Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise. - William James
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 73, Part II, 15 April 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 73, Part II, 15 April 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

* BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES SAY EXILED PRESIDENTIAL
CANDIDATE INELIGIBLE

* SERBIAN FORCES 'CLEANSE' FERIZAJ

* REFUGEES SAY SERBS BOMBED CONVOY

END NOTE: Meciar Enters Presidential Race, Outcome
Uncertain
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

LUKASHENKA REPORTEDLY SAYS 'THOUSANDS' OF NATO SOLDIERS
DESERT TO ROMANIA. After returning from Yugoslavia on 14
April, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told
journalists that a possible intervention of NATO ground
troops in Yugoslavia will have a negative impact
primarily on the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported on 15 April.
"When thousands of coffins come to the U.S., the public
opinion in this country will change within a day,"
Lukashenka said. Citing Yugoslav sources, Lukashenka
said he "has been surprised by the fact that thousands
of NATO soldiers are deserting," ITAR-TASS reported.
"They pay $500 and are transferred to the border with
Romania, where they change their clothes and escape,"
the agency quoted him as saying. Lukashenka stressed
that Yugoslavia's losses in equipment are virtually nil.
"All the artillery, all the tanks [and] even aircraft
are standing on the roads. The Yugoslavs have saved
everything," he said. JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES SAY EXILED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
INELIGIBLE. Belarusian Deputy Justice Minister Volha
Syarheyeva has stated that Zyanon Paznyak, exiled leader
of the Belarusian Popular Front, cannot be a candidate
in the opposition presidential elections because of his
three-year stay abroad, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service
reported on 14 April. To support her claim, Syarheyeva
cited the Belarusian Constitution stipulating that a
presidential candidate must "permanently reside in the
Republic of Belarus for at least 10 years directly
before the elections." Paznyak received political asylum
in the United States in 1996 and has remained outside
Belarus since then. Mikhail Pastukhou, a former
Constitutional Court judge, said that the constitutional
requirement of permanent residence means having a
permanent residence permit in Belarus. According to
Pastukhou, both Paznyak and another candidate, Mikhail
Chyhir, who is currently in jail, have the right to run
in the elections. JM

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT TRADE UNION ACTIVIST DISCIPLINED.
Syarhey Antonchyk, an independent trade unionist and
head of the Belarusian Strike Committee, has been fined
10 million Belarusian rubles ($41.50) for "organizing
and holding an unsanctioned rally" at a plant in Orsha
(northeastern Belarus) in early March, RFE/RL's
Belarusian Service reported on 14 April. Antonchyk says
that he only conversed with a group of workers. The
incriminating verdict was passed despite evidence
supplied by plant workers and two policemen that the
meeting did not resemble a rally. The policemen also
testified that Antonchyk's conversation with workers was
attended by "at least two KGB officers." JM

LAZARENKO SAYS DEPORTATION TO UKRAINE MEANS TORTURE.
Former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko told a U.S.
immigration court in San Francisco that he could be
tortured if he is deported to Ukraine to face charges of
corruption, AP reported on 14 April. Lazarenko issued a
statement saying that his bid for U.S. political asylum
is based on the International Convention Against
Torture. Lazarenko cited reports by international
organizations which stated that "torture and violence
committed by Ukrainian officials cause suffering, bodily
injury and, in a number of cases, death." Lazarenko
added that his political opposition to President Leonid
Kuchma may expose him to "intense physical and
psychological coercion" in Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN JEWS UNITE FOR A SECOND TIME. Following the
recent creation of the United Jewish Community of
Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999), three
Jewish breakaway groups have organized another congress
and on 14 April created another umbrella organization--a
Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, AP reported. "It is a
historic moment for Ukrainian Jews as practically all of
them are now represented [in the confederation]," the
agency quoted Kyiv chief rabbi Dov Bleich as saying. JM

FIRST ESTONIAN PENSION FUND LAUNCHES ACTIVITIES. The
Hansa Pension Fund has become the first such institution
in Estonia to begin operating, ETA reported on 14 April.
Under the Pension Funds Act, both pension funds and life
insurance companies can offer voluntary endowment
pensions. Payments into such funds or companies of up to
15 percent of an individual's salary are exempt from
tax, while pay-outs when an individual reaches pension
age are subject to a 10 percent tax. JC

ADAMKUS WITHDRAWS CANDIDATE FOR OMBUDSMAN. Lithuanian
President Valdas Adamkus has withdrawn the candidacy of
Audrius Rudys as state ombudsman at Rudys's own request,
ELTA reported on 14 April. Adamkus's 1 April decree
nominating Rudys for that post had met with opposition
from the ruling Conservatives and Christian Democrats.
Rudys explained that his request is based on a "simple
arithmetical calculation" that took into account the
ruling coalition's intention to oppose his candidacy in
the parliament, leaving him with no chance of being
elected. He added that the president decided to approve
his request "with regret." JC

RUSSIA SLIPS TO FIFTH PLACE AMONG LITHUANIA'S EXPORT
PARTNERS. According to the Lithuanian Statistics
Department, Russia has slipped to fifth place on the
list of Lithuania's main export partners, behind
Germany, Latvia, Belarus, and Italy, ELTA reported on 14
April. It remains, however, Lithuania's second-most
important import partner. In February, Lithuanian
exports in general were down by 3.8 percent and imports
by 12.4 percent compared with the previous month.
Exports to Russia fell by 11.6 percent, while imports
from that country were down 14 percent. Exports to EU
countries accounted for 54 percent of the total goods
exported, while those to CIS countries dropped to 19.2
percent. Imports from the EU made up 48.9 percent of the
total goods imported and from the CIS 22.2 percent. JC

POLAND TO ELIMINATE UNCONTROLLED EU FOOD IMPORTS. Newly
appointed Agricultural Minister Artur Balazs has
announced the sealing of borders against the
uncontrolled import of subsidized food from the EU and
countries that re-export EU foodstuffs. According to
Balazs, border controls and customs duty hikes will
contribute to the profitability of Polish agriculture.
"This control is to consist of the introduction of a
register of import contracts and a day-to-day monitoring
of the import of foodstuffs to Poland," Balazs told
Polish Radio on 14 April. He added that the EU, made
uneasy by his actions, has already sent a commission to
Poland to negotiate the principles of EU food imports.
JM

KRZAKLEWSKI SAYS SOME SOLIDARITY PARLIAMENTARIANS LIED
IN LUSTRATION. Marian Krzaklewski, leader of the ruling
Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), told Radio Gdansk on
14 April that the AWS parliamentary caucus includes
persons who submitted false statements as to whether
they collaborated with the Communist-era services or
not. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek said none of the
governmental officials who submitted lustration
statements to him have admitted such collaboration, but
he refused to comment on Krzaklewski's statement. The
truthfulness of questionable lustration statements by
Polish officials is to be checked by the lustration
prosecutor and the Lustration Court (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 April 1999). JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES CHANGE OF FIELD HOSPITAL'S
MANDATE. The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on 14
April separately approved the government's request to
change the mandate of the field hospital and an unarmed
AN-26 transportation plane to be deployed in the Balkans
as part of NATO's aid mission for Kosovar refugees, CTK
reported. The two chambers had approved the deployment
in March, but only as part of a NATO-led peacekeeping
operation that had to have Belgrade's approval. Now the
field hospital and the plane can be deployed anywhere in
the Balkans outside Yugoslavia. MS

HAVEL SAYS PEACE IMPOSSIBLE WITH MILOSEVIC AT HELM.
President Vaclav Havel said in an interview with Reuters
on 14 April that long-term stability in the Balkans is
impossible as long as Slobodan Milosevic is Yugoslav
president, CTK reported. He said that Milosevic has "too
much blood on his hands for him to be a trustworthy
partner." Havel also said that NATO is fighting "for
human rights and [it] gave them precedence over state
sovereignty." This is why, he said, it has attacked
Yugoslavia "even without having a mandate from the UN
Security Council." He also said that although Czech
units are not technically equipped to take part in
NATO's "high-tech air campaign," the country had
"certain specialized troops" that could "provide a
meaningful asset in a peacekeeping mission." MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR STOP TO FIGHTING IN KOSOVA.
The parliament on 14 April passed a resolution calling
on all sides involved in the Kosova crisis to "end
military operations" and renew negotiations for a
"solution ensuring the minorities' civil and ethnic
rights and preserving the territorial integrity" of
Yugoslavia, CTK reported. The resolution says that the
international community "cannot passively watch the
large-scale violation of human rights, massacres of
civilians, ethnic cleansing and the growing flow of
refugees." The legislature also approved the decision of
the cabinet to allow the use of Slovak air space by NATO
planes, saying the decision is "in line with Slovakia's
long-term foreign policy goals," but said that in future
the government "must inform faster and more fully" the
parliament and public opinion about its decisions. The
resolution was approved with a vote of 77-13. MS

FORMER SIS EMPLOYEE ADMITS INVOLVEMENT IN KOVAC JR.
KIDNAPPING. Jaroslav Ivor, head of the team
investigating the 1995 kidnapping of former President
Michal Kovac's son, on 14 April confirmed to journalists
that a former high-ranking official of the Slovak
Intelligence Service (SIS) has admitted participation in
the planning and cover-up of the plot, CTK reported.
Ivor refused to say whether Jaroslav Svechota has also
admitted that former SIS head Ivan Lexa participated in
the plot, saying that at this stage of the investigation
he will not mention other persons named in Svechota's
evidence. The parliament began debating whether to allow
Lexa to be taken into custody. MS

DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN HUNGARY? The National
Election Committee on 14 April ruled by a vote of 6-3
that the Social Democratic Youth Movement may start
collecting signatures on a petition calling for direct
presidential elections, Hungarian media reported. The
committee's decision takes effect if not challenged in
the Constitutional Court within three days and the
signature-collecting drive needs to be endorsed by
200,000 people. It would be binding on the parliament.
The opposition wants to prevent Smallholders' Party
leader Jozsef Torgyan from succeeding Arpad Goncz as
president with the backing of the ruling coalition,
though the coalition has not yet decided to back
Torgyan's candidacy. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBIAN FORCES 'CLEANSE' FERIZAJ. Macedonian Interior
Minister Pavle Trajanov said that he expects over 7,000
Kosovar expellees to arrive in the course of 15 April.
At the Blace refugee camp on the Macedonian border with
Kosova, some of the more than 4,000 refugees who arrived
the previous day told Reuters that "Ferizaj is no more."
They added that Serbian forces emptied the town and
surrounding areas of its Kosovar population and sent
them south in at least three trains. A spokesman for the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called the
systematic expulsion of the Kosovars "swift and
clinical," noting that "it starts with a knock at the
door at 5 a.m." One refugee added: "as soon as the
[Yugoslav] army saw us leaving, they set the village on
fire." PM

GEORGIEVSKI: MILOSEVIC TRYING TO DESTABILIZE MACEDONIA.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski told "The
New York Times" of 15 April that Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic has sent tens of thousands of
Kosovars to Macedonia in an effort to provoke ethnic
tensions between the Slavic Macedonian majority and the
ethnic Albanians, who make up some 23 percent of the
republic's population. "Milosevic is [counting on a]
Christian-Muslim conflict [in Macedonia]. I think we
were very close to it." Georgievski added that "the
problem is that people have been made to choose between
the Albanians and the Serbs. It should not be a question
for a country that already has a complicated political
life." He concluded that "as a state we have had a
difficult 20 days. And I think we passed this exam." PM

REFUGEES SAY SERBS BOMBED CONVOY. NATO and Serbian
officials on 15 April traded accusations as to who
bombed one or possibly two convoys of displaced persons
heading for Albania on the Prizren-Gjakova road the
previous day. At least 75 persons died. In Brussels, an
unnamed NATO spokesman told AP that NATO aircraft may
have hit at least a civilian tractor while pursuing
military vehicles. Refugees who reached Albania told
Reuters in Kukes that low-flying Serbian MiG aircraft
attacked them. One added that, after the attack,
"Serbian soldiers came with cameras and filmed the blood
and the dead and told us to go and say that NATO bombed
you." On 15 April, "The Guardian" also quoted refugees
as saying that Serbian aircraft attacked them. The daily
added that some refugees reported that many of the
supposedly displaced persons hiding in the hills of
Kosova are actually being held there by the Serbs as
human shields. Refugees told the paper that armed Serbs
shot into the crowd of prisoners to deter escapes. PM

SERBS TAKING REVENGE FOR AIR STRIKES ON FLEEING
KOSOVARS? Pjarke Tharkildsen, who is a Danish military
officer serving as an OSCE monitor, told AP on the
Albanian border on 15 April that he is "personally
certain" that Serbian forces are responsible for the
bombing deaths of the displaced persons in the convoy.
He added that "the Serbs can't get at NATO directly, so
they are taking it out on the refugees and making NATO
look bad." At Blace, one man from Ferizaj told Reuters:
"whenever NATO bombs, there is always an answer" from
the Serbian forces. PM

ALBANIAN REFUGEE INFLUX CONTINUES. More than 1,500
Kosovars arrived in northern Albania on 14 April from
the areas of Skenderaj, Prizren, and Drenica, Reuters
reported. Some refugees said that Serbian forces used
them as human shields near an ammunition dump after the
Serbs turned the refugees back from the border two weeks
ago. They added that around 5,000 more are on their way
towards Albania. The refugees also told stories of
atrocities and killings. In Tirana, an OSCE spokesman
said 1,000 ethnic Albanians arrived from Montenegro,
where many ethnic Albanians fear that Milosevic will
attempt a coup. FS

SERBIAN FORCES SHELL NORTHERN ALBANIA. An OSCE official
in Tirana told Reuters that Serbian forces fired mortar
shells in the border area in the early hours of 15
April, and that one shell hit Albanian territory near
the Morina border crossing. The previous day, the Serbs
fired about 40 rounds into the village of Vlahen, near
Kruma in the Has Mountains. There were no casualties.
The official said that the attacks appeared to be
targeted at presumed locations of the Kosova Liberation
Army (UCK). Serbian forces also heavily shelled Padesh
and Kamenica near Tropoja, forcing local residents to
flee. Foreign journalists, meanwhile, saw cars and vans
bringing heavily armed UCK fighters towards the border
and observed them climbing into the hills. A CNN
correspondent, who spent three days with the rebels near
Padesh this week, confirmed they use the region as a
staging area to move weapons such as rocket-propelled
grenades and mortars into Kosova. FS

MEIDANI CALLS MILOSEVIC 'NAZI-COMMUNIST.' Albanian
President Rexhep Meidani told Reuters on 14 April that
Albania is not an enemy of the Serbian people but of its
"Nazi-Communist" leadership. He added that "on one side
[of the conflict], we have this machinery of war, crime,
genocide, ethnic cleansing, and deportation. On the
other side, we seek democratic development, respect of
human rights and political rights, as well as
cooperation and integration in our region." Meidani
warned that "if the Serbian army penetrates our
territory, we will respond strongly...by all ways and
means." Meidani stressed that only the creation of a
NATO-led "protectorate" in Kosova will guarantee
security for its population. FS

WORLD BANK PREPARES $70 MILLION LOAN TO ALBANIA.
Arntraud Hartmann, the World Bank's country director for
Albania, said in Tirana on 14 April that the World Bank
is preparing loans to Albania totaling more than $70
million. Hartmann said that the funds will be used to
"provide the best possible conditions for the Kosovar
refugees and to safeguard economic stability" in
Albania. In the next four months, the World Bank expects
to approve an initial $40 million for several projects,
including irrigation and flood prevention, privatization
of state banks and enterprises, and government reform.
It also plans to provide funds to turn public buildings
into refugee shelters and buy medical equipment, AP
reported. FS

FRANCE SET TO COMMIT "THOUSANDS" OF GROUND TROOPS.
Defense Minister Alain Richard told Europe-1 radio on 15
April that Paris could send "several thousand" more
soldiers to the Balkans should the conflict in Kosova
escalate. He added: "The objectives of the alliance will
not change. We must be tenacious and keep our sang-
froid." In Bonn, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told
parliament that Germans "cannot escape our
responsibility. That is why our soldiers are on their
first combat mission since World War II...To stand by
and watch these crimes would have been cynical and
irresponsible." PM

BELGRADE IMPOSES BLOCKADE ON MONTENEGRIN COAST. The
Yugoslav Navy command announced a 48-hour ban on all sea
traffic off Montenegro starting at 5 a.m. on 14 April.
The statement said that the move is a "safety"
precaution. An unnamed Montenegrin government advisor
told Reuters in Podgorica that Belgrade wants "to cut
off trade between Montenegro and the rest of the world
and strangle our port" of Bar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14
April 1999). PM

POLICE READY TO DEFEND MONTENEGRO. Interior Minister
Vukasin Maras told AP in Podgorica on 14 April that "if
someone would turn against us, even if that would be the
army, he should know that the armed police force is
ready to defend Montenegro." He added that "apart from
the bombing, Montenegro today is also exposed to
juridical, economic, and social terror coming from
Belgrade." His 10,000-strong police force is loyal to
President Milo Djukanovic. There are 15,000 Yugoslav
army troops stationed in the mountainous republic. PM

AIR BOSNA FLIES AGAIN. Bosnia-Herzegovina's flag carrier
began regular flights from Sarajevo on 14 April after
NATO allowed civilian flights to resume in Bosnian air
space (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). PM

WESTENDORP RULES ON BOSNIAN PROPERTY RIGHTS. The
international community's Carlos Westendorp said on 14
April in Sarajevo that pre-war occupants of state-owned
apartments retain their right to them. He charged that
many of those who have since occupied the flats are war
profiteers seeking to improve their standard of living.
He stressed that many new occupants are not really the
hardship cases they claim to be. Westendorp's ruling
underscores the right of all refugees and displaced
persons to go home, which the Dayton peace agreement
guarantees. The decision also paves the way for the
privatization of state-owned apartments, companies, and
banks, as well as for the holding of a major aid donors'
conference, the daily "Oslobodjenje" wrote. Elsewhere,
the World Bank approved a $15 million loan for
developing infrastructure at a local level. And Slovenia
has offered Bosnia a reconstruction loan of up to $50
million. PM

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA. Hubert Vedrine on 14
April discussed with his Romanian counterpart Andrei
Plesu bilateral relations and the conflict in Kosova, on
which the chief French diplomat said the views in Paris
and Bucharest are "identical or complementary," RFE/RL's
Bucharest bureau reported. Both ministers said that
Russia must participate in a search for a solution to
the conflict and that the UN must become more involved
in its resolution. They also said they were opposed to a
military intervention by NATO ground troops, and Plesu
added that such an intervention would be "risky" and
"evidently have negative consequences" for Romania.
Vedrine decorated Romanian Premier Radu Vasile with the
Legion of Honor and was also received by President Emil
Constantinescu. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES BACKING KOSOVA
PARTITION. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Simona Miculescu
on 14 April called "ill-willed and abusive"
interpretations of a statement by Plesu in alleged
support of Kosova's partition. She said Plesu was cited
"out of context" and that he only enumerated some
"publicly-discussed ideas." The minister, Miculescu
said, has "consistently spoken up for the preservation
of the territorial integrity" of Yugoslavia" (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999). MS

ROMANIAN TRADE UNIONS DISSATISFIED AFTER MEETING
PREMIER. The leaders of the four major trade union
confederations said on 14 April after talks with premier
Radu Vasile (who resumed his regular duties the previous
day) that the warning strike planned for 19 April is on.
They said the government has failed to implement
solutions agreed on in earlier negotiations. The two
sides agreed, however, to continue negotiations to avoid
launching a general strike planned for 26 April. Also on
14 April, the State Property Fund decided that its own
employees, as well as parliamentarians, local government
representatives and trade union leaders can no longer be
members of the board of companies administered by the
fund, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

LUCINSCHI SAYS BELGRADE PROPOSAL TO JOIN RUSSIAN-
BELARUSIAN UNION 'REGRETTABLE.' Moldovan President Petru
Lucinschi said on 14 April the decision of the Yugoslav
parliament to seek membership in the Union of Belarus
and Russia is "regrettable," RFE/RL reported citing
ITAR-TASS. Lucinschi also criticized a possible Russian
military involvement in the Yugoslav conflict. He said
that Moldova will not reconsider its foreign policy and
will not join any military bloc, emphasizing that the
constitution defines Moldova as a neutral state.
Although Moldova is a CIS member, it does not
participate in CIS military cooperation, he stressed. MS

SOFIA PROTESTS HARASSMENT OF BULGARIAN DRIVERS IN
ROMANIA. Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev, in a letter to
his Romanian counterpart Constantin Dudu Ionescu,
protested against the harassment of Bulgarian truck
drivers transiting Romania instead of Yugoslavia since
NATO began its air campaign, Mediafax reported on 13
April. Bonev said that the drivers are often subjected
to "unjustified penalties" by the Romanian police who do
not issue receipts for the fines collected and fail to
specify their reasons. The Bulgarian drivers are forced
to pay the equivalent of $14-35. MS

END NOTE

Meciar Enters Presidential Race, Outcome Uncertain

By Jolyon Naegele

	The announcement on 9 April, just hours before a
deadline for nominations, that former Slovak Prime
Minister Vladimir Meciar will run for president throws
the country's presidential campaign wide open.
	The first round of elections is scheduled for 15
May, to be followed by a runoff of the two leading
contenders.
	Just how many candidates will be competing in the
first round remains unclear, with various news media
reporting figures ranging from eight to 11. The support
of at least 15 parliamentary deputies or the signatures
of at least 15,000 citizens is required to qualify. The
speaker of the Slovak parliament, Jozef Migas, is due to
announce on 16 April which candidates have qualified.
	Until last week, the three top contenders were
considered to be Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster, backed by
the ruling coalition, and two independents: ex-President
Michal Kovac and actress turned diplomat Magda
Vasaryova.
	Then, after much lobbying, Slovak National Party
(SNS) leader Jan Slota succeeded on 8 April in winning
support for his candidacy from two MPs from the ruling
coalition in exchange for political IOUs. Neither will
ever vote for Slota and their motive seemed to be to
weaken Schuster's chances. But Slota's chances of
getting elected, already slim, have now likely been
dashed by Meciar's candidacy. Meciar can be expected to
take the lion's share of the nationalist vote while
splitting the populist and post-Communist vote with
Schuster.
	After losing parliamentary elections last
September, Meciar announced his departure from the
political stage and, as after previous political
defeats, he vanished behind the walls of a spa,
reappearing only once since then: at the funeral of a
murdered former trade minister, Jan Ducky, where Meciar
physically attacked several reporters and cursed at
them.
	Meciar has not been seen since, not even when his
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Slovakia's
largest opposition party, announced his candidacy.
	Meciar's comeback has provoked a variety of
reactions. Slovak Justice Minister and Christian
Democratic Movement (KDH) chairman Jan Carnogursky told
RFE/RL that the candidacies of Meciar and Slota should
help ensure that a non-party candidate makes it to the
run-off.
	"The existence of two candidates from the camp of
the current opposition, from SNS and HZDS, significantly
increases the likelihood that a civic (non-party)
candidate makes it to the second round," Carnogursky
said.
	And commentator Stefan Hrib, a Meciar critic, says
Meciar's candidacy will effectively end his prominent
role in Slovak politics: "This attempt of [Meciar's] in
reality is the best thing that could happen to this
country. If Meciar loses--and according to everything--
he will lose, it will mean not only farewell to him once
and for all, but also a fatal weakening of all those who
linked their political future with him."
	But Slovak commentator Milan Zitny offers a
different view: "For the other candidates, and
especially for those who are truly civic (non-party),
Meciar's entry into the electoral arena means a
fundamental change. According to estimates, Meciar can
count on the support of more than 20 percent of the
voters and thus his passage to the second round is
guaranteed just as is the candidate of the government
coalition, Rudolf Schuster, who is preferred by over 30
percent of the voters."
	Zitny says that Meciar can only be defeated in the
first round if those candidates who have no hope of
making it to the run-off throw their backing behind the
only single non-party (civic) candidate with a chance of
making it to the second round, Magda Vasaryova. In
Zitny's words, "the choice is simple--either she or
Meciar."
	Similarly, some non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) are reacting to Meciar's candidacy with alarm.
For example, Charter 99 -- Civic Democratic Youth is
appealing to independent candidates, including Vasaryova
and Kovac, to hold a "civic primary" in advance of the
first round so as to ensure the participation of a non-
party candidate in the run-off.
	Meciar's apparent candidacy is predictably drawing
considerable press comment. Pavol Minarik, in a 12 April
commentary in the left-of-center Bratislava daily
"Pravda," says "unless Meciar changes into a serious and
responsible politician and convinces the democratic
world of this, he will bring Slovakia as before only bad
luck and unhappiness." Minarik says that Meciar's chief
motive in running for president is his "desperate
attempt to amnesty Ivan Lexa one more time."
	Lexa headed the Slovak intelligence service (SIS)
under Meciar. Before dawn on 9 April, parliament
stripped him of his immunity to face criminal
prosecution in five cases, including the 1995 abduction
of Michal Kovac Jr. to Austria. Before leaving office,
Meciar amnestied Lexa and others for unspecified acts
committed while in office.
	The HZDS daily "Slovenska Republika" of 10 April
headlined its story on Meciar's comeback "I Heard the
Call of the Nation." The quote appears to have been
invented. Immediately beneath the Meciar article was
another headline, "Perfect Political Act of Revenge,"
over a story on Lexa's loss of immunity.

Jolyon Naegele is an RFE/RL correspondent based in
Prague.
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