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Newsline - May 30, 1997


Speaking on national radio on 30 May, President Boris Yeltsin said the Russia-NATO Founding Act, signed earlier this week in Paris, will serve Russia's interests. He said the document will prevent NATO from deploying nuclear weapons in new member states or augmenting its armed forces close to Russia's borders. NATO officials have said they have no plans to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members but insist that the Founding Act does not prevent them from doing so. In his radio address, Yeltsin also said a new joint Russia-NATO council will enable Russia to "settle security issues in Europe on an equal basis" with the alliance. He confirmed that, in line with what he called his "gesture of good will," Russian missiles will no longer be aimed at NATO countries.


Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov says Russia will not lose out financially from the Black Sea Fleet agreements reached with Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported on 29 May. Under the deal, Russia will compensate Ukraine for about $526 million worth of ships and will rent some port facilities in Sevastopol for 20 years at just under $100 million per year. However, the payments will be offset against Ukraine's $3 billion debt to Russia rather than paid in cash. Russia will also forgive $200 million of the Ukrainian debt in exchange for the nuclear missiles removed from Ukraine in 1992. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the deal was tantamount to the "destruction of the Black Sea Fleet." Earlier this week, former fleet commander Eduard Baltin argued that the deal would allow Ukrainian ships to prevent Russia from using its part of the divided fleet, Interfax reported.


Communist Party leader Zyuganov charged on 29 May that the authorities plan to dissolve the State Duma in order to obtain a more "obedient" lower house of the parliament, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported the next day. Zyuganov said the parliament "does not accept the demands dictated to Yeltsin and his government by the IMF." He slammed the authorities for "fighting against a legally elected Duma" through court appeals aimed at changing the law on parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 May 1997). Appearing alongside Zyuganov, deputy Communist Party leader Valentin Kuptsov noted that the pro-government bloc Our Home Is Russia has formed an alliance with Reforms--New Course leader Vladimir Shumeiko, who has repeatedly called for dissolving the Duma. Zyuganov also criticized the Russia-NATO Founding Act as "an act of unconditional surrender" and a "betrayal" of Russia's interests.


Following talks in Grozny with the Chechen leadership, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross told ITAR-TASS on 29 May that the committee will resume humanitarian activities in Chechnya at an unspecified date. He said he has been given guarantees that the committee's personnel will be adequately protected. International relief organizations withdrew from Chechnya in December 1996 after the murder of six Red Cross medical workers in the village of Starye Atagi. The killers have not been found. Also on 29 May, Noyan Tapan reported that Medicins sans frontieres will inaugurate a new two-year aid program in Nagorno-Karabakh.


The Interior Ministry fired more than 21,000 officials in 1996 for various forms of misconduct, including ties to organized crime, Maj.-Gen. Svyatoslav Golitsyn told journalists on 29 May. He added that criminal charges were brought against 404 police officials last year, which he said was a 25% increase over 1995, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. (However, Golitsyn announced in June 1996 that some 1,277 police officers had been convicted of criminal offenses in 1995.) Also on 29 May, Nikolai Borodin, deputy chief of the Main Automobile Inspectorate (GAI), said criminal cases had been opened against 598 GAI officers in 1996. Bribe-taking among traffic police is widespread in Russia.


Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, a senior official in the Procurator-General's Office, says a proposed amnesty for some convicted criminals and suspects will not cover the most serious crimes, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov recently said his office is drafting a bill that would grant amnesty to some 440,000 persons under investigation in prison or in pre-trial detention centers. Zvyagintsev said the amnesty would apply mainly to women, invalids, pensioners, and juveniles as well as to prisoners who have tuberculosis.


The case against Petr Karpov, deputy director of the Federal Bankruptcy Administration, is "breaking all records for procedural violations," according to the 29 May Segodnya. Karpov remains in prison more than 30 days after he was arrested for allegedly taking a 5 million ruble ($870) bribe in 1994 (see RFE/RL Newsline, 12 May 1997). His custody can legally be extended only through an order from Russia's procurator-general, which has not been issued. In addition, a motion filed by Karpov's lawyer demanding his release pending trial has not been considered by Moscow municipal courts within three days, as required by law. Karpov also spent about three months in custody last year for the same alleged offense but was never prosecuted. Segodnya argued that Karpov is not being released because he is "too dangerous a witness" on how companies evade taxes.


German journalist Gisbert Mrozek, the widower of a journalist killed during the June 1995 Budennovsk hostage crisis, has lost his appeal in the military court of the North Caucasus Military District, Russian news agencies reported on 29 May. Mrozek's wife, Natalya Alyakina, was shot shortly after passing through a Russian checkpoint in Budennovsk. Private Sergei Fedotov, who fired the two fatal shots, said his foot accidentally caused his gun to fire. In July 1996, he was given a two-year suspended sentence for careless handling of firearms. Mrozek appealed against the verdict, charging that the investigation into Alyakina's death was incomplete and that Fedotov's commanding officers were never questioned.


The Constitutional Court on 29 May closed the case on a presidential decree enumerating the functions of the presidential administration, Rossiiskie vesti reported the next day. Opposition Duma deputies lodged the appeal, charging that the October 1996 decree gave the president's chief of staff powers constitutionally assigned to the president, government, and parliament. Last month, Yeltsin amended the decree in question and the Duma deputies withdrew their appeal. However, Yeltsin's legal representatives had sought a court ruling on the case. Yeltsin's current chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev, is considered far less powerful than was his predecessor, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais.


Aleksandr Kazakov, the first deputy head of the presidential administration, says the powers of presidential representatives in the regions will be increased, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Speaking in Novosibirsk, Kazakov said the representatives will coordinate the activities of regional branches of federal agencies. The drive to increase the authority of the president's "eyes and ears" in the regions is related to his declining leverage over governors. Yeltsin can replace his regional representatives at will, but he can no longer dismiss governors, nearly all of whom have been popularly elected.


Speaking in Yekaterinburg to the sixth meeting of the German-Russian Cooperation Council, German Economics Minister Guenther Rexrodt called on the Russian government to overhaul its tax system, customs rules, and highly invasive inspections of corporate records, dpa reported on Thursday. Rexrodt said that "such pin-pricking" by the Russian authorities was one of the reasons that German investment in Russia had not lived up to expectations. Last year, German direct investment in Russia amounted to only DM122 million (about $71.5 million).


Russia's largest saving bank Sberbank has lowered annual interest rates on ruble loans to individuals from 31% to 29%, Russian news agencies reported on 29 May. Among other things, the rate will apply to loans for buying, constructing, or renovating housing. Meanwhile, Central Bank head Sergei Dubinin predicted that Russian commercial banks will lower their lending rates to industrial firms to 20% by the end of 1997, Interfax reported on 28 May. He did not say when or by how much the Central Bank could lower its refinancing rate, at which it lends to commercial banks. That rate was lowered to 36% last month. Commercial banks currently charge businesses interest of 38% to 46% annually. Critics say the Central Bank should lower its refinancing rate further, given that government officials have predicted annual inflation of 12% in 1997.


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has been elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. The Nobel Prize-winning author of The Gulag Archipelago and other works was among the 67 new academicians elected in 1997. Other new members include Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov and Moscow State University rector Viktor Sadovnichii.


The 28 May agreement on the division of the Black Sea Fleet between Russia and Ukraine did not meet Tbilisi's demand for 32 naval vessels formerly stationed at Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti. Ukraine had supported that demand. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told a news conference in the capital on 28 May that Georgia has contributed to the creation and upkeep of the fleet and therefore has the same rights to a share in it as Russia and Ukraine, according to RIA Novosti. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov said on 29 May that Georgia has no right to claim part of the fleet, Interfax reported. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said the original agreement on dividing the fleet was taken at a meeting of CIS heads of state in January 1992. Georgia was not a member of the CIS at that time.


Nesterushkin also criticized Shevardnadze's 27 May statement linking the future development of Georgian-Russian relations to Moscow's assistance in resolving the Abkhaz conflict and to Tbilisi's receiving a share in the Black Sea fleet, RIA Novosti reported. Georgia's ratification of a 1994 treaty on friendship and cooperation with Russia and an agreement allowing Russia to maintain military bases in Georgia is contingent on Russia's assisting in the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity. Nesterushkin argued that Russia "bears no responsibility" for the conflict between Abkhazia and the central government in Tbilisi. Meanwhile, on 29 May, security forces defused a time bomb hidden outside the Sukhumi headquarters of the CIS peacekeeping force, Interfax reported. One man was killed when a bomb exploded elsewhere in Sukhumi later the same day.


RFE/RL correspondents in the Kazak capital report that a large demonstration was held on 30 May in defiance of government orders against such a meeting. Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the parliament building, and some carried placards reading "Oust the Parliament and President" and "False Leader of Kazak Nation [President] Nursultan Nazarbayev to be blamed by Generations to Come." They demanded payment of back wages and pensions and the rescinding of recent price hikes for heat, electricity, water, and rent. The demonstrators attempted to rally in front of the mayor's office, but security forces prevented them from doing so. It was the largest demonstration in Kazakstan since that country gained its independence in 1991.


Akezhan Kazhegeldin says he is refusing to pay the rent for his flat in Almaty because the rent is too high, Izvestiya and ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Kazhegeldin questioned why rents in the Kazak capital were so outrageous, but deputies in the lower house of the parliament laid the blame at Kazhegeldin's door, saying the prime minister had not moved to break up the housing monopoly in Almaty. Rents in Almaty have increased as much as ten times in recent months and can be the equivalent of $50 a month in a country where the average monthly salary is about $30-40. Deputies noted electricity and heating costs are additional.


The Kazak population has shrunk from some 17 million to below 16 million, according to ITAR-TASS. The National Statistics Agency released the figures, saying they can be attributed to the migration abroad of ethnic Germans as well as Slavs. The ethnic German population has plummeted from 1 million in 1991 to 300,000. The number of ethnic Kazaks has increased by 1.5 million in the last seven years. They now account for 51% of the country's population, while Russians make up 32%.


Fewer Russian radio and TV broadcasts are cited by an ethnic Russian association in Kyrgyzstan as the reason for ethnic Russians there to emigrate, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. The Soglasiye association has sent a letter to President Askar Akayev requesting he do everything possible to resolve this problem before the June visit of Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin. Russia's Radio Mayak broadcasts have been cut, as have Russian Public TV programs. And the Russian TV is in danger of going off the air in Kyrgyzstan because of its debts to Kyrgyz relay stations.


Turkmenistan's leadership continues to maintain that pending a new decision between the littoral states on dividing the Caspian Sea into sectors, the existing delimitation should remain in force, Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov told Nezavisimaya gazeta on 30 May. He argued that according to this delimitation, the entire Azeri and part of the Chirag fields, which are to be exploited by an international consortium that includes Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, lie in Turkmenistan's sector. In January, a leading consortium official told Segodnya that Turkmenistan was not claiming the Azeri and Chirag fields. A new Turkmen state commission has been created to organize a tender for oil exploration rights in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian with assistance from the EU TACIS program.


At the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Sintra, Portugal, on 29 May, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said candidates to join NATO expansion would have to "meet the highest possible standards before they are invited to join" and that NATO's enlargement was "not a scholarship program." Observers interpret this statement as meaning the U.S. wants the first invitations to join the alliance to be restricted to the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The statement is also seen as a rebuff to attempts by France, Italy, and Spain to have Romania and Slovenia included in the first wave of enlargement. Diplomatic sources said French President Jacques Chirac may be unwilling to compromise on the demand that a European country be put in charge of NATO's southern European command if Paris fails to secure Romania's admittance to the organization. The report also said the U.S. views Slovenia as being militarily too weak to join NATO now, though it is strongly backed by Italy. Consultations on new NATO members will continue until the July Madrid summit.


Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 29 May initialed an accord in Portugal that sets up mechanisms for strengthening Ukraine's contacts with NATO. The accord, which will be signed at NATO's July summit in Madrid, gives Ukraine the right to call for "consultations" with NATO if it feels under external threat. A NATO-Ukrainian commission will provide a vehicle for the consultations. There will also be an exchange of military missions, with NATO establishing an office in Kyiv. Udovenko told journalists after the signing ceremony that the accord is a "very important document" and the result of three years' discussion. Solana said it gives expression to the special importance NATO attaches to Ukraine "as a democratic, independent state at the heart of Europe."


Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, the commander of Russia's Black Sea fleet, told Interfax on 29 May that he is satisfied with agreements on the division of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet concluded the previous day by Russia and Ukraine. Kravchenko said both sides benefit from the compromise accord. According to Kravchenko, the deal's key benefit for Russia is that "the Black Sea fleet is kept and is based in Sevastopol" and that "finally, after more than five years, the issue has been clarified."


Estonia has the highest per capita crime rate among the Baltic States, according to a recent ETA report. Nonetheless, the number of registered crimes fell by 10.4% in 1996 and is now at 1994 levels. Justice Minister Paul Varul and Interior Minister Robert Lepikson, speaking after a national conference organized by the Crime Prevention Council, said they are optimistic that crime will continue to fall in the country. Varul said there are insufficient funds to complete the reorganization of the police force but stressed the process has started. Lepikson pointed out that both drug-related crimes and criminal actions among youths are increasing.


Welfare Minister Vladimirs Makarovs signed the European Social Charter and its first two protocols in Strasbourg on 29 May, BNS reported. Signing the charter is a condition for admission to the Council of Europe. The document guarantees 19 fundamental social and economic rights, including the rights to employment, labor protection, health care, and social security. Before it ratifies the charter, Riga has to bring its legislation into line with Council of Europe standards. Latvia is the first Baltic State to sign the charter.


Valdas Adamkus, a U.S. environmental official of Lithuanian descent, has topped a poll of six potential presidential candidates conducted by Baltic Studies and published on 29 May in Respublica.. Adamkus won the support of 27% of respondents and was followed by incumbent President Algirdas Brazauskas (24%), former Prosecutor-General Arturas Paulauskas (17%), and parliamentary speaker Vitautas Landsbergis (12%). Adamkus is currently barred from running for the presidency by legislation stipulating that candidates must have lived in Lithuania for at least three years before the election. The parliament recently rejected for the second time a bill that would have abolished that requirement (see RFE/RL Newsline, 26 May 1997). Meanwhile, presidential adviser Vladimiras Beriozovas has announced his resignation, BNS reported on 29 May. A former high-ranking communist, he cited fatigue for his decision but admitted he did not want to spoil Brazauskas's chances of re-election.


Cardinal Jozef Glemp on 29 May strongly attacked leftists who are now in the government, despite, he said, having been reared on Marxism. He noted that although Marxism has disappeared as a system, leftists remain "in high places." Glemp was speaking to some 20,000 worshippers at an outdoor Corpus Christi procession. He was particularly critical of the Education Ministry for publishing sex education textbooks that, according to him, had "pornographic overtones." He also blasted the government for attempting to remove religious instruction from kindergartens.


Vaclav Havel agreed on 29 May to name four new government ministers proposed as part of the coalition government's effort to deal with the country's economic turmoil. At the same time, he expressed doubts about the new economic stabilization plan. Speaking to journalists after meeting with the heads of the three ruling parties, Havel said he would like to believe that the reshuffled government is able to carry out its program. He criticized the total absence of long-term objectives in the new plan, which foresees budget cuts in 1997, state support for a tight central bank policy, sharp cuts in publicly financed imports, and a freeze on public-sector salaries.


Hans van den Broek told a press conference in Bratislava on 29 May that by the year's end, Slovakia needs to send out "positive signals" and to take "practical steps" toward redressing shortcomings in fulfilling EU political criteria if it wants to be invited to expansion talks. Van den Broek said that the European Council is likely to decide in December when those talks will begin. He said the EU expects clear and unambiguous signals from the Slovak government about its intention to strengthen the rule of law and democratization and to follow them up with the necessary practical steps. Earlier the same day, Van den Broek met President Michal Kovac and Premier Vladimir Meciar.


Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairman Jan Slota and Serbian Radical Party Chairman Vojislav Seselj signed a declaration on friendly relations in the Slovak town of Zilina on 29 May, Slovak TV reported. The document guarantees all human rights to ethnic Slovaks living in Serbia. It also says that the protection of ethnic rights is vital for Slovaks and Serbs. The SNS, a minor government coalition member, maintains contacts with European radical nationalists. Earlier this year, Slota announced a visit by Jean-Marie Le Pen to Bratislava. He is also preparing a meeting with Austrian nationalist Joerg Haider.


Prime Minister Gyula Horn said a draft bill approved by the government on 29 May will allow companies to buy land, overturning a 1994 law stipulating that only private individuals can purchase land, Hungarian media report. The draft would not allow direct foreign land ownership but would permit Hungarian-based firms that are part-owned by foreigners to purchase land. Horn said that the draft was in accordance with EU membership requirements, a key foreign-policy objective for Hungary. Opposition members and farmers' associations accuse the government of intending "to sell off" Hungarian territory to foreigners. Meanwhile, high-ranking EU official Michael Bursich announced in Nyiregyhaza that the union is granting ECU 40 million for regional development in Hungary.


Democratic Alliance Party leader Neritan Ceka on 29 May threatened to withdraw from the coalition government unless the state of emergency is lifted by the next day. Talking to the Albanian Daily News in Tirana, Ceka also accused Prime Minister Bashkim Fino of "playing [President Sali] Berisha's game" by not insisting strongly enough that the president meet the opposition's list of demands aimed at ensuring a fair election. Ceka added that the government has failed to reorganize the police and the secret service.


In Tirana, the Socialist and Democratic Parties announced their candidates for the largest municipalities on 29 May. Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano will run in Vlora, while his Democratic Party counterpart, Tritan Shehu, will run in Kavaja, Dita Informacion reported . Meanwhile, the newly-formed United Albanian Right--a coalition made up of the Republicans, the National Front, the Party of the Democratic Right, and other small rightist parties--has named World War II anti-communist National Front leader Abaz Ermenji as its leader. The formation of the coalition has frustrated Berisha's attempt to unite all conservative parties behind the Democrats.


The lek recovered some of its value on 29 May after the central bank intervened against the previous day's rapid fall by selling some of its hard currency reserves. The lek sold on Tirana money markets for as high as 195 to the dollar on 28 May but firmed up at 170 after the bank's move, Dita Informacion reported. Meanwhile, the statistical office at the Agriculture Ministry said that food prices rose by 17% during May. In other news, armed gunmen near Gjirokaster blocked the way of an OSCE election team on 29 May and forced the mainly Italian group to go back to that southern town. In Berat, two people were killed and seven wounded on 28 May in a fight between rival gangs. And in Sauk, near Tirana, unidentified assailants shot three people.


U.S. President Bill Clinton said in London on 29 May that the international community will have to "work like crazy for the next 13 months" to bring stability to Bosnia-Herzegovina. He added that the only important issue in Bosnia is implementing the Dayton agreement immediately. Clinton's remarks were the latest in a series of statements by high U.S. officials on the need to enforce the civilian provisions of the Dayton agreement. Press reaction in Europe has generally been skeptical, and many editorials say that Washington has offered no new concrete ideas.


The foreign ministers of the Atlantic alliance, meeting in Sintra, Portugal, on 29 May, said that violations of the Dayton agreement will not be tolerated. U.S. Secretary of State Albright said the goal is to establish a lasting peace that will not depend on the presence of foreign troops. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook stressed the need to catch war criminals and bring them to justice. Diplomats said that NATO ministers will bring fresh pressure to bear on all three Bosnian sides on 30 May, when the ministers meet with the three members of the joint presidency--Alija Izetbegovic, Kresimir Zubak, and Momcilo Krajisnik.


Also in Sintra, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini stated on 29 May that his country opposes the candidacy of Spanish diplomat Carlos Westendorp to succeed the international community's Carl Bildt in Bosnia. Dini charged that the U.S. and France monopolized the widely reported decision to pick Westendorp and argued that the new high representative should instead be someone with a considerable knowledge of Bosnian affairs. In Sarajevo, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard announced on 29 May that the three members of the presidency finally agreed on a draft law to establish a central bank and common currency. The breakthrough came when the Croats and Muslims granted the Serbs the right to continue to use the Yugoslav dinar on their own territory. The Council of Ministers, for their part, approved a group of economic measures known as the Quick Start Package.


Mirjana Markovic said on a visit to Salonika, Greece, on 29 May that her husband will not run for a third term as Serbian president. She added, however, that it is "too early" to discuss whether Slobodan Milosevic will seek the federal Yugoslav Presidency. A spokesman for Milosevic's Socialists said Serbia will not hand over any indicted war criminals to the Hague-based tribunal but will try them in Yugoslavia. The federal government, for its part, issued a statement that "Croatia is showing insufficient cooperation and readiness for consistent implementation of the Dayton-Paris agreement." And in The Hague, chief prosecutor Louise Arbour met with representatives of the Montenegrin Prosecutor's Office and Foreign Ministry, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that Dutch city.


Slovenian railroad workers decided in Ljubljana on 30 May to extend a strike that was originally slated to end the previous day. In Belgrade, over 5,000 retired people protested on 29 May to demand the payment of back pensions. In Zagreb, opposition coalition presidential candidate Vlado Gotovac called for a televised debate between himself, President Franjo Tudjman, and Social Democrat Zdravko Tomac, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital.


Ivan Kostov's government says Bulgaria should be invited to join an enlarged NATO in the first wave because this would add to the organization's "geographic balance." It also says Bulgaria can provide "real support" for the consolidation of "regional and Euro-Atlantic security," AFP and Reuters reported on 29 May. The declaration said the NATO-Russian pact cleared the way for the alliance's eastward expansion and improved Bulgaria's prospects for joining. The Kostov government says it views Bulgaria's membership in NATO as being of "paramount national interest."


Brian Atwood, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told RFE/RL during his visit to Sofia that the U.S. supports Bulgaria's privatization program, which he characterized as "aggressive and ambitious." Atwood on 29 May discussed the development of the market economy and private business with Premier Kostov. He also met with Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov, who is in charge of the privatization program. Atwood said the US. is encouraged by Bulgaria's new emphasis on market reform and stamping out crime and corruption. Speaking of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE in general, Atwood promised U.S. support for the development of democracy and free markets in the region.


The first no-confidence motion in Victor Ciorbea's government was moved on 29 May. It was initiated by the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania and is supported by the Party of Romanian National Unity and the Greater Romania Party. The motion's 140 signatories say the coalition has proved unable to govern and has generated "economic chaos" as well as a deterioration of living standards. According to regulations, the motion must be debated within three days after it has been moved. Under normal circumstances, the constitution prevents a deputy or a senator from backing more than one no-confidence motion in a single, six-monthly legislative session. However, for the first time in the last 60 years, the executive has also asked the legislature for a vote of confidence. This means that the opposition can move an additional no-confidence motion if it so wishes.


Dumitru Diacov, the leader of the pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova and a deputy chairman of the parliament, has again called for early parliamentary elections (see RFE/RL Newsline, 28 May 1997). Speaking at a press conference in Chisinau on 29 May, Diacov said the bulk of deputies are "hostile" to President Petru Lucinschi and deliberately postpone the passage of reform laws, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. Meanwhile, parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan said he is opposed to early elections. Opposition was also expressed by the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo faction, which called for Diacov's dismissal as deputy chairman of the legislature, and by the Moldovan Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin, BASA-press and Infotag reported on 29-30 May.


In a resolution passed on 29 May, the parliament accused Minister of Privatization and State Property Administration Ceslav Ciobanu of having illegally privatized the Legkovik sanatorium, which was sold to the private Humanitarian University. Ciobanu's wife is one of the founders of the university. The resolution says that Ciobanu should be dismissed. It also calls for measures to be taken against Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economics and Reform Ion Gutu for having approved the deal, Infotag and BASA-press reported the same day. The Prosecutor-General's Office opened an official investigation against Ciobanu on 28 May. Meanwhile, Gheorghe Cucu, a former first deputy mayor of Chisinau, was appointed by President Petru Lucinschi minister of industry and trade. He replaces Grigore Triboi, who resigned two weeks ago.


The Russian contingent in the Transdniester has been cut by 1,900 troops and not to 1,900 troops, as incorrectly reported by RFE/RL Newsline on 29 May 1997.


by Patrick Moore

President Franjo Tudjman is widely expected to easily win a third term in the 15 June elections. The campaign and the vote might nonetheless provide signs of change in the political landscape.

The State Election Commission announced on 27 May in Zagreb that only three candidates had managed to collect the necessary 10,000 signatures to win a place on the presidential ballot. They are Tudjman of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), Zdravko Tomac of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and Vlado Gotovac of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS). Gotovac also has the backing of at least eight other opposition parties or groupings. All three successful candidates kicked off their respective campaigns in Zagreb on 28 May.

Tudjman has held office since 1990 and favors paternalistic, authoritarian rule. He tends to identify his own interests and policies with those of the state and country and keeps a tight grip on the media. Tudjman recently celebrated his 75th birthday by attending a gala at the Croatian National Theater, the theme of which was Tudjman's life and ideas as the culmination of all Croatian political history.

Few Croats would deny his merits in leading the movement for national independence. But his authoritarianism, together with what many observers see as the corruption and ossification of the HDZ itself, has irritated many voters. Still, the HDZ easily remains the strongest party, and it trounced the opposition handily in the 13 April elections for local governments and the upper house of the parliament.

Part of the reason for the HDZ's continued strength is the weakness of the opposition. Gotovac is a former communist-era dissident who heads a party torn by in-fighting. Both Tomac and his party are tainted in the eyes of many Croats by their communist past. The opposition as a whole is divided and has failed to develop a clear ideological alternative to the center-right HDZ. Nor has it been able to find a presidential candidate who could begin to challenge the charismatic Tudjman.

This lack of balance on the political scene may be changing, however. The unexpected strong showing in the April elections of the formerly marginal SDP suggests that the main concern of average Croats continues to be making ends meet and that a party that addresses social issues can win votes. Gotovac seems to have registered this point when he recently defined his campaign as "resistance against Croatia's undemocratic development, totalitarianism and degradation of public morality." He went on to say that, "We want to reverse the direction of Croatia's social and economic life and return to Croatia what was promised to it at the very beginning" of independence in 1991.

Tomac struck a similar chord. The leader of the reformed communists said: "Croatia should not have an elite that lives in high style.... Social Democrats want to preserve private property and free enterprise, but we [also] want to create a country that will protect the worker and his dignity, a country that will not allow a reign of furious capitalism." He added that he would reduce the power of the presidency and called on Gotovac to join forces with him against Tudjman if the ballot goes into a second round.

The president, for his part, launched his campaign with an address to newly graduated air force pilots that was broadcast at peak time on national television. This reflects his and the HDZ's now standard practice of seeking maximum political advantage from the prerogatives of office and from the government's hold on the electronic media. The theme of his campaign is continuity of the policies that he says have proven successful since the first free elections in 1990. But even he acknowledged the need to reduce bureaucracy and improve the standard of living.

His main issues, however, are nationalist ones. During the election campaign, Tudjman can be expected to portray himself as the defender of Croatian interests in the face of increasing criticism from the U.S. Gotovac told RFE/RL in Zagreb on 28 May that Tudjman is exploiting current tensions with Croatia's Western allies, just as Tito sought to rally his people behind him in the face of Soviet pressures in 1948. Tomac, for his part, suggested to RFE/RL that the West is insisting on the immediate return of Serbian refugees but is less interested in the fate of displaced Croats.

Several well-known Croatian political observers told RFE/RL correspondents that the election underlines the need for some more fundamental changes. One is for less emphasis on personalities and more on political programs. A second is that Croatia requires a new generation of political leaders who are not so rooted in the past. Finally, the analysts said, the system itself must become more democratic and less linked to one man and one party.