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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 11, Part II, 18 January 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 11, Part II, 18 January 1999

A daily report of developments in Eastern and
Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central
Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty.

This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning
Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.  Part I
covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is
distributed simultaneously as a second document.  Back
issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are
online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part II

* EU AMBASSADORS RETURN TO MINSK

* SERBIAN FORCES CONTINUE OFFENSIVE FOLLOWING MASSACRE

* ROMANIAN MINERS BEGIN MARCH ON BUCHAREST

End Note: BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS THIS YEAR
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BILL ON PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS. The Supreme Council on 15 January voted by
232 to 23 to approve a law on presidential elections in
1999, AP reported. The law stipulates that presidential
candidates can be nominated by political parties or a
group of at least 500 voters. Each candidate must
collect 1 million signatures among Ukraine's 35 million
eligible voters, be over 35 years old, and have resided
in Ukraine for at least 10 years before the elections.
To win in the first round, a candidate must be supported
by more than half of the voters who cast their ballots.
A simple majority of votes is required to win in a
runoff. Political parties that nominate candidates are
allowed to send two representatives to every
constituency to monitor vote counting. The vote is
scheduled for 31 October. JM

TATAR PARLIAMENT OFFICE IN CRIMEA FIREBOMBED. Unknown
attackers early on 15 January threw several bottles
containing flammable liquid through the windows of the
Crimean Tatar National Parliament, a self-governing body
of Crimea's 275,000-strong Tatar minority, AP reported.
The blaze destroyed the office of parliamentary head
Mustafa Dzhemilev and seriously damaged documents and
computers in other sections of the building. Dzhemilev
expressed doubt that the police will find the attackers,
adding that the authorities are still looking for the
perpetrators of a similar attack in 1993. JM

EU AMBASSADORS RETURN TO MINSK. Ambassadors of France,
Germany, Great Britain, Greece, and Italy returned to
Belarus on 17 January after a nearly seven-month absence
following the EU-Belarus conflict over diplomatic
residences at Drazdy, near Minsk. Under an agreement
concluded in December, the EU diplomats will have
limited access to their former location at Drazdy until
they find new residences. "The past is past. Now we
should concentrate on the future and create effective
relations between our countries," AP quoted the French
ambassador as saying. Andrey Sannikau, head of the
opposition Charter-97 and former Belarusian deputy
foreign minister, told RFE/RL on 15 January that the EU
ambassadors are "now very necessary in Belarus" in view
of the opposition Supreme Soviet's resolution to hold
presidential elections in May (see "End Note" below). JM

BELARUSIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS PROTEST BELARUS-RUSSIA
UNION. The Social Democratic Party "Narodnaya Hramada,"
led by Mikalay Statkevich, staged a march and a rally in
Minsk on 17 January to protest the planned Belarus-
Russia union, Interfax reported. Protesters marched
through the capital's main avenue brandishing placards
that urged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to resign. In
an adopted resolution, they stressed that Lukashenka's
policy poses a threat to Belarus's sovereignty. They
also greeted the return of EU diplomats to Minsk, which,
they said, will "uphold Belarusian democracy". According
to law enforcement bodies, the protest action involved
some 2,000 people and took place without incident. JM

ESTONIA'S MAIN RUSSIAN PARTIES FAIL TO REACH ELECTION
AGREEMENT. The United Popular Party and the Russian
Party in Estonia have failed to reach an agreement on
cooperation in the run-up to the 7 March elections, ETA
reported on 18 January. The news agency cited "personal
conflicts" between the parties' leaders for that
failure. The United Popular Party, however, will run on
a joint list with the Russian Unity Party and the former
communist Social Democratic Labor Party. Last November,
the parliament voted to ban election alliances but
stopped short of prohibiting joint lists (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 November 1998). JC

LATVIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO EXAMINE CONTROVERSIAL BOOK
FOR ANTI-SEMITISM. The Latvian Foreign Ministry has
requested that the Prosecutor-General's Office examine a
1942 book reprinted in Latvia 18 months ago to determine
whether it contains anti-Semitic propaganda and/or any
glorification of Nazi ideology, LETA reported on 15
January. The book, entitled "The Fearful Year,"
describes crimes committed against Latvians under Soviet
rule from June 1940 to the end of 1941. It was reprinted
in 1997 by publisher Leonards Inkins, who is a member of
the ruling Fatherland and Freedom party. The party's
leadership, however, has stressed it had nothing to do
with the reprinting of the book. Last week, Russian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin sharply
criticized the decision to reprint the book, saying it
was a bid to "justify the crimes of Latvian members of
the Waffen-SS against Jews and Russians" and linking the
decision to the Latvian government. JC

MINORITY TEACHERS IN LATVIA TO BE FIRED FOR NOT
OBTAINING LANGUAGE CERTIFICATE. Eighty-eight teachers in
Latvia who failed to obtain the highest state-language
certificate by the end of last year are to be fired as
of 1 July, "Diena" reported on 15 January, quoting the
director of the Department of General Education at the
Ministry of Education and Sciences, Guntis Vasilevskis.
Another 53 teachers have been given until 1 June to
obtain the necessary certificate. Vasilevskis told the
daily that the teachers will be fired only if
replacements can be found for them. He also said that
those who are dismissed will have the opportunity to
take the language exam free of charge and, if
successful, resume their teaching career. In December
1996, the Ministry of Education ordered that all
teachers who did not receive their education in the
Latvian language must obtain the highest state-language
certificate. JC

LATVIAN PREMIER IN VILNIUS. During his visit to the
Lithuanian capital on 15 January, Vilis Kristopans met
with the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to discuss
bilateral relations, LETA and BNS reported. The two
leaders agreed that talks on delimiting the Latvian-
Lithuanian maritime border must be accelerated, and
Kristopans urged a quick solution to the issue. They
also discussed the recently resolved issue of pork
quotas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999), with
the latter saying he believes the two states can remove
any barriers to bilateral trade by means of cooperation
and harmonization of customs policies, according to
"Diena" on 16 January. JC

LITHUANIA REGISTERS LOWEST INFLATION AMONG BALTS IN
1998. Inflation in Lithuania totaled just 2.4 percent in
1998, down from 8.4 percent the previous year, BNS
reported on 17 January. Latvia's inflation rate last
year was 2.8 percent (down from 7 percent in 1997) and
Estonia's 6.5 percent (12.5 percent). The news agency
reports that last year, all three countries registered
their lowest inflation rate since regaining
independence. JC

BUZEK ELECTED LEADER OF SOLIDARITY PARTY. Prime Minister
Jerzy Buzek has been elected leader of the Solidarity
Electoral Action Social Movement (RS AWS), Solidarity's
political arm formed in 1997 after the parliamentary
election victory, Polish media reported on 17 January.
Buzek received 368 of the 376 valid votes cast. In this
capacity, Buzek is subordinated to Marian Krzaklewski,
head of the Solidarity trade union and chairman of the
Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS)--the parliamentary
caucus of some 30 right-wing parties, including the RS
AWS. The Freedom Union (UW), the AWS's coalition
partner, criticized Buzek's appointment. "It's not Jerzy
Buzek who makes decisions, but a politburo headed by
Marian Krzaklewski," UW deputy Wladyslaw Frasyniuk
commented. Polish observers say Krzaklewski, who is
planning to run in the 2000 presidential elections,
nominated Buzek as RS AWS head to quash the premier's
possible presidential ambitions. JM

KWASNIEWSKI PLEDGES 'PERMANENT SUPPORT' TO UKRAINE'S
PRO-WESTERN BID. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski
told his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, in Warsaw
on 15 January that Poland is to render "permanent
support for Ukrainian efforts in international
institutions," including the IMF, the World Bank, and
the EU, Polish Television reported. Kuchma said Ukraine
wants to follow Polish models of integration with
Europe. He added that assertions that economic reform in
Ukraine has been halted are "groundless." The reform
continues, he said, but owing to insufficient aid from
world financial institutions, its pace is
unsatisfactory. "We are witnessing an experiment in
which the doctors, having diagnosed how to treat the
patient, are indifferently watching if the patient will
die or survive," Kuchma commented. Both presidents
agreed to participate in the May opening of
reconstructed Ukrainian-Polish cemetery in Lviv, which
has recently provoked tension in mutual relations. JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1999 BUDGET... The Chamber of
Deputies on 15 January approved the 1999 budget in the
third and final reading. The vote was 114 to 83, CTK and
AP reported. The budget foresees a deficit of 31 billion
crowns ($1 billion). Its approval was made possible by a
last-minute deal with the opposition Christian
Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) and the Communist Party of
Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM). Most of the amendments
proposed by the KDU-CSL were approved, while the
Communists agreed to a compromise whereby 5 billion
crowns are to be allocated for the development of the
Czech-made L-159 fighter jet and 8.3 million crowns to
the development of depressed areas in northwestern
Bohemia. The KSCM had earlier demanded that military
spending be slashed to a minimum, which other parties
saw as endangering entry to NATO. MS

...PROVOKING CONFLICTS IN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE. The
leadership of the Freedom Union on 16 January rejected a
proposal made the previous day by the party's
parliamentary group to leave the four-party opposition
alliance in protest against the KDU-CSL's vote for the
budget. In addition to the union and the KDU-CSL, the
alliance is composed of the extraparliamentary Civic
Democratic Alliance and the Democratic Union. Freedom
Union leader Jan Ruml said the party's leadership has
decided to oppose the parliamentary group's decision to
leave the opposition alliance, but he added that in the
future "clear rules of cooperation" must be defined. MS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER ASSAULTS JOURNALISTS DURING
FUNERAL. Vladimir Meciar on 15 January physically
attacked journalists who were filming the burial
ceremony of Meciar's former economics minister, Jan
Ducky, who was assassinated on 11 January. Meciar also
encouraged other people attending the ceremony to do so.
His victims were a CTK correspondent and a journalist
from the private TV Markiza. After the incident,
Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia said in a
statement to CTK that the journalists were guilty of
"provocation" and "lack of respect for the dead" because
they had filmed at a ceremony that was private and had
been informed by the mourning family that their presence
was "undesirable." MS

HUNGARIAN JUNIOR COALITION PARTY ELECTS NEW BOARD
CHAIRMAN. At its first session since the May 1998
general elections, the National Board of the coalition
Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) elected Agoston
Szekelyhidi as MDF board chairman, Hungarian media
reported on 16 January. Szekelyhidi said after the
meeting that in the next three years, the party must
begin to act more independently. At the same, he said
the MDF would like to continue political cooperation
with the current coalition even beyond 2002. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBIAN FORCES CONTINUE OFFENSIVE FOLLOWING MASSACRE.
Serbian forces killed some 45 Kosovar civilians in the
village of Recak near Shtima in central Kosova on 15
January. The victims ranged from age 12 to 80 and
included women. William Walker, who heads the OSCE
monitoring mission in Kosova, said the next day that
many of the Kosovars had been killed "execution-style"
at close range. AP added that many bodies had been
mutilated or decapitated. Serbian security forces fired
on the village again on 17 and 18 January, using mortars
and anti-aircraft guns. Reuters quoted unnamed OSCE
monitors on 18 January as saying that the Serbs are
shelling several other villages in the area as well. PM

SERBS SAY KILLINGS RESULT OF 'COMBAT.' Serbian President
Milan Milutinovic said in a statement in Belgrade on 17
January that the killings in Recak were the result of
fighting between Serbian forces and "terrorists," by
which Serbian officials mean the Kosova Liberation Army
(UCK). He added that Walker's comments were the result
of "false and personal assessments that are totally
baseless…[and] an obvious attempt to divert attention
from the terrorists, murderers, and kidnappers."
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party
of Serbia issued a declaration calling Walker's comments
"brazen lies." Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav
Seselj charged that the UCK mutilated corpses and killed
children in Recak in order to discredit the Serbian
forces. He added that U.S. and British monitors are
helping the UCK and that Walker is a CIA agent aiding
the guerrillas, AP reported. Seselj's Radical Party said
in a statement that Walker is the "patron of terrorist
gangs." PM

RUGOVA URGES NATO INTERVENTION. Kosovar shadow-state
President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 16 January
that only an "energetic and decisive" intervention by
NATO can stop "the Serbian military-police machine" and
create a situation conducive to reaching a political
settlement in the province. He urged the Atlantic
alliance to launch air strikes against Serbian military
positions. PM

SHADOW-STATE REPRESENTATIVE CALLS FOR 'FORCE.' Isa
Zymberi, who is the Kosovar shadow state's
representative in London, told the BBC on 17 January
that he sees "no purpose" in recent Western appeals to
Milosevic to bring the killers to justice. "Asking
Milosevic to bring his own henchmen to justice for
carrying out his own orders" is ridiculous, Zymberi
stressed. He added that "the only thing that Milosevic
understands is force" and that time has come for the
international community to use force against him. The
shadow-state representative added that the Serbian
authorities have not respected the cease-fire or the
October agreement between Milosevic and U.S. special
envoy Richard Holbrooke. Zymberi called that agreement
"a mistake" because the Serbs have not observed it. PM

NATO SENDS TWO GENERALS TO BELGRADE. Meeting in
emergency session in Brussels on 17 January, NATO
ambassadors agreed to send the alliance's two top
generals, Wesley Clark and Klaus Naumann, to Belgrade
the following day "to impress upon the Yugoslav
authorities the gravity of the situation." Secretary-
General Javier Solana condemned "all acts of violence
[and called] on both sides to cease hostilities
immediately and to begin negotiations toward a lasting
political solution." The previous day, Clark said that
he believes Milosevic may be preparing a "new, all-out
offensive" that could soon lead to a renewal in large-
scale fighting. PM

ALBANIA URGES UN INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA... Prime
Minister Pandeli Majko sent a letter to UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan on 17 January urging intervention in
Kosova, Reuters reported. The Foreign Ministry issued a
statement the same day saying only through intervention
can tensions be defused and the crisis resolved. The
document called for an urgent UN Security Council
debate, saying that "the Recak massacre shows once again
that Belgrade is increasingly sinking into the mire of a
deep crisis, is committing the most atrocious crimes,
and using neo-fascist methods for the mass extermination
of the [Kosova] Albanians." The statement added that
"this crime of Serbian chauvinism is also a great
challenge to the international organizations that are
trying to find a peaceful solution" to the problems of
the troubled province. FS

...SEEKS OSCE ACTION... In a separate statement, the
Albanian Foreign Ministry called for an urgent OSCE
meeting in Vienna. A ministry official told dpa that
Albania wants the OSCE to immediately deploy all 2,000
verifiers, as provided for in the October Milosevic-
Holbrooke pact. Only some 600 monitors are in place
because of the difficulties in finding qualified people
willing to travel to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7
January 1999). FS

...PUTS ITS FORCES ON ALERT. The Albanian Defense
Ministry on 15 January put its forces on alert and sent
tanks to the border with Kosova. The move came in
response to Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin
Jovanovic's statement two days earlier in Madrid that
Albania is a "haven for international terrorism," dpa
reported. Also on 15 January, the Foreign Ministry
handed a note of protest to the Yugoslav charge
d'affaires describing Jovanovic's remarks as "war-
mongering declarations [and] an open provocation." The
same day, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Belgrade told
Reuters that Jovanovic's statement "was no threat of war
to Albania. But we do have every right to condemn their
inappropriate policies." FS

BERISHA CALLS ON ALBANIANS TO PREPARE FOR 'WAR.' Former
Albanian President and current opposition leader Sali
Berisha wrote in an editorial in "Albania" on 17 January
that Albanians should prepare for a "life-or-death
war…[for the] survival of the Albanian people." He
stressed that "it's time to stand as a nation," adding
that "Albanians should understand they are at war...and
they have every right to resist by all means." Berisha
said that the crisis in Kosova is the result of "clashes
of interests [within] the international community, which
has lost its effectiveness...and left the initiative in
Milosevic's hands," AP reported. FS

CLINTON SLAMS 'MURDER.' U.S. President Bill Clinton said
in Washington on 16 January that the Recak killings were
"a deliberate and indiscriminate act of murder designed
to sow fear among the people [of Kosova]. It is a clear
violation of the commitments the Serbian authorities
have made to NATO." Elsewhere, a State Department
spokesman said that the U.S. wants NATO to make a "clear
response" to the latest developments in Kosova. He added
that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is monitoring
events there closely, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. PM

COOK SAYS 'ATROCITY' NOT RESULT OF BATTLE. British
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC on 17 January
that there could be "no possible," justifiable claim by
the Serbian authorities that the killings were the
result of a battle. "It plainly was not a battle, they
were shot in the head at close range. Observers saw
absolutely no evidence of fighting." He added that "this
atrocity is appalling and although we have become
wearily familiar with ethnic atrocities from the former
Yugoslavia, nevertheless, this one is of such a
character that it still has the capacity to leave you
deeply shocked and distressed." In Paris, Prime Minister
Lionel Jospin called the killings "barbarous acts." He
added that "there are no words that can describe this
horror. We are filled with revulsion and disgust." PM

ROMANIAN MINERS BEGIN MARCH ON BUCHAREST. Some 10,000
striking miners from the Jiu Valley have begun a march
on the capital, Mediafax reported on 18 January.
Following an emergency cabinet meeting the previous day,
Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu announced that
the government has sealed off road and rail links to the
valley. Prime Minister Radu Vasile has rejected the
miners' demand to meet with them "on neutral territory"
in Targu Jiu. On 15 January, a court declared their
strike illegal on grounds of endangering the safety of
the mines and because the miners had increased their
earlier demands from four to 30. When the miners
declared they will not abide by the court's decision,
the management of the Jiu Valley company submitted its
collective resignation MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DENIES EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR. For the
first time, Emil Constantinescu has publicly denied
having had an extra-marital affair with actress Rona
Hartner, saying he only met her "in public places,"
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 16 January. He
told journalists an allegation that he had an affair
with a female officer from the Service for Guard and
Protection is also unfounded. He added that he had not
known the officer even existed "until last week."
Constantinescu also called on the Jiu Valley miners to
keep away from Bucharest, saying violent labor unrest
"will not be tolerated." MS

RUSSIAN, ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES FAIL TO AGREE ON
BESSARABIAN CHURCH. Representatives of the Russian and
Romanian Orthodox Churches, meeting in Chisinau on 15-16
January, failed to reach an understanding over the
status of the Bucharest-subordinated Bessarabian
Metropolitan Church, Mediafax reported. This was the
fourth meeting held to discuss the conflict, but the
first one to be held in Moldova itself. Earlier talks
took place in Switzerland and Austria. Sources close to
the Bessarabian Church cited by Mediafax on 17 January
said the Russian delegation, headed by Smolensk and
Kaliningrad Metropolitan Kiril, has proposed that the
Bessarabian Church be subordinated to Moscow, like the
Moldovan Orthodox Church. The Romanian delegation, led
by Metropolitan Daniel, rejected that proposal. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL NOMINEE.
Petar Stoyanov on 15 January announced that he has
rejected the nomination of Boyko Rashkov, former head of
the National Investigation Service, as prosecutor-
general. The former Supreme Judiciary Council had
nominated Rashkov to that position in November 1998 to
replace Ivan Tatarchev, whose term expires on 18
February. The new Supreme Judiciary Council, however,
has appealed to Stoyanov to reject that nomination.
Stoyanov said he accepts the argument of the council
that it must be allowed to make its own choice. He added
that he is rejecting the nomination not only on legal
grounds but also by taking into consideration "motives"
advanced "by the public in the last couple of months."
In other news, the parliament on 15 January passed an
amendment to the penal code making it possible to
prosecute people who attempt to bribe foreign public
officials in connection with international financial
transactions, BTA reported. MS

END NOTE

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS THIS
YEAR

by Jan Maksymiuk

	The Belarusian opposition does not want to wait
until 2001 for presidential elections, as stipulated by
the constitution adopted in the November 1996
referendum. Rather, it wants to elect a new president on
16 May 1999. A resolution to that effect was passed on
10 January by 44 deputies of the Supreme Soviet, which
was disbanded by Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka following the 1996 referendum. That body,
however, is recognized as Belarus's legitimate
legislature by all European parliaments except the
Russian State Duma.
	On 16 January, the opposition Central Election
Commission, which was set up by the Supreme Soviet on 10
January, held its first meeting and approved an election
schedule. It also decided to set up a fund for the
election campaign and to open a bank account for that
fund in Moscow.
	The Belarusian opposition has provided ample
evidence that there were gross violations of democratic
procedures in the 1996 referendum. Moreover, the
plebiscite was to have been of a non-binding nature, as
stated on each ballot. However, Lukashenka decreed the
referendum results binding and has put them into effect.
	First, in accordance with the new constitution,
Lukashenka replaced the Supreme Soviet with a bicameral
legislature--the National Assembly. Members of the lower
house--the 110-seat Chamber of Representatives--were
hand-picked by Lukashenka from among those deputies who
gave up their mandates in the Supreme Soviet and sought
membership in the new legislature. The upper house--the
64-seat Council of the Republic--is populated with
"senators" proposed by local soviets and by the
president himself.
	Second, Lukashenka extended his presidential term
to 2001. A provision in the constitution draft that was
put to the November 1996 referendum stipulated that the
executive authorities' term in office was to be
considered to have begun on the day of the referendum.
Thus, Lukashenka--who was elected president on 14 July
1994 for five years--extended his own term in office by
two-and-a-half years.
	Some 50 Supreme Soviet deputies have refused to
recognize Lukashenka's post-referendum decisions,
claiming that he committed a "constitutional coup
d'etat." They have remained loyal to the 1994
constitution and continued to hold parliamentary
sessions, even though they lack a quorum and the power
to implement their resolutions. But both the OSCE and
the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly recognize
the Supreme Soviet as Belarus's legitimate legislative
representation, if not its full-fledged parliament. The
Lukashenka regime has persistently sought official
recognition for the National Assembly among European
nations and organizations, but to no avail.
	The Supreme Soviet decision to hold presidential
elections in accordance with the 1994 constitution may
have significant repercussions. It remains unclear
whether voters will cast their ballots. However, the
opposition's launching of an election campaign--which
involves collecting signatures among the electorate and
setting up local election commissions around the
country--creates a new political climate in Belarus.
	First, the 1999 presidential election campaign
offers the Belarusian opposition the clear-cut political
goal it has seemingly lacked over the past two years.
All the major opposition parties--including the mildly
nationalist Popular Front (BNF), which has no deputy in
the Supreme Soviet--have pledged coordinating efforts to
make the elections happen.
	Second, the campaign puts Lukashenka's
authoritarian regime under the international spotlight
and offers a political challenge to European
democracies. Belarusian opposition activists believe
that since European countries recognize the Supreme
Soviet, they must be consistent and also recognize the
Supreme Soviet's decision to hold presidential elections
in May.
	At the very least, Belarus's opposition expects
that Europe will begin publicly recognizing Lukashenka
as a political usurper when his five years in office
expire in July 1999. Analysts note that the Belarusian
president is clearly eager to avoid such a development.
They argue that he is under pressure owing to Belarus's
current economic difficulties and wants to improve
political and economic relations with Europe, not to
mention his desire to remain Belarus's legitimate
leader.
	The stance adopted by European countries vis-à-vis
the Belarusian opposition's election initiative will be
of utmost importance for both the Belarusian opposition
and the future of democracy in Belarus. On 17 January,
five EU ambassadors returned to Minsk after they had
been recalled over the diplomatic housing scandal last
year. The same day, an OSCE group arrived in Minsk to
bolster the OSCE's mission there ahead of local
elections on 4 April, the opposition presidential
elections on 16 May, and the signing of a Belarusian-
Russian union state treaty scheduled for mid-1999.
	In the past, Lukashenka has dealt harshly with any
manifestations of political dissent, and it is unlikely
that he will respond differently this time. The
Prosecutor-General's Office has already warned the
opposition that the May elections are unconstitutional.
However, as BNF deputy head Yury Khadyka recently put
it, from a legal point of view Belarus has a "dyarchy."
The opposition expects its election initiative to prompt
the Belarusian people to seek other ways of overcoming
their social and economic plight than continuing to rely
on authoritarian rule.

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Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
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Updated: 1998-11-

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