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Newsline - October 21, 1996

President Boris Yeltsin named former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin as Security Council secretary and presidential representative in Chechnya on 19 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Rybkin stressed that he would maintain "continuity" with former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's policies in Chechnya. Although Rybkin was elected speaker by the opposition, he quickly became a loyal Yeltsin ally. After the pro-government Our Home is Russia backed him in an unsuccessful attempt to retain the speakership, Yeltsin named him as head of his Political Consultative Council. Lebed charged that Rybkin could not secure the country's security and that he would turn the Security Council into "a quiet, bureaucratic office" that will not make waves. Political Scientist Andrannik Migranyan told Radio Rossii that Rybkin seeks to please everyone and that therefore the Security Council will lose its influence. -- Robert Orttung

Yeltsin removed Army General Mikhail Kolesnikov and replaced him with Army General Viktor Samsonov, 54, previously head of the CIS military cooperation staff, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. Simultaneously, Yeltsin nominated Kolesnikov to replace Samsonov, subject to approval by the CIS heads of state council. Samsonov served with Defense Minister Igor Rodionov in the former Transcaucasian Military District in 1988-89. As commander of the Leningrad Military District in August 1991, Samsonov initially supported the hardline coup plotters, declaring a state of emergency in St. Petersburg and dispatching tanks to the city. He later reversed course under pressure from the city's mayor, Anatolii Sobchak. Samsonov briefly served as Chief of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces in December 1991, before holding several CIS military posts. -- Scott Parrish

Senior Russian government officials expressed satisfaction on 18 October at the nomination of Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov as interim Chechen prime minister and minister of defense, ITAR-TASS reported. At its first meeting in Argun on 19 October, the new coalition government discussed preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on 27 January 1997 and for the coming winter. Maskhadov told journalists that if asked he would consider running for president. The Chechen separatist leadership has welcomed assurances that newly appointed Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin will continue to implement the peace agreement concluded by his predecessor. On 20 October--the deadline for the withdrawal from Chechnya of Russian forces--Maskhadov met with the acting commander of the Russian forces, Gen. Vladimir Sukhoruchenko. Meanwhile, a search is underway in Chechnya for Aslanbek Khasbulatov, professor of history at Grozny University and elder brother of Ruslan, who disappeared on 14 October, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Liz Fuller

The Russian State Duma on 18 October failed on the first reading to pass a draft law on interim financing for Chechnya pending the formation of "legitimate organs of power" there, ITAR-TASS reported. The law would have frozen payments from the federal budget and from individual Russian ministries to the Chechen government, and was intended to preclude a recurrence of the widespread misappropriation of funds allocated in 1995 for reconstruction. On 20 October acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev accused the Russian leadership of delaying the peace process and failing to pay for Chechen reconstruction. He also criticized the recently created Russian-Chechen joint commission that is to coordinate reconstruction, saying that "it talks a lot but does nothing concrete," AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

Opposition deputies in the State Duma agreed with the decision to fire Aleksandr Lebed. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said, "We have always insisted that we should have one government, not three," while a close ally, Culture Committee Chairman Stanislav Govorukhin, said Lebed's dismissal had somewhat "reconciled" him with the current authorities, because Lebed had demonstrated "what a frightening face the other could have," NTV and Russian TV (RTR) reported on 18 October. The Yabloko faction wanted to formally ask Yeltsin to fire Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, whose accusations immediately precipitated Lebed's ouster, but their plea was rejected by the Duma. -- Laura Belin

Even as they welcomed Lebed's dismissal, opposition Duma deputies still appeared concerned about the power held by presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. On 18 October the Duma approved a motion put forward by Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov of the Communist faction, which asked the Constitutional Court to examine a recent presidential decree creating an emergency commission on tax collection, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. That decree has been viewed as strengthening Chubais' authority in economic matters. On 16 October, Communist Duma deputies asked the Central Electoral Commission and the Procurator-General's Office to investigate allegations published in Sovetskaya Rossiya that President Yeltsin's reelection campaign illegally funneled millions of dollars to politicians and media outlets sympathetic to the president (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 October 1996). Chubais was an important figure in the Yeltsin campaign. -- Laura Belin

Former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi was elected governor of his native Kursk region on 20 October. Rutskoi gathered 78.9% of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported. Rutskoi was registered as a candidate only on 17 October after the presidium of the Supreme Court overruled the decision of the Kursk Electoral Commission to disqualify him because he did not meet residence requirements. Rutskoi easily defeated his main opponent, incumbent Governor Vasilii Shuteev (who got 17.9%) even after the oblast Duma turned down his plea to postpone the vote for a week to give him time to campaign. Rutskoi was helped by the fact that the Communist and Agrarian Party candidates withdrew in his favor on the eve of the election, since those parties have performed well in Kursk in recent elections. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

Leonid Gorbenko defeated incumbent Kaliningrad Governor Yurii Matochkin in a runoff race on 20 October with 43% turnout. Matochkin had the strong support of Yeltsin's administration. In the Kirov Oblast, Communist-backed Duma member Vladimir Sergeenkov won 51% of the vote in a runoff with 54% turnout. The incumbent did not even make it to the second round there. In Pskov, Governor Vladislav Tumanov now faces a runoff against Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Duma Deputy Yevgenii Mikhailov. Incumbent Igor Farkhutdinov won his race in Sakhalin Oblast, as did Governor Nikolai Volkov in Birobidzhan (the Jewish Autonomous Oblast). Thus the opposition won two races outright on 20 October (Kursk and Kirov), while the administration took Sakhalin and Birobidzhan, bringing the total since the Saratov elections to six for the administration, four for the opposition, and one anti-incumbent victory for an independent. -- Robert Orttung

CIS heads of government discussed economic, political, and military integration at an 18 October meeting, Russian media reported. Before the session, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS that "incomplete" economic reform in some CIS states was hampering the process of economic integration. Nevertheless, Chernomyrdin declared in an address to the session that a new model of "post-Soviet," or "Eurasian" integration is now "an accomplished fact." Kommersant-Daily on 19 October termed the establishment of a new CIS financial-industrial group, "Granit," the meeting's most important decision. Officially slated to produce equipment for the joint CIS air defense, the paper speculated that the firm will engage in international arms sales, circumventing the scandal-plagued Russian monopoly Rosvooruzhenie. -- Scott Parrish

William Perry visited Severodvinsk (Arkhangelsk Oblast) on 18 October and witnessed the scrapping of a Yankee-class nuclear missile submarine under the provisions of the START I arms control agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported. Some 40 submarines have already been scrapped. Perry later expressed "optimism" that Russia will ratify START II. Most Russian media, however, concluded that Perry's visit and speech in the Duma had done little to bolster the treaty's chances of ratification. Nezavismya Gazeta said some Duma deputies regarded Perry's visit as a "complete flop," while Segodnya complained that Perry had "demanded" ratification rather than merely "urging" it. -- Scott Parrish

Currently there are 230,000 contract soldiers, making up 15% of the Russian army, and their number is unlikely to rise above 30% before the year 2000, according to an article in Segodnya on 17 October. A 30 November 1992 government decree stipulated that volunteers should account for 10% of the army in 1993, rising to 50% by 2000. However, more than half the volunteers are women, mostly military wives, and the authors argue that "the army needs, first of all, men." Many volunteers quit before the end of their term and many are fired for poor performance--26,000 in 1993, 33,000 in 1994, and 46,000 in 1995. Volunteers currently earn 400,000 to 800,000 rubles ($75-150) a month. On 16 May President Yeltsin issued a decree calling for Russia to shift to an all-volunteer force: the plan was greeted with skepticism by most military officials. -- Peter Rutland

President Yeltsin signed a decree on 18 October freezing electricity and natural gas prices at their current level until the end of the year, ITAR-TASS reported. On 8 October Prime Minister Chernomyrdin had told the Federation Council that such a move was in preparation. Radio Rossii also reported on 19 October that the decree instructs the Federal Energy Commission to cut the price of electricity from 1 November. The freeze is a response to the debt crisis facing many regional power generation companies, and comes in the face of pressure from the IMF to liberalize energy prices. -- Peter Rutland

The Political Department of the UN has issued a statement denying that Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's special envoy for Abkhazia, Edouard Brunner, expressed "support" for the parliamentary elections to be held in Abkhazia on 23 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 October, quoting the Georgian Foreign Ministry. Republic of Abkhazia Radio as monitored by the BBC quoted Brunner on 11 October as stating that "when a parliament has run its term ... it has to be renewed" and implying that ethnic Georgian refugees from Abkhazia should be permitted to participate in the vote. The Abkhaz Supreme Soviet in exile in Tbilisi denounced Brunner's statement and demanded his replacement. -- Liz Fuller

The president and vice president of LUKoil held talks in Baku on 19 October with Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR and President Heidar Aliyev on the joint exploitation of the Inam off-shore Caspian deposit, which has known reserves of 120-150 million metric tons, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. LUKoil wants a 50% share in the project. Speaking at a press conference in Baku on 19 October, Aliyev mentioned as additional spheres for cooperation with LUKoil the creation of a joint insurance company and of a company for the overhaul of floating oil rigs. -- Liz Fuller

Kazakstani Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin signed seven bilateral agreements with his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 18 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreements cover a range of issues from rental of military complexes in Kazakstan to the avoidance of double taxation. Also on 18 October, the Kazakstani government approved a resolution allowing regional heads in six northern regions to make their own deals for electricity supplies from Russia. Supplies to these regions were cut off in August because of Kazakstan's unpaid bills, amounting to over $400 million. In exchange for supplies of electricity, the northern regions are sending grain to Russia. -- Bruce Pannier

Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari on 20 October concluded a three-day visit to Uzbekistan, where he met President Islam Karimov and other government officials, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders signed several agreements, ranging from anti-drug trafficking cooperation to joint-venture trading. According to Uzbek TV on 18 October, bilateral trade is restricted because of the blockage of transport routes across Afghanistan. Trade between Uzbekistan and Pakistan stood at $12.7 million for the first six months of 1996, up from $11.6 million for all of 1995. -- Roger Kangas

Following their official swearing in by parliament on 18 October, the newly appointed Constitutional Court elected 57-year-old Ivan Tymchenko as chief justice, Ukrainian agencies reported. Tymchenko, who hails from the Dnipropetrovsk region, served as President Leonid Kuchma's top legal advisor until his appointment to the court. The court's 16 members also elected Vasyl Nimchenko and Vitalii Rozenko as deputy chief justices. Parliament has yet to appoint two justices to the 18-member body. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka made a concession toward the opposition on 19 October when he agreed to hold his constitutional referendum on 24 November, the date set by parliament, international agencies reported. The opposition welcomed the move, but said it did not alter the political crisis. The Constitutional Court had ruled that Lukashenka's referendum would not be legally binding if it were not held on the date set by parliament. Also on 19 October, the All-Belarusian Congress, whose members were chosen by Lukashenka, endorsed the president's draft constitution and called on parliament to withdraw its version, which abolishes the presidency, from the ballot. Meanwhile, some 30,000 people demonstrated in an opposition-organized rally in Minsk against Lukashenka's referendum. Despite the deployment of large numbers of security forces, the unsanctioned rally ended peacefully. -- Ustina Markus

Speaking at the fifth meeting of the Russo-Belarusian Community's executive committee, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin urged Belarus to synchronize its reforms with Russia's, particularly in the economic field, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. Such a synchronization would require that Belarus adopt a civil code and a unified tax code and speed up privatization, he said. Chernomyrdin said that six months after Russia and Belarus formed the community, their intentions "remain ink on paper." Although more than 150 experts had worked out the main elements of reforming the community, he said, no positive results had yet been achieved. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

Preliminary results from the 2O October local elections show the Reform Party most successful in Tallinn, with 17.8% of votes and 15 of the city council's 64 seats, ETA reported on 21 October. The Center Party won 18.1% of the votes in Tallinn but only 12 council seats, while the Tallinn coalition that includes the ruling Coalition Party won 12 seats, the Russian Party in Estonia won 11, the Pro Patria Union and Moderates coalition won 9, and the United Peoples of Estonia won 5. About 52% of the 882,726 eligible voters nationwide participated in the elections, in which 11,151 candidates were competing for 3,453 seats in 273 districts. Although the 70,970 noncitizens fulfilling the prior registration requirement was less than in 1993 elections, their participation rate was still higher than that of citizens. -- Saulius Girnius

The Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) soundly defeated the ruling Democratic Labor Party in the 2O October Seimas elections, according to preliminary results reported by Radio Lithuania. The conservatives, however, won only about a quarter of the votes. Of the 22 other parties running, three -- the Christian Democratic Party, the Center Union, and the Social Democratic Party -- appear likely to pass the 5% barrier and share in the 70 seats distributed by party lists. Most of the 71 single-mandate races will be settled in the second round of voting on 10 November. However, Homeland Union Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis won in the Kaunas district. New elections will have to be called in five districts where less than 40% of voters participated. Low turnout -- about 52% of eligible voters -- doomed the four referenda on the ballot, which required the support of a majority of eligible voters. -- Saulius Girnius

Poland will be granted observer status at the recently created French-German Armament Agency, Polish and French defense ministers Stanislaw Dobrzanski and Charles Millon agreed in Warsaw. Poland might cooperate under the agency's aegis in the construction of the VBCI armored vehicle, Rzeczpospolita reported. Dobrzanski and Millon also agreed to establish a team of experts to discuss cooperation in military aviation and anti-aircraft defense, while Millon reiterated France's support for Poland's membership in NATO, Polish dailies reported on 19 October. According to Rzeczpospolita, a French-equipped "Mirage-2000" F-16, F-18, or Grippen fighter will compete in a soon-to-be-announced Polish tender. -- Beata Pasek

Vaclav Klaus on 19 October welcomed as "incredibly good news" reports that the Japanese Bank Nomura, the largest investment bank in the world, is interested in purchasing a 31.5% stake in the fourth-largest Czech bank, Investicni a Postovni Banka, Czech media reported. The shares are currently owned by the state; the purchase would make Nomura the bank's largest shareholder. The next day, Klaus told Czech TV he had changed his opinion that the largest Czech banks should be privatized with Czech capital. Nomura's interest shows that foreign investors are confident that the Czech banking sector is healthy, he added. In the next few days, the Czech National Bank will present a document to the government outlining plans for privatizing the country's four largest banks. -- Jiri Pehe

In his regular interview with Slovak Radio on 18 October, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar defended his government's policy toward the Roman Catholic Church in Slovakia, accusing it of being politically activist. "The political attitudes of some bishops ... are not leading toward consensus, but are more likely actions leading against a political subject, [against] governmental or parliamentary institutions," Meciar claimed. Meciar regretted that the church had "rejected" all of his government's proposals, including its offer to establish a Catholic university. Meciar has repeatedly requested that the bishops' conference publish a recent private letter from the pope, but the bishops have refused to do so. In other church-related news, during a recent ceremonial opening of a "memorial room" for Jozef Tiso, Banska Bystrica Bishop Rudolf Balaz referred to the Nazi-allied Slovak president as an "exceptional and great person," Slovak press reported on 21 October. -- Anna Siskova

Hungary's ruling Socialist and Free Democratic parties reaffirmed their support for the government over the weekend, Hungarian media reported on 19-20 October. The privatization scandal that earlier this month led to the dismissal of the privatization, trade, and industry minister and the entire board of the state privatization company had raised tensions within, and between, the coalition parties. Following a 20 October meeting, Magda Kovacs Kosa, vice president of the Socialist Party, said the long-term need for the coalition was not questioned. Likewise, while the Free Democrats' National Council on 19 October condemned the irresponsible use of public funds, party President Ivan Peto said the coalition's existence was not at issue, nor would it be at the party's November convention. -- Ben Slay

The majority of 1,854 respondents in a recent Teledirect poll on the 1956 uprising expressed no opinion on the events of 40 years ago, Magyar Hirlap reported on 21 October. Of the 48% who gave an opinion, most had only a superficial knowledge of the events and figures involved, the poll found. Only 10% said the anniversary of the uprising should be Hungary's most important national holiday, while 55% selected 15 March (the anniversary of the failed 1848 revolution). According to 43% of respondents, the events of 1956 were a revolution, while 16% described them as a fight for freedom and 10% each as a popular uprising and as a counter-revolution. -- Ben Slay

Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said on 18 October that the organizers of local elections scheduled for 23-24 November have attached too many conditions to the ballot and that the Serbs may boycott, BBC reported. The real reason for the anger in Pale, however, is most likely that the new election rules curtail opportunities to manipulate voter registration to pack the election results in strategic towns (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 October 1996). Meanwhile, in tense northeast Bosnia, IFOR troops discovered a booby-trap planted in a power station in the formerly Muslim village of Koraj near Sapna, near the Bosnian interentity border. The Serbs are suspected of trying to discourage further attempts by Muslims to return to their homes in the region, Reuters reported on 20 October. Plavsic called the Muslims' actions -- which are fully in keeping with the Dayton agreement -- "terrorism along our borders," Onasa noted. -- Patrick Moore

The National Assembly of the Republika Srpska began its inaugural session in Banja Luka on 19 October, international and regional media reported. The 83-member body includes 17 Muslims and one Croat, as well as some Serbian opposition deputies, but 45 of the seats and the legislature's key offices are controlled by the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). The non-Serbs stood for the Bosnian Serb anthem, but then briefly walked out to protest an oath of allegiance that involved expressions of loyalty to Orthodox Christianity, including kissing a Bible and a crucifix. One SDS deputy charged that it was "pure folklore" to have non-Serbs present, but a Serbian Socialist deputy reminded him that "this is not a one-party parliament," AFP reported. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said "this is the beginning of a new era of Serb statehood, [but] we are not completely independent. Our sovereignty is limited, and we have to respect what was signed." -- Patrick Moore

In Belgrade on 17 October, Thedoros Pangalos repeated the Greek view that "the discrimination against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is no longer justified" and urged that the country be "completely reintegrated into international life," AFP and Reuters reported. During his visit, the two sides agreed to liberalize their visa regimes and slash visa fees, and to start direct talks aimed at promoting Greek investment in federal Yugoslavia. The Greek foreign minister and his federal Yugoslav counterpart Milan Milutinovic also signed a cooperation agreement between their ministries and discussed regional developments and bilateral cooperation. Pangalos also met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, federal Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, and Serb Patriarch Pavle. The next day in Zagreb, Pangalos met with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and signed agreements on protection and promotion of investments, preventing double taxation, and road traffic with his Croatian counterpart Mate Granic. -- Stefan Krause

The opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), led by Vuk Draskovic, alleged on 18 October that Milovan Brkic, a journalist and SPO candidate in Belgrade's civic elections, had been "beaten brutally" by police authorities, Beta reported. According to an SPO statement, Brkic had published reports in Srpska rec that the governing authorities found objectionable, prompting them "to assault Brkic." According to the statement, "[they] broke a couple of his ribs, ruptured his spleen, and inflicted a variety of other injuries to his person." The SPO claimed that police repression and violence "picks up" during elections, and that while "this time Milovan Brkic was the victim, tomorrow it could be any Serbian citizen who disagrees with the ruling powers." -- Stan Markotich

"Even though Croatia will still not admit it publicly, a legal, just, and final fixing [of borders] with Montenegro includes Prevlaka's becoming part of the natural [Montenegrin] hinterland, a result that is even in Croatia's own interests," Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic told an election rally in Herceg Novi for the ruling Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) on 18 October, Nasa Borba reported. The disputed Prevlaka peninsula belongs to Croatia but is claimed by Belgrade and controls the federal Yugoslav navy's access to the sea. At the same rally, Montenegrin parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic said a vote for the DPS on 3 November would be a ballot for a strong Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and "a life together ... [with] the citizens of Serbia." -- Stan Markotich

Incumbent President Ion Iliescu continues to lead in voter preferences in the upcoming presidential race while the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) is preferred in the parliamentary contest, according to the second of three public opinion polls planned by the IMAS polling agency before elections on 3 November. Iliescu was backed by 31.9%, followed by CDR candidate Emil Constantinescu (27.2%) and Social Democratic Union (USD) candidate Petre Roman (21.9%), Romanian media reported on 20-21 October. But the CDR scored 31.2% in voter preferences for parliament, followed by the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (28.5%) and the USD (19.7%). More than a quarter of respondents (26.8%) were either undecided or did not intend to vote. In other news, Evenimentul zilei asked the prosecutor's office to investigate a report it had published that three minor presidential candidates -- former Defense Minister Nicolae Militaru, the wonder-healer Constantin Mudava, and Pensioners' Party candidate George Muntean -- submitted partly faked lists of supporting signatures. -- Michael Shafir

Romanian Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca ended a five-day tour of Norway, Germany, and Denmark on 21 October, the latest stage of Romania's "NATO offensive" aimed at boosting the country's chances of admission in the "first wave" of NATO enlargement. Tinca delivered messages from President Ion Iliescu to the NATO-member countries' chiefs of state and premiers, Romanian media reported. The official governmental daily Vocea Romaniei cited presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu on 18 October saying reactions received from NATO countries so far are "encouraging." -- Michael Shafir and Zsolt Mato

Incumbent President Mircea Snegur confirmed on 18 October that if re-elected he will try to dismiss the government headed by rival candidate Andrei Sangheli, Infotag reported. If parliament refuses to dismiss the government, Snegur said, he will call a referendum on the question. According to a poll conducted by Chisinau University's Sociology Department, Snegur is leading in voter preferences with 41.8% support to parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi's 33.7% and Sangheli's 10.6%. Also on 18 October, the Central Electoral Commission finalized the list of nine candidates for the 17 November presidential elections. Earlier, the Supreme Court had overruled the commission's refusal to register Maricica Levitschi as a candidate. -- Michael Shafir

One week before the 27 October presidential elections, propaganda is increasingly substituted for information in the party media. In a 21 October commentary, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) daily Duma wrote: "What is good for the [Union of Democratic Forces (SDS)] is bad for Bulgaria." Zemya, a daily close to the BSP, contended that the BSP candidate, Culture Minister Ivan
Marazov, was supported by Bulgarian intellectuals, while the SDS daily Demokratsiya claimed that thousands of intellectuals support the united opposition's candidate, Petar Stoyanov, and accused Marazov of being unable to find winning moves and of making obvious blunders. Meanwhile, in a Fact agency survey published in Standart, every third respondent said Marazov cannot completely substitute for the BSP's original candidate, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, who was banned from the race by the Constitutional Court because he was not born a Bulgarian citizen. -- Maria Koinova

Albanian President Sali Berisha claimed victory at a rally in front of Tirana's Democratic Party headquarters after local elections on 20 October, AFP reported. Early estimates gave the Democrats 55% of the overall vote. According to the Voice of America the party won about 60% in the cities of Durres and Tirana. Final results are not expected until 23 October. In the 1992 local elections the Socialist opposition won in the countryside but lost in the cities. The turnout is estimated at around 70%. Deutsche Welle's Albanian service reported that by noon only 30%-40% of eligible voters had voted, which is low compared to previous elections. Council of Europe (CE) observers said there had been no reports of serious incidents or "dramatic occurrences," Reuters reported. The CE coordinated 365 international observers. The OSCE withdrew from observing the elections after Albanian authorities refused to accredit all its monitors. -- Fabian Schmidt

The ruling Democratic Party and opposition Socialists waged a war of faxes on 20 October, denouncing each other for alleged irregularities in the local elections, especially in rural areas and smaller towns, Reuters reported. According to the Democrats, their leader in one northern district, Ferik Veliu, was stabbed by a supporter of the Socialists, Pal Ndreka. Elsewhere, the Socialists claimed police had forced their way into voting booths and tampered with ballot boxes in two or three polling stations, while the Democrats accused Socialist supporters of intimidating voters. According to ATSH the Socialists claimed fraud in Fier and Lezha, where they said election material was strictly controlled by the chairmen of the election commission, who were Democrats. The Democratic Alliance also protested that Democratic Party election commission members elsewhere refused to cooperate with the opposition. -- Dukagjin Gorani