|Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 23, 3 February 1994
RUSSIA LOCAL ELECTIONS STARTED. Elections to the new local parliaments have started in Russia. Izvestiya on 2 February reported on the first of such elections in Penza oblast. The results were devastating for the democrats. 40 of 45 seats in the oblast legislative assembly went to the old Communist Party nomenklatura although many candidates from the new democratic parties, such as Russia's Choice and Party of Russian Unity and Concord, as well as successful entrepreneurs took part. Observers noted that the victory of the old forces was a result of people's apathy. The "enlightened" electorate did not take part in the elections. Those who predominantly went to the polls were old pensioners and state agricultural workers who voted according to the "instructions" of the old nomenklatura apparatus. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. SKOKOV THROWS HIS HAT IN THE RING. In an interview with Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 2 February, Yurii Skokov said he will run for the post of president in 1996 if Boris Yeltsin decides not to seek a second term. Skokov, who until last year held the post of secretary of the Russian Security Council and was sometimes described as "the second most powerful man in Russia after Yeltsin," now chairs the Federation of Russian Manufacturers, an umbrella organization that represents some of Russia's largest industries, including the oil industry, and has informal links with Russia's trade union federation. In the interview Skokov criticized the speaker of the Council of the Federation, Vladimir Shumeiko, as well as the leaders of Russia's Choice and the Party for Russian Unity and Concord, Egor Gaidar and Sergei Shakhrai, respectively, for having started their fight for the presidency too early and not thinking about the fate of Russia, thus damaging Yeltsin and the government. He went on to say that the major task of the president and government should be to prevent the disintegration of the Russian Federation. Alexander Rahr & Elizabeth Teague, RFE/RL, Inc. SHOKHIN ATTACKS GAIDAR. Aleksandr Shokhin, the reformist Minister of Economics and former ally of Egor Gaidar, has strongly criticized his one-time mentor in an interview with Ostankino TV "Bomond" on 1 February. Shokhin said that since the moment Gaidar returned to the government in September 1993, he and another reformer, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fedorov, had permanently fought for the mantle of "chief ideologist of reform". Shokhin stated that President Boris Yeltsin provided Gaidar as First Deputy Prime Minister with all the powers to conduct economic reform and planned to build Gaidar up as a symbol of reform for the future. According to Shokhin, the reason for Gaidar's departure was his fear of responsibility. Shokhin said that he had spoiled his relationship with Gaidar in December 1992. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. RESHUFFLE OF SECURITY COUNCIL. Boris Yeltsin has reduced the membership of the Russian Security Council (SB) by removing its radical reformists, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 February. (The SB is the supreme political-military body chaired by the Russian President and attached to the Presidential Office). According to Yeltsin's decree the new composition of the SB consists of: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Kozyrev; the Minister of Defense, Pavel Grachev; the Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Evgenii Primakov; the Chief of the Federal Counterintelligence Service, Nikolai Golushko; the Minister of Interior Affairs, Viktor Erin; the Minister of Justice, Yury Kalmykov; the Minister for Affairs of Nationalities and Regional Politics, Sergei Shakhrai; and the Minister of Civil Defense and Emergency Situations, Sergei Shoygu. Among those removed from the SB are: the retired Minister of Finances, Boris Fedorov; the retired First Deputy Prime Minister, Egor Gaidar; the Minister of Environment, Viktor Danilov-Danilyan; and the Minister of Health, Eduard Nechaev. Except for Kozyrev and Sakhrai the new members of the SB are the heads of agencies which are being reformed. This indicates that those agencies are not being reorganized through directives from a central authority, but are reforming themselves. Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. DRAFT LAW RESTRICTING CONSTITUTIONAL COURT UNVEILED. The acting chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court, Nikolai Vitruk, told journalists at a press conference on 2 February that, according to a new draft law, the Constitutional Court in future will not be permitted to initiate an examination of whether specific legislation conforms to the constitution, and that it will also be prevented from scrutinizing top officials' actions against the constitution. According to the court's secretary Yurii Rudkin, these provisions will prevent a repetition of the March 1993 crisis when the court judged President Yeltsin's TV address introducing "special rule" to be unconstitutional. The draft law also withdraws social organizations' right to bring a case before the court. A full text of the law was not made available to journalists, and Vitruk also refused to reveal how much judges would be paid. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE IN 1994? A Russian parliamentary delegation visiting the headquarters of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg said that Russia should become a member of the Council of Europe not earlier than the end of 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. The delegation consisted of deputy speaker of the Council of the Federation, Ramazan Abdulatipov, and Council of the Federation and State Duma deputies Evgenii Ambartsumov, Sergei Baburin, Sergei Glotov, Aleksandr Dzasokhov and Vladimir Podoprigoda. Ambartsumov criticized the West for trying to build "artificial barriers to Russia's entry into the Council," and urged leaders of the Council of Europe to visit Russia more frequently. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. ALTERNATIVE ECONOMIC PROGRAM UNVEILED. The alternative economic program, referred to in Izvestiya of 29 January, has been submitted to the president, the prime minister, and to parliamentary deputies, Interfax reported on 2 February. Authored by, inter alia, Leonid Abalkin, Nikolai Petrakov, and Stanislav Shatilin, the report is entitled "Social and Economic Transformations in Russia: the Modern Situation and New Approaches." It is said to advocate active state regulation during the formation of a market economy, to emphasize social considerations such as minimum pay, employment, allocations to education and health care, and to recommend the curtailment of "populist voucher privatization." According to a "reliable source" close to Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, quoted by Interfax, President Yeltsin has shown a "negative response" to the possible involvement of Messrs. Abalkin, Petrakov, and Shatalin in any changes to the course of reform. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. DUBININ, GERASCHENKO ON BUDGET. Acting Minister of Finance Sergei Dubinin and Russian Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko are promising to hold Russia to fiscal austerity. Dubinin told the Budget Commission of the State Duma on 2 February that the federal deficit would be lowered within eight to ten percent of gross domestic product in 1994, Interfax reported. Dubinin noted that first quarter spending would be constrained by a maximum of 8.5 trillion rubles in state revenues. Gerashchenko told Interfax on the same day that an additional expenditure of 4 trillion rubles committed to liquidate state debt owed defense, agricultural and other state enterprises would have to be spread out over the year to avoid the inflationary implications of a sudden increase in deficit spending. Erik Whitlock, RFE/RL, Inc. OIL WORKERS THREATEN TO CUT PRODUCTION. Oil workers in western Siberia are threatening to reduce production if they do not receive overdue wages by 10 February, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. Some oil workers say they have not been paid since last October. Russia is the world's third largest oil producer and oil exports are Russia's main hard currency earner, but the present cash-flow crisis is caused by the failure of domestic consumers (regions as well as enterprises) to pay their bills. Elizabeth Teague, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL ASIA & TRANSCAUCASIA KAZAKHSTAN REPORTED TO PROHIBIT RUSSIAN OVERFLIGHTS. Kazakhstan has prohibited overflights of its territory by a Russian search-and-rescue unit based in Chelyabinsk Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February, quoting a Chelyabinsk oblast newspaper. Kazakhstani authorities have said that they regard such overflights as intrusions; the search-and-rescue unit is used to find and pick up manned and unmanned space vehicles launched from Baikonur. Talks underway in Moscow between Russian and Kazakhstani officials on the future of the Baikonur space complex in Kazakhstan have had no result so far, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Russian negotiators have complained that though Kazakhstan agreed in January to lease the complex to Russia, Kazakhstani officials are still interested in creating an international joint-stock company to run Baikonur. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. GEORGIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER KILLED BY BOMB. Georgian deputy defense minister Nikolai Kekelidze was killed when a bomb exploded in his apartment in the early morning of 3 February, Western agencies and ITAR-TASS reported quoting a Georgian Interior Ministry official. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the incident. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA, PROTEST RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN FRIENDSHIP TREATY. Abkhaz Prime Minister Sokrat Dzhindzholia, parliament chairman Vladislav Ardzinba, and the latter's personal representative Andrei Dzhergenia have all expressed grave concerns to the Russian media concerning the implications for their respective autonomies of the Russian-Georgian treaty of friendship and cooperation due to be signed in Tbilisi on 3 February. Dzhindzholia told Interfax on 28 January that the treaty would give Georgia access to Russia's military arsenals. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 1 February, Dzhergenia said that the Abkhaz parliament had asked the Russian leadership to postpone signing the treaty pending a settlement of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts, ITAR-TASS reported. On 2 February, according to ITAR-TASS, the parliament of South Ossetia likewise addressed an appeal to Russian President Boris Yeltsin not to sign the treaty until measures had been enacted to protect South Ossetia's security, and requested that the Russian Federation Council and State Duma not ratify the treaty as it referred to South Ossetia as an integral part of Georgia. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. GRACHEV PROPOSES PERMANENT RUSSIAN MILITARY PRESENCE IN GEORGIA. Speaking on his arrival in Tbilisi on 2 February, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev announced that Russia would like to open three military bases in Georgia within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, and two more elsewhere in the Transcaucasus, with a total strength of 23,000 men, ITAR-TASS reported. The current agreement on stationing Russian troops in Georgia expires in December 1995. Grachev stipulated, however, that future Russian assistance to Georgia in building up its own army is contingent on the stabilization of the social-political situation in Georgia and an acceptable solution to the political status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN OPPOSITION TO TREATY WITH GEORGIA. A group of Russian parliament deputies including State Duma chairman Ivan Rybkin and former first deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar have sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin arguing that signing of the Russian-Georgian Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation is premature and could destabilize the entire Caucasus region, Interfax reported on 2 February. Rybkin was quoted as stating that it was possible that the State Duma would refuse to ratify the treaty. Also on 2 February, AFP quoted unnamed presidential aides as saying that they had tried to dissuade Yeltsin from traveling to Tbilisi to sign the treaty both on political grounds and because security arrangements in Tbilisi were inadequate. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE TURKISH AND PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTERS IN SARAJEVO. International media reported on 2 February that Tansu Ciller and Benazir Bhutto paid a brief visit to the besieged Bosnian capital in a show of solidarity. Security was tight as the two heads of government met with Bosnian officials and visited a hospital. In a joint statement the women noted that "rarely in the annals of human history has a nation been subjected to such merciless savagery in the full view of the world." Bosnian officials were pleased with the visit, but the 3 February Belgrade Politika dismissed it as a "'humanitarian' call for bombardment." Meanwhile, Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Siladjic said that his government is considering leaving the peace talks, which it regards as ineffective and biased. "We've used this medicine for two years, and the medicine obviously did not cure the illness. Instead, it cost 200,000 lives. We have to start something new," the New York Times quotes him as saying. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. SERBS DRAFT REFUGEES. As discussion continues in Germany and elsewhere in western Europe about the legality and morality of deporting war resisters and other draft-age young men back to Serbia-Montenegro and Croatia, indications are that the war machines in the former Yugoslavia are seeking fresh cannon fodder. Late last year the self-proclaimed Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna set down draconian measures aimed not only at deserters and draft-dodgers but at their families as well. Now the Daily Telegraph of 2 February and the Washington Post of 3 February report that Bosnian Serb authorities with the support of officials in Serbia proper are dragooning young men among Bosnian Serb refugees in Serbia. The Bosnian Serb defense minister said that "they are our people... and according to the decision of the military headquarters, we are getting them back so they can finish their military obligations." Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. WHOSE TROOPS ARE FIGHTING IN BOSNIA? That same Bosnian Serb official also denied press and UN reports that rump Yugoslav troops are active in Bosnia. Meanwhile, publicity over alleged Croat units in that embattled republic continues, especially in British and Serbian media amid strong hints that sanctions should be imposed on Croatia as punishment. In Vjesnik on 31 January, a top Croat spokesman had said that only some 1,500-2,000 demobilized Croat sol [error in transmission] quoted UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali as claiming that 3-5,000 Croatian soldiers are active in Bosnian and identifying their units in a letter to the Security Council. News agencies quoted German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel as saying that he has no proof that Croatian units are in Bosnia and that he opposes sanctions against Zagreb. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. POLITICAL FALLOUT IN SERBIAN PARLIAMENT. On 3 February both Borba and Politika report extensively on the fallout surrounding the election of Dragan Tomic, a Socialist Party of Serbia member, to the post of president of the Serbian parliament. According to Politika accounts, Tomic, who received 125 votes from a pool of a possible 250 deputies, managed to win because only 247 deputies were on hand to vote (only 121 of the 123 Socialists being present) and because four opposition parliamentarians threw their lot in with the SPS. The dailies report that members of Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS) allegedly voted for Tomic, an allegation that Djindjic himself flatly denies. According to Djindjic, all DS members agreed to cast their votes for Tomic's Serbian Radical Party opponent. He added that future voting should be undertaken publicly in order to avoid false allegations and possible vote rigging. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. BULGARIAN CRIMINALS INTIMIDATE UN MONITORS. On 2 January Reuters reported that United Nations monitors stationed along the Bulgarian-Serbian border have urged Sofia to provide their teams with better protection, following an incident in which sanction-busters appeared threatening. The Deputy Head of the UN Sanctions Assistance Mission in Sofia, Henning Stanislawski, said a group of criminals on 29 January surrounded two monitors at a border crossing and then chased the UN monitors for 150 km, back to Sofia. Stanislawski told the agency that this is the second time sanction-breakers have intimidated UN personnel in recent months and that the incident suggests that well-organized gangs of smugglers continue to operate along Bulgaria's border with Serbia. He said that monitors for security reasons had also pulled out of the border area in late 1993, when the customs officials had lost control of the situation and some 80-85 small vans--apparently loaded with fuel--each day drove into Serbia. After meeting with Interior Minister Viktor Mihaylov, however, Stanislawski said he had now received assurances that Bulgarian law enforcement agencies would extend more support. In January Mihaylov acknowledged that Bulgarian firms have participated in systematic sanction-busting and the government also sacked the head of Bulgaria's UN Sanction's Control Commission. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. POLAND SIGNS NATO PARTNERSHIP PACT. On the first day of his two-day visit to Brussels, Polish Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak signed an agreement at NATO headquarters signaling Poland's entry into the Partnership for Peace program. Poland is the third country to do so, after Romania and Lithuania. Pawlak said the program offers "contacts that could eventually guarantee Poland's security." He praised the program's "open formula." In remarks to the European Parliament on 2 February, Pawlak said that Poland is not fully satisfied with the partnership but accepts it on the assumption that it will lead to full membership in European security structures. Pawlak also called for full membership in the EU and better Polish access to European markets; on several occasions he argued for a "partnership for growth" to complement the NATO plan. The Polish prime minister is scheduled to visit the European Commission and meet with its chairman, Jacques Delors, on 3 February. In a move timed to coincide with the entry into force of Poland's association agreement with the EU, the Polish government also submitted a request for full membership in the OECD on 1 February, Rzeczpospolita reports. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. KLAUS CRITICIZES AUSTRIA OVER NUCLEAR PLANT CONTROVERSY. Speaking to reporters in Prague on 2 February, Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus rejected attempts by Austria to convince the Czech Republic to abandon its Temelin nuclear power plant project. Klaus's remarks came in response to statements by Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, made in Vienna on 1 February. Vranitzky said that he will again approach Czech leaders with the offer to rebuild the nuclear plant into a power plant using gas and that he will repeat Austria's arguments against Temelin. Klaus said that the Czech Republic's decision last year to complete the nuclear plant "was not a joke" and that Austria should realize that. According to Klaus, Austria protests only against the Czech nuclear power plants but not against nuclear power plants in Germany and Switzerland. He argued that Austria has mounted the campaign against the Czech Republic because it considers it "a weaker partner." Klaus said: "I have to declare that we are not a weaker partner in this affair." Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAK MINISTER REPORTS ON FOREIGN POLICY. On 2 February Foreign Minister Jozef Moravcik presented a report to the parliament on foreign policy in 1993 and priorities in 1994, TASR reports. According to Moravcik, his ministry's most important achievements in 1993 were the clarification of Slovakia's orientation towards West European security organizations, as well as its association agreement with the EU and membership in the Council of Europe. Moravcik said that in 1994 the country will direct itself towards NATO and the WEU. Moravcik stressed his concern that Slovakia has still not managed to dispel doubts about the country's domestic stability, which has led to low foreign investment. He also criticized Hungary for its attempts "to question Slovakia's credibility at international forums" and its "exaggerated focus on the status and rights of the ethnic Hungarian minority" in Slovakia. Representatives of various embassies accredited in Slovakia also attended the session, and Hungarian Ambassador to Slovakia Lajos Varadi said that aside from "some extreme political voices, we think that no irredentist attempts in relation to Slovakia can be found in Hungary." Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST HUNGARIAN FASCIST PARTY. The chief prosecutor's office announced on 2 February that criminal proceedings are underway against two members of the extreme-right party, World National Popular Rule, and that the Budapest chief prosecutor has requested that the party be dissolved, MTI reports. According to the chief prosecutor's office, the party has violated the constitution by inciting hatred against minorities. The party, whose members are mostly skinheads, have particularly been targeting Jews and Gypsies. Last month police raided the Budapest headquarters of the party and seized party documents and Hungarian arrow-cross insignia. The government condemned the party's activities after the it held an openly anti-Semitic meeting in which it denied the existence of the Holocaust. The party had planned to run in the next general election. Edith Oltay, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN PARTIES SIGN FORMAL COALITION ACCORD. The ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the ultra-nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity on 2 February signed a formal agreement paving the way for a coalition cabinet. The new coalition, which will include three more PSDR parliamentary allies, is expected to be completed by the end of February. Radio Bucharest quoted PRNU vice-chairman Ioan Gavra as describing the accord as "the most significant political event [in Romania] since the September 1992 elections." Romania's democratic opposition has repeatedly criticized the PSDR's decision to share power with left-wing and nationalist parties, warning against its possible impact on Romania's image abroad. Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc. SENATE MAKES ROMANIA'S DEFAMATION A CRIMINAL OFFENSE. Romania's Senate on 2 February voted by a wide margin to punish "defamation in public of Romania and the Romanian nation" with one to five years in prison. Similar jail terms are provided for those accused of disseminating "false information and news posing a treat on state security and Romania's international relations," Radio Bucharest reports. The author of the legislation, Senator Valer Suian of the PRNU, said during debate that the rules are needed to defend the country's prestige against inner and foreign detractors. He singled out Russian nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky as an example. The legislation, which was introduced as an amendment to the Penal Code, was approved by a 75 to 25 vote, with five abstentions. It must go before the Chamber of Deputies before coming into force. Opposition Senators expressed fears that the law could be used to repress political opponents or members of ethnic minorities. Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc. UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE CRUCIAL POLITICAL AND SECURITY ISSUES. In its final sessions before the elections that will elect a new legislature, the Ukrainian parliament is set to debate several fundamental political and security issues. The speaker of the parliament Ivan Plyushch announced at the start of proceedings on 3 February that the parliament will turn its attention to the following outstanding questions: the overhaul of local government, whether or not a referendum will be held on 27 March on the basic principles of the division of powers, and the parliament's attitude toward the trilateral nuclear agreement signed in Moscow on 14 January by Presidents Clinton, Yeltsin and Kravchuk. Some deputies are also pressing for changes in the election law which was approved last November. Somewhat surprisingly, the situation in Crimea has been kept off the agenda. Bohdan Nahaylo, RFE/RL, Inc. BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS CALL STRIKES. On 2 February the National Strike Committee, which includes a number of trade unions in Belarus, issued a call for nation-wide strikes beginning on 15 February and lasting indefinitely, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The committee's main demand is the resignation of Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich's government and early parliamentary elections. The leader of the Independent Trade Unions of Belarus, Henadz Bykau said the decision to strike was prompted by the recent dismissals of the interior minister, the head of the KGB, and the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Stanislau Shushkevich. The new Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Mechyslau Hryb, has ordered the acting head of the KGB, Henadz Lavitsky, to investigate the strike call which he said amounted to a call for the overthrow of state and authority. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. MOLDOVAN-UKRAINIAN RAPPROCHEMENT CONTINUES. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's Information Department director, Yurii Serheev, told a media briefing in Kiev that he was officially authorized to urge that "foreign troops" be withdrawn from Moldova, Moldovan media reported on 1 February. Interfax reported that Serheev made his remarks in the context of expressing the Ukrainian government's concern over Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's remarks on Russia's alleged right to intervene to protect minorities in the "near abroad." Meanwhile, Ukraine's Ambassador to Moldova, Vitalii Boiko, commented in the Moldovan parliamentary weekly Sfatul Tarii of 20 January on the continuing improvement of the situation of Moldova's largest ethnic minority, the Ukrainians, saying that "a real sea change is taking place regarding the revival of the Ukrainian language and culture in Moldova." The ambassador concluded that "Moldova's state policy is oriented toward creating the conditions for the rebirth of the cultures of nationalities, as you may also witness in the government's support for Ukrainian cultural institutions in Moldova." Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. SVIRIN, ROZHOK, DUMA ON RUSSIANS IN ESTONIA. Petr Rozhok, a representative of Russian Liberal Democratic Party, while visiting Estonia, told the Sillameski Vestnik that Estonia is "ancient Russian territory" and advised all Russians in Estonia to apply for Russian citizenship. Furthermore, Rozhok also urged retired Russian officers and soldiers in Estonia to form military units to defend their honor and dignity and asserted that they should be "aware of the protection and support of the great Russia." BNS of February 1 also reported that the Russian parliament intends to send representatives to Estonia in February to tour the Russian-Estonian border area and to suggest measures to protect the rights of Estonia's Russian-speaking population. On the eve of the resumption of the Russian-Estonian talks, Russian delegation head Vasilii Svirin told Interfax on 1 February that he would offer an "improved" schedule for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia; he wanted Estonia to show concern for the rights of Russians in Estonia, especially the Russian military retirees living there. Svirin also deplored Estonia's "persistence" in its territorial claims against Russia. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. POPULARITY POLL IN LITHUANIA. A poll of 1,198 people by the British-Lithuanian company Baltic Surveys showed that the popularity rating of all political figures except for opposition leader Vytautas Landsbergis dropped in January compared to December, BNS reported on 1 and 2 January. Landsbergis' rating increased by 3 points to 40%. The three most popular figures were President Algirdas Brazauskas with a 58% rating (dropping 4 points), Seimas deputy chairman Egidijus Bickauskas with 53% (-5%), and Center Union chairman Romualdas Ozolas with 47% (-5%). A majority of the respondents (56%) were opposed to holding early presidential elections with 20% favoring them. The desire for early parliament elections was greater, 28% in favor and 45% opposed. If parliament elections were held now, 22% said that they would not participate in the elections, while 17% would vote for the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party, 12% for the Christian Democratic Party, 6% for Sajudis, 5% for the Conservative Party, 4% for the Center Union, 3% for the Democratic Party, and 2% each for the Liberal Union and the Social Democratic Party. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. 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