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Western Press Review: Albania Muddled; NATO, Too

Prague, 2 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Albania's post-election questions continue to draw press commentary. Also commentators focus on NATO as expansion decision time nears.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Albanian vote no guarantee of democracy

The newspaper focuses in an editorial today on what it calls Sunday's "flawed vote." It says: "Out of the rubble of Albania's anarchy, the Socialist Party has emerged victorious, defeating President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party in the first round of parliamentary elections." It says: "The loss marks the close of five years of rule by the Democratic Party, which had been liberalizing the country -- if slowly -- in the wake of one of the worst communist dictatorships."

The editorial concludes: "There is every reason to hope that once in power the country's Socialists will display the kind of civic-minded responsibility they lacked in opposition. And perhaps Albania now will have an opposition capable of real policy debate. But given the Socialists' lack of any concrete proposals, the weak state of Albania's democratic institutions, and the persistence of criminal gangs, that's a lot to hope for."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Rule of law in Albania must be established

An Albania election observer with the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, Jonathan Sunley, writes in a commentary that the elections already are, in his words, "seriously tainted." Sunley comments that a main question for Albania's future is whether bandit gangs will be disarmed and a rule of law established. He says: "Now that the Socialists have won, it is up to (Berisha's) opponents to prove their democratic credentials by rising to that challenge. And it is up to the international community, whose extreme criticism of Mr. Berisha in the past year has contributed greatly to Albania's destabilization, to judge the country's new government by the same exacting political and economic standards."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Rigged elections not a democratic exercise

The newspaper editorializes today that the Albanian election was "free, but not fair." The paper says: "If you want to make a rigged election respectable, call in international observers. That is the lesson of the latest such exercise, the parliamentary poll in Albania." It says: "The outcome of Sunday's vote, a decisive victory for the Socialists, may persuade the armed gangs of the south to hand in their arms, thus paving the way for a restoration of law and order. But it can hardly be called a decent democratic exercise."

The Daily Telegraph editorial concludes: "After the rioting provoked by the collapse of the pyramid investment schemes, foreign leaders weighed in against Dr. Berisha on the ground that last summer's parliamentary elections won by the Democratic Party were flawed. A year on, they have been made to look foolish by the emergence of a new, Socialist-dominated legislature chosen under far more dubious conditions. The behavior of the multinational bodies to which their countries belong has been a disgrace. Elections should be serious, properly conducted affairs, not travesties of democracy which monitors condone for the sake of assuring their continued existence."

LE FIGARO: Albania's future depends on Berisha

In the French newspaper yesterday, Catherine Monnet calls Berisha, Albania's "old bear." She comments: "All now depends on the reaction of the old bear in the next 24 hours. The capital is open to confusion and uncertainties while waiting for the Sali Berisha's reaction. It seems that seldom during the insurrection of the last three months has the democracy in Albania been so dependent on the reaction of the president." Monnet says: "In spite of the irregularities before and during the scrutiny, the frustration of some incidents, (Albania) must demonstrate whether it can again recover the chance for a democracy."

BREMEN WESER KURIER: Weapon collection critical

The newspaper asks in an editorial: "What happens when the (Albanian) people having lost their patience and realizing that the new government can return little more of the lost savings from the pyramid games than could the ousted President Berisha and his Democrats? Will this not result in renewed popular anger projected in bloody feuds? Will not gangs rise against the new political masters?" The newspaper says: "At the least, the major share of the weapons must be withdrawn from circulation as soon as possible to mitigate the danger. At the same time, the international forces could assist by providing protection to avoid overlapping with indigenous weapon collectors. Following the pattern of other crisis areas, authorities could offer to pay an appropriate price for the surrendered weapons."


INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: NATO leaders will promise open door for future expansion

On the topic of NATO expansion, the secretary-general of the Atlantic Treaty Association, which favors expansion, comments today that one question frequently raised is whether countries not chosen in the first wave are, as he puts it, "being condemned to second-class status." The official, Alfred Cahen, a retired Belgian ambassador, responds: "NATO is not going to forget -- and is not going to be allowed to forget -- countries that aren't in the first wave of membership. Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states recently appealed to the alliance to remain open to all countries that want to join. At the summit conference in Madrid, NATO leaders certainly are going to promise an open door for further expansion."

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Summit must reiterate its commitment to democratic states

In a commentary Monday , former White House national Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anthony Lake advanced a similar argument. They wrote: "NATO expansion is a creative response to three strategic challenges: to enhance the relationship between the United States and the enlarging democratic Europe; to engage the still evolving, post-imperial Russia in a cooperative relationship with that Europe, and to reinforce the habits of democracy and the practices of peace in Central Europe."

Brzezinski and Lake wrote: "NATO must reiterate in Madrid its commitment to remain open to any European democratic state that meets the objective criteria for membership. As part of a bargain with members that are seeking admission for Romania and Slovenia now -- a position opposed by the United States -- the Madrid summit meeting might also state that decisions regarding further membership will be made by the time the first group of new members ascends to full membership by mid-l999."