Issue No. 222 - May 13, 2001
Contents:

1. Macedonia: GOVERNMENT IN FAVOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
            By Zvezdan Georgievski

2. Bosnia and Herzegovina: AUTHORITIES WITH SHADY PAST
            By Radenko Udovicic

3. Albania: NEW MANDATE FOR SOCIALIST PARTY?
            By Slobodan Rackovic
 
4. Special addition: NEW AT TOL
 
 


Macedonia: GOVERNMENT IN FAVOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
     By Zvezdan Georgievski
    Everybody in the government - the people in the opposition!
This is probably the most concise evaluation of what is currently
happening in Macedonian politics. Although forming of a new
government was certain almost a month ago, struggling to round up
the so-called Solana's emergency government, which got its name from
the high EU representative for foreign politics and security
Javier Solana who earned his pay for the last month exactly on
that task, has left enough space for various speculations about
the mission of the new government and insisting on consensual
decision-making.
    Some Macedonian analysts think that the strategy of the
international community is to redraw Macedonia - to turn it into a
federation. Since the beginning of Macedonian crisis there was a
political dialogue between Albanian and Macedonian politicians who
should've talked openly about all issues between the two nations
in Macedonia. One of those issues is the change of Macedonian
constitution. Today, the introduction of the Macedonian constitution
states that Macedonia is the country of Macedonian nation and
minorities living in it, which certainly isn't up to demands of
Macedonian Albanians who want to get the status of the
constitutional nation in Macedonia and want Macedonia to be
a federation.
    Although Macedonian majority is literally allergic to any
mentions of redefinition of their young country, it seems that
Albanian politicians are getting more and more space for their
demands.
    Although the Macedonian state establishment declared a grand
victory over Albanian terrorists in the so-called Tetovo phase of
Macedonian war, which means it had no need to negotiate with the
"defeated", political demands of the extremists, which turned into
demands of legitimate Albanian parties, have soon found its place
around the green table. It soon became clear that the "great military
victory" was in fact only the coinage for local needs, and that in
fact a truce was established after pressures from the international
community in order to make possible political solution to the
problem.
    That the Europe has already begun putting forward the outlines
of its strategy for the "country at the Balkans' end" could be
seen after the adoption of recommendations of the Council of
Europe for the solution of Macedonian crisis which encouraged
negotiations about constitutional changes and ask for creation of
"true multi-ethnic country" which is interpreted in Skopje as an
open demand for federalization. Together with this act began
intense negotiations about forming the so-called broad-coalition
government, the government that would be supported by all
parliamentary representatives.
    Although at the beginning this government supposedly should
only have short term mandate before early parliamentary elections
(because the current government don't have enough power to stage
fair elections) it is now clear that its mandate will be much
longer. This can be concluded because of all the fuss created
around its formation. After frequent visits, Solana needed ten
hours of non-stop persuasion with Macedonian political leaders to
get guarantees that this government will be created. However, as
soon as he left Skopje, things once again got complicated.
Opposition Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity set a term
before it entered the government - cease fire on the Kumanovo
front. Prime minister Ljupce Georgievski who has already ceded
several key sectors to the opposition (position of vice premier,
defense ministry and ministry of foreign affairs while justice
minister should've gone to Party of Democratic Prosperity) refused
that ultimatum. However, the fighting is de facto stopped. Macedonian
security forces are near extremist strongholds, but do not enter
their territory.
    Meanwhile, the international community exerted strong pressure to
make sure Party of Democratic Prosperity entered the national
government. It is this insistment that relatively minor party with
the most extremist political views must enter the government that
causes doubts that the program of the new government will be much
larger than simply passing new election rules for legitimate
parliamentary elections. It is supposed that conglomerate of
fierce political opponents will have to (with the blessing of the
international community) pass all important decisions by consensus
and will have the chance to change the constitution.
    This theory may be supported by fierce rebuttal of the
international community to the proposal of Macedonian prime
minister Ljupce Georgievski to introduce state of emergency. This
solution means suspension of the parliament, and the government
has an option of passing decisions with the importance of law.
    Still, in such situation Macedonian government wouldn't have
courage (neither political legitimacy) to tackle issues like
re-structuring the internal territorial constitution of the
country.
    Anyhow, consensual government that will literally have the
support of the whole Macedonian parliament will have both
legitimate and legal rights to propose change of constitution,
which the parliament will most certainly pass.
    However, after all that was happening in Macedonia in the past
several months, it is a big question how much political capacity
has even such consensual government in order to pass radical
change of the state. Without regard to evaluations from the
international community, or just because of them, one must stress
that majority in Macedonia think there is no need for such
actions. So, legitimacy of these decisions has to be confirmed at
the early parliamentary elections (already there are some
speculations that elections date has been set for January 27,
2002) that should clearly articulate what citizens think about the
future of their country.
    It is exactly what is feared: some suppose that the international
community wants to solve the issue of the constitution before the
elections, fearing that it will bring a sort of status quo in the
country.
    So the analyses of the current political situation in Macedonia
aren't optimistic at all. If the strategy of easing tensions in
Macedonia consists of changing its politics and state definition,
then it is a double-edged knife. And the second edge will be much
sharper. In an atmosphere of corruption and financial scandals,
chronic unemployment and low standard, fighting between the two
nations seems to be the only "logical solution". It is why "all
are in the government" principle means only people will remain in
opposition.

                          * * *

Bosnia and Herzegovina: AUTHORITIES WITH SHADY PAST
     By Radenko Udovicic
    Beginning of May in Bosnia and Herzegovina was characterized
by vandal behavior of Serbian nationalists in Trebinje and Banja
Luka. They prevented the start of rebuilding of two mosques in these
cities. The mosques in questions were ancient buildings, ordered
built by Ferhat Pasha and Osman Pasha, famous Turkish rulers over
Bosnia. Besides religious, these mosques also had an important
historical and culture significance because they testified to long
existence of Bosniaks-Moslems in all cities which are now
populated mostly with Serbs. That was the reasoning behind
destruction of the mosques in 1993 when the extremists, tolerated
by authorities in Banja Luka and Trebinje, utterly destroyed them.
Politics of the former Serbian government led by Radovan Karadzic
wanted not only to expel Bosniaks and Croats but to also destroy
the so-called life infrastructure in which those religious objects
played an important role.
      Pressured by the international community, authorities of the
Serb Republic have recently finally approved rebuilding of
religious objects. Cooperative attitude of this entity's
government as well as the fact that there has been a visible
progress in return of inter-ethnic trust in Bosnia lately have
created an image that reconstruction of the two buildings will go
over as planned, peacefully. This was why there were so many local
politicians and foreign diplomats who have arrived first to
Trebinje and then to Banja Luka in order to be present at the
laying of cornerstone. Still, not even the presence of
high-ranking guests could distract extremists from real violence
and the most primitive expressions of the national and religious
hatred.
      Events in Banja Luka are probably the biggest riots in
Bosnia and Herzegovina since the end of the war.  Throughout the
day cars and buses of several hundred Moslems and Banja Luka
refugees used to come to this ceremony were burning in the circle
of 1 km from the place where cornerstone was to be placed.
Although security staff was large, they were completely
indifferent towards the violence. Almost thousand SFOR soldiers
armed to teeth together with 10 armored vehicles and 300 policemen
from the Serb Republic were located in the center and suburbs of Banja
Luka. However, they didn't exert physical force besides forming a
circle around the mass of 5,000 angry people who have been trying
to break into the building of the Islamic religious community which
has been used as a shelter for around 400 Moslems with many women
and children, many ministers in the Bosnian and Serbian government and
almost all diplomats from Sarajevo. Among them was also Jacques
Klein, the chief of the UN mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The
US ambassador Thomas Miller was carried to safety in the last minute.
30 demonstrators and 18 local policemen were hurt. Local police
didn't react with authority. Only when participants were
threatened with physical danger was the special police brought in, but
it didn't manage to prevent constant stoning of people and the
building they sought out as an asylum. Protesters removed
religious flag from the building, replacing it with the Serbian one.
They were chanting Serbia, Serbia... Karadzic, Karadzic... and
throwing in several pig's heads through the building's window.
Some of them, especially younger, sporadically attacked and kicked
Bosniaks, mostly old men, who didn't have enough time to hide in
the building of the Islamic community. In the early afternoon, SFOR
together with the police gave an ultimatum to the protesters -
either to make possible evacuation of the imprisoned or SFOR will
use all available methods to disperse the mass. With the help of
the Serb Republic president Mirko Sarovic and prime minister Mladen
Ivanic, women and children were evacuated first, then came men and
finally diplomats and federal as well as Serbian ministers. These
men were put into SFOR's base near Banja Luka, and then
transported to places they have come from with helicopters and
armed vehicles.
      International representatives claim that the responsibility
for these incidents was on the government of the Serb Republic which
didn't learn from similar incident which happened two days ago
during the attempt to lay the cornerstone for the oldest mosque of
Osman Pasha in Trebinje, a town in south-eastern Bosnia. The angry
mob then, led by chetnics in black uniforms, tried to break into
the Islamic religious community premises, where participants to the
ceremony withdrew. A Spanish diplomat who was preventing entrance
of extremists into the building with his body was beat up.
      The official Sarajevo is unanimous that the Serb Republic,
after winning sympathies of the international community for
cooperativeness of its government, has made a big step backwards
due to inadequate organization and mild reaction of the police
during beginning of the mosques' restoration. All government
institutions and international representatives say that violent
demonstrations were organized by radical extremist forces in the
Serb Republic and that they should've been broken by force.
Bosnian foreign minister Zlatko Lagumdzija who himself witnessed
anger of Serbian nationalists in Banja Luka said that it was
normal to have 10 percent fascists in every country, constantly
protesting against civil events like that one, but he also added
that any law-respecting country made sure to prevent or suppress
that kind of protest.
      High representative Wolfgang Petritsch was even more open as
he called the Serb Republic the place where there was no rule of law
and freedom of confession. As the most powerful person in Bosnia,
he announced that those who were behind the riots will be punished
by international forces, if the Serbian authorities fail to do it
themselves.
      After the last events, Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina,
member of the ruling coalition in Bosnia, re-issued its demands
for the revision of the Dayton Accord and canceling of the Serb
Republic. One can freely say that if troublemakers and organizers
of riots in the Serb Republic remain unknown, these intentions
will meet with success among some foreign countries.
      Riots in Trebinje, Banja Luka, and somewhat earlier in
Mostar where Croatian extremists attacked international
representatives are all  part of attempts from Serbian and
Croatian nationalists to re-emerge and use terrorism to prevent
democratization processes that have spread to all of the country.
Especially grave is the situation in the Serb Republic with
chauvinistic political groups that oppose return of refugees and
coexistence between various nations and religions. They obviously
exert a strong influence on ordinary citizens, as illustrated by
the newest incidents. However, the great responsibility also lies
on the top level of the Serbian government which didn't directly
create last events but encouraged expression of the lowest
instincts of the national and religious hatred with their politics
of compromise. How to explain the fact that the mob was destroying
and looting in Banja Luka, kicking Bosniaks and, to top it all,
put a pig's head on the place where mosque's cornerstone should've
been placed while the police was watching everything, not doing
anything. Also, Serbian representatives only issues verbal
condemnations instead of immediately ordering arrest of
troublemakers who can be clearly identified on the tape recordings
of numerous TV teams.
      Most Bosniak, but also foreign politicians think that
extremist riots have been carried out in the name of the ideology
of Radovan Karadzic, the first suspect for war crimes in Bosnia
and Herzegovina, still on the run. Stain on the Serb Republic
cannot be washed down only with arresting troublemakers during
the recent riots, it also needs to distance itself directly from
fascism. An important step in that direction is cooperation with
the international community in order to arrest Karadzic. Yet,
the government of Mladen Ivanic, as much as it tried to be a
reformist one, cannot do it because some ministers still didn't
break up with their past and are trying to balance between
demands of the international community and national, so-called
patriotic Serbian attitudes, that also include protection of
war crime indicted persons. As long as there is no radical
change, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the part of which is also the
Serb Republic, will be seen as unstable country unacceptable
to Europe.

                          *  *  *

 
Albania: NEW MANDATE FOR SOCIALIST PARTY?
     By Slobodan Rackovic
    Although Albanian citizens will participate at the
parliamentary elections on June 24 for the fourth time in the
last ten years, since toppling of the half-century communist
dictatorship, the election atmosphere is little different from
the one on March 24, 1992 when first democratic voting was held.
Let's remember: then it was an overwhelming victory for the
Democratic Party led by charismatic Sali Berisha, a long-time
personal doctor of communist dictators Enver Hoxha (d. 1986)
and Ramiz Alija. It was the announcement that "the land of the
eagles" will come out of a decades-long isolation and poverty,
so it's a small wonder that democrats celebrated an even bigger
victory four years later - on May 26, 1996. However, only 13
months later there were new parliamentary elections after months
of bloody and destructive riots in the country due to fraud of
many citizens who saved in the so-called pyramidal-scheme banks.
    On June 31, 1997, totally unexpected, then dying socialists
(ex-communists) rose and won a two-third majority. It was the
new rise in the political career of the last communist prime
minister Fatos Nano, then president of the Socialist Party
and university professor who was imprisoned by Sali Berisha on a
basis of false indictment related to the past age of communism.
Fatos Nano was taken out of prison in March 1997 by his supporters
during already mentioned riots and rebellions throughout the
country. He is still socialists' leader but not an Albanian prime
minister and his party is set to be the favorite one at this
elections, too. Among else, last years socialists overwhelmingly
triumphed at the local elections and formed local government in
all major and developed cities, including the capitol of Tirana.
    Social ambient hasn't changed much in the past decade,
although Albania overcame numerous political and social
disturbances. One might even say that in some social and economic
aspects the situation is even worse than it was after the decline
of communism in 1991 and 1992. The number of unemployed is ten
times as high, inflation grew at a multiple rate, state has
bankrupted, there is anarchy and an impression of general
insecurity...
    There is not a trace of promised foreign investment, the cycle
which got steam in mid-90s is now almost completely gone because
of political and social instability in the country; human and
minority rights are at a low level.
    On the other hand, frequent and energetic police actions
reduced the amount of weapons among citizens that has skyrocketed
after riots of 1997. Together with it decreased bandits' activity
in various parts of the country, especially in the north, but
there is still a complete social anarchy and lack of the rule of
law to be tackled. The ruling regime is taking time before
grappling with the organized crime, so "white slaves' trafficking"
as well as arms and drugs smuggling remain chief occupation for
many Albanians. Slave trade is very developed, especially trading
young girls that the powerful Albanian mob has been constantly
transferring to western Europe, mainly Italy, in agreement with
their Italian colleagues.
    Matters related to foreign politics are a little better
because the government of young prime minister Ilir Meta is
struggling to make good cooperation with Europe and especially
neighboring countries, sometimes with fierce protests from
Albanian minority in those countries. Following that suit, Tirana
government showed fair play during current political crisis in
Macedonia where approximately half million Albanians live. Thanks
to the initiative of young Meta (31 year old), Albanian parties in
Macedonia accepted entering into new government headed by Ljupce
Georgievski which has relaxed the entire security situation in
Macedonia. Socialist Albanian government also has very good
relations with governments of Italy, Greece and Montenegro and
prime minister Meta has already announced his departure to
Belgrade and re-opening of Albanian embassy in that city.
Socialist party of Albania has kept close relations with Serbian
Socialists' Party even during the deepest crisis between Belgrade
and Pristina maintained regular contacts with Serbian Socialist Party.
Furthermore, Fatos Nano said on many occasions that Kosovo had to
be part of integral Serbia. Flexible Meta is trying to improve
relations also with the new Serbian regime, despite opposition
from some politicians in Kosovo and diaspora in southern Serbia
which is used by the Democratic Party to call their rivals
"traitors of Albanian nation". Contrary to Nano and Meta, Berisha
is completely supporting Albanian extremism in all neighboring
countries, especially Kosovo, Macedonia and southern Serbia, going
as far as mentioning greater Albania. Which of the two attitudes
will be rewarded at the elections will be seen after June 24.
    In such social environment Albania is entering the election
campaign that has already started with two main players - Fatos
Nano and Sali Berisha.
    Socialists are once again favorites, but energetic Sali
Berisha first started mass gatherings of his supporters, mostly at
the traditional gathering place of Skender Beg square in the
center of Tirana. Polls show that democrats have the majority
among voters in the north and north-east, the cities of Slikodra,
Kukesh, Lezha, Tropoja - Berisha's birthplace, and others, while
socialists are dominant in Tirana, south and south-east, developed
parts of the country with the cities of Gjirokastro, Elbasan,
Durres, Vlora and others. Democratic Party has already published
its list dominated by old, trusted Berisha's colleagues with whom
he toppled communist dictatorship in 1991/92. On the other hand,
socialists have refreshed their ranks which are now dominated by
young, educated people immune to the former communist ideology.
Among others, here are: prime minister Meta, former prime minister
Pandeli Majko, Bashim Fino, dr. Kastriot Islami, foreign minister
Paskal Milo, his assistant Plumb uti and others. They are headed
by experienced Fatos Nano, a true legend to all socialists in the
country, who is certain to lead his team to a new victory. Together
with socialists is likely to go Democratic Alliance and
Socialdemocrat Party (its president Skender Gjinuslu is also
president of Albanian parliament) that have been participating in
the government since 1997.
    According to some foreign polls, socialists and their
coalition partners have a significant majority over Democratic
Party and its allies - 65 to 35 per cent, but surprises aren't
ruled out. There has already been a number of local and foreign
observers who volunteered for the elections, as well as Albanian
and foreign reporters, It is general opinion that democratic
circles in Europe prefer reformist and democratic government of
Ilir Meta over retrograde and autistic politics of Sali Berisha.
"Doctor Berisha is a man of the past", told us a western diplomat
in Tirana, thus wrapping it all up.

                     *  *  *

 Special addition : NEW AT TOL
    ------------------------------------------------------
    - - - TOL MESSAGE - - -
    TOL is hiring!
    TOL is looking to fill the position of e-commerce manager. The
e-commerce managers main responsibility will be to design and
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local partners. The e-commerce manager will join TOL's dynamic
business team, innovatively marketing the leading Internet
magazine on the post-communist region and working to guarantee the
long-term self-sustainability of TOL, a Czech NGO. Interested
parties should submit a cover letter and resume to jobs@tol.cz.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- WEEK IN REVIEW ---
    All for One
    Five possible opposition candidates vow to unite to topple
Lukashenka in 2001 elections.
    by Alex Znatkevich
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Does This Mean War?
    Violence in Macedonia has parliament deciding on a declaration
of war.
    by Gordana Icevska
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    A New Liability for Libel
    An unexpected move by the Kyrgyz president may remove libel
from the criminal code and boost independent journalism.
    by Alisher Khamidov
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    Pot, Lies, and Secret Notes
    American scholar sentenced to prison in Russia over marijuana
possession alleges the FSB is trying to recruit him as a spy.
    By Maria Antonenko
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    School's Out and So Are Bribes
    Mongolian officials try to cut down on educational corruption
with a ban on big-ticket gifts and parties to schools during
graduation.
    by Nomin Lhagvasuren
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    MORE WEEK IN REVIEW:
    http://www.tol.cz/week.html
    School's Out and So Are Bribes
    Romanian Summit Aims for Cooperative Cleanup of Danube
    Exiled Bulgarian Monarch Registers for Elections
    Moldovan Political Prisoner Released
    Albanian Supreme Court Faces Its Own Justice
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    - - - TOL MESSAGE - - -
    The TOL jobs section just got better! Reach the talents of the
region by placing your job advertisements with TOL! For more
information, go to: http://archive.tol.cz/jobscorp.html or contact
us for more information atjobs@tol.cz.
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    --- OUR TAKE: Domino On the Edge ---
    Is this the beginning of Belarus' Yugoslav scenario?
http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=16&NrArticle=828&ST1=body&ST_T1=wir&ST_max=1
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- FEATURES ---
    No Place Like Home
    In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of ethnic Germans fled
Ceausescu's Romania; after 1989, thousands more left for the milk
and honey of the West. But now many are coming back.
    by Marius Dragomir
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=2&NrArticle=791
    Anti-Terrorism 101
    Russian federal forces are failing the test
miserably--document checks, baggage searches, and countless
checkpoints are no match for fake passports and large-scale
bribery.
    by Nabi Abdullaev
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=3&NrArticle=783&ST1=body&ST_T1=letter&ST_max=1
    May 2001
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- MEDIA ---
    Marriage of Convenience
    With the creation of his own political party, Slovakia's media
mogul widens his power base.
    by Barbora Maroszova and Miroslava Horobova
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=4&NrArticle=790
    Will the Real Itogi Please Stand Up
    Following its official takeover, Russia's popular news
magazine battles it out on the Internet instead.
    by Maria Antonenko
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=2&NrArticle=784
    Personal Assurances
    In response to sharp criticism from a press watchdog group,
the new general director of NTV asserts that he will guarantee the
station's independence.
    http://www.tol.cz/look/TOLnew/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrIssue=21&NrSection=7&NrArticle=782
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- ANNUAL REPORTS ---
    Bulgaria 2000: Breaking Spells
    Optimism reigns but questions remain about the reality behind
the smiles.
    by Yordanka Nedyalkova
    http://archive.tol.cz/frartic/bular00.html
    Kyrgyzstan 2000: Can We 'Correct' Democracy? President
Akayev's political success came at an extremely heavy price for
Kyrgyzstan--the irregularities in elections have tarnished the
country's earlier image as an "island of democracy.
    by Rafis Abazov
    http://archive.tol.cz/frartic/kyrar00.html
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    --- OUR TAKE: Domino On the Edge ---
    Is this the beginning of Belarus' Yugoslav scenario?
    Ever since Yugoslavia's revolution last October many people,
not in the least Belorussians, have spoken enthusiastically about
the chances of toppling Eastern Europe's last dictator, Belorussian
President Alyaksander Lukashenko. And thus far, to a degree,
developments in that country have aped Yugoslavia's last year.
Like Milosevic's regime, the Belorussian authorities have already
stepped up repression of their opponents: Police have regularly
beaten and arrested dozens of protesters at rallies across the
country. There have been a series of burglaries of opposition NGO
resource centers, and the president has dangled a draconian media
law in front of parliamentary deputies to test the waters.
    Last week, Belarus took another step in Yugoslavia's direction
when, on May 3, five potential candidates in the upcoming
presidential elections announced that they would work as a team to
defeat Lukashenko. They promised that they would name a single
challenger after the registration period. The move mirrors the
galvanizing moment in Yugoslavia last spring, when the Democratic
Opposition of Serbia rallied behind Vojislav Kostunica.
    The move is a positive sign, especially from an opposition
that has been divided and has attracted little support among
Belorussians. But cautious optimism is required. Most democracy
advocates and experts say that Belarus' development is at least
two years behind Yugoslavia's. The ratings of all the opposition
candidates are still in single digits, and many are concerned that
personal ambitions will stymie the newly found unity. To make
matters worse, Belarus has never really had much of a history of
opposition: There was no real dissident movement in Soviet days.
Milosevic's downfall showed that a flowering of people power is
vital, but a successful revolution needs the complicity of a
determined political opposition who can facilitate a revolution.
At the moment, that is what Belarus lacks most.
    And the president, unfortunately, still commands plenty of
support. In a recent poll, 36 percent said they will vote for
Lukashenko. Pensioners, who make more than a third of the
country's electorate and more than a quarter of the country's
population, largely support him, as do large sections of the rural
and urban working class. Lukashenka--like the best dictators--is
skilled at preserving an aura of legality and manipulating public
concerns. Cathy Fitzpatrick, a representative of the International
League for Human Rights, says that the upcoming election, like
others before in the region, might well be used to legitimize the
president's regime rather than spell his downfall.
    As in Yugoslavia, the international community is doing its
part to help by providing cash for democratization. Some
non governmental organizations (NGOs) are funding and organizing
exchange programs for opposition-minded Belorussian youth to
encourage participation in elections. The president is well aware
of such "imperialist meddling" and in March passed a decree that
constrains what he called "foreign gratuitous aid" to Belorussian
NGOs and citizens.
    But, crucially, the money from the West to aid the
democratization of Belarus is probably around a quarter of the sum
spent on helping Milosevic's downfall. In post-Cold War
realpolitik, there is no ethnic conflict (like in the Balkans) to
pull on the heartstrings and no foreign investment interests (like
oil in Central Asia) to pull on the purse strings. Belarus does
not have a sizable diaspora and has virtually no lobbying power
abroad.
    But revolution, like falling in love, is always expected but
rarely predicted. Yugoslavia's last year surprised almost
everyone, and proved that a bit of popular support and a dash of
high-level politicking could bring down a regime. A revolution may
take longer to mature in Belarus but the essential components,
such as the recent teaming up of the opposition, are starting to
appear. Also Zubr, a small youth movement that models itself on
Yugoslavia's Otpor, is increasingly more active in Minsk and in
provincial towns. It is a breath of fresh air compared to other
young opposition movements that tend to be overly nationalistic or
anarchistic.
    In all of this, Russia is the key. Belarus is important for
Russia because it provides a buffer to NATO expansion into the
Baltic states and Poland, and it still hosts a sizable Russian
military presence. Russia has no interest in a
Western-leaning--and, more importantly, NATO-friendly--liberal
democracy in Belarus. Also, Russia needs Belarus economically to
provide transit for its goods.
   More than likely, for a change of leadership to occur in
Belarus, Russia would have to withdraw its support for Lukashenka,
or would, at the very least, have to remain neutral if a united
opposition candidate were fielded. Some commentators, within and
outside of Russia, have suggested that the tide in Russia is
turning against the president. Janusz Bugajski, the director of
the Eastern European Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Center
for Strategic and International Studies, says that "there are
indications that the Kremlin may be 'interviewing' alternative
candidates." A watered-down Lukashenka--more reform-minded, aware
of the need to appease the West, but still subservient to Russian
geostrategic and military priorities--wouldn't be a best-case
scenario, but it could mean a good deal of liberalization and a
much better lot for the people of Belarus.
   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
   -- Transitions Online - Intelligent Eastern Europe
   Copyright: Transitions Online 2001
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