Issue No. 199. - November 17, 2000.
1. Bosnia and Hercegovina : VICTORY OF THE INDESTRUCTIBLES
By Radenko Udovicic
2. Azerbaijan : OPPOSITION DOES NOT ACCEPT ELECTION
By Farhad Mammadov
3. Russia/ Dagestan : A NEW FOCUS OF TENSION
By Valekh Rzaev
Bosnia and Herzegovina : VICTORY OF THE INDESTRUCTIBLES
By Radenko Udovicic
The general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
hailed as the
bringer of major changes in the country's political landscape,
failed to achieve the expected results. Three hard-line national
parties - the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the Serbian
Democratic Party (SDS) and the Party of Democratic Action (SDA)
have remained in power, at least on a federal level. The Social
Democrat Party (SDP) also won a good number of parliamentary
seats, but it has already said it won't co-operate with parties it
In the elections in the individual entities, the
new Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) gained popularity in the
Serb Republic, and the Party for B-H led by the former Bosnian
prime minister Haris Silajdzic won influence in Federation B-H. At
the time of writing, most Bosniak votes were given to the Party of
Democratic Action, while most Croats supported the Croatian
Democratic Union, with almost 90 percent of the ballots in
Federation B-H having been counted. Both parties will thus keep
their dominant positions. These are followed by the
Social-Democratic Party (SDP) and the Party for B-H. All other
parties will prove minor, judging by the votes so far. If the SDA
and the Party for B-H form a coalition, they gain a majority in
the federal parliament. This coalition is expected to form, since
the parties have similar nationalist platforms and have formed a
coalition before. Of course, the government cannot form without
the HDZ, due to national reciprocity, so that one can already say
the structure of government will remain the same. Both the SDA and
the Party for B-H came out better than they had at the local
elections, and once again drew some voters from the Social
Democrat Party (SDP), the same party that won local elections in
almost all major centres of the Federation's Bosniak region last
spring. The SDP was especially shocked that it failed to win 51
percent of the vote in the cantons of Sarajevo and Tuzla. The SDP
won 39 percent of the vote in the Sarajevo region and slightly
over 40 percent in the Tuzla region, according to the 90 percent
of ballots tallied so far. This is still enough for a relative
lead, but the SDP will be unable to form government on its own.
The SDP also has a small lead over SDA in the canton of Gorazde.
However, the final results are modest, since SDP expected victory
in five cantons.
The HDZ fared better, getting over 70 percent of
vote. At the same time Croats also organised a referendum on the
equality of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which included
several demands for gaining Croatian national equality. One of
these is, indirectly, the creation of a third, Croatian entity in
B-H. This goal is extremely dangerous, since it means a unilateral
change in the Dayton Accords and has been rejected by the
international community, which proclaimed the referendum
unconstitutional. Nevertheless, 70 percent of registered Croatian
voters participated in the referendum, which resulted in 98
percent in favor of a functional and territorial redefinition of
" From this moment the mission of the international
Bosnia is over for Bosnian Croats," said HDZ president Ante
Jelavic, also a member of the state presidency, in response to the
High representative Wolfgang Petrich responded by
Jelavic "the only politician in the Balkans who is opposed to
Dayton Accords." The international community is now considering
sanctions against Jelavic and the HDZ, although any move against
the HDZ must be undertaken with care since the party won such
enormous support at the polls.
While HDZ clamours for the addition of a third entity
"Dayton," the Party for B-H led by Haris Silajdzic has a
completely different outlook. This party had unprecedented, even
unexpected success at the elections. Haris Silajdzic, alternately
ally and opponent of Alija Izetbegovic, is one of the biggest
critics of the Dayton Accords, a document he co-authored. He and
his party have created a plan for a "Bosnia without entities," a
push for a unified state that puts him in the extremist category.
The problem isn't that Silajdzic wants to dissolve the established
entities; after all, everyone is entitled to propose political
changes. But during the election campaign Silajdzic never
explained how he planned to achieve this when all the parties in
the Serb Republic oppose it. This could point to the party's
willingness to start a new war, and has significantly raised
national tensions in the country. Commenting on the results of the
Party for B-H, chief of the OSCE mission in Bosnia Robe rt Barry
said Silajdzic gave two percent more votes to SDS every time when
he mentioned Bosnia without entities.
But Silajdzic isn't the only one who should be credited
the success of SDS. Ever since the party lost the 1997 elections
and took an opposition stance, the SDS has built a reputation as a
constructive critic that knew how to detect problems in the Serb
Republic. Basing its platform on criticisms of the Sloga
coalition's national policy and accusing the coalition of
distancing Bosnian Serbs from Serbia and merging them into a
"unitarian" Bosnia and Herzegovina, the SDS gained the sympathy of
many Serb voters still emotionally attached to Yugoslavia. Since
Milorad Dodik's government failed to eradicate corruption and,
moreover, since evidence pointed to certain Sloga members'
participating in it, voters simply turned to SDS, which promised
economic revival and honest politicians. Its success was announced
at the local spring elections, when it won the government in most
Serb Republic counties; the present results are simply a
continuation of this trend.
The SDS was long headed by Radovan Karadzic and
as being the party most responsible for the war in Bosnia. But
with time, the party started to accept the boundaries that the
international community imposed in Bosnia. The candidates for
president and vice-president of the Serb Republic Mirko Sarovic
and Dragan Cavic now maintain excellent relations with the
international community representatives, who see them as a liberal
current within the SDS. The two will probably win the presidential
elections, since they won 52 percent of the vote, while their only
serious opponent Milorad Dodik received only 30 percent.
The Party of Democratic Progress led by Mladen
saw good results. This party has successfully adopted both liberal
pro-western attitudes as well as the national issues SDS insists
on. Ivanic is well-liked by the international community and is
accepted by both Dodik and the SDS, so there are already rumours
afoot that he could be the new prime minister of the Serb
Republic, since no one party will be able to form a government by
Milorad Dodik's Party of Independent Social-Democrats
also reasonably successful, gaining 13 percent of the vote. The
biggest loser was the Socialist Party, once a member of Sloga
coalition, which won less than 5 percent of the vote.
The so-called national parties remained in power
to the almost tasteless, and now even counterproductive bias of
the international community towards the SDP, Milorad Dodik and the
Croatian opposition parties. Yet their victory also serves as
proof of the deeply-entrenched national antagonisms in Bosnia.
Like it or not, the international community will have to realise
that "spreading the fear of others," which all parties in
nationally divided and recently war-torn Bosnia are guilty of,
will continue to be reflected in election results for a long time.
Many feel there are no substantial differences
parties within each nation in Bosnia. The SDA, the SDP and the
Party for B-H all think the Dayton Accords function poorly and are
unfair to Bosniaks. The only difference between them is that the
Party for B-H has publicly called for their change.
On the other side, Milorad Dodik, Mladen Ivanic
and SDS all
want more autonomy for the Serb Republic and closer ties with
Serbia. SDS is more open with its ideas, and also carries a
negative political legacy, so it has been labelled as biggest
supporter of those ideas. When ranking some parties before others,
international representatives were governed more by how each party
related to them than by what their real differences were.
But whatever plan the future government decides
to pursue, a
tough road lies ahead. Less and less international aid is flowing
into Bosnia. Bosnia's destroyed economy is hardly self-sufficient.
Since the parties that have not won international favor have now
won the elections, the situation will only worsen. And it will be
ordinary citizens, that is, the voters who elected these parties,
who will suffer the consequences.
Azerbaijan: OPPOSITION DOES NOT ACCEPT ELECTION RESULTS
By Farhad Mammadov
The political crisis in Azerbaijan continues to
following the country's November 5 parliamentary elections and the
CEC's announcement of the final results November 14. According to
the CEC results, considered rigged by the majority of citizens,
another 3 parties- the Popular Front ("Yurd" faction), Citizens'
Solidarity, and the Communist Parties (not the ruling New
Azerbaijan Party [NAP]), could pass the 6 percent barrier needed
to enter Parliament.
When the initial election results were announced
only the NAP and the "Yurd" faction of the Popular Front could
pass the barrier. According to the CEC report, the results after
counting 80 percent of the ballots showed the NAP with 70% and the
"Yurd" faction with 6.8 percent of the vote. The Citizens'
Solidarity and Communist parties had claimed only 2.5 and 1.2
percent of the vote. The CEC's November 14 results imply that the
remaining 20 percent of the ballots doubled the figures for the CS
and quadrupled them for the CP. Opposition leaders and independent
observers commenting on the results have called this "a primitive
form of falsification". It is worth noting that the results for
the Musavat Party, the actual winner of the election, have not
changed from the figures announced November 6 (4.9 percent) in a
previous CEC statement.
Most opposition leaders issued post-election statements
announcing their refusal to recognize the election results, but
waffled once the results were announced, claiming they never said
they would refuse a mandate. But the absurdity of the results has
now convinced opposition leaders to take up a common position:
they will not recognize the November 5 elections, and will refuse
any parliamentary seats offered them.
Almost all the country's opposition leaders gathered
14, 2000, to sign a joint document after several hours of
discussion. According to the agreement, the opposition does not
recognize the results of the parliamentary elections, refuses to
participate in a parliament formed with rigged elections, and will
initiate a campaign to hold new elections. This means the newly
formed parliament will exist without an opposition and that only
NAP party members and formal independent deputies will support the
The government has designated thirteen out of 125
parliamentary seats for the opposition, and actually intended to
create a formal parliamentary opposition. The opposition will hold
a protest in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku on November 18, 2000.
The mayor of the city has has refused to approve the route
requested by the opposition, and a clash with the police is
expected during the demonstration.
The current Azeri president Heidar Aliev has not
to the elections results. It could b that the president is
embarrassed by his party's loss in the elections, and is reluctant
to declare the elections a success after such blatant
Aliev reportedly held a closed conference where
he ordered the
Minister of the Interior to use force against those dissatisfied
by the election results. Lacking popular support, the authorities
can only hope the police will prevent mass protest through their
clashes with the opposition. But the government may find that even
repression will not avert a crisis.
Azerbaijan was offered full membership in the Council
Europe on November 7, 2000, but the Council has now put forward
several conditions to membership. The use of violence against the
opposition could further increase tensions between the Council and
the government. Heidar Aliev now faces a one-party parliament
whose legitimacy is disputed (it is also expected that his son
will become the Parliament's chairman), the protests of a
now-unified opposition, and the demands of the Council of Europe.
Russia/Dagestan: A NEW FOCUS OF TENSION
By Valekh Rzaev
In the courtyard of the school where prominent Dagestani
pedagogue and official Klim Sultanov is director, students from
the older grades happily play football. Nearly 1,000 children
study here, although other schools in Derbent have no more than
300 students. Parents in Derbent, regardless of nationality, dream
of sending their children here: the level of education is
incomparably higher than elsewhere. The grey-haired pedagogue
points to a building across the street. On the wall in red paint
are the words: "Welcome to independent Lezgistan."
"Five years ago you couldn't walk the streets safely,"
Sultan. "They would shoot in broad daylight, and didn't care who
they hit--a child, a woman, a old person. But, thank God, those
days are behind us," he added, indicating the close, winding
streets of the ancient town.
Derbent is the largest city in Dagestan after Makhachkala,
one of the oldest in the Caucasus. But this city, inhabited by the
descendents of the ancient khazars, a Turkish people who accepted
Judaism and melted into history (wonderfully described by the Serb
writer Milorad Paviæ), is not escaping the political cataclysms
the twentieth century.
Today a majority of the population in the Derbent--56
percent--is Azerbaijani. Not long ago it was 70 percent. In the
near future Azerbaijanis will again respond to demands to leave.
This is already happening in various regions of Dagestan, where
Azerbaijanis are being literally driven out, forcibly and under
threat of violence, to places unknown. This effrontery and
impunity has reached such a level that if, pressured by some armed
band, an Azerbaijani family tries to sell their home and
property--and this under threat of their children being
killed--their property and home is simply be taken away from them.
This is happening to the nationality that established the
educational system in Dagestan, the industry, the economy, the
health care system. Until 1939 Azerbaijani was almost the only
language used for communcation between the various nationalities
in the country. Azerbaijani was even the language in the
classrooms of institutes and schools attended by students of
The city of Derbent, located 60 km from Dagestan's
Azerbaijan, essentially forms the southern border of the Russian
Federation. On entering this ancient city, which is more than 2000
years old, the imagination is struck by the the ancient fortress
Naryn-kala, which 1400 years ago survived an invasion of Arab
khalifat warriors. Here, in this narrow gorge nestled between
impassable mountains and the narrow strip if the Caspian sea, the
Arabs were stopped by the local residents--Azerbaijanis, whose
subsequently adopted the religion of the attackers: Islam. The
well-known Derbent cemetary to this day preserves traces of
long-past events: graves and tombs 500 years old and older.
At the end of the 17th century Lezgins began to
the region, searching for a better life. A mountain people, they
number now about 500,000. Two hundred thousand eventually settled
in the area of north Azerbaijan, leaving 300,000. Stalin began to
forcibly move them into Derbent in order to reduce the
Azerbaijanis' influence there. By his reccomendation in 1920 the
Red Army destroyed the prisoners' camp before crossing into Baku.
Then the Bolsheviks forced the Azerbaijanis to redraw their border
along the Samur River, leaving Derbent's Azerbaijani enclave on
their own territory. And already in the 30's the Soviet dictator,
afraid to lose the strategically important Derbent Pass, decided
to reinforce here by altering the region's the ethnic and
To this day, not much has changed. The friction
Azerbaijanis and Lezgins increased after the fall of the USSR,
degenerating in 1993 into armed conflict. The former Soviet Army
General Kakhrimanov arrived, inspiring the success of another Soviet
general, Dudaev, who came to power in neighboring Chechnya.
Kakhrimanov, a Lezgin by descent, headed the Lezgin nationalist
movement "Sadval" and decided to realize Stalin's plan by force.
Fortunately, circumstances were favorable for him. The Kremlin
couldn't forgive Baku for their indepedent political stand, and
Moscow strategists decided to play the "Lezgin card." The affair
resulted in massive support for Lezgin nationalism, intensifying
the Azerbaijani-Lezgan conflict, which soon spread into
Azerbaizan. Baku, already at war with Armenia, found itself
fighting on two fronts.
This should have made it easy to stage a coup in
and install a puppet government directed by the Kremlin. This
plan, however, could not be fully realized. In 1994, the first
Russia-Chechnya war broke out. At the same time, the ultra-radical
wing of the Lezgin nationalist movement Sadval, armed to the
teeth, tried to separate Southern Dagestan from Russia and create
an independent Lezgistan in the territory of northern Azerbaijan.
Dagestan soon lost control of the situation, and in neighboring
Chechnya a war raged where whole units of "Sadvalists" fought
against Russian soldiers in hopes of outlasting the Azerbaijani
population of southern Dagestan with the help of the Chechens, and
establishing an Islamic state. Only the size of the Azerbaijani
community significantly cooled their passion.
The Dagestani Azerbaijanis rejected Russian sovereignty.
federal democratic Russia, this went almost unnoticed. But the
Azerbaijani community's stubborness and decisiveness was not
without its consequences. They remembered. A new wave of
oppression of local Azerbaijanis began, with the full cooperation
of the Dagestani government.
A Congress of the Azerbaijani People of Dagestan
in the beginning of March 2000, since Azerbaijanis are by law one
of the official nationalities of the republic. The Congress is
headed by Seiran Ragimov, one of the most powerful men in the region.
"Unfortunately, we are encountering some obstacles
registering the Congress. Literally in front of our eyes the
entire Dagestani society began a campaign to discriminate against
and discredit us. To this day we still haven't managed to legally
register the Congress. But we hope that they'll stop blocking us
in the near future," said Klim Sultanov. "We have managed to unite
all the Azerbaijani organizations in Dagestan into one monolithic
structure. This is truly an historic event in our lives, and one
that I'm happy to say has been greeted positively not only by
ethnic Azerbaijanis but also by representatives of other
nationalities in Dagestan. They have all congratulated us and
expressed their moral support. I have to say that the unification
of Azerbaijanis in Dagestan, who number close to 100,000, is
occurring against the background of the recent upsetting events
that have shaken Derbent and the whole republic. Azerbaijanis are
stretched to the limit, and it will be difficult keep the people
under control. The local media and the federal Russian press is
keeping stubbornly silent about what's happening."
Let's call things by their names: Azerbaizanis are
systematically driven out of Derbent and out of the Derbent
enclave--out of our historic homeland. Only a few are left in high
positions. People are being forced out. While the top people in
the Congress were in Moscow, a new head of the Derbent
administration was decreed, Felix Kaziakhmedov, a Lezgin by
descent. Our worst fears were justified. This change in city
government could bring irreparable consequences. We were told that
people were going into the streets to express their
dissatisfaction. We tried to calm the population, and we will
continue to exercise all the force we can to keep a lid on things.
But situation could get out of control at any moment.
We can't solve these problems by ourselves. Azerbaijan
international organizations must speak up on behalf of
Azerbaijanis in Dagestan, who are an inseparable part of the
Azerbaijani people. Yes, we are one of the peoples of Dagestan, we
are living in our historical homeland, we are living out our
historical fate connected with Russia, and bearing the burden it
has fallen on our people to bear. But clearly we cannot hide the
violations of the rights and freedoms of Azerbaijanis, and we are
counting on the support of the leaders of the Russian Federation
and of Azerbaijan. Israel has not shied away from sending letters
of protest to governments where the rights of Jews are being
violated, and yet we are reluctant to defend members of our
nationality, moreover people living in the land of our fathers and
ancestors of over two thousand years.
"Local Azerbaijanis and sensible Lezgins don't want
war or the
breakup of Russia, but the extremists won't settle down,"
continues Klim. "There are guns in every home. I will die of grief
if my students end up on different sides of a barricade. The
two-million person Azerbaijani community in Russia recently took a
special decision in their meeting in Moscow to appeal to the
Dagestani government not to allow tensions to escalate. But their
appeal met with no answer."
Our conversation was interrupted by a hodja's singing,
all Moslems to prayers at the high mosque. The sun was setting.
And even the surrounding nature was reminding us, over and over,
that nothing endures forever.