Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 96, Part II, 18 May 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 96, Part II, 18 May 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

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part II

* FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER IMPLICATED IN MICHAL KOVAC JR.
KIDNAPPING

* RUGOVA SAYS AGREEMENT WITH MILUTINOVIC 'MEANINGLESS'

* DJUKANOVIC: NO PEACE WITH MILOSEVIC

End Note: SCHUSTER LIKELY TO DEFEAT MECIAR IN RUN-OFF
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

EU URGES BELARUS TO RELEASE JAILED OPPOSITIONIST. EU
foreign ministers on 17 May urged the Belarusian
government to enter political talks with the opposition
and immediately set free Mikhail Chyhir, the former
prime minister jailed on charges of "grand larceny" and
abuse of office in his capacity as head of a bank in
1994. Chyhir was arrested at the end of March after
announcing his intention to run in the May unauthorized
presidential elections in Belarus. He was nominated
prime minister by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in
1994 and resigned in 1996 to protest violations of the
law during the constitutional referendum that immensely
expanded Lukashenka's powers. Observers believe Chyhir's
arrest was politically motivated. JM

CRIMEAN TATARS TO CONVERGE ON SIMFEROPOL. Thousands of
Crimean Tatars are marching toward Crimea's capital,
Simferopol, in marches that began in seven towns
throughout the peninsula earlier this month. The Tatars
are demanding that they receive more rights. They also
want to mark the 55th anniversary of the deportation of
Tatars to Central Asia on 18 May 1944. Soviet dictator
Joseph Stalin had accused them of collaboration with
Nazi Germany. According to estimates, there are some
270,000 Tatars among Crimea's 2.5 million population,
including tens of thousands who do not have Ukrainian
citizenship. Crimean Tatars demand proportional
representation in the Crimean parliament, the
recognition of their language as one of the official
languages on the peninsula, and the legalization of
their traditional self-governing bodies, the Kurultay
and Mejlis. JM

UKRAINE'S FOREIGN TRADE SHRINKS. Ukraine's exports from
January-March decreased to $2.43 billion, down by 11.4
percent from the same period last year, Ukrainian News
reported, citing official data. Imports in the first
quarter of 1999 fell to $2.89 billion, down 18.9 percent
compared with 1998. JM

BRZEZINSKI SAYS NATO SHOULD CONSIDER BALTIC STATES
SEPERATELY. Former U.S. national security adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski told BNS on 16 May that NATO should
consider admitting the Baltic States separately and not
as a group. "I don't think there is a basis for saying
[about] any region of Europe that all of the countries
of the region should be taken in or not. I think each
country has to qualify on its own merits," said
Brzezinski, who was attending the Baltic Development
Forum in Copenhagen. He also argued that it will be
easier for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to eventually
enter the alliance if they are considered separately.
But he was "more doubtful" as to whether they will be
ready for membership by 2002. "I think Lithuania might
be ready, but I am not sure all three will be," he said.
Speaking at RFE/RL headquarters last week (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 11 May 1999), Latvian President Guntis
Ulmanis had urged NATO to admit the three Baltic States
simultaneously. JC

CONTROVERSY IN ESTONIA OVER ELITE MILITARY UNIT.
Estonian army commander Lieutenant-General Johannes Kert
has suspended the activities of the Defense Forces'
Special Operations Group (SOG) following the alleged
participation of its acting commander, Indrek Holm, in
an attempted robbery near Tallinn on 15 May, ETA
reported on 18 May. Holm received gunshot wounds to the
head and remains in a coma. Defense Minister Jurii Luik
had demanded that the unit's activities be ceased
following the incident. Parliamentary Defense Commission
chairman Enn Tarto has admitted that secrecy surrounds
the SOG and that his commission has no information about
its composition or to whom it is subordinated. According
to "Eesti Paevaleht," police suspect that Holm was also
involved in two unsolved robberies over the past 18
months, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tallinn reported. JC

GORBUNOVS TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Minister of Transport
Anatolijs Gorbunovs on 17 May announced he has agreed to
accept the nomination of Latvia's Way as its candidate
in the upcoming presidential elections, LETA reported.
The 56-year-old Gorbunovs had long been hesitating over
whether to accept that nomination (which was made before
last fall's general elections), citing his past as a
former high-ranking communist official. He is the third
candidate in the race, along with Janis Priedkalns of
the Fatherland and Freedom Party, a former Australian
national and current Latvian ambassador to the UN, and
Vaira Paegle of the People's Party, a parliamentary
deputy who holds both U.S. and Latvian citizenship. The
incumbent, Ulmanis, is barred from seeking a third term
in office. JC

IGNALINA TO BE SHUT DOWN TEMPORARILY. Lithuania's
Ignalina nuclear power plant is preparing to shut down
temporarily because of its failure to meet a 17 May
deadline to acquire an operating license for one of its
two reactors, Reuters and BNS reported. Saulius Kutas,
the head of Lithuania's State Nuclear Power Safety
Inspectorate, told a news conference the same day that
the plant has failed to provide documents on the
implementation of some safety regulations and is
expected to take a month to complete licensing
procedures. The plant "has to prepare, according to the
regulations and procedures, to safely shut down Unit
One," Kutas said. The plant's second reactor was closed
earlier this year for routine maintenance and is
expected to re-open in the summer. Ignalina has two
Soviet-era RBMK-type reactors. The EU, among others, has
repeatedly expressed concern about safety at the plant.
JC

EBRD TO INVEST NEARLY $400 MILLION IN POLAND THIS YEAR.
Horst Koehler, president of the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, said on 17 May that the
bank will invest 370 million euros ($395 million) in
Poland this year, PAP reported. The EBRD is to focus on
projects promoting small and medium-size enterprises in
Poland. It will also support restructuring processes in
economically promising giants such as the Sendzimir and
Katowice steel mills, LOT airlines, Nafta Polska, and
the PKP state railways. Since 1991, the EBRD has
allocated 1.3 billion euros for 83 investment projects
in Poland. JM

POLISH LEFT-WING'S POPULARITY GROWING. Support for the
opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) is at its
highest level since the party lost power in the 1997
parliamentary elections. A poll conducted by the PBS
agency last week for "Rzeczpospolita" showed that
backing for the SLD rose to 38 percent from 36 percent
last month, while the ruling Solidarity Electoral
Action's (AWS) support decreased to 27 percent, down
from 29 percent in April. The Freedom Union (UW), the
AWS's coalition partner, saw its popularity grow by 1
percent to 11 percent. In the 1997 elections, the AWS
received 33.8 percent support, the SLD 27 percent, and
the UW 13.4 percent. Commentators attribute the
declining support for the ruling coalition to social
discontent over ambitious reforms in health care,
education, and the pension system launched by the
government this year. JM

CZECH CABINET TO FINANCE LETY MONUMENT. The Czech
government on 18 May agreed to spend 1 million crowns
($28,600) on improvements to the monument in Lety
marking the site of a World War II forced labor camp for
Roma, Czech media reported. Recently, the Czech cabinet
rejected a proposal to remove a pig farm from the area,
arguing that such a project would be too expensive. In
response, the Romany National Congress has organized a
boycott of Czech pork (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May
1999). In other news, Czech Interior Minister Vaclav
Grulich on 17 May said the British ambassador in Prague
has warned him that London may impose visa restrictions
on the Czech Republic owing to a large increase in the
number of Czech emigres to Britain, "Pravo" reported on
18 May. A total of 99 Czech citizens, along with their
109 relatives, applied for immigration in Britain in
April -- the largest number for any one month since
1996. Czech diplomats cited by "Pravo" say the majority
of these emigres are Roma. VG

CZECHS LAGGING BEHIND IN EU ACCESSION PREPARATIONS. The
Czech government on 17 May approved an economic strategy
paper for accession to the EU, "Hospodarske noviny"
reported on 18 May. But Deputy Prime Minister Egon
Lansky, who is responsible for the country accession to
the EU, said several ministries are falling behind in
preparations for EU membership. Lansky is the third
minister to complain recently about the Czech Republic's
EU preparations, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 18 May.
VG

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER IMPLICATED IN MICHAL KOVAC JR.
KIDNAPPING... Former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS)
official Jaroslav Svechota has implicated Vladimir
Meciar in the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal
Kovac's son, TASR reported on 17 May. Svechota has sent
a letter to Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda asking to be
pardoned for his role in the abduction of Michal Kovac
Jr. In the letter, he stated that then SIS chief Ivan
Lexa ordered him to kidnap Michal Kovac Jr. and
mentioned Meciar three times in connection with the
case. Lexa and Svechota are both being held in custody.
Police investigator Jaroslav Ivor, who revealed the
contents of the letter at a 17 May press conference,
rejected the possibility that Svechota was under
psychological pressure to testify. On 12 May, Svechota
had complained that his own defense lawyer was putting
him under such pressure. VG

...DENIES INVOLVEMENT. Meciar, however, has denied any
involvement in the abduction of former President Kovac's
son, saying Ivor was "exceeding the boundaries set by
the law and democracy." Meciar said that the cabinet
does not run the SIS and merely receives regular reports
on the activities of the service. Meanwhile, the
Regional Court of Bratislava rejected Lexa's appeal
against the District Court's decision to take him into
custody. The court argued that if Lexa were released, he
might try to influence witnesses or others involved in
the case. In other news, two gunshots were fired at the
home of former Finance Minister Miroslav Maxon in the
western Slovak town of Trencin on 16 May, AP reported
the next day. Nobody was injured in the incident and
police are investigating. Maxon is a member of Meciar's
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. VG

HUNGARY OPPOSES INVASION OF YUGOSLAVIA FROM NORTH.
Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said on 17 May that the
Hungarian leadership is against the use of Hungary as a
launching site for any potential NATO ground operation
against Yugoslavia. He said an invasion from the north
appears relatively smooth in military terms and could be
an effective solution, but the political risk is high. A
ground operation "is not in our interest in Central
Europe," Martonyi said, adding that "this war can be won
from the air." In other news, ethnic Hungarians in
Vojvodina are working on an autonomy concept and want to
ensure that the status of the province is included in an
eventual peace agreement on Kosova, Laszlo Jozsa, deputy
chairman of the Federation of Vojvodina Hungarians, told
Hungarian media on 17 May. MSZ

RUSSIAN-HUNGARIAN OIL TRANSIT TALKS. Acting Russian
Trade Minister Georgii Gabunia said Russia is engaged in
talks with Budapest over the transport of "metal items"
and oil products through Hungary to Yugoslavia, RIA
Novosti reported on 17 May. He reproached Hungary for
employing "discriminatory transit terms." If the parties
fail to come to an agreement, Gabunia said, Russia may
retaliate with trade sanctions. VG

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

RUGOVA SAYS AGREEMENT WITH MILUTINOVIC 'MEANINGLESS.'
Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova told the "Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung" of 17 May that he signed a
declaration with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic in
Belgrade on 28 April under duress. The declaration
called for a resumption of talks between Serbian
government and Kosovar representatives aimed at
establishing wide-ranging autonomy for the province and
respecting the territorial integrity of Serbia. Rugova
stressed that "whatever I signed in Belgrade is
meaningless." He added that he put his signature to the
document to protect his family, which was under Serbian
house arrest, along with him. Rugova stressed that NATO
air strikes must continue until the alliance achieves
its objectives. He said that he does not recognize the
provisional Kosovar government of Kosova Liberation Army
(UCK) leader Hashim Thaci. And he said he will invite
Kosovar leaders, including UCK representatives, to Bonn
to negotiate forming a new Kosovar government. FS

ALBANIA'S ULQINI DEFENDS RECOGNITION OF THACI
GOVERNMENT. In an interview to RFE/RL on 17 May,
Albanian Information Minister Musa Ulqini dismissed
opposition charges that the Albanian government has
politically divided the Kosovar Albanians by its 12 May
recognition of the Thaci government. Ulqini stressed
that the Albanian government has engaged itself to
achieve "the unification of [the rival Kosovar political
groups]. This is what we achieved in Rambouillet, where
the [Kosovar] Albanians...managed to present a united
stand." He added that "we recognize the agreement
[reached by the members of the Kosovar Albanian
delegation after the Rambouillet talks] on the creation
of a provisional government. We remain engaged in this
process and we are convinced that very soon all the
Kosovar political and military groups will [form a
joint] representation that has the support of
everybody." FS

CONTINUING CLASHES ALONG ALBANIAN BORDER. Serbian forces
shelled Albanian army tanks near Letaj in the Has
Mountains on 17 May, prompting those vehicles to
withdraw four kilometers behind the border, AP reported.
In Kukes, Albanian army reinforcements arrived,
including multiple rocket launchers. Elsewhere, NATO
planes attacked Serbian positions in Planeja, between
Kukes and Prizren, Reuters reported. Nearby at the
Morina border crossing, only a few dozen refugees
crossed into Albania. Several of them reported
atrocities and arbitrary killings by Serbian forces.
Officials of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said
refugees continue to oppose efforts to evacuate them
from Kukes to safer places in central and southern
Albania. Most of those refusing to leave say they are
waiting for relatives still inside Kosova. FS

U.K.: TIME TO CONSIDER GROUND TROOPS FOR KOSOVA. British
Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Sofia on 17 May that
NATO will continue its campaign against Serbia and will
use "whatever it takes" to achieve its goals, "The
Guardian" reported. In Brussels, Foreign Secretary Robin
Cook argued that the allies will "not hang around
waiting for [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic to
give us a written invitation" to send in ground forces.
Cook added that NATO forces should go into the province
as soon as Serbian forces can no longer offer "organized
resistance." He suggested that intervention should take
place well before the harsh Balkan winter sets in, the
"New York Times" quoted him as saying. Cook also charged
that Serbian forces used Kosovar civilians as human
shields in the recent incident at Korisa (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 May 1999). The foreign secretary noted
that he knows of at least 80 cases of Serbian forces
using civilians as human shields. PM

DJUKANOVIC: NO PEACE WITH MILOSEVIC. Most of the EU
foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 17 May had
little sympathy for Cook's views and stressed instead
the importance of finding a diplomatic solution quickly,
"The Guardian" reported (see also Part I). Montenegrin
President Milo Djukanovic told the ministers that any
final settlement "must be signed by someone other" than
Milosevic in order to be credible, RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported. Djukanovic added that Milosevic seeks
to destabilize Montenegro by sending in some 45,000
Yugoslav army troops and trying to censor state-run
television. The Montenegrin president stressed that he
condemns all violence, including that by Milosevic, the
Kosovar guerrillas, and NATO. The EU ministers promised
Djukanovic more than $13 million in refugee relief. They
gave "no details of how the money would be channeled to
Podgorica to prevent it falling into the hands" of
Belgrade, "The Independent" reported. PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY MOVES INTO CETINJE. Several hundred
Yugoslav army troops recently entered Cetinje, the
traditional political stronghold of Montenegrins
favoring independence from Serbia, Reuters reported on
17 May. Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said that
the army "wants to demonstrate that by controlling
Cetinje that they control the [entire] country. People
in Montenegro are generally armed...[and] they are
particularly heavily armed in Cetinje." He urged local
people not to respond to any "provocation" by the army
and stressed that "whoever starts [a conflict in
Montenegro] will end up the big loser." There are some
26,000 Yugoslav army troops in Montenegro. Djukanovic's
police number about 12,000. PM

KOSOVAR MALES FREED IN MONTENEGRO. Yugoslav forces
returned more than 100 Kosovar males to their families
in Rozaje on 17 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May
1999). Montenegrin officials said that the release came
after the Yugoslav army "checked" the men for their
possible links to the UCK. Yugoslav troops recently took
the men off busses en route from Montenegro to Albania.
Elsewhere, a Georgian-registered ship carrying flour
arrived on 17 May in Dubrovnik. The flour will be
transferred to trucks and taken to Montenegro by road.
They Yugoslav navy had prevented the ship from docking
at Montenegro's port of Bar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17
May 1999). PM

LARGE GROUPS OF DISPLACED PERSONS IN KOSOVA. NATO
officials said in Brussels on 17 May that a total of
70,000 displaced persons are gathered in the areas
around Junik and to the west of Ferizaj and that these
people appear to be en route to Albania. Another group
of about 40,000 Kosovars is "trapped" in the region
between Ferizaj and Gjilan, RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported. At Blace, on the Macedonian border,
Serbian authorities ordered back into Kosova a train
carrying some 2,000 persons who boarded in Prishtina and
Ferizaj. A UN spokesman at Blace said that he does not
know what happened to the people on the train. He added
that "this is quite a worrisome development." In Skopje,
President Kiro Gligorov said that "it is important" for
the international community to send abroad at least
100,000 of the estimated 230,000 Kosovar refugees in his
country. PM

WESTENDORP: KOSOVA NEEDS INTERNATIONAL PROTECTORATE.
Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's
chief representative in Bosnia, told the UN Security
Council in New York on 17 May that Kosova needs "a real
protectorate in order to protect the refugees coming
back to their homes." He stressed that any international
mandate in Kosova should be "much shorter and more
robust" than the one in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
10 May 1999). Westendorp argued that the international
community must control the administration, police, and
army in Kosova, which it did not do in Bosnia. He
concluded that "there will be no long-term solution or
stable solution if Milosevic remains in place for a long
time, because it will mean there is no democracy in the
region. And without democracy, the problems of the
region are not going to be solved." PM

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION SUBMITS CENSURE MOTION. A group of
deputies and senators from the Social Democracy Party of
Romania, the Greater Romania Party, and the Romanian
National Unity Party have submitted a censure motion
against the government, which they accuse of seeking to
by-pass the parliament in attempting to push through
legislation on economic reform, Rompres reported on 17
May. The move comes in response to the cabinet's
decision to accelerate the passage of a package of
economic reforms by linking it to a vote of confidence
in the government. The package of measures, which is in
line with IMF recommendations, is aimed at speeding up
economic reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1999).
The opposition said the government's reforms would
generate chaos and encourage corruption. Nevertheless,
Prime Minister Radu Vasile's coalition government is
expected to survive the motion, Reuters reported on 17
May. VG

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SUPPORT IN REFERENDUM.
Petru Lucinschi has called on voters to support his bid
to increase the powers of the president in a 23 May non-
binding referendum on changing the constitution, Infotag
reported on 17 May. Lucinschi said the current "state
mechanisms do not work properly" and that presidential
rule is needed to "solve problems." He also urged voters
to support the candidacy of incumbent Chisinau Mayor
Serafim Urecheanu in the 23 May local elections. In
other news, officials of Moldova's Gagauz autonomous
region signed a bilateral economic and cultural
agreement with officials from the republic of Tatarstan
in Russia, BASA-Press reported on 17 May. VG

BLAIR VISITS BULGARIA. British Prime Minister Tony Blair
on 17 May praised Bulgaria's support for NATO's campaign
against Yugoslavia and pledged that his country will
support moves to speed up Bulgaria's accession into the
EU and NATO, international media reported. Blair met
with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Prime
Minister Ivan Kostov. Just hours before his arrival,
Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhailova criticized the West
for employing a strategy of "managing existing crises"
in the Balkans over the past few years, rather than
implementing a "long-term strategic vision" for the
region, Reuters reported on 17 May. She said she hoped
this "policy of sending fire brigades will be replaced
by a fire-prevention policy." Meanwhile, small group of
protesters interrupted Blair's speech at Sofia
University and another small group of young Bulgarian
Socialists burnt an effigy of the British prime minister
in the center of the capital. A majority of Bulgarians
are opposed to the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia. VG

END NOTE

SCHUSTER LIKELY TO DEFEAT MECIAR IN RUN-OFF

By Ron Synovitz

	The first round of voting in Slovakia's
presidential election saw Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster
and former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar advance
to a run-off on 29 May. If turnout is similar to the 74
percent in the 15 May first round, Schuster appears
likely to become Slovakia's first directly elected
president.
	According to the Slovak Election Commission,
Schuster, who is the official candidate of Slovakia's
governing coalition, won 47 percent of the first-round
vote, while about 37 percent supported Meciar.
	Third among the nine candidates was Magda
Vasaryova, a former actress who gathered 6.6 percent of
the vote on an independent ticket. She was followed by
independent Ivan Mjartan, with about 3.6 percent, and
Jan Slota of the Slovak National Party, with 2.5
percent. While Meciar could get some votes from backers
of Mjartan and Slota in the runoff, their combined
cross-over vote would be insufficient to push him ahead
of Schuster.
	Meanwhile, most of Vasaryova's supporters are
believed to be vehemently opposed to Meciar. There is
little likelihood that the former prime minister will
gain votes from them. Yet many of Vasaryova's backers
may choose to abstain from the runoff ballot rather than
support Schuster. That is largely because of Schuster's
background as a member of the Slovak Communist Party's
Central Committee before the collapse of communist rule
in 1989.
	Other political leaders who earlier opposed
Schuster because of his communist background have now
begun announcing their support for him as the "anti-
Meciar" candidate. Most important among them is Justice
Minister Jan Carnogursky, who chairs the governing
coalition's Christian Democratic Movement.
	Schuster told RFE/RL he expects unity over the run-
off within the coalition, which first joined forces to
defeat Meciar in parliamentary elections eight months
ago. "I think that the citizens had the opportunity to
gauge the degree to which we are united," he commented,
"and now we shouldn't even talk about unity because
there are only two candidates. We have only two
possibilities. Either a part of the coalition will
support Mr. Meciar or the whole coalition will support
me. There is no other alternative.... Now we have to act
if we want to confirm the change that happened [in last
year's parliamentary elections]."
	First round exit polls suggest that as many as 92
percent of Slovakia's ethnic Hungarian voters supported
Schuster. That development, according to the mayor,
shows the strength of the coalition. But he also warned
against xenophobic distortions of those statistics.
	"I have no problem with [the support I have from
ethnic Hungarians]. It is Meciar's problem. Meciar
separates Slovak society. I unify it. This is the first
evidence that the Hungarian minority can support the
candidate of a coalition.... The Hungarians have kept
their coalition promise. I see only a positive
development in that, not negative."
	Meciar, who was Slovak prime minister for most of
the period from 1992 to 1998, helped trigger the breakup
of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Western leaders often
criticized what was seen as the authoritarian manner of
his rule, which they cited as the reason Slovakia has
not been invited to join either NATO or the front-
ranking candidate states for EU membership.
	But Meciar remains popular in rural communities,
and he retains political influence through his allies
who still control top management positions in major
state companies. Meciar's nationalist rhetoric also
could appeal to the unemployed, who have seen little
improvement in their economic situation since last
year's elections.
	Tibor Cabaj, parliamentary leader of Meciar's
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said he does
not see Meciar's second place as a failure. In fact, the
37 percent of the vote that Meciar gathered was much
higher than pre-election polls had predicted.
	While Slovakia's presidency is largely a ceremonial
office, Western business leaders in Bratislava have been
watching the ballot closely to determine whether Meciar
has a political future in the country. If Meciar loses,
one effect could be speedier management reforms at state
companies. Such reforms are seen by the IMF and the
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as a
key to increasing productivity and foreign investment in
Slovakia.

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.
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