Issue No. 295 - November 5, 2002
1. FRY/Kosovo: DEEP DIVISIONS REMAIN
by Milos Jeftovic
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina: BITING THE HAND THAT
by Radenko Udovicic
3. Azerbaijan: PRESSURE ON CHECHENS
by Farhad Mammadov
Kosovo's second local parliamentary elections since being placed under international rule took place mostly without incidents and in a generally fair and tolerant atmosphere. The winner of the elections, as was the case two years ago, is the Democratic League of Kosova headed by Kosovo's president Ibrahim Rugova.
These are the last local elections that will be organized by the OSCE mission. Most Albanian political leaders feel they are one step further towards their goal—independence. Kosovar Serbs decided just three days before balloting to participate in the elections, and then only partially, which is to say only in municipalities where they expected to win. This partial participation, many feel, has made them the main losers in these elections, although Serbs still remain the third-strongest political group in the parliament following last year's elections.
Clearly, a larger number of Serbian voters going to the polls would have provided Serb candidates with more municipal council seats, even if as a minority, and thus strengthen their position in upcoming talks with representatives of the international community about Kosovo's decentralization.
The balance of power among
Albanian parties after the elections remains the same as from last year:
the strongest is Rugova's DSK, followed by the Democratic Party of Kosova
(DPK) led by former KLA leader Hashim Thaqi, and the Alliance for Kosovo's
Future (AZBK), also headed by a former KLA commander, Ramush Haradinaj.
According to unofficial results, the DSK won a majority in 12 municipalities,
the DPK in 7, and the AZBK in 3, while the Serb coalition won 4 out of
5 possible municipalities where Serbs constitute a majority of the population.
With their partial boycott, Serbs passed up the chance to win a significant
number of council seats in other municipalities, especially since the turn-out
of the Albanian population was less than before. For example, the Serb
candidates lost the municipality of Novo Brdo to Thaqi because of their
small turn-out, and in the divided northern city of Kosovska Mitrovica,
only 59 out of 8,607 registered Serbs turned up at the polls, leaving all
seats to the Albanian parties.
The director for the OSCE mission's election operations, Susan Cardunff, said on Sunday, October 27, that 58 per cent of Kosovar voters participated in the elections. Serbian turnout in Kosovo was at 32 percent, or almost every third adult. Turnout of Kosovar Serbs living in Serbia and Montenegro was very small, only 14 percent.
Over 5,500 candidates competed for 920 seats in 30 municipalities in the elections. There were 1.32 million registered voters, among them about 230,000 Serbs, about half living in Kosovo, and the rest (119,000) now living in Serbia and Montenegro now.
While Kosovar Albanian leaders see the success of the local elections as "another step towards the independence of Kosovo," some Serb leaders were hoping the elections could be used to create conditions for the safe return of all their people (over two-thirds, or 250,000, live outside Kosovo) and their participation would establish a good "starting point" for talks on decentralization that have been announced by UNMIK chief Michael Steiner. The majority of leaders who opted for the boycott believe that the low turn-out of Serbs is a sign that they are not ready to "legalize Albanian hegemony, especially after the bad experience in the parliament."
Thaqi said local elections represented a "chance to improve democratic rule and (for Kosovar Albanians) to have stable and efficient government, following which the Western world will support us in our striving to fulfill our wishes, which is democratization and independence of Kosovo." Haradinaj remarked that the elections were a chance for Kosovar Albanians to "affirm their strength." Rugova said that the elections "will speed up the process of independence and democratization of Kosovo. I want an independent Kosovo, integrated into the EU, NATO, and with constant friendly relations with the USA."
The Serbs in Kosovo as well as the authorities in Belgrade do not like hearing such statements at all. Scared of opening the Pandora's box of independence and status talks about Kosovo, all Serbian parties put aside their political differences on this matter and agreed that no one can talk about Kosovo's status until all conditions of Resolution 1244 are fulfilled, especially the return of all refugees and creating conditions for a secure life and employment for minorities. Leaders of Kosovar Serbs will try, with the aid of Belgrade, to fulfill those demands and to delay as long as possible official discussion about the subject of final status.
The Kosovar Albanians, on their side, are very impatient and will not assent to the talks' postponement. For two and a half years, they have been living in the firm belief that the arrival of the international community in Kosovo put an end to the whole story of its being a part of Serbia and do not even want to hear about the "return of Serbian authority."
What will tip these opposing scales is the U.N. Mission. But it cannot forever bridge the differences. Its term is not infinite. The trend is to gradually leave some tasks to local communities, to cut down the presence of international administration as much as possible, and for communities to start accepting their responsibilities. The first step in that direction will be the concept of decentralization. However, weak voters' turnout, especially among Kosovar Serbs, has endangered the talks. On post-election night, Steiner expressed his pleasure that local elections were held without incidents, but immediately pointed out that it was uncertain whether there would be any talks about decentralization, since he himself had said on October 21 that the conditions for it would be significant voter turnout in the local elections. Decentralization would enable "significant national minorities" some special rights.
All these difficulties will
not detract the international government from following its mission to
build a normal, non-conflict society in Kosovo that will no longer be a
catalyst for a Balkans powder keg. The solution will probably be found
in dialogue with all communities, but international representatives will
no doubt take decisive decision action upon themselves if they see some
deliberate obstructions regardless of who will like it or not. It is certain
such a decision cannot satisfy both parties, considering the distant starting
positions of Pristina on the one side and Kosovar Serbs and Belgrade on
• • •
The scandal about arms exports to Iraq, a country under U.N. sanctions, has pushed all post-election calculations about forming a ruling coalition and a new government into the background. Of course, the Bosnian Office of the Presidency, a collective head of state, has been formed, since the three members of that body (representing the country's three main groups, Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs) were unquestionably elected by direct vote.
Evidence of cooperation between
the Orao (Eagle) factory in Bjeljina (in the Serb Republic) with the military
regime in Iraq has put Bosnia and Herzegovina under the close scrutiny
of the international community, especially the U.S., which is moving towards
a final showdown with
Saddam Hussein. The American secret services uncovered that Orao was repairing Iraqi motors for MIG-21 combat aircrafts, also in use by the Yugoslav Army, with which the Serb Republic cooperates. It was also discovered that another Belgrade firm had made deals with Iraq on similar jobs, revealing not only criminal, but also probably state connections between Serbs on both sides of the border with Iraq. But what is shocking is that the two firms also enjoyed support from other firms in a second Bosnian entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, putting the entire region on a scandalous track of breaking international sanctions towards Iraq.
After pressure from the U.S., the Serb Republic started an investigation and confirmed that Orao had business relations with military personnel in Iraq. The Serb Republic's minister of defense resigned from his office. It is suspected that politicians at the very top could be held responsible, which could cause a real political crisis in that entity. State Department already demanded of Serb Republic to arrest and punish culprits for this scandal or face consequences. Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic, obviously worried, said that he did not find himself guilty and that he would show his personal concern to resolve the issue in an efficient manner. He added that all involved in the scandal would be held responsible. Americans were somewhat calmed by that statement, but they emphasized that actions and not words were expected.
This scandal is especially sensitive to Bosnia and Herzegovina because the engagement of the international community, especially the U.S., is extremely large on both political and financial levels. Looking at the issue objectively, the military aspect of cooperation with Iraq is not significant. Repairs of old MIG plane motors is not only slow but of questionable value taking into account the technology dates back to Yugoslav socialism. Thus, "Backstabbing" one's most generous donor, however, is politically most damaging. One of the Bosnian Presidency's members, Mirko Sarovic, may pay the price of cooperation with Iraq. He came to his current position from being president of the Serb Republic. Some analysts believe that it is not possible for the RS president not to know about the entire case. His party, the hard-line nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), is generally dominant in Bjeljina, especially at Orao factory. It remains to be seen what the investigation will show. The Croatian member of the Presidency, Dragan Covic, has separate problems. The results of the federal investigation show that Covic, while president of the Federation government, exempted the meat factory "Lijanovic" from paying customs, shortchanging the state budget by 43 million convertible marks. If the further investigation shows these allegations are correct, then it could happen that two members of the Presidency go to jail.
In that case, all the nice words coming from these two representatives of the collective head of state at their inauguration, such as the necessity for cooperation, inter-ethnic tolerance, and economic prosperity in Bosnia would lose all their meaning. Previously, such words mostly came only from Bosniak members of the government. However, this time Sulejman Tihic, the Bosniak member, remained mostly reserved and ironic in his comments (there is no investigation against him for now).
Negotiations for the constitution of the government on both the state and entity levels are not progressing well. News came from the Serb Republic that the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) of the current prime minister, Mladen Ivanic, decided to re-enter coalition with the SDS, thus rejecting an appeal from the Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) to form majority in parliament together. The SDS and PDP need 8 more MPs in parliament in order to have 51 per cent majority and it is not clear which parties will join them, but what is clear is that the government will not change for now.
Nothing is known in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It appeared that two nationalist parties, the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), would easily make up a majority in parliament, but a parliamentary rule regarding compensatory mandates ruined their plans. That rule enables parties which didn't enter the parliament to get one or two MPs if they won votes in different locations throughout the country, which are then added up. The three victorious parties in the Federation B-H were the SDS, SDA and HDZ have protested this rule, claiming that compensatory mandates can be given only to parties which crossed the election threshold. They called the decision of the Election Commission regarding compensatory mandates political and submitted the case to the Constitutional Court which rejected their demand. The minor parties that will win several seats in parliaments as a result are generally against the three major ones that won seats. The SDA therefore proposed a government of national unity (both in the Federation B-H and on the state level) gathering all pro-Bosnian parties. The Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was an ally of SDA during the war, responded positively to the idea, but the Social Democratic Party (SDP) rejected the notion saying that the party would remain faithful to its opposition to nationalist parties. Even if the leadership of the party wanted to enter a coalition with the SDA, many voters would certainly turn their backs on the party whose image is based on emphasizing inter-ethnic tolerance.
At the state-level government, there is a possibility of a coalition of parties that will otherwise form the opposition in the parliament of the two entities. The SNSD has already offered a coalition to the SDP, which has in turn asked the Party for B-H to join them. Adding some minor parties that entered the parliament via compensatory mandates could form a majority in the state parliament.
Whoever rules Bosnia will have to respect the strict terms that have been laid out by the international community. High Representative Paddy Ashdown, the international manager of the country, ordered the new authorities to introduce a value added tax by the end of the year on a state level and in general to reform the tax system. He also asked the formation of a court on a state level that would deal with capital offences. Currently, both tax and judicial systems are now at the entity level; these demands are aimed at strengthening Bosnia as a united country. Some parties from the Serb Republic have already expressed their reservations about these demands, but it is clear that they will not have much choice, especially with the Orao scandal hanging in the air. The EU cited these demands as condition for integration into Europe. Authorities in both entities and on the state level will have to do as ordered by international community, which isn't really new.
The four-year term for the
parliaments and presidency will bring some important changes to the country.
By the end of next year, all citizens will have repossessed their pre-war
property, with no refugees in Bosnia by the end of 2004. Such grand plans
can only be fulfilled with the assistance of local authorities. After that,
one will see the new national picture of Bosnia. It is clear already that
the results of ethnic cleansing will remain for the most part, because
a majority of people who repose their property sell it and move to other
parts of the country where their nation is the majority. As thing stand
now, new authorities will have a sour taste in their mouths because the
international community will not allow extreme solutions.
• • •
The events in Moscow have sharpened the attitude of the Azerbaijan government to Chechen refugees. On October 26, President Heidar Aliev ordered the closure of Chechnya's representation in Baku, the same day that the Russian foreign ministry appealed to state authorities whose territories have Chechen representations and cultural centers to shut them immediately and stop their activity. In Russia's opinion, all those representations and cultural centers are residences of Aslan Maskhadov and are complicit in terrorism.
Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 Chechen refugees live in Azerbaijan, according to unofficial estimates, mostly in Baku. While the Baku representational office had not been registered, it was functioning legally. For now, Aliev is the first head of state responding to Russia's demands, based in part on concern over increasing Russian dissatisfaction. It is not suspected that Chechnya's representation, nor the Chechen refugees settled in Baku, have actual ties with extremist groups fighting in Chechnya.
During the events around the Moscow theater, the head of the Chechen representation, Ali Asayev was several times contacted by phone with Abu Said and Movsar Barayev, leaders of the group that took over 700 citizens hostage. Asayev had a role in gaining the release four Azeris who were among hostages. He talked with Barayev before journalists and called him to release Azeris. Azeris were released from among the hostages several hours before Russians attacked the theater. There was a representative of the "Azal" State Airline Concern in Moscow, wife of Jahangir Asgarov, president of the Concern, and her sister among them. Asgarov is known being very close to the family of the ruling power.
Asayev's Nikolai Ryabov,
Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan, was angered by the telephone conversations
with Chechen terrorists and in a press conference he called Azeri journalists
not to take and publish interviews with representatives of the Chechen
lobby. In Ryabov's opinion, Asayev is a direct accomplice with the terrorists.
However, Russia is no longer demanding Asayev's extradition, or of other
Chechens settled in Baku. Even so, the Russian side will probably put forward
such a demand within the framework of the wide-scale response operation
against Chechens in the nearest days. Until now, the Azerbaijani side has
responded to previous Russian demands for extraditing Chechens in Baku.
All the arrested were accused of fighting against Russia and participating
in various terror acts. Those arrests have changed the opinion of Chechen
leaders toward Heidar Aliev. Some Chechen commanders accuse him in fulfilling
Russia's claims absolutely.
* This article is reprinted from the WEEKLY ANALYTICAL-INFORMATION BULLETIN published by the AZERBAIJAN NATIONAL DEMOCRACY FOUNDATION (ANDF). To receive this e-mail publication directly, please write to email@example.com.