|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 210, Part II, 27 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 210, Part II, 27 October 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 *** Note to readers: "RFE/RL Newsline" will not appear on 28 October, which is a national holiday in the Czech Republic. *** xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINE'S 'KANIV FOUR' ELECTION ALLIANCE FALLS APART * ALBANIA'S MAJKO SAYS HE QUIT TO END TENSIONS * CROATIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW End Note: BETWEEN THE RUSSIAN AND BELARUSIAN SCENARIOS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA URGES RUSSIA TO QUICKLY SIGN UNION TREATY... Addressing the Russian State Duma on 27 October, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka urged Russia to quickly approve the treaty proposing a Belarusian-Russian union state. "If we delay any further, the people will lose their faith in the idea of a union state and the chance of carrying it out," Reuters quoted Lukashenka as saying. Lukashenka noted that the "fierce pressure of adversaries" of the Belarusian-Russian merger has exceeded "all conceivable bounds," according to ITAR-TASS. He criticized "individual Russian media" for presenting Belarus as a "wild [and] underdeveloped" country and a "communist preserve." After talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 26 October, Lukashenka said that agreement has been reached to wrap up discussion of the draft union treaty by 20 November and to sign it "in early December," Interfax reported. JM ...ACCUSES 'ABROAD' OF SPONSORING BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PROTEST. Speaking to Russian journalists in Moscow on 26 October, Lukashenka said the opposition "freedom march" in Minsk on 17 October was planned and sponsored "from abroad," Belarusian Television reported. He claimed that the Belarusian opposition received $300,000 through Belarusian NGOs as well as through "our so-called fascist independent media" to help stage the march. Lukashenka denied that riot police beat the protesters. "We did not beat anybody because we knew that [the demonstrators] need a feature [in television news]," he said. Lukashenka also said he has "reasons to say that the U.S. are exerting pressure not only on Belarus." He quoted Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev as saying "indignantly" at the CIS Customs Union summit in Moscow the same day that "the U.S. is interfering in domestic affairs."Lukashenka, however, did not specify in which countries' affairs the U.S. is interfering. JM UKRAINE'S 'KANIV FOUR' ELECTION ALLIANCE FALLS APART. The presidential election alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko fell apart on 26 October after Moroz announced he will stay in the race despite the alliance's earlier decision to support Marchuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 October 1999). "From now on, everyone is conducting his campaign separately," Marchuk commented, according to AP. Moroz noted that the Kaniv four has fulfilled its task by "breaking the information blockade" around its four candidates. Meanwhile, Tkachenko announced the same day that he will withdraw from the race and called on his supporters to vote for Communist Petro Symonenko. Progressive Socialist leader Natalya Vitrenko commented that Tkachenko has resigned in favor of Symonenko in order to avoid his "political death," Interfax reported. JM UKRAINE'S MOROZ WARNS AUTHORITIES AGAINST ORGANIZING 'PROVOCATION.' Socialist Party leader and presidential candidate Oleksandr Moroz has warned Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko and Security Service chief Leonid Derkach against staging a "provocation" indented to discredit him in the eyes of Ukrainian voters, Interfax reported on 26 October. Moroz said Ukraine's "law enforcement bodies" will air on state- controlled television channels a video that alleges his involvement in the 2 October attempt on Vitrenko's life. Moroz added that such a move would contravene Ukraine's Constitution. JM UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS TO SUPPORT FORMER KGB GENERAL. Yaroslava Stetsko, leader of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, said in Lviv on 26 October that her party will support Yevhen Marchuk's presidential bid. Stetsko added that this was a difficult decision for her organization, which had been persecuted by the KGB in the past. General Yevhen Marchuk was the Ukrainian SSR's KGB first deputy chairman in 1990 and chief of the Security Service in independent Ukraine from1991-1994. JM NEW CORRUPTION SURVEY RANKS BALTIC STATES IN MIDDLE OF PACK. In Transparency International's annual corruption index, released on 26 October, Latvia ranks 58th out of the 99 countries surveyed, according to BNS. TI's 1998 survey had placed Latvia 71st out of 85 countries. This year, Estonia ranked 27th and Lithuania 51st. The index attempts to rank countries according to the public perception of corruption (see also below). MJZ RUSSIAN EMBASSY WARNS ESTONIA AGAINST TIES WITH CHECHNYA... The Russian Embassy has warned Estonian authorities against developing closer relations with Chechnya, according to BNS on 26 October. Commenting on a visit this week by three Chechen parliamentary members to Tallinn, a spokesman said it is hoped that Estonia will stick to its policy of regarding Chechnya as an inseparable part of Russia. MJZ ...WHILE DUMA CONDEMNS ESTONIAN DISCRIMINATION AGAINST RUSSIAN MILITARY PENSIONERS. The Russian State Duma on 26 October adopted a resolution condemning the Estonian parliament's approval of amendments to the law on foreigners, which, the Duma said, "set a stricter procedure for granting residency permits to Russian military pensioners and in reality legitimized the possibility of deporting them," ITAR- TASS reported. Duma deputies called the amendments yet another effort "to force persons whose native language is Russian to leave [Estonia]." MJZ LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ASKS RUSSIA FOR EXPLANATION OF ILLEGAL BANKING ALLEGATIONS. The Latvian Foreign Ministry has asked the Russian Embassy in Riga to explain the basis for the Russian Federal Security Service's allegations of illegal banking operations being conducted by the Latvian Embassy in Moscow, according to BNS on 26 October. In an interview with Latvian Radio, Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said the Russian Embassy has no facts to confirm the Russian media report, stressing that Latvia is interested in good neighborly relations with Russia. MJZ LITHUANIA ANNOUNCES DELAY ON WILLIAMS DEAL... According to BNS and ELTA on 26 October, the head of Lithuania's negotiating team, Sigitas Kaktys, has announced that the signing of the final agreements between Lithuania and the U.S.-based Williams International, scheduled for 29 October, has been postponed. The agreements must be approved by the cabinet before their signing, but Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas has not included the documents on the agenda of the weekly cabinet meeting, which will take place on 27 October. The documents are being reviewed by the cabinet's lawyers and could be added to the agenda if a majority of ministers vote to overrule the premier. AB ...WHILE REPRESENTATIVES OF INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTION CONVERGE ON VILNIUS. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is prepared to help Lithuania secure more favorable terms in its negotiations with Williams International, "Lietuvos Rytas" reported on 27 October. EBRD Vice President Joachim Jahnke arrives in Vilnius on 27 October to evaluate the bank's on-going projects, which include a loan to the Ignalina nuclear power plant to upgrade security. His bank is prepared to lend the Lithuanian government up to 20 percent of the financing needed to upgrade the Mazeikiai oil refinery if the final agreement with Williams guarantees the viability of the plant. A team from the IMF is also expected soon to negotiate the terms of Lithuania's latest structural stabilization loan. The Lithuanian government's fiscal debt now reaches 5.8 percent of GDP, and IMF and World Bank officials have expressed concern that the Williams deal will raise that figure to nearly 10 percent. AB CORRUPTION IN POLAND REPORTED TO BE INCREASING. According to Transparency International's annual index (see above), the level of corruption in Poland is increasing, Polish media reported on 26 October. The survey puts Poland in 44th place, between Mongolia and Brazil. Jacek Leski, deputy head of TI Poland, said that corruption in Poland is prevalent at all administrative levels, in the parliament, and in the legal system. "The root of Poland's corruption and the most difficult problem still to be solved is the mechanism of financing political parties and politicians," Reuters quoted Leski as saying. Slovenia ranked 25th, suggesting that it is the least corrupt country from Eastern Europe. Estonia ranked 27th, Hungary 31st, and the Czech Republic 39th. JM POLISH TEACHERS ANNOUNCE STRIKE FOR 19 NOVEMBER. Polish Teachers Union head Slawomir Broniarz announced on 26 October that the union will launch a one-day nationwide strike on 19 November to demand increased funds for education and wage hikes for teachers, PAP reported. The schools supporting the strike will be closed on that day. "We feel we have done everything we could to improve things in education," Deputy Education Minister Wojciech Ksiazek commented, adding that the ministry will raise teachers' wages. JM CZECH UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICES MARK ROMA WITH 'R.' For years, Czech unemployment offices have added an "R" into the computer files of applicants who appear to be Romany, TV Nova reported on 26 October. The station's reporters were able to secure lists of Romany applicants from such offices in Prague and Ceske Budejovice, which would be impossible to do if they were not keeping track of unemployed Roma in some manner, the television station noted. Vladimir Valek of the Olomouc unemployment office said he has heard that the practice is taking place but stressed that his own office is not engaging in it. Social and Labor Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla said he did not know about the practice, "Lidove noviny" reported on 27 October. He added that action should be taken "as quickly as possible" against those offices that use such techniques. VG PROSPECTS OF CZECH 'RIGHT-OF-CENTER' COALITION LOOK DIMMER... Parliamentary deputy Marie Machata on 26 October announced that she is quitting the Freedom Union and will sit in the lower house as an independent, Czech media reported. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputy chairman Ivan Langer said Machata's departure has made it impossible for the ODS to form a "right-of-center" coalition government with the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats. Together, the three parties would have only 100 deputies in the 200-seat lower house, since former Christian Democratic leader Josef Lux is undergoing treatment for leukemia in the U.S. ...WHILE CALLS FOR CABINET CHANGES CONTINUE. Leading Social Democrat and deputy parliamentary chairman Stanislav Gross said the government should not shy away from making changes in the cabinet. He said he expects Prime Minister Milos Zeman to dismiss Deputy Prime Minister Egon Lansky, adding that the changes should not stop there. VG CZECH DEPUTIES WANT STIFFER PENALTIES FOR RACIAL, CLASS HATRED. A group of Czech parliamentary deputies on 26 October submitted a bill that would impose stiffer penalties for the propagation of movements that promote racial or class hatred, Czech media reported. The bill would impose prison sentences of up to eight years for such crimes. While some deputies commented that the bill is partly a reaction to rhetoric from the Communist Party officials, they said they do not think it will lead to a ban on the party. VG SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES EUROPEAN CHARTERS. Lawmakers on 26 October passed European charters on local self-administration and cross-border regional cooperation, TASR reported. The government described the move as proof that Slovakia has the political will to decentralize the state administration. The same day, the parliament failed to pass a bill on the protection of economic competition, which President Rudolf Schuster had sent back to the legislature on 16 September. Deputy parliamentary chairman Pavol Hrusovsky said the bill's passage has now been delayed indefinitely. VG VATICAN DISPUTE REVEALS FISSURES ON SLOVAK COALITION. Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) leader Jozef Migas on 26 October repeated his party's refusal to support the proposed agreement between the Vatican and Slovakia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999), TASR reported. Migas, whose party is a member of the governing coalition, said the status and funding of the Catholic Church in Slovakia should be defined before any accord is approved with the Vatican. He said such a process could "take years." Frantisek Miklosko of the Christian Democratic Movement, which is also a member of the governing coalition, said the SDL's position is based on "atheism" and that it is "typical of [the SDL's] communist electorate. VG HUNGARIAN INTERNAL SECURITY HEAD RESIGNS. Minister of Interior Sandor Pinter on 26 October "temporarily" accepted the resignation of Laszlo Gal, head of the ministry's internal security office. Gal had requested that his resignation be valid as long as the investigation continues into alleged police involvement in illegal oil dealings in Bekes County. Gal was the head of the Bekes county police until July 1998 and his name was repeatedly mentioned in recent media coverage of illegal oil dealings. He said he resigned in order to avoid speculation that he might obstruct the ongoing investigation. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA'S MAJKO SAYS HE QUIT TO END TENSIONS. Former Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 26 October that he decided to resign because political tensions within his own Socialist Party prevented him from doing his job (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1999). Majko's move came just two weeks after he lost a battle for the party leadership with former Prime Minister Fatos Nano. The Socialists are expected to nominate Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta for Majko's job on 27 October. Nano and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo stressed that there will be continuity between the old and new government. Meta is known as a close associate of Majko's. AP reported that the controversial Nano came under strong pressure from Albania's Western allies not to take the premiership himself. PM SECURITY TIGHTENED IN TIRANA. Police increased security in the capital on 26 October, apparently fearing a fresh outbreak of the gunshots and violence that often accompany political changes in Albania. Police stopped cars with license plates from outside Tirana and checked drivers' documents. Majko said: "Yesterday after news of my resignation broke, there were no gunshots in Tirana. Friends and adversaries, thanks for your respect and silence," Reuters reported. Firing guns into the air is a traditional sign of celebration in many parts of the Balkans. PM DJINDJIC CALLS FOR DEAL ON SANCTIONS. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 26 October that Western countries should lift sanctions against Serbia in return for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's agreeing to early elections. "Sanctions are both outdated and ineffective, and the idea is to 'trade' them for early elections, regardless of the results.... If the opposition wins, there is no reason for sanctions any more. If the majority of people votes for Milosevic, then [the effects of Milosevic's rule are] the problem of those people. What's the point of saying: 'You either get rid of Milosevic or you will be ruined as a nation?'" Djindjic concluded, according to Reuters. The opposition leader added that he recently "passed on" his idea to U.S. special envoy James Dobbins, who found it "interesting" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). PM BELGRADE PUBLISHERS FINED $9,000... A Belgrade court ruled on 26 October that the publishers of the private daily "Danas" must pay $9,000 for having violated Serbia's draconian 1998 media law. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj sued the daily for having published an interview with Montenegro's outspoken Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda. In that text, Kilibarda said that Seselj planned to expel Montenegrins from Serbia or make them wear "yellow badges" if Podgorica declares its independence from Belgrade. The Serbian regime has made frequent use of the press law to put financial pressure on private media. PM ...WHILE OPPOSITION EDITOR ALSO FACES LAWSUIT. Cedomir Jovanovic, who is editor of the opposition Alliance for Change's publication "Promene," said in Belgrade on 27 October that he has received a subpoena from a local court. He is charged with unspecified violations of the media law. "It seems that the trial will be held within 24 hours," Jovanovic said, adding he will not appear personally before the court. He charged that "the lawsuit is just another pressure on us and the Alliance for Change," AP reported. PM BELGRADE COMMUTERS PROTEST TRANSPORT DELAYS. Hundreds of angry commuters staged a spontaneous protest in the Serbian capital on 26 October, Reuters reported. Demonstrators told reporters that they are tired of having to wait up to two to three hours to get home each evening. Serbia's public transport system has greatly deteriorated over the past 10 years because of a lack of fuel and spare parts. PM TALKS BETWEEN SERBIAN, MONTENEGRIN PARTIES END. Spokesmen for the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and Montenegro's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) said in Belgrade on 26 October that talks on the future relations between the two republics ended without agreement. The discussions will resume at an unspecified time. The DPS spokesman said that the next round of talks will be between "governments, parties, and experts." The SPS official, however, said that the discussion will take place "between parties and in the parliament," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1999). PM SERBIAN OPPOSITION, CROWN PRINCE TO RALLY DIASPORA. Vladan Batic, who heads the Alliance for Change, said in Belgrade on 26 October that a meeting will "soon" be held of Serbs living abroad "to involve the diaspora in ending the current crisis in Serbia." Batic added that the initiative for the meeting came from Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, who is the claimant to the throne. Aleksandar is a London-based businessman who has frequently said that he is "willing to serve his people" if asked. Observers note that the monarchist tradition is strong among Serbs. PM NATO TO MOVE KOSOVA LOGISTICS CENTER TO SLOVENIA? The Atlantic alliance and Slovenia have agreed that NATO will move the "logistics center" of its supply operation for Kosova from Thessaloniki to Koper, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 26 October. NATO supplies will then proceed to Kosova via the Montenegrin port of Bar. A spokesman for the Slovenian Foreign Ministry said that the agreement is a business deal and does not mean that Slovenia has granted NATO a base. The pact will come into effect once Montenegrin authorities agree. Earlier this year, Greece insisted that NATO make Thessaloniki the headquarters for most of its Kosova operations. That arrangement has, however, been widely criticized in other NATO countries and in Kosova as impractical and expensive. PM HAGUE COURT: MILOSEVIC TO FACE FRESH WAR CRIMES CHARGES. A spokeswoman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal said in Prishtina on 26 October that Milosevic may soon face additional indictments for war crimes committed by his forces in Kosova. In May, the court indicted him and four of his top aides for atrocities committed in Kosova in 1999. The new charges will involve war crimes from 1998, she added. The spokeswoman noted that on 31 October, international forensics experts will suspend for the winter their work in exhuming mass graves in Kosova. In related news, forensics experts on 26 October exhumed a mass grave of 14 Muslims in Jelec, near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Some 24,000 persons are still listed as missing from the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia. PM WORKERS STAGE PROTEST IN BOSNIA. Some 3,000 workers from the textile and rubber industries demonstrated in Sarajevo on 27 October for better pay and job security. Speakers made remarks such as "Starvation and idleness are killing us," and "Politicians and ministers shouldn't be surprised if we ask for their removal in the near future," AP reported. This is the latest in a series of labor protests in the Muslim- controlled areas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1999). PM CROATIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW. The upper house of the parliament adopted a new electoral law, which the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) recently proposed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1999). The controversial measure guarantees representation for the generally pro-HDZ diaspora. The exact number of seats for the HDZ will depend on the number of Croats living abroad who cast their votes. The law reduces the number of seats reserved for members of the dwindling Serbian minority from three to one. The lower house is expected to approve the measure on 29 October. The EU, the U.S., and the Croatian opposition have repeatedly warned Zagreb to remove electoral legislation that gives an unfair advantage to the HDZ. PM ROMANIAN PRESIDENT COMPLAINS ABOUT ORPHANAGE REPORTS. Emil Constantinescu on 26 October complained about recent reports in the international media about the "shocking conditions" in the country's orphanages. Constantinescu said Romania "does not need such help" from the foreign media, saying the orphanage problems were "inherited from the Communist regime." According to official statistics, there are 33,000 orphans and 98,000 disabled children living in Romanian institutions. The number of institutionalized children has reportedly risen by a fifth since 1989. Constantinescu also said Romania has managed to keep up with its debt repayment scheduled thanks to the "great sacrifices" of its people. VG MOLDOVAN PARTY MAKES ITS PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENT CONDITIONAL. Party of Democratic Forces leader Valeriu Matei on 26 October said his party will remain in the governing coalition provided its partners fulfill certain conditions, BASA-Press reported. Matei said one of those conditions is support for the legalization of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church. He said it is "too early" to reveal the other conditions. VG BULGARIAN, TURKISH PREMIERS INAUGURATE CONSTRUCTION OF HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his Turkish counterpart, Bulent Ecevit, participated in a ceremony inaugurating the construction of the joint Gorna Arda hydroelectric system, BTA reported. The system will consist of three dams on the Gorna Arda River in Bulgaria and three hydroelectric plants. Bulgaria and Turkey will share the estimated $220 million costs of the project. The project is expected to create about 3,000 jobs in southern Bulgaria, where some 800,000 ethnic Turks live. Ecevit said he is grateful that Bulgaria has guaranteed its ethnic Turkish minority equal rights. VG END NOTE BETWEEN THE RUSSIAN AND BELARUSIAN SCENARIOS by Jan Maksymiuk Regardless of who wins this year's presidential elections in Ukraine, no one should expect the country's dire economic situation to improve soon. That is the only certainty with regard to Ukraine at the present time. Ukraine's foreign debt stands at $12 billion, of which $3.1 billion is due to be paid next year, while the National Bank's reserves total $1.3 billion. The country is thus facing a default on its foreign debt. Meanwhile, the government's "domestic" debt, in unpaid wages, pensions, and social benefits, totals 10 billion hryvni ($2.5 billion). Some 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and real unemployment stands at 25 percent. Some 17 percent of Ukraine's labor force is occupied in the shadow economy, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the country's economic activity. Corruption is pervasive. And one-third of the population wants to leave the country because of economic woes. Even if these data--taken from the newspaper "Den," which supports Yevhen Marchuk's presidential bid and is very hostile to incumbent President Leonid Kuchma--are exaggerated, the true picture of Ukraine's socio-economic condition is unlikely to be much rosier. All observers of the Ukrainian political scene agree that none of the presidential hopefuls will obtain more than 50 percent of the vote on 31 October, meaning there will be a runoff on 14 November. Observers also tend to agree that Kuchma will be one of the two participants in that second round. However, it is anybody's guess whom the incumbent will be running against. Ukrainian opinion polls suggest that the most likely candidates to reach the runoff with Kuchma are Natalya Vitrenko, Petro Symonenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Yevhen Marchuk. However, many hopefuls, as well as political analysts, have repeatedly cast doubt on the objectivity of polls in Ukraine, claiming they are biased. Of the front-runners, Petro Symonenko, the uncharismatic leader of the Communist Party, appears the rival against whom Kuchma would prefer to compete on 14 November. Many analysts argue that in such a case, Kuchma's election team could successfully apply Boris Yeltsin's campaign tactics of 1995, when the Russian president faced Communist Gennadii Zyuganov in the run-off and, with the concerted help of Russian electronic media, effectively instilled the fear of a "red revenge" into the electorate. Those analysts assert that Kuchma could successfully use the same strategy against Symonenko. They also point out that Kuchma's campaign is already closely following the "Russian scenario": the Ukrainian incumbent, like his Russian counterpart four years ago, is employing the services of a host of pop stars and celebrities to promote him in the provinces. Kuchma's potential duel with Progressive Socialist leader Natalya Vitrenko would be more difficult and its outcome less easy to predict. That scenario could be called the "Belarusian" one because of Vitrenko's extremely populist election ticket, which strongly recalls Alyaksandr Lukashenka's in the 1994 Belarusian presidential vote. The 2 October attempt on Vitrenko's life has most likely boosted her surprisingly high popularity. The unpredictability of a possible Vitrenko challenge to Kuchma lies in the fact that her electorate cannot be defined in terms of its social or economic status. Vitrenko's populism finds its appeal among different social layers of the Ukrainian population, whose only common denominator may be disappointment with Kuchma's rule. It is easy to make mistakes in trying to neutralize the populist appeal in the post-Soviet area, as the case of Belarus five years ago amply demonstrated. Many would argue that Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz's possible runoff could be the worst scenario for Kuchma. Despite his fierce and not always fair criticism of the incumbent, Moroz is seen as a moderate leftist and, in contrast to Symonenko, a likeable one. In the second round, Moroz might be able to enlist the support of both Symonenko's and parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko's electorate--a goal he failed to achieve while campaigning within the so- called Kaniv Four election alliance of Marchuk, Tkachenko, and Volodymyr Oliynyk. However, the failure to arrive at a political compromise even with Tkachenko (who is now supporting Symonenko) means that Moroz is less likely to appear in the runoff than either Symonenko or Vitrenko. Marchuk's chances of reaching the second round seem even more remote than Moroz's. In fact, Marchuk is seeking support among the same electorate as Kuchma--that is, among those supporting both Ukraine's pro-market reform and strong statehood. Voters may rather prefer Kuchma, who has already proven himself to be a reformer, if only a half-hearted one, and a staunch supporter of an independent Ukraine. Ukraine's presidential election campaign has so far been less than exemplary, to say the least. It has been characterized by language that is invariably harsh, very often offensive, and sometimes vulgar. The administration keeps the electronic media--both state-controlled and commercial--on a tight rein, not allowing those media to give more air time to Kuchma's rivals than was prescribed by the Central Electoral Commission. At the same time, Kuchma receives extensive coverage in the state media as the incumbent head of state. It appears, however, that neither Ukrainian citizens nor the international community would protest very much if Kuchma were elected for another five years. For many inside and outside Ukraine, such an outcome would mean continuation and stability, even if embarrassingly low political and economic standards continue to prevail. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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