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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: September 5, 2000

5 September 2000, Volume 2, Number 32
ELECTORAL MISCELLANY. *****Solidarity leader and presidential candidate MARIAN KRZAKLEWSKI told farmers gathered for the annual harvest festival celebrations at the Jasna Gora national shrine on 3 September that the government will spend some $1.8 billion on the agricultural sector under the recently adopted Pact for Agriculture and Rural Areas. "What is important [is that] by signing the pact it will be possible to determine expenditure on the countryside and agriculture for several years ahead. This will give a greater sense of stability. For that reason, I will be striving in the parliament to pass acts [and] plans for several years on the development of the countryside, which will enable the challenges of the future to be met," Polish Radio quoted Krzaklewski as saying.

*****Presidential candidate ANDRZEJ LEPPER--leader of the radical farmers' union Self-Defense, who was recently released from prison--said at the same harvest festival that the Pact for Agriculture is the government's attempt "to pull the wool over the farmers' eyes," PAP reported. Lepper added that the pact was a "slightly expanded" version of the medium-term rural development strategy that was adopted by the government two years ago and that "has now been set aside." In Lepper's opinion, Poland's agricultural sector needs primarily "government interventionism and profitable prices," not more documents.

*****Presidential candidate JAROSLAW KALINOWSKI, leader of the Polish Peasant Party, said at the same harvest festival that Poland's farmers expect "real actions" from the government, not "more discussion about packages." According to Kalinowski, one of the main reasons for the difficult situation in the countryside is the lack of appropriate legal regulations that would bring Poland's agriculture closer to that of the EU countries. Kalinowski said modern, productive family farms form the foundation of agriculture in the EU, whereas the bill on family farms in Poland has been waiting to be examined in the parliament for several years. "We did not succeed in getting it through in the previous term of office, because those people in Poland who call themselves Europeans do not want to have a European agriculture in Poland," Kalinowski said, referring to the period between 1993 and 1997, when his party ran the government jointly with Poland's post-Communists.

*****"The mountains are telling you there'll be no second round" read a banner welcoming President ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI on his 29 August election campaign stop in Jelenia Gora, in the mountainous southwestern part of Poland. A cheering crowd of some 20,000 people attended Kwasniewski's campaign rally in the 100,000-strong city, which is ruled by the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Jelenia Gora Mayor Jozef Kusiak is also the head of the district SLD branch and of Kwasniewski's election committee in Jelenia Gora.

*****LECH WALESA told the Berlin-based "Tagesspiegel" on 30 August that he believes he has no chance of winning the 8 October ballot. "But for me, it's not about winning.... Most politicians think in election terms, not on a longer timescale.... I want to show what's wrong and reshape the landscape," Reuters quoted Walesa as saying in that interview. Walesa criticized Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski for the latter's attempt to reinforce Solidarity's political wing, the Solidarity Electoral Action, by his presidential bid. "He is gambling with our success. He should concentrate on the [trade] union," Walesa said.

*****TADEUSZ WILECKI told journalists in Warsaw on 31 August that Poland "cannot trust its new allies" and should count on its own forces and defense capability, PAP reported. He did not want to disclose who Poland's enemy is, saying that this is a state secret. The head of Wilecki's electoral staff, Marek Toczek, added that "the 1939 tragedy is likely to be repeated" if the country's defense policy is not changed.

*****A poll conducted by OBOP from 19-21 August (after the State Electoral Commission registered 13 presidential hopefuls) showed that ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI is supported by 66 percent of respondents. ANDRZEJ OLECHOWSKI is backed by 11 percent and MARIAN KRZAKLEWSKI by 9 percent of the electorate. The other candidates' ratings are: JAROSLAW KALINOWSKI, 5 percent; JAN OLSZEWSKI, 3 percent; LECH WALESA, 2 percent; JANUSZ KORWIN-MIKKE, ANDRZEJ LEPPER, JAN LOPUSZANSKI, PIOTR IKONOWICZ, 1 percent each; and DARIUSZ GRABOWSKI, TADEUSZ WILECKI, BOGDAN PAWLOWSKI, less than 1 percent each. According to OBOP, 22 percent of voters said they would vote for Olechowski if their candidate resigned. At the same time, Kwasniewski and Kalinowski would gain 9 percent of the vote each and Krzaklewski would gain 7 percent. Fifty-eight percent of respondents declared they will go to the 8 October polls and 27 said they are likely to go.

EUROPE TO SEND TRUNCATED MISSION TO 15 OCTOBER POLLS. The OSCE's technical conference in Vienna on 30 August adopted somewhat mystifying recommendations on the international monitoring of the 15 October legislative elections in Belarus, as if to match the no less puzzling stances of the Belarusian opposition on the upcoming poll (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 August 2000). In particular, the OSCE election experts said:

"Progress has been made in the four major fields relating to the organization of democratic elections that constituted the main topics of international consultations, but this still falls short of the internationally agreed criteria.

"Whilst the legal framework for the elections has been improved, the other framework guidelines--access to the media, functions of parliament, peace period...have not so far been changed to the extent that overall conditions could at this point be qualified as satisfactory."

"However, the changes to the framework for the parliamentary elections do justify a technical assessment mission to be organized and deployed by [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)] in close cooperation with [the OSCE's Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk (AMG)].

"The Conference invites the Parliamentary Troika [of the European Parliament], the ODIHR, and the OSCE AMG to evaluate the conduct of the elections and subsequent developments, in particular with regard to the functions of the new parliament, the respect for human rights, and the strengthening of the rule of law.

"The presence of the Parliamentary Troika and the ODIHR limited technical assessment mission emphasizes the political significance that Europe attaches to the development and consolidation of democracy in Belarus. Their presence in Belarus on the occasion of the parliamentary elections does not constitute an act of international recognition of the democratic character and outcome of the parliamentary election process.

"The recommendations may be reviewed in the case of improvement or deterioration of the situation in Belarus."

It is no wonder that both official Minsk and the opposition claimed success over the controversial election issue--in these recommendations, each side doubtless could find what it wanted to. Foreign Minister Ural Latypau commented that the recommendations are "a compromise that opens the way to international observation of the elections." And Anatol Lyabedzka, who spoke for the opposition at the Vienna conference, told journalists in Minsk on 31 August: "The main result [of the recommendations] is that there will be no international monitoring of the polls."

STATE TELEVISION MAKES PROGRESS--IN MUDSLINGING. In July, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka appointed Communist Party of Belarus leader Viktar Chykin as head of the State Broadcasting Company and television commentator Alyaksandr Zimouski as his deputy. Those appointments have drawn harsh criticism from the opposition and independent commentators.

"[Chykin's appointment] shows that on the eve of the election season, the Lukashenka regime is not going to loosen [its grip], is not even going to pretend liberalization," opposition leader Vintsuk Vyachorka told RFE/RL on 26 July. "The appointment of [Chykin] who banned rallies [and] let dogs loose on yet more proof that this regime wants only one thing-- unlimited power and unlimited dictatorship--and will continue to lie, lie, and lie," Belarusian filmmaker Uladzimir Khalip added.

Commentators say Lukashenka is paying more attention to the electronic media in view of the upcoming legislative elections. "The main thing [Lukashenka] expects from television is to prevent any dissenting view from slipping in there.... Comrade Chykin will not allow any dissenting view to get through," Uladzimir Khalip noted on 23 August.

The promotion of Zimouski, moderator of Belarusian Television's "analytical and information" program "Rezanans," has reinforced suspicions that Lukashenka will launch a full-scale media war against the opposition during the election campaign. Zimouski is notorious for his unwavering loyalty to the regime and highly abusive language vis-a-vis the regime's opponents.

Belarusian Television's main newscast "Panarama" on 31 August justified those suspicions. The commentary aired in that newscast was typical of Zimouski's "analytical style" even though it was read by another correspondent. At the same time, however, its language was considerably harsher and even more insulting to the opposition than Zimouski's previous outpourings.

Historical references included in the commentary are unlikely to be understood by the overwhelming majority of Belarusian viewers, who never been taught about such events as the creation of the non-Bolshevik Belarusian Democratic Republic in 1918 or the exodus of nationalist activists from Belarus in 1944. But it seems that a hateful tone, such as that of this commentary, is considered the most important by Lukashenka's propagandists. Indeed, the logically incoherent commentary seems to be a good example of the propaganda technique George Orwell called "five minutes of hatred": by drawing a thick line between what is officially believed to be "good" and "no good," that technique appeals to people's emotions rather than thoughts.

Below is a translated excerpt from the 31 August "Panarama" transcribed for RFE/RL by the Belapan news agency. It should be added that the commentary was aired right after the announcement that the regime had scored a success in Vienna the previous day by securing the presence of international monitors at the 15 October elections.

Newscaster: Belarusian radicals of a fascist orientation tried hard to provoke a boycott of the elections but, as it has turned out, to no avail.

Correspondent: Society's steadfast intent to take part in the elections has provoked a split [in the opposition] and even a fit of panic among some oppositionists. The frightened functionaries resorted to extreme measures: they rushed to Vienna to beg for one more opportunity to sling mud at Belarus. This became a graphic example of how moral principles could be perverted.

For instance, the runaway [Syarhey] Navumchyk [ed. note: granted political asylum in the U.S in 1996 at the same time as Belarusian Popular Front leader Zyanon Paznyak] is a son of a high-ranking Communist daddy. He was enrolled at a faculty of journalism because of family connections; while a boy, he went six times to Artek [ed. note: famous summer camp for Soviet pioneers in Crimea], he stayed [there] thanks to his father's authority, not to his school grades, which were very poor.

[Belarusian Popular Front Party leader Vintsuk] Vyachorka presents [a similar case]. He is a son of Masherau's aide--a good lineage! [ed. note: Pyotr Masherau was first secretary of the Communist Party of the Belarusian SSR from 1965-1980.] But Masherau and his friends from the Party were People with a capital "P," patriots and guerrilla movement heroes, they deserved respect and nationwide esteem, their combat brotherhood was possibly the highest guarantee of honesty and honor. It is not accidental that Belarus did not know the word corruption at that time. And the lad Vyachorka [ed. note: Vyachorka is 39]--what has he to do with this? He and the likes of him have been used to believing since their childhood that it is their birth right to be entitled initially to a black bicycle [ed. note: sarcasm based on the fact that the color of high-ranking party functionaries' cars was invariably black] and later, naturally, to [special] services and a personal car, also black. They have been used to those nomenklatura [privileges] without having done anything for the Fatherland.

Another activist--former chief of the Soviet-era Belarusian Television, now an inveterate democrat--prohibited television directors, under the threat of depriving them of bonuses, from showing bearded people on screen, because they did not conform with the [ideal] image of Soviet man. But personally, he was manufacturing servile poems about how the bearded leader [Lenin] mused about Belarus [ed. note: the passage apparently refers to Belarusian poet Henadz Buraukin].

A professor of the Party's super school [Syamyon] Sharetski [ed. note: chairman of the opposition Supreme Soviet, now in exile in Lithuania; he lectured in the Minsk Higher Party School in the 1970s and 1980s] instructed the current leader of the Belarusian Broadcasting Company [Viktar Chykin] in the economics of socialist agriculture and graded his knowledge as excellent.

All our local opposition can be distinctly seen [in the above examples], with their habit of blaming the stupid people, of whom they were making fools for decades. All of them love to make appeals to the West. Incidentally, some have been roaming there since a long time. They are looking for help from the diaspora that fled from Belarus with retreating Hitler's troops. Therefore, their appeals to the West have historical roots. Even before the end of World War I, they [sic] sent a telegram to the Kaiser asking him to take their artificial creation, the Belarusian Democratic Republic [ed. note: non-Bolshevik Belarusian state proclaimed in the Germany-occupied Minsk in 1918], under the wings of the imperial eagle. Later, this telegram became a legal ground for the existence of Belarus [sic]. By the way, a copy of this document is preserved in the National Archives. One can see to whom they declared their love.

Therefore, their ideological successors now tour all of Europe, slinging mud at their own people. Well, it would be good [if it was only about] mud-slinging. But they even appeal to kill this cattle. That's how they speak about you with us [state journalists]. To kill this sick cattle with hunger: [they appeal] not to give grain credits and hard currency loans to Belarus. Who?--you may ask. The same story-tellers. The same band. They do not realize that having developed the habit of taking money for political spinelessness they will find it difficult to get rid of this habit. And the chain [in such cases] is known: political spinelessness--political prostitution--and, finally, political death. Therefore, the first and foremost principle for a national politician should be: Do not spit in [your own] well, because you may be flooded in return.

KUCHMA PREDICTS RECORD-LOW GRAIN CROP. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said last week that Ukraine is facing a record-low grain crop, adding that only strict controls over grain exports will prevent bread shortages. "This year we are likely to harvest three million tons of grain less than last year," Reuters quoted Kuchma as saying.

Last year, Ukraine harvested 24.4 million tons of grain, its worst harvest since 1945, and analysts say this year's crop is unlikely to exceed 22 million tons. The Agricultural Ministry has previously said it expects a harvest of some 25 million tons.

Experts say that due to bad weather and a lack of funds Ukraine is likely to harvest no more than 11.2 million tons of wheat this year, compared with last year's 13.5 million. They say the country is unlikely to satisfy its bread-making needs and may resort to wheat imports from Kazakhstan.

The head of Ukraine's State Reserves Agency, Yehven Chervonenko, told Interfax last week that the agency is holding talks with Kazakhstan's state companies on wheat imports this year but gave no details. The agency previously announced it is planning to buy some 1.5 million tons of grain at home and abroad to replenish state stocks. According to Chervonenko, grain purchases from Kazakhstan are necessitated by high prices for grain in Ukraine as well as by the low quality of this year's Ukrainian wheat.

"I feel that fortune has been deeply unfair. For our common struggle, I was awarded the Nobel Prize, given more than 100 honorary doctorates, elected Poland's president. I have a secure place in history. As to the activities of many of you, they may have already been forgotten. Therefore I see myself only as a repository of all those honors, not their owner. They belong to all who fought at that time." -- Lech Walesa to a 3,000-strong crowd at the celebrations of Solidarity's 20th birthday on 31 August. Quoted by PAP.