8 January 2002, Volume
CABINET PUBLISHES 'OPENING REPORT.'
The left-wing cabinet of Leszek Miller on 2 January published an 80-page document called the "Opening Report," which blames the previous Solidarity-led cabinet of Jerzy Buzek for the economic situation it left on the eve of the parliamentary elections on 23 September 2001. "In the autumn of 2001, on the threshold of the [start of the] activity of the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union and Polish Peasant Party government, the state of Polish affairs was poor. Our predecessors left behind them a falling rate of economic growth, drastically growing unemployment, and a collapse in the public finances," the report states.
The document charges that "in the four years of Buzek's rule, the rate of growth fell from 7 to 1 percent annually, industrial production decreased fourfold from the preceding four years, profitability of enterprises declined to almost nil, unemployment grew by 1 million, the rate of joblessness soared to almost 17 percent, and society came to feel a dramatic division into 'them', i.e., those in power, and 'we,' those bearing the costs of economic changes."
Moreover, the "Opening Report" criticizes the education and health service reforms, which Buzek's cabinet deemed to be its greatest achievements.
"This is a balanced assessment and a photograph of the starting point," Miller's top adviser Grzegorz Rydlewski said while presenting the report to journalists, adding that it was not written "from the point of view of an investigative judge, but from that of an analyst."
In mid-November the media reported that Rydlewski instructed new ministers to supply the "Opening Report" with negative, "socially resonant" aspects of the situation in the country. The ministers, according to the media, were told to present errors of their predecessors.
"It is not possible to pursue effective economic and social policies in Poland without an agreement [with the opposition]" Buzek's former adviser Andrzej Urbanczyk told PAP. "This report fits well into the arrogance of the present government, which has eliminated the opposition parties from any kind of cooperation."
LUKASHENKA DIFFERS ON INTEGRATION TACTICS WITH RUSSIA.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said at a government conference in Minsk on 4 January that differences have emerged in the tactics of integration between Belarus and Russia, Belapan reported. Lukashenka did not specify the issues on which the two countries disagree. Some Belarusian media have noted that the topic of Belarusian-Russian integration was practically absent from Lukashenka's New Year's address to the nation.
Lukashenka's low mood about integration was evidently connected with his trip to Moscow on 26 December, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the so-called Constitutional Act, a type of abridged constitution for a single state of Belarus and Russia. Upon arriving in Moscow on 25 December, Lukashenka said his forthcoming meeting with Putin would be "fateful." Apparently, the meeting produced less then expected and Lukashenka and Putin did not even hold a joint news conference afterwards.
Putin allegedly refused to discuss the Constitutional Act with Lukashenka during their closed-door meeting, and the issue did not appear on the agenda of a larger-format session of the Supreme Council of the Russia-Belarus Union.
"Success of the Russian-Belarusian integration is in its stability and consistency. It is important not to lose momentum and not to try to jump over objective steps," Putin said in opening the session.
"The time has come to dot all the i's and decide whether we [will] consistently implement the earlier agreements...or make serious changes and clearly say it," AP quoted Lukashenka as saying at the same session.
While leaving Moscow, Lukashenka said the Constitutional Act will again be discussed in February when Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev is expected to report on the "level of likelihood of the signing of the Constitutional Act," Moscow-based "Gazeta" reported on 27 December.
Russian newspapers commented after the 26 December summit that Moscow is not interested in forcing political integration with Minsk and will primarily pursue economic integration which, according to "Vremya novostei," means "an inevitable economic absorption" of Belarus by Russia.
It is notable that the 26 December session of the Supreme State Council of Belarus and Russia, which has not produced any breakthrough results, was summarized for journalists by Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref.
Gref said that starting from 2003 Russia and Belarus will pursue a coordinated budgetary policy based on a zero-deficit budget. Gref noted that in 2002 and 2003 Belarus will pass a new Tax Code in order to unify taxation policies with Russia. He added that both countries are also planning to unify export and import duties by 2003.
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF.
According to Ukraine's law on parliamentary elections which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in October 2001, the election campaign for the 31 March legislative election began on 31 December 2001, that is, 90 days before the voting day. As in the previous election in 1998, 225 deputies will be elected under a majority system in one-seat constituencies, while the other 225 under a proportional party-list system. Parties need to overcome the 4 percent voting threshold in order to gain parliamentary representation.
The Central Electoral Commission is obliged to set up 225 territorial electoral commissions by 9 January. The territorial commissions will consist of 12-20 members each. Last week, 43 parties filed applications to include their representatives in these commissions. The election law stipulates that the territorial commissions should obligatorily include members of the parties that won no less than 4 percent of the vote in the 1998 election or have their own caucuses in the current parliament. As for the other parties, the law says their representation in the territorial commissions should be determined by drawing lots. The territorial election commissions are obliged to form some 35,000 polling-station commissions no later than 23 February. Each of the 225 election constituencies will encompass some 170,000 voters on average.
Competitors for parliamentary seats both in one-seat constituencies and on party lists should be proposed no later than 29 January, while the Central Election Commission is to register election candidates no later than 3 February.
The election law prohibits electioneering for candidates (peredvybornaya ahitatsiya) earlier than 50 days before the ballot date, that is, before 9 February. The clause is controversial, since the law does not determine what "peredvybornaya ahitatsiya" actually means. RFE/RL Ukrainian Service acting head Oleksandr Narodetskyy, who has asked the Central Election Commission for relevant explanations, has been given in reply a broad definition of the term from a legal encyclopedia published in Kyiv in 1998. That definition does not specify any forms of electioneering.
The law does not require government officials seeking parliamentary mandates to take leave during the election campaign. On the other hand, the law provides for "legal accountability" and the annulment of registration for those candidates who use their official position to support their election bid.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"Even in the year of the horse we cannot gallop on horseback after Russia and adopt everything that suits her." -- Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 4 January; quoted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.
"I want to make you a purposeful creative person so that you can be useful to society." -- A Belarusian KGB officer to Andrey Zaytsau, an activist of the anti-Lukashenka youth group Zubr. Zaytsau hung himself on 20 December, leaving a note to the effect that the KGB had pressed to recruit him as an informer. The quote is from a videotaped conversation between Zaytsau and the officer, which was transcribed by the Zubr group and placed on its website (http://www.zubr-belarus.com/index.php?show=news357).