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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: October 10, 2000

10 October 2000, Volume 2, Number 37
KWASNIEWSKI WINS RE-ELECTION. Aleksander Kwasniewski received 53.90 percent backing in the 8 October presidential elections, meaning that he has been re-elected in the first round to serve another five-year term. Independent candidate Andrzej Olechowski came in second with 17.30 percent of the vote and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski third with 15.57 percent. Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa received only 1.10 percent of the vote.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the results of the 8 October elections.

By re-electing Kwasniewski, an ex-Communist who transformed himself into a Social Democrat, Poles have opted for continuity with regard to not only the presidency chair but also the country's strategic course. It was no accident that the jubilant Kwasniewski's first pledge on hearing the first, unofficial news of his victory was to declare Poland's EU entry to be the main task of his second term. It would be an outstanding achievement for the politician who saw Poland enter NATO to assist in the country's accession to the EU. And it is very likely that Kwasniewski will secure that place in history by achieving this second goal, too. Like voters in much older democracies, Poles vote not for strategic goals but rather the way to pursue them.

Second, the Polish electorate tends to value not politicians' past deeds but rather what those politicians stand for today. Lech Walesa's 1 percent showing in the ballot provides ample evidence, as does that of current Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, who failed to win even half the support his Solidarity Electoral Action secured in the 1997 parliamentary elections. Three years ago, voters rewarded him for his contribution to the unification of Poland's factional and bickering right wing. Now, they have apparently punished him for the Solidarity-led cabinet's poor performance in implementing sweeping reforms and its lack of progress in fighting unemployment.

Third, Polish voters are not inclined to attach much importance to some symbols that were of paramount importance 20 or even 10 years ago. The video disseminated by Krzaklewski's election team, in which Kwasniewski assists his minister in parodying Pope John Paul II, was unable to damage the incumbent president's image to the extent that a second round of the election was required. By voting for Kwasniewski, a majority of Poles seem to have endorsed his performance as president and ignored his inappropriate behavior. The fact that a country in which 90 percent of citizens consider themselves to be Roman Catholics can elect a publicly declared atheist as president speaks more about Poland's transformation in the last decade than many economic indicators.

Fourth, Krzaklewski's defeat signals that Poles do not approve the confrontation course pursued by the Solidarity leader and prefer a more balanced and softer approach to politics--one, in fact, that is characteristic of Kwasniewski. Another politician who remained calm and good-natured during the presidential campaign--Andrzej Olechowski--was also generously rewarded by voters on 8 October. Moreover, Olechowski achieved his unexpected election result even though he had made a lustration statement saying he had collaborated with the Communist-era intelligence service.

Krzaklewski turned down proposals to head the cabinet during the coalition crisis earlier this year, when the Freedom Union withdrew from Jerzy Buzek's government. Krzaklewski wanted to save himself for the presidential ballot. Now it seems that he may lose even more than the presidential election. Some of his colleagues have already begun to question his ability to lead the right wing in the 2001 parliamentary elections, when the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance is expected to deal a severe blow to the Solidarity bloc.

Finally, the 8 October ballot shows that it is extremely dangerous for politicians in Poland to quit the country's political life even for one political campaign, as in the case of Leszek Balcerowicz, leader of the liberal Freedom Union, who did not propose either himself or someone from his party as a presidential challenger. Since making that decision, Balcerowicz's party has begun to lose popularity among the electorate. Arguably, this decision also helped Olechowski, a businessmen with liberal economic views similar to those promoted by the Freedom Union, to become a national politician with a good chance of forming a political party that will fare well in the next general elections.

Given Krzaklewski's defeat and Olechowski's rise, both the center and right wing on the Polish political scene may undergo substantial change in the near future.

PROVINCES PROTEST 'ELECTION FARCE.' The Belarusian opposition on 8 October staged rallies in more than 20 provincial cities to protest the 15 October legislative ballot. The demonstrators demanded free and democratic elections in the country and protested what they called the "election farce" scheduled by the Lukashenka regime for 15 October.

The number of participants in the protests was not large--according to opposition activist Vyacheslau Siuchyk, approximately 10,000 people took part in the anti-election protest in the provinces. But a different yard stick should be applied to Belarus than that, for example, applied to Serbia. Indeed, this was the first anti-Lukashenka protest in the provinces on such a scale.

At the same time, however, recent developments in Yugoslavia have impressed the Belarusian oppositionists in the provinces. At some rallies, demonstrators carried banners reading "Today Milosevic, tomorrow Lukashenka." This "tomorrow" may still be far off for the Belarusian opposition, but some kind of breakthrough in the Belarusian opposition's tactics has obviously occurred. So far, the opposition has been paying attention almost exclusively to Minsk.

"I feel the mood of people [in the provinces] has essentially changed in recent times. People do not want [that] big financial and economic dependence on the regime. Naturally, policemen cannot attend such rallies openly, but this is only the case today. Tomorrow they will come, too. Now [opposition rallies] are attended by those people who have overcome their intimidation, who are concerned about the future of Belarus. We can be proud that Belarus has such people.... As long as we have such people, we can hope for a repetition of the Yugoslav scenario," United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 8 October.

PRICK PRICKO PRICKOVYCH FROM SCIENTIFIC STREET? The 5 October "Vremya MN" has shed more light on the circumstances leading to the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.

Gongadze, 31, is chief editor of the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska Pravda" ( On the night of 16 September, Gongadze failed to arrive at his home in Kyiv, where his wife and two children were waiting for him. Since "Ukrayinska Pravda" is known for publishing materials critical of the Ukrainian government, many journalists believe that Gongadze's disappearance was politically motivated.

The parliament on 21 September set up a 15-strong commission to look into Gongadze's disappearance. The commission is headed by Oleksandr Lavrynovych of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine. More than 40 journalists accredited to the parliament asked the lawmakers not to include on the commission those deputies who have been criticized by Gongadze in his newsletter. The authorities initially said they ruled out political motives in Gongadze's case but later admitted that they view a politically motivated kidnapping or murder as one of possible reasons for the journalist's disappearance. So far, there has been no significant progress in the investigation into Gongadze's case.

The Moscow-based "Vremya MN" suggested that Gongadze's disappearance might be related to an article by Maksym Strykha from Lviv, which was published by Gongadze in his Internet newsletter on 11 September, that is, five days before his disappearance. Strykha's article deals with the ways in which signatures were collected for the 16 April constitutional referendum in Ukraine. The following is a translation of that article:

Title: Citizen Shaft P. from Scientific Street in Lviv as an Initiator of the Constitutional Reform in Ukraine. Who Signed In Favor of the Referendum?

Author: Maksym Strykha, doctor of mathematical and physical sciences, writer, member of the Presidium of the Ukrainian Popular Party "Sobor."

Constitutional reform must be carried out because such is the will of the people. It is the people who initiated the 16 April referendum. It is the people who said in the referendum: Ukraine has to be [a] presidential [republic]!

Everyday we hear more or less that argument on all radio and television channels from the mouth of the very Guarantor [of the Constitution] and the Best Friend of Ukrainian Olympic Athletes, in the speeches of his loyal herdsmen and inciters from the parliamentary majority, and, finally, from the symbols of Ukraine's independent, incorruptible, and brilliant journalism--Messrs. Dolhanov and Lapikura.

Indeed, they cite the figure of 4 million signatures in support of the referendum, which was reported by the Central Electoral Commission. And even if everybody realizes that anonymous "initiative groups" were not able to work day and night at the signature-collecting speed of one signature per one signature collector per every 26 seconds, our "implementers" [of the referendum results] do not treat this calculation as evidence [of the falsification of referendum-supporting lists]. If [lawmaker and Democratic Union leader Oleksandr] Volkov gives an order, it will be possible to collect one signature even every 16 seconds. Or even every six seconds. It seems that everything is possible in this strange land of Ukraine.

But opposition party activists have not been allowed to look at those lists of signatures. It is clear why. Because the falsification was too obvious. "Initiative groups" did not even use the data bases [on residents] they had collected during previous campaigns. They simply wrote what they liked.

Exactly this was confirmed in testimony given by five activists from the Ukrainian Popular Party, the Ukrainian National Assembly-the Ukrainian Self-Defense, and the Ukrainian Party "Yednist," who managed to carry out a verification process in Lviv. The conclusion from that process is remarkable. None of the 140 signatures on the lists received from Lviv City Council Secretary V. Bilous proved to be authentic. The lists included either non-existent addresses or the names of the people who did not reside at the given addresses.

What is more, the imagination of "initiative groups" knew no boundaries. Below I quote the protocol of the verification process that was signed by Lviv party activists and confirmed by a statement of the leaders of regional branches of the Ukrainian Republican Party, the Ukrainian Party "Yednist," the Ukrainian Popular Party "Sobor," the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, the UKRP, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the SDS, the Democratic Party of Ukraine, the UNA-UNSO, the Ukrainian Christian Democratic Party, and the KhNS. I quote dotting some letters in the names because of [their foulness] (in the protocol they are quoted in full). [Ed. note: those letters are restored in square brackets in the current text and approximate translations of the names are given, also in square brackets, at the end of each entry]. Thus:

list No. 7 includes such entries:

position 6: Kh[u]y Kh[u]ylo Kh[u]yovych, Naukova 15/8, passport number KA307930 (signature)--[Prick Pricko Prickovych, Scientific Street 15/8]

position 14: P[y]zden Kh[u]yyov Mikh[u]yovych, Naukova 15/17, passport number KA319085 (signature)--[Cunty Prickov Myprickovych, Scientific Street 15/17]

position 19; Bolt Kh[u]ylo (patronymic illegible), Naukova 15/24. passport number KA209032 (signature)--[Shaft Pricko, Scientific Street 15/24.]

I will note at once: the authenticity of all those names was confirmed on behalf of the Central Electoral Commission by the democratic Lviv authorities headed by Ukrainian poet V[asyl] Kuybida, who was born into a family of political exiles to the faraway Komi ASSR. One can only guess what names were put on referendum lists in the south and the east, where local authorities are not headed by such devoted and reliable Ukrainian patriots.

A statement by the Lviv regional branches of the nine political parties said: "We demand that Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office instigate criminal proceedings against the initiative group from the city of Lviv that falsified 100 percent of data on referendum lists and impudently denigrated our national, civic, and human dignity. With its falsified referendum lists, [that group] inflicted moral damage on and denigrated not only Lviv residents but also all Ukrainians, the Central Electoral Commission, and the president of Ukraine, Mr. Kuchma, who believed that [the referendum] was really a popular initiative and did not suspect that it was an initiative of those three individuals from the Democratic Union who signed in positions 6, 14, and 19 on referendum list No. 7, which is kept by the Lviv City Council deputy head, Mr. Bilous."

The protocol of the examination was drawn up on 16 June. However, one has so far not heard about any actions of the Prosecutor-General's Office in defense of the "national, civic, and human dignity" of Ukrainians (apparently, they are devoting quite a lot of time and effort to the [arrested] husband of Mrs. Yuliya Tymoshenko). Instead, 251 lawmakers on 12 July voted together to support the initiative of those three individuals from the Democratic Union. Among them [were] 39 deputies from both Rukhs and the Reform and Order Party headed by Hennadiy Udovenko, Yuriy Kostenko, and Viktor Pynzenyk [respectively].

This vote convinces [us] that the Prosecutor-General's Office may be right [in not reacting to the above-mentioned demand]. It is inexpedient and impossible to defend what does not exist.

In the meantime, according to political analysts, there is a campaign under way in the Supreme Council in order to recruit 50 more supporters of the constitutional initiative of Mr. P. Shaft from Scientific Street in Lviv. This time, recruitment is being conducted among the left wing, in order not to offend the right wing.

"Vremya MN" recalled that under Ukrainian legislation, the lists containing signatures in support of a referendum may be destroyed six months after the referendum takes place. This means that in the case of the 16 April constitutional referendum the lists with signatures may be destroyed as soon as next week. The Moscow daily also noted that Oleksandr Volkov--the man blamed in the Strykha-Gongadze publication for falsifying the referendum signature lists--did not allow Gongadze to attend his press conference after the publication appeared on the Internet. Two days later, when Gongadze disappeared, Volkov pledged to do everything possible to find the journalist.

"I hope that in five years I will not have to apologize that I defeated communism" -- Lech Walesa, commenting on Aleksander Kwasniewski's sweeping victory in the 8 October presidential polls and the anticipated victory of the post-Communist Democratic Left Alliance in next year's parliamentary elections. Quoted by Reuters.

"I ask myself, who during the last century of Polish history enjoyed such recognition as me and had such support after five years in office." -- Aleksander Kwasniewski quoted by AFP on 8 October.

"Is there any reason to take offense at me? You wanted such a [pricing] policy and I gave it to you." -- Lukashenka at a garment factory in Babruysk (Mahileu Oblast) on 4 October. Quoted by Belarusian Television.

Lukashenka: "Carry out inspections, together with [State Control Committee Chairman Anatol] Tozik, in all drugstores in Mahileu Oblast and report [to me] on how they trade and in what medicines, what they have and what they do not have--in the most principled way!" An unidentified official's voice: "Yes, sir!" -- An exchange during Lukashenka's visit to an oncological clinic in Barysau (Mahileu Oblast) on 4 October. Quoted by Belarusian Television.

"If I were in such a situation [as Milosevic]--you often compare me with Milosevic, but I don't know why--I would not ask any guarantees [of security] from anybody, nor under any circumstances, and I would not [even] consider asking. I was born in this land, this is my land, and I'm going to die here, no matter what it may cost me. I think Milosevic, too, is taking the same position as any other patriotic president. Therefore, Milosevic hardly needs any guarantees. But if any state or organization is ready to provide such guarantees just in case of anything, such [offers] may be called noble." -- Lukashenka on 4 October. Quoted by Belarusian Television.

"Why is Ukraine rated as third among the world's most corrupt countries? Who and what organizations are undermining the food security of the country? Why did the Security Service of Ukraine fail to disclose the National Bank's machinations that have undermined Ukraine's international authority? Who and which organizations are stealing Russian gas? Where are the 200 nuclear warheads that should have been transferred to Russia? Who stole 400 million [ed. note: currency not specified] in compensation for the supply of nuclear fuel in exchange for nuclear warheads?" -- Ukrainian Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko in the parliament on 3 October. Quoted by Interfax.

"One has the impression that it is not the Security Service of Ukraine but Swiss prosecutors who care most for Ukraine's national security and international authority." -- Petro Symonenko in the parliament on 3 October. Symonenko was proposing that lawmakers send official thanks to the Swiss prosecutors who traced former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko's money-laundering operations. Quoted by Interfax.

"When President Leonid Kuchma comes on a trip to Ashgabat, it means that winter is nearing." -- Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov at a press conference on 4 October, after he and Kuchma signed a deal on Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine. Quoted by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.