Issue No. 150-November 22, 1999
1. Ukraine: KUCHMA'S REELECTION DELIVERS KNOCKOUT - TO UKRAINE
By Ivan Lozowy
2. FRY/ Serbia: " RECONSTRUCTION "
By Zoran Mamula
3. Macedonia: WITHOUT A PRESIDENT ?
By Nebojasa Jakonov
4. Special report : IMPRESSIONS FROM INGUSHETIA
By Chris Hunter
5. Special addition: TRANSITIONS ONLINE
Ukraine : KUCHMA'S REELECTION DELIVERS KNOCKOUT
- TO UKRAINE
By Ivan Lozowy
The bout had been carefully arranged. The arena was swept clean and a reliable (read - loyal) umpire chosen. The main feature of this second round contest was that the challenger to the reigning champion had been carefully, oh so carefully, chosen. The challenger-s principal characteristic, in fact, was that he was bound to lose. And lose he did.
In the second round of Ukraine's presidential elections which took place November 14, the incumbent president, Leonid Kuchma, received 56% of the vote while his opponent, Chairman of the Communist Party of Ukraine Valentyn Symonenko received 38%. The issue had never really been in any doubt. After all, Kuchma-s most dangerous potential opponent, Socialist Party Chairman Oleksandr Moroz and speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, or parliament, for four years until 1998 had been fastidiously sidelined prior to the first round of voting in Ukraine-s third presidential elections since independence was declared in 1991.
To begin with, one of Moroz- protégés, Natalia Vitrenko, turned against Moroz, founding her own Progressive Socialist Party in 1995. Thereafter Vitrenko would wage battle first and foremost against Moroz and only secondarily against the current president. A firebrand politician and an excellent orator, Vitrenko was, according to widely shared opinion, supported by Kuchma-s Administration, including financially. Then two of Moroz- main arms of support were dismembered. Firstly, former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, of prodigious financial strength acquired through shadowy means and potentially the chief financier of Moroz- presidential campaign, was hounded out of the country.
The contrast between Lazarenko and Oleksandr Volkov, one of Kuchma-s principal campaign organizers, is instructive. Volkov, whose illegally gotten gains, among them one million dollars worth of automobiles impounded in Brussels, were the subject of attention by international police agencies. Yet he to date sits securely in parliament and enters Kuchma-s inner circle of advisers. The second serious blow to Moroz- chances was the desertion of the Peasants- Party, which had supported him, even by entering a two-party coalition until mid-1999. Losing the Peasant-s Party-s support, constituting of the collective farm nomenklatura, meant Moroz- village vote drifted largely toward the communist Symonenko. With Moroz effectively neutralized, pressure was brought on the mass media. TV stations withdrew programs deemed insufficiently favorable to Kuchma. One TV station owner was forced to sell his stake to a government insider.
The media inundated the public with news about Kuchma round the clock. Store windows across Ukraine were pasted over with smiling portraits of the "Dear Leader." Mass concerts were organized for young people and, just in case, election day, a Sunday, was declared a school day, making it easier for students to make their choice under the watchful eye of their school administrators. Ukrainian voters missed the point of all this planning and activity, which was aimed at getting Kuchma reelected. In the meantime, not much, if anything, was being done to get the country out of the deep crisis it has slipped into. This point became clearer, however, to voters the morning after the second round of voting, when Kuchma overcame Symonenko.
Many Ukrainians woke up not so much relieved that the "red threat" posed by Symonenko was over as with a quiet disbelief that, since the status quo had triumphed, nothing would change for the better over the coming years. Kuchma-s team has not hidden its views on the susceptibility of Ukrainian voters to manipulation. Former president Leonid Kravchuk, who openly supported Kuchma, for example, said that Ukrainians are "tired of struggling" and just want to be left in peace. This is mostly wishful thinking inasmuch as further economic decline will bring more and more people out of a state of post-communist torpor.
Kuchma, along with Ukraine, is now saddled with his "creation," the communist opposition. So long as matters go from bad to worse it is the communists who will be seen as the primary alternative to Kuchma-s regime. This factor stands ostensibly behind Kuchma-s new initiative, aimed, as is so often the case with post-communist nomenklatura rulers, at gaining more personal power. Kuchma announced, even before the results of the second round were known, that he would seek to create a majority in parliament with which he could work. If this sounds innocuous, it should be kept in mind that Kuchma-s position lends him with singular authority and massive power in Ukraine-s centralized governmental system. He already possesses more power than he knows what to do with and the argument that parliament is stymieing reforms simply is not convincing. More than likely, Kuchma will be seeking to neutralize parliament, the only repository of forces which are in opposition to his administration. Maneuvering among these forces, which include more than just the communists and their allies, has already begun.
A fledgling right-of-center opposition may be forming, with an agreement of cooperation signed by Yuriy Kostenko-s Rukh, former Lazarenko henchwoman Yulia Tymoshenko-s Fatherland Party, the Green Party and Workers- Ukraine. Although Kuchma has opened the door, at least theoretically, to the formation of a coalition government, since his scenario for the presidential elections was realized in toto he is unlikely to pursue this course. True to his form, Kuchma will continue to amass power, this time by manipulating parliament. Kuchma-s team, including the inner circle of oligarchs who control the most lucrative economic levers, sees the key to maintaining a firm grip on power in reducing parliament-s effectiveness. This is business as usual for Kuchma, who has complained since 1993 when he briefly served as Prime Minister that he has insufficient power to push through changes. Business as usual, however, means continued suffering for Ukrainians and a continued slide downward.
Kuchma has demonstrated his ability to retain power, but that has never
been a recommendation for a reformist president. Although, in a democracy,
the voters are always right, this time they have made sure that matters
will continue to get worse before there is any chance of them getting better.
FRY/Serbia: " RECONSTRUCTION "
By Zoran Mamula
"Let's go forward" - is the key slogan of numerous reconstruction video clips broadcast every day on Serbian state television. Clips showing repaired bridges which were damaged during NATO air strikes are targeted to show that the government, after heroic defense, continues its mission by re-building all that was devastated during war. The main protagonist of the action is Milutin Mrkonjic, director of Office for reconstruction of the country, a close associate and a friend of president Milosevic.
Every day, live on TV, Mrkonjic listens to reports submitted by construction chiefs all over the country and demands from them to finish their tasks during given dates, which are often incredibly short. The best example is Mrkonjic's demand that a residential building for 50 families from Cuprija, which lost their homes in NATO bombardment, be finished in only three months (from September to 29th of November), although all construction plans showed that the minimum time was eight months.
However, if we disregard government propaganda which irresistibly resembles communist Agit-prop from 1946, we should still remark that the government manages to keep up to the promise of quick reconstruction, in which many refused to believe. How - is hard to find out, but what has been built so far has confused even the rare optimists. Out of 121 reconstruction sites opened since 17th June when reconstruction began 35 closed, work on them finished. Results of the 5-month campaign are 15 repaired or newly built road bridges, 4 railway bridges, 40 residential buildings, a heating plant, a faculty, a hospital, sport hall and numerous small repairs. Information on reconstruction cost held by Office is unavailable as well as the most interesting thing - where is the money coming from. According to the group of independent economists G17, 160 million US dollars is needed to repair the damaged bridges alone.
During foundation of Office for reconstruction of the country, 50 million dinars was given from the republic budget as a investment capital. Besides budget, sources of finance included commercial banks, other financial institutions and donations. There have been three foreign donations so far. Data on local donations is not yet sorted out. Serbian needs were presented during the meeting with businessmen from diaspora last summer. Prominent Serbs from abroad gave many heated speeches, but the outcome was too little money on the account of Office. Somewhat later, there was a first donators' conference which yielded fifteen donations. Grand total didn't exceed Office's investment capital. However, money is there, at least for now. According to economists, financial aid for reconstruction is coming from abroad, despite embargo. That is brought into relation with twice repeated Milosevic's message to his party colleagues that the time has come to give a part of what they had took out back to the country. Good analysts of the SPS and its ruling methods say that it is an officially non-existent tax which the Serbian government imposed on their SPS colleagues who became rich after many a lucrative business. Asked where is the money for reconstruction coming from, the only government official to answer was vice-president of the Serbian government Vojislav Seselj. He said that the government printed 4 billion dinars since mid-1999. The governor of Yugoslav national bank himself contradicted him the next day, claiming that the money in circulation hasn't been increased.
However, independent media are warning that what has been repaired so far is in quality and quantity only a small part of what had been bombarded. Their forecast is that, if reconstruction continues without foreign assistance, next several generations will live in poverty. Belgrade Economy Institute estimated that reconstruction of the country without foreign aid will at the end of the year cause new printing of money and hyperinflation, leading to crash of trade balance in a year, and to a complete state bankruptcy in two years. There are no official answer also to two other questions: do workers on reconstruction sites work over the time regulated by law and how much money do they get. According to construction workers themselves, they work in three shifts, even by night, under artificial light provided by reflectors. That was witnessed by Belgrade citizens who watched work on heavily damaged headquarters of the Serbian government the reconstruction of which is rapidly coming to an end. Syndicate representatives are not allowed to access the sites, so we can speak about physical exhaustion of the workers only on the grounds of their grievances.
The most important people on construction site receive 100 DEM a month. Engineers on the field who work even during the weekend in order to finished work during time-limit get their wages periodically. According to syndicates, most workers receive very low wages. However, they have no choice because most of them are happy to begin working on anything at all, and other construction firms out of contracts don't' give wages even after 10 months. Reconstruction of the country after the war is undoubtedly the best possible government campaign. Using regular and exhaustive reports about construction achievements the government is turning the attention of populace from the gravest consequences of NATO air strikes - loss of human lives, but also greater poverty and isolation of the country. And one of the consequences of the three-months war with NATO countries is the crisis in the power system..
Due to increase in power use caused by low temperatures and increased heating of Serbian flats, last week Serbia introduced occasional switching off two hours a day. Increase in use was also caused by the fact that former users of individual boilers heating schools, hospitals, kindergartens and flats had to start using power grid. On the first restriction day, power use was, according to Serbian Elektroprivreda (EPS) - government firm in charge of electricity, halted at 104 million KW/hour and if it stayed at that level, there would be no need for restrictions, EPS officials said. Elektroprivreda production was seriously hampered during NATO air strikes (one third of the total number of transformers is out of use as well as 25 transmission-line pylons with the damage estimated at 300 million DEM) and is now at 110 million kWh. According to expert estimates, power use would have reached 116 million kWh had the restrictions not begun. Additional problem is completely stopped production from Kosovo since Kosovo power plants gave a fifth of total electricity production in Serbia. All media "attack" citizens with warnings to cut down on power use or not use power as heating source but to "take out coal and firewood" and use them even when there is power. At the end of last week, EPS leaders announced that restrictions would be cancelled in a few days and that the power would be imported from Slovakia.
We will see is it for real or is it another government propaganda. Subject that is intensively covered by local media for months and also belongs to consequences of war is - will ships ever again sail across Danube? Sailing across this most important river in south-eastern Europe is rendered impossible since bridges in Novi Sad have been destroyed during NATO intervention. After bombardment stopped, Yugoslav government said it would remove bridges' remains from Danube if the countries which destroyed the bridges built new ones. The European Union is firmly supporting sanctions and for now doesn't even think about rebuilding the bridges. Till war, Danube was the most important and also the most cheap trade and transport route and a source of big profits. However, all that came to pass after NATO airplanes destroyed all three Novi Sad bridges. In background of increased pressure from governments of Danube countries, especially Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria on Yugoslavia to remove the remains of collapsed bridges from the river and make it passable again lies an enormous loss that is affecting not only merchant shipping companies but also the complete economy of those countries every day. According to the latest estimates, only direct loss and unrealized profit of all river boats , expenses of anchoring in international ports and price of upkeep of several hundred boats which have been blocked for over seven months with their complete cargo in "territorial waters" of Danube countries amounts to incredible 1 billion dollars. Across Danube were transported 100 million tons of goods a year, and since May 1999 not a fifth of that number has been achieved. Ukrainians cannot transport their ore to big steelworks in the West by the river, Bulgarian catamarans transporting tens of trucks and caravans don't sail, Romanian firms cannot transport corn, soy or oil, Slovak shipbuilders cannot ship their customers the already made vessels and Vienna-based company DDSG -Kargo alone loses 80,000 US$ a day.
Yugoslav authorities gave the same answer to pleas of the neighboring countries to clear up Danube and re-establish normal sailing - there is no sailing without reconstruction of destroyed bridges. Such a firm standpoint provoked various reactions of nearby countries, from radical moves such as blocking Yugoslav ships in Romanian port of Konstanza to more peaceful overtones like Austrian initiative to persuade EU to build at least one bridge over Danube as humanitarian aid so that official Belgrade cleans river bottom from remnants of the steel bridge constructions. Will the agreement about sailing across Danube be reached is uncertain. If the agreement is not reached, winter months will bring another risk. If the river freezes, experts are warning, the water can accumulate like in a lake which could cause great floods. But these accidents look like minor disturbances compares to environmental consequences of three-months bombardment which will be felt by next generations.
The forecasts of Yugoslav environmentalists are similar in their pessimism to the reports of international experts. The media coverage of their findings caused additional fear in populace. According to preliminary report of a team composed of Russian, Greek, Austrian and Swedish experts (Earth Focus), Yugoslavia faces a real environmental disaster if it doesn't take urgent steps in the most damaged areas. The city of Pancevo tops the list and is followed by Novi Sad, Smederevo, Pristina, Nis and Bor. Everyday attacks on chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical factories, oil refineries, oil tanks and power plants caused much technological and industrial damage across the country. Also, use of munitions with depleted uranium resulted in release of great amounts of various dangerous materials which have carcinogenic, toxic and other dangerous effects on people, plants and animals. Apart from 1500 tons of ammoniac and its derivatives in rivers, including Danube, more than 1000 tons of dichloretan and 250 tons of liquid chlorine were spilt. Environmentalists point out NATO countries as main culprits for the disastrous situation, but they also blame Serbian authorities which failed to prevent accident from happening. Tens of tons of extremely poisonous materials has been stored in objects that were on NATO target lists. The government didn't even bother to hide its negligence - media regularly reported about evaded catastrophes. Fortunately, pirelen was never spilt nor was ammoniac hit. Living in so disorganized state and led by irresponsible officials we are lucky to come out alive - says Nikola Aleksic president of Ecological movement from Novi Sad.
As much as 180 tons of fire-extinguishing foam on 90 hectares of Novi
Sad refinery alone, together with oil, masut and other derivatives. Aleksic
says that there is a real possibility that all those chemicals will enter
the underground layer where they will be impossible to clean thus causing
a great danger due to slow poisoning of the populace. That is the cause
of fear of a real explosion of cancer-related diseases in the future. The
real extent of the poison and radiation will be known only in a several
years when complete health statistics will be published. For many things
it will be too late.
Macedonia : WITHOUT A PRESIDENT ?
By Nebojasa Jakonov
Eight days after end of presidential elections in Macedonia it is still unclear when will the presidential office, a former home of the first leader of Macedonian independent state Kiro Gligorov until 19th November, have a new tenant. That is a consequence of a spectacular reversal in second cycle of presidential elections held on 14th November where presidential candidate of the ruling VMRO - Democratic party of Macedonian national unity Boris Trajkovski managed to cross, as some say, impenetrable obstacle of more than a hundred thousand voters (out of total 1 million 600 thousand) given to his rival Tito Petkovski.
Opposition Socialdemocrat Union of Macedonia accused current Macedonian government of rigging elections and filed official complaint with State electoral commission. Complaint stated irregularities in almost as much as one third of a total of 85 election sites in the country. Such flood of complaints, as expected, completely disturbed regular work of commission which this Monday -four days after the legal time limit for complaints was reached - finally managed to finish its part and accepted only thirty of 200 complaints on election procedures at individual voting sites. Fact that socialdemocrats processed all their declined complaints to the Supreme Court means that, until further notice, head of Macedonia will be, according to Constitution, Savo Klimovski, president of Macedonian parliament Sobranje.
Socialdemocrats think that the current tri-coalition government composed of VMRO, centrist Democratic alternative (party of former Yugoslavia high official Vasil Tupurkovski) and Democratic party of Albanians headed by Arben Xaferi, misused voters of usually very disciplined Albanian voters concentrated in western parts of the country, thus securing irregular, according to Socialdemocrats, victory of young Boris Trajkovski which eventually ended with a slight advantage over Tito Petkovski, a veteran from the ranks of reformed communists. Last week Socialdemocrats asked for support of not only State election commission but also, directly, from the voters in their claims about "big" and "scandalous" election rig. Socialdemocrat Union (SDSM) organised two great protest rallies in Skopje, capital of Macedonia. Since SDSM is so large it shares first place with the ruling VMRO (some estimates say both parties have rather stable support of voters, about 30 per cent for each party) communists managed to gather a significant number of their very ill-humoured supporters. Also, SDSM was helped by an atmosphere of political confrontation which is usual at elections. Although SDSM leaders very carefully tried to avoid falling into nationalism, Socialdemocrat supporters seem to think that the new Macedonian president has been chosen by Albanians, a national minority although their objective number is 400,000 of a total of 2 million Macedonian citizens.
Translated into language of slogans, some claim it were "UCK elections" (military and political organisation of Kosovar Albanians whose beliefs are, some Macedonians think, shared by Arben Xaferi's Democratic party of Albanians); other say the elections result are a clear sign of secret agreement between, allegedly, pro-Bulgarian (therefore anti-Serbian and anti-Yugoslav) VMRO and "nationalist Albanian" DPA about the future division of Macedonia and annexation of its parts to Albania and Bulgaria. There were some ideological regrouping in opposition not the least influenced by last year's parliamentary elections where once strictly nationalist VMRO turned towards more moderate doctrine in solving inter-ethnic tensions and by events in Kosovo which, many say, caused rise of anti-Albanian and anti-Western, therefore pro-Yugoslav option in Macedonia).
To make the things even more complicated, "alternatives" led by Vasil Tupurkovski also had their role in general chaos following presidential elections and, more generally, those political factors inclined towards centrist and moderate option. In the last three-four months relations within the ruling coalition have been strung which culminated just before presidential elections when VMRO officials, headed by young party leader and prime minister Ljupce Georgievski, refused to back Vasil Tupurkovski as a joint presidential candidate of the ruling coalition. As a result, each of the three ruling parties nominated their own candidate which caused disastrous score of the candidates after the first cycle of voting, when Tupurkovski lost presidential race. The defeat of Democratic alternative leader (who, nevertheless, still was the third on the list) further prompted disappointed members and supporters of that party to themselves accept the opposition view and publicly state that elections were rigged. By the way, the same attitude about the results of presidential elections was taken by the members of Liberal-democrat party, second strongest centrist party, which was part of opposition before, but came very close to current regime during pre-election period. Finally, the only to claim that the presidential elections were fair and democratic are VMRO and Democratic party of Albanians, two parties blamed they "directed" victory of Boris Trajkovski.
At the first time, such constellation gave, it seemed, additional strength to the opposition to ask not only for declaring election results invalid, but also to initiate early parliamentary elections, which Socialdemocrats did, officially inaugurating their new political platform on a rally in Skopje. Salvation for shaken position of the ruling parties came, some say unexpectedly, from the international community. First OSCE monitors officially said that elections were fair and then came congratulations to new president Boris Trajkovski from leading western countries. Some of them, like USA, composed their best wishes to the new leader of a small Balkan country in the best tradition of great diplomacy which always leaves some manoeuvring space. By the way, one gets the impression that this western attitude somewhat shook opposition enthusiasm and its opinion about chances to again come to power, if not fully than at least in presidential cloak. Finally, we should say that the only thing there is a political consensus in Macedonia nowadays is the person of now already former president of the state Kiro Gligorov. Not only for protocolary reasons since he retired after two mandate, all political factors and all public officials in general say that he has been a statesman who left a permanent mark in the modern history of Macedonia achieving, in murky times, its independence and, most important, establishing its sovereignty despite all obstacles.
That's why the phrase "Macedonian president" will for many remain linked
to Gligorov and why his younger successors will have to work a lot to win
his reputation. Gligorov himself said, after leaving position as president,
that he's out of politics and will be spending the time writing memoirs.
Special report : IMPRESSIONS FROM INGUSHETIA
War and Human Rights
Special issue, November 22, 1999
22 November 1999, Chris Hunter, Moscow
Human Rights Network Group and Ryazan Regional Memorial Society.
For more information visit our web site at www.hro.org/war
Karta/Memorial/Human Rigts Network,
Stop war in Russia:
Special addition : TRANSITIONS ONLINE
So Much for Brotherly Love
by Veseljko Koprivica
Montenegrins of all religious persuasion are rallying behind the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (CPC), annexed to the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) in 1920. At issue is the CPC's legitimacy as well as some 600 monasteries and churches it claims as rightfully its own. But though Montenegrins worldwide are championing the CPC as a symbol of national pride, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic is pointedly steering clear of the fray.
The Lure of Fundamentalism
by Birgit Brauer
Kyrgyzstan was shaken by the taking of hostages in August by a group of self-proclaimed "fundamentalists." But fundamentalism has become a catch-all term, exploited by both governments and rebels to inspire fear among the masses. Plagued by economic hardship and fearing an uncertain future, Central Asians are turning to Islam -- some as an attempt to return to their roots, but many more as a way of filling a spiritual vacuum.
When Church and State Collide
by Felix Corley
The same day of the shootings in the Armenian parliament, holy myrrh was being poured over the head of the new Catholicos -- the religious head of Armenians worldwide. The run-up to Karekin II's election had been fraught with accusations of government meddling and pressure. Bishops who claimed that politicians rigged the election had threatened to boycott the ceremony. Though the assassinations overshadowed the controversy, relations between church and state will never be the same.
Let My People Go
by Felix Corley
Uzbekistan has come under fire in the past decade for its cruel treatment of religious minorities. But the Uzbek government was
awfully eager to broadcast the release of five religious prisoners -- all Christians -- to the West. While international humanitarian
organizations were busy clapping themselves on the back, thousands of Muslims still languish in Uzbek prisons.
The Hit Parade
by Agnes Csonka
What do hellfire, speaking in tongues, eternal salvation, and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), an opposition liberal party in Hungary, have in common? The dynamic Christian movement Hit, which has provoked controversy since its founding in the 80s. Some claim that -- in addition to brainwashing members and extorting money -- Hit leaders are way too close for comfort to the SZDSZ.
And check out our new Week in Review section (http://www.tol.cz/week.html), where TOL correspondents throughout the region give a run-down of the week's top stories. From the Ukrainian presidential election results to Belarusians grudgingly celebrating the Bolshevik revolution to Bulgaria's alarmingly shrinking population.
Opinion pieces on how a change in political power in Moldova only means new ways to steal, plus why the killings in the Armenian parliament could unify the country ... "In Their Own Words" excerpts include an interview with former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar where he proclaims his government delivered "absolute freedom," and a plea from Belarusian workers to beatify President Alyaksandar Lukashenka ... and media stories on Estonia's booming IT industry and Bulgaria's secret taping
Using a network of local correspondents in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union, Transitions
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and culture and Index on Censorship, the international journal for free expression. It's ten years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the world is a very different place. On a journey through Germany, Russia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, the Middle East, India, Africa, China and the U.S., Index asks: "What price democracy?" Find the answers at Index's web site: (http://www.indexoncensorship.org).