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Issue No. 194 - October 13 , 2000.
Contents :

       By Paulyuk Bykowski

       By Mustafa Hajibeyli

       By Howard Jarvis

4. Special addition: NEW AT TOL

    By Paulyuk Bykowski
    By the latest figures, 566 people are running for 100 places
in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the National
Assembly of the Republic of Belarus which will take place on
Sunday, October 15. The number changed several times up to the
last moment because some candidates were deprived of their
registration after in-depth verification of their documents, and
others withdrew on their own. This did not alter the general
situation in the country, however.
    The basic question surrounding the elections lies in an
entirely different sphere. The West, through the European
Parliament and the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of
Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE), has already cited a lack of the conditions conducive to
free, just and democratic parliamentary elections, which means
that the level of acknowledgment of the second convocation of the
House of Representatives, like that of the first, will remain
unchanged. The world community did not acknowledge the results of
the November 1996 referendum on changes to the Constitution of
Belarus and, correspondingly, the formation of a new two-chamber
the National Assembly, but still acknowledges the single-chamber
Supreme Soviet of the 13th Convocation, dissolved in 1996, as
    Moreover, the ruling regime does not hide its desire to boost
its image in the eyes of its allies, Russia most of all, with a
formally democratic procedure for the elections. The Belarussian
opposition would like to prevent this, and the leading opposition
organizations called a boycott of what they consider unfair
elections. An insignificant number of opposition activists are
running in the elections independently, but the majority of them
were denied registration for formal reasons. It is curious to note
that, in Hrodno Region, where there is a Catholic enclave in
otherwise overwhelmingly Orthodox Belarus and the opposition is
especially strong, the refusal to register candidates is most
    However, all those matters are far from the minds of the
average voter, who is faced with the question of whether to vote
at all and, if so, for whom. These questions also settle the
problem of how to spend ones free time-whether to study election
information and the voting procedure or devote that time to family
life and more tradition hobbies-and give rise to an evaluation of
the elections from a personal point of view-how will my life be
better or worse if I do one thing or the other?
    In this connection, data published last week by the Institute
of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus are
interesting. According to a poll, with a margin of error of 2%,
conducted between August 28 and September 18 of 3000 potential
voters, across the country, 53.1% of the populace intends to vote,
13.4% intend not to vote and 32.2% had not decided. In Minsk, the
capital, where competition for the mandate is stronger, the threat
to the elections is even greater: 49.2% intend to vote, 19.9%
intend not to and 30.6% are undecided.
    Notably, boycott supporters in Minsk are far fewer than those
simply ignoring the elections-they constitute 18%. But that
difference shrinks within the margin of error and is not a very
solid basis for conclusions. It is another matter that voters are
increasingly disappointed by the lack of attention given them by
the candidates. It is, of course, wonderful that they are trying
to pay back wages in the country, that somewhere they turned the
hot water back on early (in many provincial cities, hot water is
turned off for the summer), somewhere else pensioners were given
discounts on groceries and so on. Nevertheless, people complain
that they do not know who to vote for.
    Last week, head of the Central Elections Committee Lidziya
Yarmoshyna expressed the wish that the candidate would be more
active, because people call her and ask, "Why hasn't anyone come
to see us?".
    Since only about half of the voters have decided to vote at
all, the absence of voters disgruntled by the absence of
electioneering could have a decisive influence even without the
opposition call for a boycott. If the boycott is successful in
some districts as well, it will be only in the first round, where
50% of the votes must be captured. (Seven million of the ten
million citizens have the right to vote. Therefore, for the vote
to be valid, 3,500,001 people must turn out at the polls.) New
election laws make it almost impossible to invalidate the results
of the second round of voting, since the threshold of votes sinks
from 50% to 25%.
    The authorities are taking the threat of the failure of the
voting seriously. The evolution of Yarmoshyna's views on the
agitation against the elections is telling. At first, she
considered such activity permissible. The she found a disagreement
between the Administrative and Elections Codes (the former, older
Code makes it a crime) and last week she stated that calls for a
boycott constitute "anti-governmental activity" that hinders
citizens' voting rights.
    Now Yarmoshyna sees no conflict between the two Codes. She
considers only "the actions of individual person who do not want
to go to the polls to be agitation against the elections." That is
allowed, she says, by the Elections Code, "but not a mass attack
aimed at the failure of the elections," which is prohibited by the
Administrative Code. Clearly, the question is one of the
flexibility of the law.
    However, there is another side to the low level of activity on
the part of most of the candidates. It may prove beneficial to
those who have made real elections campaigns. There are usually
only such candidates in every district and it is likely that the
voters will choose them.
    The devaluation of the legislative branch of government, the
history of the formation of the first House of Representatives
(the head of state openly appointed to it deputies from the
dissolved Supreme Soviet of the 13th Convocation who were loyal to
him) and the character of the electioneering (the authorities
refused to satisfy conditions put forward by the opposition and
supported by the OSCE for acknowledging the elections to be
democratic) together and separately create the impression among
Belarussians that voting as a democratic institution is dead. This
attitude may help the opponents of the ruling regime today, since
the opposition is boycotting the elections, but harm them
tomorrow, when the opposition will take place on presedential
elections in 2001.
    By Mustafa Hajibeyli
    The policy of the Azeri authorities until the last weeks was
directed towards the formalization of the parliament without the
representation of the radical oppositional forces. That is why the
CEC refused to register the parties and candidates that have a
perspective of gaining success in the elections held both on
proportional and majoritarian systems. But the authorities could
not rightly estimate its possibilities.
    The Musavat Party presently being a leading party of the
democratic opposition could achieve to join to the electoral
process regardless of the resistance of the authorities. As a
result, the total propaganda campaign of the authorities against
the party, the efforts of presenting this party as a terrorist
party, arresting the editor-in-chief of one of the leading
newspapers of the country, and others during that period have
become at a favor of the Musavat.
    At last, the stage of registering candidates-one of the
important stage at the electoral process has finished. Having to
step back before the foreign and internal pressures, the
authorities have permitted all the parties that present the CEC
over 50 thousands voters' signatures to the elections. As a
result, the number of the parties that will participate in the
elections on proportional system has become 13 [National
Independence, New Azerbaijan, Citizens' Solidarity, Popular Front
('Yurd" fraction), People's Democrat, Liberal, Communist, National
Congress, Alliance for the sake of Azerbaijan, Democrat, Musavat,
Democratic Azerbaijani World parties, as well as "Democratic
Azerbaijan" bloc founded by 3 pro-governmental parties].
    In the opinion of political observers, in case of being held
democratic parliamentary elections, the main competition at the
proportional circles will go between the ruling New Azerbaijan
[YAP] and Musavat Parties. These comments are based on the
following arguments: even though most part of the population is
dissatisfactory from the current authorities, the ruling party has
a stable electorate. It is expected that over 100 thousands of
officials working at the executive structures of the country, most
of the persons working at the military departments and police
agencies will vote for the YAP. In addition, YAP, undoubtedly, has
strong social bases at the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan.
There must be taken into consideration of having great financial
possibilities of the ruling party, as well.
    As to the Party Musavat, it is expected that the electorate
being dissatisfactory of the authorities will, basically, vote for
this party. The influence of Isa Gambar in society, differing the
party headed by him with its monolithic character, in addition
supporting the party by tens of various parties, as well as
"Elchibeychi" branch of the Popular Front, People's Party, Ahrar,
Freedom, Modern Turan, "Geyrat", and others prove that this party
will gain a success in the parliamentary elections.
    According to the experts' opinions, the 3-5th places will be
taken by the National Independence, Democrat, and "Yurd" fraction
of the Popular Front. Nevertheless, in case of holding the
elections democratic, possibly the "Yurd" members may not pass the
6 percent of minimal vote barrage. It is prognosticated that
Liberal and Citizen's Solidarity Parties will collect voices
around 3-6 percent, as well. And other pro-governmental parties
only play a role of statistic view in the elections and are
expected that will collect less than 1 percent of voices.
    As to the majoritarian circles, the situation here is
completely at a favor of the authorities. The CEC has refused to
register the candidacy of most of the opposition members at the
majoritarian circles. In other words, even if the authorities lose
the success at the proportional elections, they can gain the
majority of voices in the next parliament because of the
majoritarian elections.
    By Howard Jarvis
    Throughout the summer, many people in Latvia were anticipating
September 1 as a threshold as significant as the new millenium.
Would life be fundamentally different somehow? Would such an event
bring forth volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, a nation-wide
catastrophe? Would life ever be the same again?
    But the much-anticipated 11 resolutions of the Latvian State
Language Law took effect on that day with much the same sort of
anti-climax as Y2K. No great calamity has befallen Latvia's
700,000 Russian speakers, who have little or no knowledge of
Latvian (about 30 per cent of the population). No mass abuse of
human rights has occurred, no "discrimination of ethnic
minorities", as Russia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it feared
in dozens of statements and press releases on the subject.
    Any visit to Latvia's capital Riga - where Latvians are a
minority - will confirm that Moscow's generally hysterical claims
that Russians are being cruelly repressed are deep within the
realms of fantasy. Since September 1, there have been no riots, no
angry demonstrations, not a placard in sight. A "hotline" set up
by the left-wing parliamentary coalition For Equal Rights in a
United Latvia to receive complaints at a "coordination center" has
so far received minimal response.
    Either Moscow misunderstands the meaning of human rights -
while failing to inform its own citizens about the importance and
application of human rights - or its statements, which grow
increasingly desperate as they fall on deaf ears, are part of a
premeditated propaganda campaign to discredit the Baltic states.
    The Latvian language law governs the use of language in the
workplace, at events and public meetings, the spelling of names
and surnames in Latvian, documents, and so on. In the law, every
type of public sector job has its own required level of
proficiency in Latvian. The rapidly growing private sector is only
affected in cases where there is legitimate public interest
involved in the job (for instance, so that a pharmacist does not
sell laxatives instead of sleeping pills because he/she does not
understand what has been asked for), or where the individual
performs a public function delegated by the state by law (for
instance, sworn notaries have their private business but they
perform certain functions for the state).
    Both Latvia and Estonia have introduced language regulations
for the hundreds of thousands of Russian-speakers who arrived from
all corners of the Soviet Union as industrial labor while the
Baltic states were under Soviet occupation. Russian-speakers must
pass language tests if they want citizenship. In Lithuania, where
they make up a far smaller percentage of the population, Russian-
(and Polish-) speakers were granted automatic citizenship with
independence in 1991.
    Latvians and Estonians know that between the invasion of the
Baltic countries by the Soviet Union in 1940, and again in 1944,
and their declarations of independence ten years ago, it was their
own languages that were being repressed. During the Stalinist
period, most of those who did not speak Russian found themselves
among the hundreds of thousands of Balts sent to Siberia. The new
language laws, they say, promote their languages, the position of
which had weakened during Soviet occupation. None of the languages
of the Baltic republics come from the Slavic language family.
    The language law in Latvia has received the support of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It
replaces a Soviet-era law passed in 1989, now very much outdated.
"I view the regulations implementing the State Language Law as
being essentially in conformity with both the law and Latvia's
international obligations," said the OSCE High Commissioner on
Minorities Max van der Stoel on August 31. The OSCE worked closely
with Latvia to make sure that the law would not create
discrimination. These are regulations, not restrictions. Employers
are able to use their own judgement to decide on the standard of
Latvian needed by their employees.
    Before the law was passed, the OSCE made recommendations about
the wording of some of the regulations, almost all of which were
incorporated. Requirements were made less demanding. For example,
top government officials, university lecturers and doctors needed
a "near-native language" level in the original draft of the law.
They now have to have only something approaching an intermediate
    Indeed, many Latvian politicians now feel that the
watered-down law is now not far-reaching enough. Right-wing MP
Juris Sinka is reported as saying that, "Latvia seems to be unable
to tell those who entered the country illegally under Soviet
occupation that they have to learn our language before they can
get citizenship. The families of Latvian deportees living in
terrible conditions in Siberia get no Latvian education. Here, we
expect respect for our culture and language."
    The lack of any objection to the new language law seems to
imply that ordinary people do not feel that it interferes with
their lives. Prime Minister Andris Berzins has said that the
regulations "protect the Latvian language and do not discriminate
against others in any way." A compromise has been reached between
international standards and Latvia's unique situation - a "golden
mean", according to Justice Minister Ingrida Labucka. The
regulations, incidentally, may be viewed at the Latvian Justice
Ministry's website, at
Special Edition : NEW AT TOL
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still available at

 (Free Access)
    EU Lifts Sanctions Against Yugoslavia
    Milosevic Could Face Trial at Home for Election Fraud
    Poles Re-Elect Kwasniewski As Walesa Fades
    Swing To The Left in Lithuanian Elections
    Russia Half-Heartedly Congratulates Kostunica
    Belarus Opposition Hopes for Belgrade-Style Revolution
    Former Communists Dominate Mongolian Local Election
    Czech Nuclear Power Plant Looks Set To Launch, Despite Protests
    Bulgaria Releases Russian Mafia Boss Awaiting Extradition to the US
    Romania Makes Bold Move for Moldovan Dissident's Release
    Special Report: The Downfall of Milosevic

    OUR TAKE: OUR TAKE: Rebuilding Yugoslavia
    by Luke Allnutt
    (Free Access)
    For once, with President Slobodan Milosevic stepping down, the
news from Yugoslavia is good. Just like 1989's revolutions across
Eastern Europe, recent events in Yugoslavia have shown that, in
the face of a repressive regime, people power can triumph. But
there are more pertinent parallels with post-communist Eastern
Europe--and ones that those involved in getting Yugoslavia back on
its feet will ignore at their peril.
    FEATURE: Bulldozing the Regime
    by Dragan Stojkovic
    (Free Access)
    Throughout Belgrade, citizens are still in a state of major
disbelief. Although the capital had been the center of numerous
demonstrations in the past, to a great extent, people never
believed they could beat Milosevic. Several months ago, when one
citizen returned from a demonstration, he said that he was tired
of standing in front of the parliament and singing, "Give peace a
chance." The people from the central Serbian city of Cacak
obviously tired of this, too. A local journalist retraces a
caravan of protest from Cacak to Belgrade to the beginnings of

    This month's "In Focus" package: Rotten To the Core
    Two more pieces on corruption in the region.

    IN FOCUS: Keeping It In The Family
    Feature by Dzenana Karup-Drusko
    (Free Access)
    A number of media organizations were tipped off ahead of the
event, so journalists were already on the scene when police
arrested a criminal in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on 4
August. The policemen were ready for trouble. Their target was,
according to the official report on the operation, often
accompanied by "persons known to the police as criminal and very
violent." The recent arrest of Alija Delimustafic, a former
minister and shady businessman, in Bosnia has revealed a trail of
slime that has implicated many in high places.

    IN FOCUS: How To Steal a Country
    Book Review by Jen Tracy
    (Free Access)
    It reads like fiction, but it's not. It's just contemporary
Russia, and its real-life screenplay rivals the best Mario Puzo
had to offer. In a new book, "Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris
Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia," Paul Klebnikov tells the
story of how Russia's "Godfather," Boris Berezovsky, metamorphosed
from a political scientist and software developer to an enormously
wealthy and immensely powerful fleecer of his own country. More
importantly, it is the story of "Berezovsky's rise and Russia's

    FEATURE: Yugoslavia's Lunatic Fringe
    by Goran Gocic
    Over the last decade, classic Balkan surrealism has undergone
an irrational metamorphosis out of which have emerged hordes of
clairvoyants, prophets, sorcerers, and freaks. This new lunatic
fringe haunts the Serbian public scene and has moved ever closer
to the center of the country's political life. And the lines
between art and politics, fantasy and reality have increasingly

    FEATURE: Bolshoi Perestroika
    by Ana Uzelac
    A multi-million dollar grant and new management should have
been the engines behind a much needed overhaul of Moscow's
grandest theater. Instead, they have resulted in the sort of
intrigue, drama, and turmoil more appropriate for the stage than
to a behind-the-scenes administration.