMENISTAN ANNIVERSARY.
The Chistopol watch factory in Tatarstan has produced a rush order of 81,000 wrist watches for Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 October. The watches are designed to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence. The watch face depicts Turkmenistan's President, Saparmurad Niyazov. -- Peter Rutland



UKRAINE CONTINUES TALKS ON BLACK SEA FLEET.
During talks in Sevastopol, Ukrainian and Russian delegations agreed in principle on procedures for evaluating military facilities to be divided, international media reported on 31 October. Meanwhile, Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil announced that the Rukh and Reforms factions began soliciting signatures in parliament to amend the Ukrainian constitution, which allows the temporary deployment of foreign troops. Chornovil called for immediate withdrawal of the Russian fleet from Ukraine, UNIAN reported on 29 October. In other news, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk signed an agreement on military cooperation with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov in Ashgabat, international media reported on 30 October. Ukraine will help Turkmenistan in equipment repair and military training. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

UKRAINIAN NEGOTIATIONS WITH GAZPROM.
Gazprom Chairman Rem Vyakhirev arrived in Kyiv on 30 October to negotiate Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian agencies reported. This year Ukraine paid for 97% of its supplies and owes only $447 million this year. A further $1.4 billion debt accrued in 1993-1995. Gazprom representatives suggested a debt-swap for shares in Ukraine's energy facilities, and a joint-venture, Tranzgaz, to insure gas supplies flow to the West. Last year, Ukraine's parliament blocked the initiatives because the joint-venture planned to control two gas storage facilities in the country. Parliament regards energy facilities as strategic assets and has kept them off the privatization list. President Leonid Kuchma announced the country would switch from a centralized gas distribution system to a market system and has issued appropriate decrees. He also said it was necessary to come to some long-term agreement on supplies for at least 20 years. -- Ustina Markus

REACTION OF WASHINGTON ON SITUATION IN BELARUS.
The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe held a hearing on the situation in Belarus, RFE/RL reported on 31 October. Jack Segal, the director of Ukranian, Belarusian, and Moldovan affairs at the U.S. State Department, said that if the referendum on constitutional change in Belarus is held without a less constricted press, it "would not be credible" and violates human rights. Segal also accused President Lukashenka of imposing "a virtual information blockade" through control of television and radio. Previously, on 30 October, Segal pointed out that the U.S. has no intention to isolate Belarus or interfere in its internal affairs and will try to develop relations with the country, especially in providing advice and aid, Itar-TASS reported on 30 October. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

LATVIA SIGNS COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRIMINAL LAW CONVENTIONS.
Latvian Ambassador to the Council of Europe Andris Teikmanis on 30 October in Strasbourg signed four international conventions, BNS reported. They were the European conventions on extradition, on mutual assistance in criminal matters, on the transfer of proceedings in criminal matters, and on the transfer of sentenced individuals. The Latvian government approved joining the conventions on 15 October and they will go into effect pending parliamentary ratification. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PARLIAMENT COMMISSION ON OLEKSY AFFAIR.
A special 12-person Sejm commission investigating the secret services' role in the affair of former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy accepted on 30 October an initial version of its final report, Polish dailies reported. Oleksy was accused in December last year by former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski of having knowingly collaborated with Moscow spies. Military prosecutors dropped the probe in April, deciding that the evidence against Oleksy was insufficient. The Sejm commission prepared two versions of the final report: one, supported by the majority, accused Milczanowski of insufficient supervision of the State Security Office (UOP), which was collecting evidence. In their version, opposition deputies in the commission claim that UOP officers committed mistakes and infringed the principles of "good work," but did not violate the law. The version of the final report prepared by the opposition was rejected by 6 to 4 vote. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ON MINORITIES.
Speaking in a televised debate on 30 October, Vladimir Meciar asserted that human rights in Slovakia are guaranteed by legislation and institutions, CTK reported. Meciar said the controversial penal code amendment on the protection of the republic will be reworked to ensure the safeguarding of the country's sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity. He rejected the increased demands from the Hungarian minority, stating that half of them are actually Roma. Noting that he would like to see a comparative study on the position of minorities in other European countries, Meciar said "Slovakia will not become a guinea pig for Europe." He added that he believes double standards are applied to Slovakia, while the country's accommodating approach toward minorities is evidenced by the growth of such groups. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY'S NEW MINISTERS PLEDGE REFORM.
Two socialist officials, Judit Csiha and Szabolcs Fazakas on 29 October were appointed ministers without portfolio for privatization and minister of industry, trade, and tourism, respectively. The appointments come in the wake of the recent dismissal of Tamas Suchman from both posts following a privatization scandal
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 October 1996) Csiha, formerly state secretary at the Justice Ministry, pledged to make the privatization process more transparent to the public. Fazakas--who was administrative state secretary of industry and trade and Hungary's ambassador to Germany--said he wants to rename his ministry the ministry of economy and pursue a policy of export-driven growth and economic stability. He is the fourth minister of trade and industry of the Horn-cabinet. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

SCANDALS SHIFT POPULARITY RATINGS OF HUNGARY'S POLITICAL PARTIES.
The opposition Young Democrats have caught up with the senior governing Socialist Party in popularity (15% each), closely followed by the opposition Independent Smallholders' Party (14%), Magyar Hirlap reported on 31 October. The junior coalition party, Alliance of Free Democrats, takes fourth place with 7% of the votes in a poll by Sonda Ipsos polling agency. Other parliamentary parties received 5% or less. The poll reflects the impact of the recent privatization scandal on the governing parties' popularity, as well as that of the opposition parties--in particular, the Young Democrats with an increase of 3% in a month. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL CALLS FOR ARREST OF FOUR BOSNIAN SERB POLICEMEN.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia based in The Hague issued a statement on 30 October demanding that Bosnian Serb authorities "immediately arrest" four indicted war criminals, AFP reported. The court slammed the Serbs for keeping the men on the force in violation of the Dayton agreement and international law (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 October 1996). In Sarajevo, the office of the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt has changed its story, claiming not to have known anything about the four until a few days ago. But international police officials told The Boston Globe that they had filed a report on the four in July, OMRI's correspondent in Sarajevo reported. An IFOR spokesman said, however, that peacekeepers have no mandate to engage in "manhunts," Onasa wrote. Critics charge that the case appears to be one of international civilian and military officials turning a blind eye to war criminals still holding official jobs, Oslobodjenje reported. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN REFUGEES ORGANIZE ACROSS ETHNIC LINES.
Representatives of Bosnian Muslim, Serb, and Croat refugees who want to go back to their homes despite nationalist opposition have formed a group in Sarajevo to coordinate their efforts, Oslobodjenje reported on 31 October. The Coalition for Return says it rejects "the ideology of ethnic separation." Meanwhile, the United States and OSCE have charged that the Bosnian Serbs are violating arms control provisions of the Dayton agreement by keeping a "significant number" of extra World War II tanks in service. The Serbs have exploited a loophole in the text that allows parties to retain such weapons if they are intended for export, research, or museums, Reuters noted on 30 October. And in New York, Bosnia's UN Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey told the VOA that his government will cooperate with investigations to determine whether Bosnian police had forced a Serb into testifying wrongly against Dusan Tadic in The Hague (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 October 1996). -- Patrick Moore

INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA RESIST GOVERNMENT PRESSURE.
On October 28, representatives of the major independent Bosnian Serb media met in Banja Luka to discuss their response to a recent government campaign against dissident media voices (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 29 October 1996). The representatives of Novi Prelom, Nezavisne Novine and Radio Krajina from Banja Luka, Alternativa from Doboj, and Extra Magazin and Panorama from Bijeljina debated coordinating their marketing, starting an independent journalists' union, and possibly setting up an independent printing house. The government-owned printing office Glas Srpski recently refused to print dissident periodicals. Radio Krajina faces attempts by the Information Ministry to take away its equipment and broadcasting frequency. Two Alternativa journalists face flimsy libel charges by two officials of the governing Serbian Democratic Party. -- Jan Urban in Sarajevo and Patrick Moore

FORMER YUGOSLAV STATES OPPOSE AUTOMATIC UN MEMBERSHIP FOR BELGRADE.
The UN ambassadors of Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia sent an appeal to Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali requesting that Serbia-Montenegro not automatically inherit the UN seat of Tito's Yugoslavia. The four asked that Belgrade be required to apply for membership, like any other new candidate lest the move "make an impact on the division of common assets," Onasa noted on 30 October. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia claims that it is the sole successor to Tito's state and hence it alone is entitled to its rights and properties, a point that the other four states dispute. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIA APPOINTS CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR.
The Bosnian three-man presidency on its meeting on 29 October accepted Serge Robert to the post of governor of the new central bank, Oslobodjenje reported on 31 October. Under the Dayton peace accord, the central bank governor is chosen by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and approved by the collective presidency. In addition, other three senior bank officials were appointed: Kasim Omicevic and Jure Pelivan from the Bosnian Federation and Manojlo Coric from the Republika Srpska. All appointed members of the governing board will serve a six-year term. The presidency also appointed two working groups. One of them will make appointments for the joint council of ministers which is responsible for foreign trade and relations, AFP reported. The second group will examine the issue of Bosnia's foreign-affairs policy. The High Representative Carl Bildt said it was "too early" for the appointment of the council of ministers. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN ENTREPRENEURS REGISTER THEIR OWN PROTEST.
Among the latest to register their protest against government polices in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were "several hundred private businessmen," Reuters reported on 30 October. Serbian entrepreneurs are calling attention to discriminatory taxation and fiscal policies, which reportedly heavily favor state-run and state-backed firms. Dragan Nikolic, president of Serbia's association of private entrepreneurs, said, "the fiscal burden should correspond to the economic strength of taxpayers." In a related development, on 28 October, Nasa Borba reported that private lawyers were withholding services to clog the court system in their own three-day job action to protest high taxes and corruption, which bar association representatives say have driven many barristers to the brink of poverty. -- Stan Markotich

BOUTROS-GHALI RECOMMENDS UN MANDATE TO EXTEND FOR A YEAR.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said on 29 October the UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES) should have a presence in this last Serb-held enclave of Croatia until the end of 1997, with troops leaving in mid-July, international and local media reported. But Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said he has already agreed with Gen. Jacques Klein, the UN administrator for eastern Slavonia, on 3 plus 3 extension of the UN mandate that would end in July 1997. The UNTAES mandate in Eastern Slavonia expires on 15 January, and the UN Security Council is expected to vote on its extension sometime in November. Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak said that Croatia was surprised by Boutros-Ghali's recommendation, Hina reported on 30 October. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIAN LOBBYING IN THE U.S. STIRS CONTROVERSY.
Independent dailies accused the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 30 October of spending large amounts of public money for improving its image in the United States. The papers based their allegations on documents provided by two American journalists who claimed that the PDSR misused $4 million on contracts with consulting firms, originally designed to influence the U.S. government on granting permanent most favored nation status in bilateral trade. In response, Presidential Spokesman Traian Chebeleu stated that the contracts were perfectly legal, and that the timing of the accusations--the penultimate day of electoral campaigning--was calculated to leave no place for an official reply. Moreover, Cronica Romana accused one of the two journalists of being close to the Party of Romanian National Unity, a former PDSR ally and currently one of its arch-enemies. -- Zsolt Mato

ROMANIAN LIBERALS CLOSE RANKS.
Two liberal formations on 30 October signed a protocol of post-electoral cooperation, Romanian media reported the following day. The two parties--the National Liberal Party and the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention--agreed to set up joint parliamentary groups in both chambers. The document, which was signed by the leaders of the two parties, Mircea Ionescu-Quintus and Nicolae Cerveni, paves the way for a possible liberal unification under the umbrella of the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania in the first half of 1997. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN, RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT.
A cooperation agreement between the parliament of the Republic of Moldova and Russia's two-chamber parliament was signed in Moscow on 29 October, Infotag reported the following day. The accord was signed by Moldovan Speaker Petru Lucinschi, and by Yegor Stroev and Genadii Seleznev, chairmen of the Council of the Federation and the State Duma, respectively. The document provides for setting up an inter-parliamentary commission to harmonize the two countries' legislation in the economic field. At the end of a two-day official visit to Moscow, Lucinschi said that "relations with the Russian Federation are a top priority for Moldova" and pledged to "improve them considerably" if elected Moldova's president on 17 November. Meanwhile, media in Chisinau claimed that Lucinschi was closely cooperating with Russian communists led by Ghenadii Zyuganov. Lucinschi's supporters denied the accusations. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN ELECTIONS FAIR, OBSERVERS SAY.
The OSCE's international observer mission on 29 October said that the Bulgarian presidential elections on 27 October took place in a "calm and thoughtful fashion," an OMRI correspondent reported. They also said the elections "assisted in the further development and entrenchment of democracy in Bulgaria." Observers were critical of certain parts of the electoral law, however, singling out that candidates nominated by parties represented in parliament had more air time on the national media, were represented on all electoral commissions, and did not have to produce bank guarantees for registration. Observers also noted that according to demographic statistics, at least 350,000 more people were registered to vote than is possible. -- Stefan Krause in Sofia

REACHING CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
Three major trends were observed in Bulgaria's 27 October first round of presidential elections, reported Standart. First, a new political majority is being formed. Second, the Bulgarian Socialist's Party's (BSP) electorate is dissatisfied and falling away from that party, and finally, opposition voting is shifting and undergoing at least a partial realignment. Those conclusions stem from the relatively high percentage of votes going to the Bulgarian Business Block Leader Georges Ganchev, the solid showing of united opposition candidate Petar Stoyanov, and the extremely poor showing of BSP's Ivan Marazov. 24 Chasa observed that the BSP was "suspiciously" self-critical. Marazov's loss appeared intentional, noted the daily, because united opposition candidate Stoyanov, as president, may serve to further conflicts between government institutions, drawing attention from substantive issues. -- Maria Koinova

STRUGGLE FOR MORE VOTES IN BULGARIA'S PRESIDENTIAL RUNOFF.
After a poor showing by BSP candidates Ivan Marazov and Irina Bokova in the 27 October first round, socialists began wooing voters of third and fourth place finishers Georges Ganchev and Alexander Tomov, hoping to secure their votes in the runoff. Premier Zhan Videnov allegedly had an "intense" private conversation with Ganchev on 28 October, which yielded no result, Kontinent reported on 30 October. Chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces Ivan Kostov said the united opposition will hold talks with politicians, adding that on election night, both Ganchev and Tomov said that the government's politics needed changing. After meeting with BSP officials on 30 October, Ganchev and Tomov said they will ask supporters to vote their conscience, national media reported. -- Maria Koinova

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Valentina Huber







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