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Newsline - June 8, 1998




YELTSIN AGAIN SEEKS TO CALM WESTERN MARKETS

In an interview with "Der Spiegel" published on 8 June, President Boris Yeltsin stressed again that Russia's financial crisis is over. Yeltsin said the "time for begging is over for Russia" but added that Moscow will still seek foreign loans "for strategic tasks...because our economy must be restructured." Yeltsin acknowledged that past credits were misspent to "patch a shabby skirt with good fabric." His comments came ahead of a visit to Bonn later the same day for talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that are expected to focus on Russia's financial turmoil as well as security and bilateral issues. AW

RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK SAYS MARKETS STILL FRAGILE

The Russian Central Bank said in a statement on 5 June that financial markets are still fragile and the recent upturn can be consolidated only through cooperation between the bank and the government, ITAR- TASS reported. The statement was issued after Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin met with leading commercial bankers to discuss the situation on financial markets and the state of the banking system. AW

RUSSIAN TYCOONS THROW SUPPORT BEHIND YELTSIN

Three days after meeting with Yeltsin, 10 leading industrialists and bankers signed a statement on 5 June vowing support for the president's efforts to stabilize Russia's finances and urging their countrymen to do likewise. "The decisions taken today by the government are very tough but they are necessary and without them there can be no economic development," according to the statement. The tycoons said they expected more bankruptcies as a result of Russia's financial crisis, but they also urged foreign investors to take advantage of Russian business opportunities. The statement was signed by the heads of Rosprom-Yukos, Most Group, Interros, Alfa Group, SBS-Agro Bank, Rossiiskii Kredit Bank, Gazprom, Unified Energy System, and the LUKoil and Surgutneftegaz oil companies. AW

FYODOROV DENIES TARGETING RICH IN TAX COLLECTION CAMPAIGN

One day after the Federal Tax Service announced it will audit some 1,000 prominent Russians, director Boris Fyodorov denied on 5 June that he is drawing up a "hit list" to target wealthy tax dodgers. "I simply think that it is time to start monitoring prominent people's tax history. They must set an example of a tax- paying culture to other citizens," Fyodorov told "Kommersant-Daily" in an interview. Fyodorov gave no hint as to who might be on the initial list besides himself. "Kommersant-Daily," however, came up with its own short version of the 238 "most renowned and richest people in Russia." That list includes Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zuganov. AW

YELTSIN WARNS OF DANGER AFTER INDIAN, PAKISTANI TESTS

Yeltsin on 6 June told Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that Indian-Pakistani nuclear rivalry has set a dangerous precedent and could lead to further proliferation of nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. Speaking by telephone, Yeltsin urged Vajpayee to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, according to the Kremlin press service. Yeltsin and Vajpayee also discussed how Russia might play a role in encouraging a dialogue between India and Pakistan. The same day, Yeltsin spoke by telephone with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about international issues, including the crisis in Yugoslavia's troubled Kosova province. AW

KREMLIN STEPS UP DRIVE FOR START-2 RATIFICATION

Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and other security officials met with State Duma faction leaders on 5 June to urge the ratification of the START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty. Asked later if START-2 might be ratified before the Duma begin its summer recess on 10 July, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev replied "No, there is no point getting into a disarmament race." Vladimir Lukin, the chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said he "would be amazed if the Duma is ready for ratification before the fall." Seleznev said he put forward two conditions for ratification: the passage of a bill on strategic nuclear forces and releasing funds allocated to the defense budget. The government has released only 3 percent of the army budget since the beginning of the year, he said. AW

U.S. MISSILE FORCE CHIEF SAYS RUSSIAN NUKES SAFE

General Eugene Habiger, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, said on 7 June that Russia's nuclear arsenal is under strict control and observation, ITAR-TASS reported. Habiger made the comment following a week-long tour of Russian nuclear sites. AW

STEPASHIN DETERMINED TO COMBAT ORGANIZED CRIME

Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin was quoted on 8 June by the German newspaper "Die Welt" as saying it is necessary to "undermine the financial foundations of organized crime." Stepashin said organized crime has risen 8.5 times over the past seven years. He stressed that Moscow needs international cooperation in fighting organized crime, citing the information exchange between Russian and German police. AW

LEBED SWORN IN AS GOVERNOR

Reserve General Aleksandr Lebed on 5 June was sworn in as governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai in an elaborate ceremony. Following the inauguration ceremony, Lebed accused the federal government of monopolizing 84 percent of the country's wealth, but he pledged to work with federal authorities. "All the blood has flown to the head. I am afraid that the country might have a heart attack," Lebed said in an obvious reference to Yeltsin, whom he may challenge in the presidential elections in 2000, should the incumbent seek a third term in office. AW

YELTSIN MEETS WITH REPUBLICAN HEADS

Yeltsin met with the heads of 18 of Russia's 21 republics in Moscow on 5 June, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Absent were Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, and Khakasian leader Aleksei Lebed. Yeltsin ordered the leaders to economize on administrative costs and proposed "a moratorium on pompous buildings, festivals, and receptions." But he also hinted that Moscow may be prepared to amend the power-sharing agreements concluded with federation subjects if those agreements "have become outdated in some respects." Yeltsin also held separate talks on the situation in Dagestan with the head of that republic's State Council, Magomed-Ali Magomadov. In an allusion to Chechen aspirations to create an independent North Caucasus state that would include Dagestan, Yeltsin warned that "we shall not allow anyone else to interfere in Dagestan's jurisdiction over its territory," Interfax reported. LF

POLICE CHIEF IN ST. PETERSBURG SACKED

Anatolii Ponidelko was sacked on 6 June after being accused of breaking Interior Ministry rules and manipulating official figures to show a big drop in crime in the city, Russian Public Television reported. Ponidelko said his dismissal was a political decision prompted by his battle against corruption in the city's law-enforcement bodies. "Somebody in St. Petersburg does not want order enforced," he said in televised remarks following his sacking. AW

BEREZOVSKII CONVINCED CIS HAS ROLE TO PLAY

CIS Executive-Secretary Boris Berezovskii told NTV on 7 June that despite its dismal record, the CIS can still play a role tackling internal conflicts and solving other member-state problems. Berezovskii said the root of the CIS's problems is its bureaucratic administration, which, the Russian tycoon said, is "cut off from reality." Berezovskii also said that in recent talks with the presidents of CIS states, he found that "the notion of the West as a kind of 'messiah' has disappeared.... People now realize that free cheese is only found in mouse traps and that Westerners are not just nice gentlemen but rational people," he commented. AW




TWO MORE CIVILIANS KILLED IN ABKHAZIA

Two Georgians were shot dead and another three injured by Abkhaz militants in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 6 June, Reuters reported. Two days earlier, Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili said that a total of 35 Georgian civilians and 17 Interior Ministry troops were killed in last month's hostilities and 1,695 Georgian homes burned, according to ITAR-TASS. Caucasus Press on 5 June quoted unnamed Georgian government officials as saying the number of displaced persons who fled from Abkhazia to Georgia's Zugdidi and Tsalendjikha Raions outnumbers permanent residents of those districts. Those officials warned of possible unrest if the fugitives are not quickly repatriated. LF

ABKHAZ PEACE TALKS CONTINUE

Abkhaz and Georgian presidential envoys Anri Djergenia and Vazha Lortkipanidze continued their talks in Moscow on 5-6 June, Russian agencies reported. On 5 June, they also met with CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii. The two envoys have drafted several documents for discussion at the proposed meeting between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba. (No date has yet been set for that proposed meeting.) The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry special task force for Abkhazia, Lev Mironov, told Interfax that one of the documents deals with the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons to Gali. Other Russian Foreign Ministry officials have cast doubts on the effectiveness of Berezovskii's mediation. Georgian Parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Revaz Adamia told Caucasus Press on 5 June that he fears antagonism between Berezovskii and the Russian Foreign Ministry could negatively affect the chances of resolving the conflict. LF

GEORGIAN COMMUNIST PARTY MAY BE BANNED

Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on 4 June, Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili said the United Communist Party, headed by General Panteleimon Giorgadze may be banned for "anti-constitutional activities", including calls for the overthrow of the present Georgian leadership, Interfax reported. Giorgadze, for his part, rejected the charge of anti-state activities and said his party will go underground if it is banned, Caucasus Press reported on 6 June. LF

ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION MEETS

President Robert Kocharian on 6 June presented a nine- point program to the first session of the recently created commission to amend the country's constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The proposals include restrictions on the powers of the president, the decentralization of government, greater access to the Constitutional Court, and the lifting of the ban on dual citizenship. Kocharian said he is ready to cede part of his powers to the legislative and judicial branches, but he ruled out any "revolutionary" change in the current constitutional order. His proposals would place restrictions on the president's unlimited right to dissolve the parliament and abolish the mandatory presidential endorsement for government decisions. Those amendments, together with others proposed by the commission, will be put to a nationwide referendum after they are approved by the parliament. LF

ARMENIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH CONTINUES

The Armenian economy grew by 6.4 percent during the first three months of this year, compared with the same period in 1997, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 6 June, citing official statistics. Industrial output was up 4.3 percent, with a dozen enterprises significantly increasing output. Foreign investment totaled $100 million. Inflation reached 8 percent in late March but fell 2 by percent in April. The annual inflation rate is projected at 10 percent, While exports rose by 58 percent to $56.7 million, they have failed to substantially reduce Armenia's huge trade deficit because imports totaled $201 million. The government also reported vastly improved tax revenues, up 84 percent during the first five months of this year, compared with the same period in 1997. LF

ANOTHER SEVEN UZBEK TERRORISTS SENTENCED

Uzbekistan's Supreme Court on 5 June sentenced seven men to prison terms of between six and 10 years , Reuters and Interfax reported. All seven were found guilty of "undermining the constitution, fomenting racial and religious hatred, and illegally crossing the border." All were branded by the government as "Wahhabis." The prosecution had demanded sentences of 13-20 years, but the court took into consideration the "sincere repentance" showed by the men. The seven are the first to be sentenced in Tashkent for crimes committed last December in the eastern Uzbek city of Namangan. In May, a Namangan court found 12 men guilty of involvement in the violence in Namangan and sentenced them to between five and eight years. Another eight men are due to go on trial in Tashkent soon. BP

TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL GUARD ATTACKED

A 4 June attack on a presidential guard unit in the Faizabad District, 50 kilometers east of Dushanbe, left one Tajik soldier dead and two others wounded, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Presidential guards fought off the attackers, estimated to have numbered 70 or so, and chased them into the nearby mountains. Representatives of the government and United Tajik Opposition have visited the area and are attempting to identify who was responsible for the attack. BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT INVITES CLINTON TO VISIT

During his 5 June meeting with Stephen Sestanovich, the U.S.'s special envoy to the Newly Independent States, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov handed over an invitation for U.S. President Bill Clinton to visit Turkmenistan, Interfax reported. Niyazov and Sestanovich also reviewed progress in finding a company to conduct a feasibility study for a Trans-Caspian pipeline. Sestanovich said the winning company will be announced soon. When Niyazov visited Washington in April, the U.S. said it will donate $750,000 to the study BP

TURKMEN-PAKISTANI PIPELINE IDEA REVIVED?

Despite renewed fighting between groups in Afghanistan, a Turkmen official said he has secured agreements from warring factions there to allow construction of the Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistan gas pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June. Former Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Gochmurad Nazjanov, who is now the Turkmen government's coordinator for the proposed pipeline, met with leaders from Afghanistan's Taliban Movement and the Northern Alliance at the end of May and received security guarantees for "the pipeline and its builders." The project has been discussed for several years, but fighting within Afghanistan has prevented work from starting. The Turkmen government, the U.S. company Unocal, Saudi Arabia's Delta Corp. and companies from Japan, South Korea, and Pakistan are all involved in the project. BP

KAZAKH PLANE WITH RADIOACTIVE CARGO GROUNDED IN UKRAINE

An Il-76 cargo plane belonging to a Kazakh airline has been grounded by Ukrainian authorities after police found 40 tons of "unidentified" radioactive material aboard, Interfax reported on 6 June. The plane, which was bound for Russia from Germany, stopped at Ukraine's Rovno airport for refueling when the discovery was made. The material was in metal barrels and measurements near the containers showed radioactivity levels "seriously above the norm." BP




LUKASHENKA SLAMS GOVERNMENT FOR FOOD SHORTAGES, PRICE HIKES

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka slammed the government for food shortages and unregulated price increases in Belarus during a televised cabinet session on 5 June, Reuters and ITAR- TASS reported. Lukashenka said he is angry that food produced in Belarus is being sold in neighboring Russia. He lambasted the cabinet for its inability to keep the monthly inflation rate within a 2 percent range. And he also rejected the government's proposal to bring domestic prices closer to those in Russia. JM

BELARUSIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS PLEDGE TO FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY

At a congress in Minsk on 6 June, the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Popular Hramada) pledged to fight for democracy as well as constitutional law and order in Belarus, Belapan reported. Party leader Mikola Statkevich told the congress that the fight will be conducted primarily by means of mass protest actions. He added that if his party were take part in presidential or parliamentary elections under the constitution adopted in the controversial 1996 referendum, the result would be the legalization of Lukashenka's regime. The Social Democrats want elections to be held on the basis of the 1994 constitution. JM

TAX CHIEF SAYS UKRAINE HAS 150,000 MILLIONAIRES

Ukrainian Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov has said only seven persons declared incomes exceeding 1 million hryvni ($500,000) in Ukraine last year, Ukrainian Television reported. According to Azarov, the number of millionaires who made false declarations totals some 150,000. He also estimated that some 10-12 billion hryvni is circulating in Ukraine's shadow economy. Azarov said the tax bodies will be able to collect some 3.5 billion hryvni from that sector by the end of this year if the Supreme Council adopts a package of new tax legislation. JM

LATVIAN PREMIER FEARS MORE RUSSIAN PRESSURE

Speaking at a seminar organized by RFE/RL in Washington on 5 June, Guntars Krasts said he expects Russia to press for a further easing of Latvia's citizenship regulations, despite the parliament's approval of amendments to that law in the second reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1998). But Krasts added that he hopes those amendments will persuade Russia to be more accommodating. The Russians adopted an "exaggerated" response to the issue of citizenship, he commented, saying the amendments offer the chance to be "less confrontational." As if to underscore Krasts's fears, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement the following day noting "some progress" on amendments to the country's citizenship law but only on a "small part" of Moscow's recommendations. The ministry condemned the fact that the Latvian parliament did not use emergency procedures to implement changes to the law. JC

POLISH COALITION LOSES VOTE ON NUMBER OF PROVINCES...

The parliament took 12 hours to pass the administrative reform bill on 5 June. No fewer than 453 deputies of the 460-seat parliament were present for the session. The ruling coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) lost the first vote, which was on reducing the number of provinces from 49 to 12, with 242 deputies voting against it, including 38 AWS and seven UW deputies. The AWS parliamentary group responded by dismissing deputies Jan Lopuszanski and Adam Slomka from its ranks, while six other deputies quit the AWS in protest at Slomka's expulsion. An AWS spokesman told the 8 June "Gazeta Wyborcza" that a total of 15 deputies are expected to leave the AWS but that the ruling coalition will be "even stronger." JM

...BUT PREVAILS BY PASSING BILL ON ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM

After several votes on amendments introducing larger numbers of provinces had failed, the parliamentary speaker ordered a vote on the entire administrative reform bill, including the 12- province option. This time, the bill passed by a vote of 246 to 202. However, both the AWS and the UW want the upper house to increase the number of provinces to 15, thereby taking into account protests by some localities over losing the status of provincial center. JM

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC LEADER OUTLINES PRIORITIES

In an interview with Reuters on 5 June, Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leader Milos Zeman said that if his party wins the elections scheduled for later this month, it will begin its term by launching an "Italian-style clean hands campaign." Zeman said the country is ruled by an "economy of Mafiosi" and this is why the "Czech economic transformation has been unsuccessful." Zeman said he hopes to win 35 percent, rather than 25 percent, of the vote, as estimated by pollsters. He also said he would prefer to form a coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Pensioners' Party but would not hesitate to form a minority government supported by both the Communists and the Republican Party. MS

SLOVAK PSYCHIATRISTS ASK MECIAR TO QUIT POLITICS

A conference of Slovak psychiatrists on 7 June addressed a letter to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar asking him to resign and leave politics this month, CTK reported. The letter, endorsed by 183 out of the 222 participants in the conference, said Meciar must withdraw "in his own interest and in the interest of Slovaks who want to live freely and without fear." It also said Meciar "should not transfer his own conflicts, desires, and view of the world to the rest of population." Meciar accused the psychiatrists of "abusing science [for use] against dissidents." He said former Russian dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn were both accused by psychiatrists "of being fools." MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITIONIST STEPS DOWN OVER BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS

One day after resigning as election manager of the opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), Josef Paczelt told journalists in Bratislava that he is assuming responsibility for a bribery scandal that emerged late last month. The weekly "Domino Forum" on 28 May wrote that the SDK has offered "hefty sums" to three journalists to report favorably on the party. At the time, SDK spokesman Martin Lengyel rejected the allegations and threatened to sue the journalist who made them. Later, however, another SDK official confirmed that the incident had occurred, describing it as "absolute stupidity." MS

HUNGARY'S FIDESZ AGREES TO FORM COALITION WITH SMALLHOLDERS

With 393 votes in favor and two abstentions, the congress of the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) on 6 June formally authorized the party's leadership to start coalition talks with the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP). FIDESZ-MPP chairman Viktor Orban said his party planned to form a coalition only with the Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Christian Democratic Federation but the election results force FIDESZ-MPP to enter into a coalition with the FKGP. Former Free Democrat leader Peter Tolgyessy, now a member of FIDESZ-MPP, commented that "it is practically impossible to govern with the FKGP." A coalition with Smallholders means that FIDESZ-MPP must "continuously prepare for early elections," he added. MSZ




EUROPEAN LEADERS CONDEMN SERBIAN MILITARY ACTION

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook on 8 June said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's "heavy- handed" actions against Kosovar Albanians makes the possibility of foreign military intervention more likely. Cook made his comments before a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. He added that military intervention would require a mandate from the UN Security Council, which Russia has insisted on. Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, who met with Milosevic in Belgrade and Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova in Prishtina on 6 June, said the situation is "drifting apart" and that "this powder keg" can be defused only by the deployment of NATO or UN troops. On 7 June, British Premier Tony Blair discussed the crisis on the telephone with U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. A conference of Central European foreign ministers meeting in Brioni, Croatia, condemned the Serbian military action as "ethnic cleansing." PB

ANNAN, REFUGEES SPEAK OF ATROCITIES

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 5 June that he is "disturbed" by Serbian military actions in Kosova and condemned "atrocities" committed there, Reuters reported. He said Serbian forces cannot be allowed to repeat the "ethnic cleansing" that occurred in Bosnia- Herzegovina. U.S. Senate majority leader Trent Lott said on 7 June that the U.S. cannot allow "this slaughter to occur." The Belgrade-based independent news agency Beta quoted Kosovar refugees in Albania as saying they saw a mass grave near the village of Decan filled with the bodies of ethnic Albanian men killed by Serbian forces. Other refugees have spoken of corpses lying in the streets of their villages. PB

NATO TEAM VISITS ALBANIAN-KOSOVA BORDER...

Two NATO officials on 7 June observed the situation in northeastern Albania, accompanied by Albanian Defense Ministry officials, Reuters reported. The officials also viewed the situation of refugees there and met with OSCE and UN humanitarian aid officials. They officials returned to Brindisi, Italy, following their eight-hour visit. PB

...AS FIGHTING CONTINUES

Albanian Television reported on 7 June that Serbian forces are shelling two Kosovar villages visible from the border, Reuters reported. According to the agency, some 50 heavily armed Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) soldiers crossed the Albanian border into Kosova. The Serbian police headquarters in Ratkoc was reported blown up by the UCK amid fierce fighting and then abandoned by Serbian police. The Serbian Interior Ministry on 7 June said that three policeman died and five were injured in recent fighting but that the police had "annihilated strong terrorist gangs." In Prishtina, Serbian police used clubs on 7 June to break up a peaceful demonstration by several thousand ethnic Albanians. Three people were reported seriously injured. PB

KOSOVA REFUGEE INFLUX CONTINUES

More than 7,500 refugees had registered with the Albanian authorities by 7 June, "Koha Jone" reported. Another several thousand have arrived in Albania in recent days but have not yet registered. Several thousand have also fled to Montenegro. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told state television that the government expects up to 20,000 to register. Elsewhere in Tirana, the right-of-center Union for Democracy coalition organized a rally in Tirana on 6 June. The meeting was attended by some 5,000 people, many of whom held posters expressing support for the UCK or calling for armed resistance against Serbia. FS

YUGOSLAV OFFICIAL BLAMES TERRORISTS FOR REFUGEE FLIGHT

Dragomir Vucicevic, a high-ranking Yugoslav Foreign Ministry official, accused "Albanian terrorists" of causing Kosovars to flee their homes, dpa reported. Vucicevic told a group of foreign diplomats in Prishtina that the idea to have refugees was "invented by the terrorists and certain media in order to secure NATO intervention." He said the "terrorists" have destroyed houses and whole villages in Kosova in an effort to punish ethnic Albanians who are loyal to the Yugoslav government, Tanjug reported. PB

BERISHA PRAISES UCK

Former Albanian President and current Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha, speaking at a Tirana press conference on 5 June, "conveyed special greetings to the Kosova Liberation Army," the pro-Berisha daily "Albania" reported. Berisha called the UCK's struggle "holy" and described the Serbian forces as "barbarians." Berisha called on all Kosova Albanian men to return and defend their homes. The UCK, meanwhile, published a declaration in "Koha Ditore" on 7 June calling on all able bodied men aged 18 to 55 to remain in or return to Kosova and join the UCK. The BBC reported from Prishtina that many observers regard the statement warning men who fled Kosova in recent days to return and fight or face retribution. FS

YUGOSLAV OPPOSITION LEADER SUPPORTS DJUKANOVIC

Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic on 6 June said that he supports the platform of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, Beta reported. Draskovic said the victory of the For a Better Life coalition in Montenegro parliamentary elections must be honored by Belgrade. Draskovic said his party and Djukanovic's could be political partners working for the "mutual benefit of Montenegro and Serbia." PB

TRUCK DRIVERS DEMAND NEW BOSNIAN LICENSE PLATES

Bosnian Croat truck drivers in the Herzegovinian town of Mostar have demanded that they be given the internationally recognized car documents and license plates that Bosnian Croat officials have rejected. All the new documents use both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, and the joint license plates make it impossible to distinguish from which region the vehicle comes. The new documents and plates were imposed by Bosnia's high representative, Carlos Westendorp, after Muslims, Croats, and Serbs refused to introduce them. Vehicles without the joint documents are unable to travel across state or country borders. The drivers said they will impose road blocks if their demands are not met. PB

TUDJMAN PRESSURES BOSNIAN CROATS TO REMAIN UNITED

Bosnian Croat officials met with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb on 5 June to discuss the split within the main Bosnian Croat party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HZD-BH), Hina reported. The Croatian member of the Bosnian presidency, Kresimir Zubak, has announced his intention to form a more moderate splinter party. Zubak, a moderate, told the daily "Vjesnik" that he believes the HZD-BH's leadership still wants to annex southwestern Bosnia. The OSCE has approved the formation of the new party and will allow it to participate in the September parliamentary elections. A statement released after the meeting with Tudjman urged the HZD-BH to remain united during the Bosnian parliamentary elections. PB

ALBANIAN DEPUTY THREATENS PREMIER

Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari said Fatos Nano "should watch out for himself because his travel outside Tirana is no longer safe," "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Hajdari added that "Nano [may try] to flee the country but we will [bring him back] very soon." The daily wrote that this statement is a direct threat against Nano. Hajdari has accused Nano of being behind the 3 June assassination attempt against himself (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 5 June 1998). FS

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY DIVIDED

At a seminar on the future of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 6-7 June, former Premier Victor Ciorbea strongly attacked the Democratic Party for having engineered the fall of his cabinet earlier this year. He also criticized "groups" within the PNTCD that failed to defend his government and said the main coalition party must return to its "moral values" and call early elections. PNTCD leader Ion Diaconescu distanced himself from the call for early elections but said he agrees that the PNTCD must form the next government alone. Prime Minister Radu Vasile, who was criticized by Ciorbea, said it is "unlikely" that the PNTCD will be able to form the government by itself. He called on the party to accommodate itself to the "realities of coalition rule," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

COALITION ALLIES RESPOND TO CIORBEA

The Democratic Party said in a press release on 7 June that it does not wish to "enter into public polemics" either with the former premier or with the "group in the PNTCD that supports him". Valeriu Stoica, deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL), told a party forum in Alba Iulia that the PNL is "fed up" with playing the "role of mediator" in the coalition and must show "more intransigence" toward its partners. Stoica also said the PNL must "forge its own identity within the Democratic Convention of Romania and become again "the representative of the national idea" that has been traditionally associated with the party throughout its history. MS

ROMANIAN TRIBUNAL REJECTS REGISTRATION OF NEW PARTY

The Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 5 June accepted the objections raised by PNTCD deputy chairman Ion Ratiu against the registration of the Romanian National Party (PNR). Ratiu, a descendant of one of the founding fathers of the 19th-century PNL, said the party is "an insult" to the memory of the PNR founders. The formation was established in March by the Democratic Agrarian Party and the New Romania Party; its secretary-general is former Romanian Intelligence Service director Virgil Magureanu. In other news, a congress of the Socialist Labor Party (PSM) on 6 June elected former Ceausescu court poet Adrian Paunescu PSM executive chairman and called for the PSM's reunification with the Socialist Party. The latter split from the former in late 1994. MS




PRESIDENTS, PARLIAMENTS, AND POWER


by Paul Goble

The transition from Communism in the post-Soviet states currently finds some countries with a strong president, others with a strong parliament, and a growing number in which real power lies outside the government itself.

Examples of each have been very much in evidence recently. In Azerbaijan, where the executive is clearly in charge, President Heidar Aliyev has dominated the discussions at a Baku meeting of Western oil companies interested in gaining access to the petroleum of the Caspian basin.

In Ukraine, where the parliament is predominant, the failure of the parliament to elect a new speaker has sent shock waves through the political system and prompted predictions that Kyiv will remain unable to address the country's numerous economic problems.

And in Russia, the country's economic crisis has highlighted just how much power has passed from the government to institutions beyond its reach. Instead of calling in bankers, journalists, and others and giving them directions, as would have been true only a few years ago, Russian officials from President Boris Yeltsin down have been consulting with them and requesting their assistance.

Such variations are entirely natural and up to a point welcome. There is no one model for how democratic political regimes should organize themselves, nor for what should be the balance of power between the executive, the legislative, and society as a whole. The devolution of power from the executive, always the most powerful--in fact, if not on paper--in the Soviet era, is a necessary part of the transition from the communist past.

But if this pattern is both natural and welcome, it also presents some real problems for the countries themselves, for their interactions with one another, and for other countries that seek to deal with them.

For each of the countries of the region, this pattern has created two very different problems. On the one hand, most people living in these states began their post- communist existence with a belief that only a strong legislature could guarantee democracy. But experience has taught many of them that legislatures may, in fact, block further change and that only a strong executive can help them institutionalize the arrangements that make democracy possible.

On the other hand, everyone in this region recognized that the all-embracing Soviet state was too strong. But ever more countries confront a situation in which the state is so weak that it cannot defend the interests of the population against uncontrolled private power or outside interference.

For the region as a whole, such variations make it increasingly difficult for these countries to cooperate. Most immediately, it makes it difficult to decide who should meet with whom--sometimes the president in one country is the appropriate representative and sometimes the prime minister or speaker of the parliament. And perhaps more important, it means that even when the appropriate officials are brought together--which does not always happen--they lack the power to implement any of the commitments they make.

For outsiders who want to work with the governments of this region, this incredible variety also creates some serious problems. Not only does it introduce a certain confusion over whether ambassadors focus on presidents, prime ministers, or someone else but it also means that outside governments may create problems by the choice they make in this regard.

Some Western governments have promoted a "presidentialization of politics" in these countries, both for simplicity and out of a sense that it is easier to deal with one person rather than a group. While understandable, that approach carries with it some real dangers. Not only may it restrict the transition to democracy by consolidating executive power at the expense of the legislative; it also tends to ignore the real devolution of authority away from the governments to other centers of power in the society.

Democracy, as any number of analysts have pointed out, is often a very messy form of government. But as the experience of the post-Soviet states shows, it can be even messier if those involved with it fail to understand just how many forms that messy system can take.


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