Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid. - Dostoevsky
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 211, Part I, 29 October 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 211, Part I, 29 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 I, a compilation of news concerning Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe 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 I

* VERBAL BATTLE BETWEEN OVR, KREMLIN HEATS UP

* RUSSIA CONTINUES BOMBING GROZNY

* ARMENIAN PREMIER, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER GUNNED DOWN

End Note: VIOLENCE AND RECRIMINATIONS OVERSHADOW GEORGIAN
ELECTION CAMPAIGN
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RUSSIA

VERBAL BATTLE BETWEEN OVR, KREMLIN HEATS UP... The leaders of
the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance on 28 October
published an open letter appealing to Russian President Boris
Yeltsin to break out of his political isolation and curb the
efforts of his staff who "openly interfere with the State
Duma electoral campaign" as well as abuse their office and
"exert unprecedented pressure on the electoral process." The
letter, which was signed by former Prime Minister Yevgenii
Primakov, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and St. Petersburg
Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, also accused Yeltsin's staff of
putting "pressure on both private and government mass media
outlets." OVR's leaders urged Yeltsin to meet with the mass
media as well as public and political organizations in order
to hear "unbiased opinions." First Deputy Chief of the
presidential administration Igor Shabdurasulov responded that
the OVR leaders are simply nervous about their low popularity
ratings, according to Interfax. JAC

...AS LUZHKOV SAYS HE BELIEVES BEREZOVSKII WANTED HIM DEAD.
On 27 October, Mayor Luzhkov told reporters that he finds
credible former deputy presidential security chief Aleksandr
Korzhakov's claim that four years ago media magnate Boris
Berezovskii repeatedly asked Korzhakov to kill Luzhkov as
well as Media Most head Vladimir Gusinskii and singer/Duma
deputy Iosif Kobzon. Korzhakov, who is himself running for
re-election to the State Duma, said that he decided finally
to reveal what had happened in 1995 when he heard of
Berezovskii's plans to seek a Duma seat. Berezovskii
responded to Korzhakov's claims saying "I cannot respond to
such gibberish in earnest," Interfax reported. "Kommersant-
Daily" reported on 27 October, without reference to any
sources, that the Kremlin's new campaign strategy is to
entice the leadership of the Communist Party and Yabloko into
a non-aggression pact by offering them access to main
television channels and promising to withhold compromising
materials against top leaders. JAC

RUSSIA CONTINUES BOMBING GROZNY. Russian warplanes continued
their intensive bombing of Grozny from 27-29 October. The
town of Achkhoi-Martan to the southwest was also targeted.
Suspected Chechen positions near the towns of Bamut,
Dolinskii, Pervomaiskoe, Samashki, Novy Saharoi,
Goryacheistochinskoe, Ishkhoi-Yurt, Galaity, Meskety,
Alleroi, and Bunin-aul were subjected to heavy artillery
fire. Fierce ground fighting was reported for control of a
strategic hill on the northern outskirts of Grozny on 28
October. In Moscow, Russian First Deputy Chief of General
Staff Lieutenant General Valerii Manilov told journalists on
28 October that federal forces have no intention of storming
either Grozny or Gudermes (which, like the Chechen capital,
is blockaded from the west, north, and east) as long as large
concentrations of Chechen fighters remain in those towns,
Reuters reported. Interfax quoted a spokesman for the Russian
military as saying that the federal forces intend to allow
the Chechen gunmen to retreat south from Grozny and will
pursue them into the mountains. LF

CHECHEN OFFICIALS ASSESS DAMAGE. Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov, who is an artillery specialist, told journalists
in Grozny on 26 October that the explosion at Grozny's
central market on 21 October was caused by "a tactical
missile with a cluster bomb warhead that cannot be used
against targets in populated areas even in conditions of war
between large states," Interfax reported the following day.
Maskhadov said that missile had been aimed at his
presidential palace. Deputy Prime Minister Apti Bisultanov
said on 28 October that a total of 223 people were killed and
327 wounded in the rocket attacks on the city two days
earlier. In subsequent rocket attacks on Grozny on 27-28
October, the homes of field commanders Shamil Basaev and Arbi
Baraev and former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (who
is currently in the United Arab Emirates) were destroyed. LF

MASKHADOV APPEALS TO POPE. President Maskhadov on 28 October
appealed to Pope John Paul II to intervene to protect the
Chechen people from genocide, Interfax reported. Maskhadov
said he decided to do so only after becoming convinced that
"the Islamic world remains indifferent to the tragedy of the
Chechen people." LF

SERGEEV SAYS RUSSIAN MILITARY IN NORTH CAUCASUS TO STAY.
Inspecting Russian federal troops deployed along the north
bank of the Terek River on 28 October, Russian Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev said "we have come here to stay for
good," ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile Basaev told AP in Grozny
the same day that he has created a special battalion of
suicide fighters to carry out acts of sabotage in retaliation
for the Grozny market place bombing. LF

TALBOTT URGES MOSCOW TO USE 'POLITICAL LEVERS' IN CHECHEN
CONFLICT... Following his meeting with Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow on 29 October, U.S. Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told journalists that while
the U.S. understands that Russia has the "right and duty" to
protect the state and its citizens from the "threat of
extremism and terrorism," it nonetheless hopes that Moscow
will "turn to political levers as soon as possible" to
resolve the Chechen conflict. The two men also discussed
mediating a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, and
Talbott noted after their talks that the 27 October murder of
Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and other top
officials may "cast a pall" over attempts to resolve that
dispute, Reuters reported. According to Talbott, he and
Ivanov did not touch upon arms control issues. JC

...WHILE RUSSIA TELLS U.S. CHECHNYA IS INTERNAL MATTER.
Responding to remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright on Russian actions in Chechnya, Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin declared on 27 October that "everything that
concerns the North Caucasus is Russia's internal matter,"
according to RIA Novosti. Putin added that Russia "respects
the opinion of its Western partners." Unidentified government
sources told Interfax the same day that Putin is likely to
meet with U.S. President Bill Clinton in early November in
Oslo. JAC

IVANOV WANTS FRANCE TO HELP SAFEGUARD ABM TREATY. Addressing
the French Senate on 27 October, Russian Foreign Minister
Ivanov said that Moscow expects "Russian-French cooperation,"
in particular between [the countries'] parliaments," to
counter the unwillingness among some U.S. political forces to
"move toward disarmament," Interfax reported the next day. If
the U.S. deploys a national anti-ballistic missile system, he
said, the result will be the "de facto phasing out of the
nuclear disarmament process." Arms control also featured on
the agenda of Ivanov's talks with his French counterpart,
Hubert Vedrine, on 28 October, as did the upcoming OSCE
summit in Istanbul, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

MUSLIM GROUP BARRED FROM ELECTIONS. The Central Election
Commission on 27 October barred the Muslim movement Nur from
participating in upcoming State Duma elections because it
failed to pay its election deposit on time, ITAR-TASS
reported. Nur President Maksut Sadikov told AP that the
commission has stretched the rules for some candidates and
parties, allowing them to register despite some
irregularities in their paperwork. He added that "this is the
only Muslim movement that could have done something,
particularly with regard to the problems of the North
Caucasus." "Segodnya" reported on 27 October that former
Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov forgot to list one-
third of his annual income on his declaration for the
commission. He explained the error as absentmindedness. After
an investigation, the commission allowed his name to remain
on the list of the Union of Rightist Forces, according to the
daily. JAC

A NEW GROUP FOR THE OLD DUMA. The State Duma on 27 October
registered a new deputies' group called the People's
Deputies, which has 43 members, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier
that day, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told
reporters that he does not believe there is any point in
setting up a new group. The head of the new group is Nikolai
Ryzhkov, head of the People's Power faction. Other members
are Aleksandr Vengerovskii (Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia) and Yelena Panina (People's Power). According to some
analysts, the group is linked with the interregional movement
Unity and represents an attempt to establish a bloc in the
Duma parallel to the one that exists unofficially in the
Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report,"
20 October 1999). On 29 October, Unity head Sergei Shoigu
said that Unity would like to establish a pro-government bloc
in the next Duma. Shoigu, who is also emergencies minister,
noted that this cabinet is the most professional one in
years. JAC

MOSCOW REJECTS U.S. REAL ESTATE DEAL. The Russian Foreign
Ministry on 28 October nixed an offer by the U.S. government
to write off World War II lend-lease debts in exchange for
title to five real estate properties in Moscow, including the
residence of the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, Spaso House (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1999). According to the Foreign
Ministry, such a swap would conflict with Article 16 of the
State Property Privatization Law, which prohibits the
transfer of property rights to state property as a way to
reduce foreign debts, Interfax reported. "Segodnya" reported
on 27 October that even if Moscow were willing to accept the
U.S.'s terms and transfer Spaso House to U.S. ownership, then
the Russian government might respond by increasing the tax on
the property so drastically that Moscow's original offer of
$890,000 a year in rent would seem attractive. JAC

WILL GAZPROM PAY FOR THE WAR? "Segodnya" reported on 27
October that Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok has announced
that in both October and November Gazprom must pay the
treasury 2 billion rubles ($70 million) over and above what
is stipulated in an earlier agreement between the government
and the company. The newspaper speculates that Unified Energy
Systems will also be asked to make increased payments to the
federal treasury. The daily also reported that Pochinok
recently estimated that the conflict in Chechnya could result
in 20-30 billion rubles in additional expenses. In an
interview with "Trud" on 26 October, Pochinok said the
Chechen war will put tax reform efforts on hold since it will
be necessary for the government to find an additional 18
billion rubles. Earlier reports have suggested that the
government will try to increase budget revenues by increasing
oil export duties. JAC

REVISED BUDGET REAPS MORE CRITICISM... Duma deputies will
consider the draft 2000 budget in its second reading on 5
November, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. The previous day,
Vyacheslav Nikonov, a political analyst who is now advising
OVR leader Yevgenii Primakov, told reporters that the 2000
budget "was the subject of a most unprincipled deal between
the government and the Communists." He continued, "We assess
the price of the collusion at 21 billion rubles" ($810
million at today's exchange rate). JAC

...AS HIGHER REVENUE PLEDGE SEEN TO EXIST MOSTLY IN WORDS.
"Kommersant-Daily," on the other hand, noted that while "the
government promised an additional 20.1 billion rubles" it
added only "5.7 billion rubles to the budget on paper." Under
the draft approved by deputies on 26 October, revenues are
set at 797.2 billion rubles, compared with 791.3 billion
rubles in the draft approved by the conciliatory commission.
Former First Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin told
Interfax that 797.2 billion rubles in revenue cannot be
collected unless inflation runs at about 30 percent or more.
The current draft assumes annual inflation of 18 percent. JAC

PUTIN PRAISES MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. Speaking in
Khabarovsk on 27 October, Prime Minister Putin called for the
Russian economy not to retain its transitional status
forever. He noted that the assets of all Russia's banks and
financial companies are "less than the assets of any
financial institution on the list of the world's top 100,"
Interfax reported. He added that Russia is "squeezed out of
the world's science-intensive production markets, excluding
the market in arms and military hardware." However, he said
the government feels that the potential of the country's
military-industrial complex remains very high and "in many
ways, the country is maintaining its quite competitive
position." JAC

ARE TWO PRESIDENTS BETTER THAN ONE? "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 28 October that a court in Leningrad Oblast has
ruled that Dmitrii Savelev be reinstated as head of the large
pipeline company Transneft. Savelev had been dismissed by the
Russian government from his post in a manner that some
sources, including Savelev, believed was illegal. According
to the daily, Savelev's attempt to return to his old office
was frustrated by aides of the man who was appointed to
replace him, Semen Vainshtok. First Deputy Prime Minister
Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters the same day that there have
been no court rulings to reinstall Savelev at Transneft.
However, a Transneft representative told Interfax that the
company plans to appeal the Leningrad court's decision. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PREMIER, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER GUNNED DOWN. Five gunmen
shot dead Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, parliamentary
speaker Karen Demirchian and his two deputies, a government
minister, and two parliamentary deputies in the parliament's
main chamber on 27 October. A third parliamentary deputy died
of a heart attack, and six were seriously injured. The gunmen
initially claimed they were staging a coup but later said
they wanted only to protest the country's economic collapse,
for which they held Sargsian responsible. They allowed
journalists to leave the parliament but held deputies and
government ministers hostage overnight. The gunmen
surrendered in the late morning of 28 October after talks
with government leaders, including President Robert
Kocharian, who assured them a free trial, and after a
statement detailing their grievances was read on state
television (see also "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2. No.
43, 28 October 1999). LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ASSUMES PREMIER'S DUTIES. President
Kocharian on 29 October temporarily took over the duties of
prime minister, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported quoting a
presidential spokeswoman. The previous day, he declared three
days' national mourning, which will culminate in the funeral
of the murdered officials on 31 October. He will name a new
premier next week, after the parliament elects its new
speaker and deputy speakers. Meeting with Kocharian on 28
October, the leaders of all parliamentary parties and
factions pledged their support for him. Also on 28 October,
former President Levon Ter-Petrossian issued a statement
calling on all Armenians to "unite around the president and
meet the challenge to our statehood with solidarity and
dignity," Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF
PROSECUTOR, POWER MINISTERS. In an emotional statement
released on 28 October, the Armenian Defense Ministry, which
Vazgen Sargsian had headed from mid-1995 until June of this
year, called for the resignation of the interior and national
security ministers and the prosecutor-general. It blamed the
two former for failing to ensure adequate security at the
parliament building. Carrying assault rifles, the five gunmen
had reportedly entered that building through an entrance
reserved for journalists. It also castigated all three men
for failing to solve the murders of two prominent Defense
Ministry officials. Interior Minister Suren Abrahamian
tendered his resignation the same day, but Kocharian has not
yet accepted it. LF

OPPOSITION PARTY DISOWNS LEADER OF GUNMEN. The Armenian
Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun issued a statement on
27 October saying that Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five
gunmen, had been expelled from the party for "misconduct" in
1992 within a year of joining it. Over the last six months,
Hunanian, who is 34 and a former journalist, had openly
spoken about "the need to bring the government down by force
and destroy its leaders," "Novoe vremya" reported on 28
October. LF

NEW ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS ELECTED. Convening in Echmiadzin on
27 October, delegates to the National Ecclesiastical Assembly
elected Garegin Nersisian, Archbishop of Ararat, as the 132rd
Catholicos of All Armenians. Nersisian received 263 votes in
the second, secret ballot, compared with 176 for Archbishop
Nerses Pozapalian. Nersisian, who is 48, was born in a
village near Echmiadzin and entered the seminary there in
1965. He has studied theology in Vienna, Bonn, and the
Russian Orthodox Church Academy in Azgorsk, from which he
graduated in 1979. LF

U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE IN ARMENIA. Shortly before
Sargsian was shot dead on 27 October, Strobe Talbott had met
with the prime minister as well as with President Kocharian
and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian for four hours to
discuss the Karabakh peace process and related measures to
establish peace and stability in the South Caucasus, Noyan
Tapan reported. Kocharian stressed his commitment to a
peaceful solution of the conflict, noting that the
unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic should be a full party
to the negotiating process. LF

AZERBAIJAN SEEKS TO DEPORT CHECHEN REFUGEES. The Azerbaijani
authorities on 27 October deported 20 Chechen refugees who
had arrived in Baku on a flight from Tbilisi earlier that
day, Caucasus Press reported. On arriving by bus at the
frontier with Georgia, the refugees refused to leave
Azerbaijani territory and the next day declared a hunger
strike. A spokesman for Azerbaijan's National Security
Ministry said that the country cannot accept more refugees as
it already has "more than 1 million" internally displaced
persons as a result of the war in Karabakh. LF

LANDMINE DISCOVERED IN GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS HQ. The
Georgian Border Guards' Tbilisi headquarters were evacuated
on 27 October after an anti-personnel landmine was discovered
in the building, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting Border Guards
commander Valerii Chkheidze. The last contingent of Russian
border guards stationed in Georgia had vacated the building
earlier that day. Chkheidze told Caucasus Press that the
contingent will be detained at the Georgian-Russian border in
order to clarify the incident. LF

GEORGIA DENIES HARBORING CHECHEN GUNMEN. Georgia's National
Security Ministry on 28 October denied that Chechen gunmen
have crossed the frontier into Georgia's Akhmeta Raion, ITAR-
TASS reported. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi the
previous day, former Defense Minister and independent
parliamentary candidate Tengiz Kitovani said a band of 450
armed Chechens is encamped in the Pankisi gorge in that
raion. LF

ANOTHER RUSSIAN ROCKET EXPLODES OVER KAZAKHSTAN. A Proton
rocket exploded shortly after blastoff from the Baikonur
cosmodrome on 27 October, the second such explosion within
four months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). No injuries
were reported from falling debris, some of which has been
located. As was the case in July, the Kazakh authorities have
again suspended launches of Proton rockets from Baikonur
pending an investigation into the cause of the blast. The
Kazakh Foreign Ministry has sent a formal protest note to
Moscow in connection with the incident, which Kazakhstan's
Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev discussed in a telephone
conversation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on
28 October, according to Interfax. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION FORMS NEW UMBRELLA GROUP. Meeting in Almaty
on 27 October under police surveillance, some 300
representatives of 13 opposition movements and parties
adopted a resolution on the formation of a new Democratic
People's Party, RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital
reported. Participants also adopted a second resolution
criticizing procedural violations during the recent
parliamentary elections and terming the poll illegal and
invalid, Interfax reported. They appealed to the
international community not to recognize the validity of the
poll and demanded new elections next year. Addressing the
gathering, Orleu (Progress) Party chairman Seydakhmet
Quttyqadam called for the resignation of President Nursultan
Nazarbaev. In a written statement read to the meeting, former
Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin affirmed that the Kazakh
authorities "stole victory from democratic forces before the
eyes of the Kazakh people and the international community,"
Reuters reported. LF

TAJIK SUPREME COURT REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE'S APPEAL.
Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 27 October rejected an appeal
by Economics Minister Davlat Usmon to annul his registration
as a candidate for the 6 November presidential election, Asia
Plus-Blitz reported. The Supreme Court last week overruled
the Central Electoral Commission's refusal to register Usmon,
but the latter protested that the court decision is illegal
as he had submitted only some 82,000 signatures in his
support, rather than the legal minimum of 145,000 (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). Usmon's 5-year-old
nephew was kidnapped in Dushanbe on 27 October but found
unharmed on the city outskirts the following day, according
to Interfax. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER APPEALS FOR HELP TO ENSURE POLL IS
DEMOCRATIC. United Tajik Opposition and Islamic Renaissance
Party leader Said Abdullo Nuri has written to OSCE chairman
in office Knut Vollebaek and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
to enlist their organizations' help in organizing "democratic
and fair" presidential elections, Interfax and ITAR-TASS
reported. Nuri charged that the current strained political
climate is "not contributing to peace and national accord."
He added that the UTO will not resume its participation in
the Commission for National Reconciliation until its demand
for an emergency session of the parliament is met. In a 28
October press release, Human Rights Watch termed the upcoming
presidential poll "a farce" in the light of government
restrictions on potential candidates and on the activities of
political parties, the media, and freedom of association. LF

ISLAMISTS AGAIN VOW TO MAKE UZBEKISTAN AN ISLAMIC STATE.
During a press conference conducted by telephone on 27
October, Zubair ibn Abdurrakhim, who is chairman of the board
of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, said the movement aims
to focus world attention on the persecution of "thousands and
thousands" of Muslims in Uzbekistan and ultimately to oust
the current Uzbek leadership and establish an Islamic state,
ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. He said the seizure by the
movement's guerrillas of hostages in Kyrgyzstan was in
retaliation for the Kyrgyz government's expulsion of 250
Uzbek oppositionists to Uzbekistan. Speaking in Dushanbe the
following day, United Tajik Opposition leader Nuri argued
against the forced deportation from eastern Tajikistan of
Uzbek Islamists who had failed to comply with the Tajik
government's 27 October deadline to leave the country
voluntarily, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

END NOTE

VIOLENCE AND RECRIMINATIONS OVERSHADOW GEORGIAN ELECTION
CAMPAIGN

by Liz Fuller

	In the runup to Georgia's 31 October parliamentary
elections, policy issues have been virtually eclipsed by
recriminations and complaints. Leaders of the most
influential political parties have accused one another of
malpractice. Hundreds of would-be candidates have complained
over the Central Electoral Commission's refusal to register
them. And there has been widespread concern about election-
related violence.
	As in the 1992 and 1995 elections, several dozen parties
and blocs are on the ballot sheet. And as in previous polls,
parties with very similar priorities and programs have mostly
chosen to run individually, rather than join forces. For
example, there are several parties or blocs representing
Communists and Stalinists, and three whose declared principal
aim is to revive the moribund industrial sector. At the same
time, the electoral alliances that have emerged tend to unite
parties with diverging, in some cases even conflicting
policies or orientations.
	Two blocs are considered to have the greatest chance of
achieving the minimum 7 percent of the vote needed to win
seats under the proportional system (150 seats in the
parliament are to be allocated under this system, while the
remaining 85 are to be contested in single-mandate
constituencies).
	The first comprises the Union of Citizens of Georgia
(SMK), which forms the largest faction in the outgoing
parliament, and the recently created Party for the Liberation
of Abkhazia, headed by the chairman of the so-called Abkhaz
parliament in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili. The second is the
Union for the Revival of Georgia, headed by Aslan Abashidze,
chairman of the Supreme Council of the Adjar Autonomous
Republic. That bloc unites four parties: Abashidze's Union
for Democratic Revival, which is the second-largest faction
in the outgoing parliament; the Socialist Party; the Union of
Traditionalists, which in 1990 formed part of the late Zviad
Gamsakhurdia's Round Table--Free Georgia coalition; 21st
Century, which includes supporters of the late president; and
a nameless group of supporters of former Georgian Communist
Party First Secretary Djumber Patiashvili.
	The only other groups that, according to observers, are
likely to win seats under the party-list system are the
right-wing National Democratic Alliance--Third Way; the Labor
Party, which scored a significant success in the November
1998 local elections; and Industry Will Save Georgia, which
is headed by beer magnate Gogi Topadze.
	The SMK's 1995 election victory was due to then
parliamentary chairman Eduard Shevardnadze's success in
stabilizing the domestic political situation after three
years of chaos, collapse, civil war, and economic decline and
thereby laying the foundation for a modest economic upswing.
But despite millions of dollars in credits from international
financial organizations, that upswing was not sustained, nor
did Shevardnadze succeed in making good on his 1995 election
promise to create 1 million new jobs. Popular disillusion
with the SMK contributed to the unanticipated strong showing
of Shalva Natelashvili's Labor Party in the November 1998
local elections.
	Observers disagree as to how much of a threat
Abashidze's alliance poses to the SMK. Adzharia may appear
relatively calm, stable, and prosperous compared with the
rest of Georgia, but that stability is maintained by
suppressing dissent. And many analysts believe that Adjaria's
economic success is at least partly due to its
misappropriation of millions of lari in taxes that should
have paid to the central government in Tbilisi. In addition,
Abashidze is widely regarded both in Georgia and abroad as a
stalking-horse for Moscow, which still maintains a military
base in Adzharia.
	An early October poll put support for the Union of
Citizens of Georgia at 27 percent and for the Union for
Revival at 17.8 percent. But an article in "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" of 22 October put Abashidze's support countrywide at
46 percent, compared with only 22 percent for Shevardnadze's
party. Such predictions, together with Shevardnadze's recent
description of the election campaign as "a struggle for
power," have served to fuel the widespread popular perception
that the SMK will resort to underhand means, including
falsification of the vote, to ensure an election victory.
	Other developments have similarly contributed to
apprehension that the poll will be less than free and fair.
Buses transporting Abashidze's supporters to a planned rally
in Tbilisi were intercepted by police in Khashuri, in western
Georgia, and forbidden to proceed for several days.
Natelashvili has claimed that power supplies have been cut in
some rural areas when Labor and other opposition candidates
appeared on state television. Several opposition and
independent candidates have been attacked and injured. And
the Central Electoral Commission refused to register a total
of 476 candidates on the grounds that their applications
contained errors. As of 25 October, the commission was still
unable to say precisely how many candidates would contend the
poll.
	The rising tensions have been exacerbated by the
realization that the parliamentary poll is, in effect, also a
"qualifier" for next April's presidential elections. Both
Shevardnadze and Abashidze have already announced their
intention to run in that ballot. If the SMK defeats
Abashidze's bloc by only a narrow margin, tensions will
likely rise even more over the next six months, and other
candidates may be tempted to participate in the hope not so
much of winning but of being rewarded for backing one or the
other candidate in an anticipated runoff. If, however,
Abashidze's bloc fares worse than most observers currently
predict, then either Patiashvili, Socialist Party leader
Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, or Traditionalists' chairman Akaki
Asatiani may decide to challenge Abashidze as the bloc's
presidential candidate.
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