|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
No. 204, Part II, 21 October 1996
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUSTICES SWORN IN. 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 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT COMPROMISES OVER REFERENDUM DATE. 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 CHERNOMYRDIN: BELARUS MUST REFORM TO INTEGRATE. 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 EARLY RESULTS FROM ESTONIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. 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 CONSERVATIVES WIN LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. 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 POLISH-FRENCH MILITARY COOPERATION. 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 CZECH PREMIER WELCOMES JAPANESE INTEREST IN BANK. 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 TROUBLED DIALOGUE BETWEEN CHURCH AND SLOVAK GOVERNMENT. 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 HUNGARIAN COALITION REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR GOVERNMENT. 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 HUNGARIAN POLL SHOWS AMBIGUOUS ATTITUDES TOWARD 1956 UPRISING. 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 SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS IN DANGER. 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 BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT OPENS. 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 GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN ZAGREB, BELGRADE. 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 SERBIAN JOURNALIST 'BEATEN BRUTALLY.' 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 BULATOVIC INSISTS PREVLAKA BE HANDED TO MONTENEGRO. "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, OPPOSITION PARTY LEAD IN ROMANIAN OPINION POLL. 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 ENDS NATO-COUNTRIES TOUR. 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 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT HOPES TO DISMISS GOVERNMENT AFTER ELECTIONS. 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 PARTY PRESS AGITATE FOR BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. 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 DEMOCRATS CLAIM VICTORY IN LOCAL ELECTIONS. 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 BOTH SIDES CLAIM IRREGULARITIES IN ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. 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 [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tom Warner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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