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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 48, 00-03-08

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 48, 8 March 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY WARNS PRESIDENT NOT TO REJECT
  • [02] ...CALLS DECREE ON MILITARY 'UNCONSTITUTIONAL'...
  • [03] ...REJECTS CHARGES OF PRESSURING MEDIA
  • [04] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FINALLY APPROVES STATE BUDGET
  • [05] ARMENIANS PETITION FOR RELEASE OF ASALA MEMBER
  • [06] LANDSLIP IN AZERBAIJANI CAPITAL CAUSES DAMAGE BUT NO
  • [07] ABKHAZIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF RENEGING ON HOSTAGE EXCHANGE
  • [08] NEW CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST KAZAKH EX-PREMIER
  • [09] KAZAKHSTAN DETAINS TWO UZBEK ARMY OFFICERS
  • [10] IRAN LOBBIES FOR OIL EXPORT PIPELINE FROM KAZAKHSTAN
  • [11] KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST ELECTION RESTRICTIONS
  • [12] MORE RUSSIANS EMIGRATING FROM KYRGYZSTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] SCORES INJURED AS VIOLENCE AGAIN FLARES UP IN MITROVICA
  • [14] RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS TOUGHER MEASURES AGAINST
  • [15] UN REGISTERS MORE ETHNIC ALBANIANS LEAVING SERBIAN REGION
  • [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO PAY FOR TV STATION 'DEBT
  • [17] MONTENEGRO COMPLAINS THAT MEDICINE SUPPLIES CUT OFF
  • [18] WESTERN ENVOYS CRITICIZE IZETBEGOVIC FOR REMARKS
  • [19] ALBRIGHT IN SARAJEVO
  • [20] EU BEGINS EXPANSION OF TIES WITH MACEDONIA
  • [21] ALBANIA SACKS JUDGES IN FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
  • [22] ROMANIAN PREMIER ADVISES BABIUC TO RESIGN
  • [23] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN U.K.
  • [24] ROMANIAN STATISTICAL OFFICE SAYS LIVING STANDARDS
  • [25] BUCHAREST REGRETS MOLDOVA'S 'HASTE'...
  • [26] ...BUT CHISINAU ESCALATES DISPUTE
  • [27] BULGARIA, SLOVAKIA, TO CO-ORDINATE POSITIONS ON EU

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [28] 'STANDARD' POLITICS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY WARNS PRESIDENT NOT TO REJECT

    ITS DEMANDS...

    Leaders of the Miasnutiun parliamentary

    majority alliance and Prime Minister Aram Sargsian on 7 March

    made clear their displeasure with statements made the

    previous day by President Robert Kocharian during an

    interview with Armenian National Television, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. The Miasnutiun leaders said they will not

    take any further action against Kocharian in the next few

    days but warned that they may withdraw their support for the

    president if he declines to comply. Kocharian had rejected as

    "absurd" the 3 March demand by Miasnutiun that he fire two

    top officials for allegedly obstructing and misrepresenting

    the investigation into the 27 October parliament shootings

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 March 2000). LF

    [02] ...CALLS DECREE ON MILITARY 'UNCONSTITUTIONAL'...

    Also on 7

    March, Vladimir Nazarian, who heads the parliamentary legal

    department, circulated a report condemning as

    unconstitutional a decree issued by Kocharian the previous

    day underscoring his constitutional right (as commander in

    chief of the Armenian armed forces) to appoint and dismiss

    senior military personnel, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.

    Andranik Markarian, who heads the Miasnutiun majority

    parliamentary bloc, told RFE/RL that Kocharian's decree "was

    meant to have an ideological effect...and to show that the

    army is his. But it belongs to the state." LF

    [03] ...REJECTS CHARGES OF PRESSURING MEDIA

    Markarian also told

    Noyan Tapan on 7 March that the 3 March demand by Miasnutiun

    that Kocharian fire Armenian National Television director

    Tigran Naghdalian constitutes neither an attempt to muzzle

    the Armenian media nor an ultimatum to the president.

    Markarian stressed that the Miasnutiun statement was directed

    only at national television as a "government structure." But

    at a round-table discussion convened by the Yerevan Press

    Club, Armenian journalists condemned the Miasnutiun statement

    as an infringement of media freedom, Noyan Tapan reported on

    8 March. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation--

    Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), which supports Kocharian, issued a

    statement on 6 March condemning as "inadmissible" any attempt

    to restrict freedom of the media. LF

    [04] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FINALLY APPROVES STATE BUDGET

    By an

    overwhelming majority, parliamentary deputies on 7 March

    finally endorsed the 2000 budget unveiled by Finance Minister

    Levon Barkhudarian in mid-January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17

    January 2000), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That draft,

    which has received the blessing of international financial

    institutions, does not differ greatly from last year's. It

    sets expenditures at 252.7 billion drams ($482 million) and

    revenues at 202 billion drams. The resulting deficit is equal

    to less than 5 percent of projected GDP and will be almost

    totally covered by Western loans and grants. Government

    officials predict an increase in GDP of 6 percent, compared

    with 3.7 percent in 1999. LF

    [05] ARMENIANS PETITION FOR RELEASE OF ASALA MEMBER

    Since the

    beginning of the year, some 600,000 Armenians (of an

    estimated population of 3 million) have signed a petition

    calling on the Armenian leadership to ask the French

    government to release Varuzhan Karapetyan, who was sentenced

    to life imprisonment by a French court in 1983, Armenpress

    reported on 6 March. Karapetyan assumed sole responsibility

    for the 1983 bombing by members of the Armenian Secret Army

    for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) of the Turkish Airlines

    office at Orly airport, in which eight people were killed and

    55 injured. ASALA was formed in 1975 by diaspora Armenians

    and waged a series of bombings against Turkish targets in an

    attempt to coerce the Turkish government to acknowledge

    responsibility for the slaughter of Armenians in Turkey in

    1915. LF

    [06] LANDSLIP IN AZERBAIJANI CAPITAL CAUSES DAMAGE BUT NO

    CASUALTIES

    A number of buildings were swept away or damaged

    by a landslide in Baku's Sabail district during the night of

    6-7 March, Turan reported. The city's water-main was also

    damaged. No injuries were reported. The landslide was the

    most severe in the city's recent history. LF

    [07] ABKHAZIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF RENEGING ON HOSTAGE EXCHANGE

    AGREEMENT

    Sergei Tsargush, deputy security minister of the

    unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, has accused Tbilisi of

    failing to implement an agreement reached last month whereby

    both sides would release all hostages they currently hold,

    Caucasus Press reported on 8 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4

    and 8 February 2000). Tsargush said Tbilisi is refusing to

    hand over two Abkhaz held since 1999. He admitted that

    Abkhazia will not release two prisoners on whose return

    Tbilisi is insisting. Tsargush said the men in question are

    serving jail sentences for war crimes. LF

    [08] NEW CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST KAZAKH EX-PREMIER

    The

    Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan has addressed a

    statement to Almaty City Prosecutor Yergali Merzadinov

    protesting the opening on 29 February of a new criminal case

    against the party's leader, former Prime Minister Akezhan

    Kazhegeldin, Interfax reported on 7 March. Kazhegeldin is

    accused of illegal possession of a pistol, which he was

    presented as a gift while serving as premier. One of his

    bodyguards subsequently handed over the weapon to the

    presidential bodyguard service, the statement said. Two of

    Kazhegeldin's former bodyguards are similarly under

    investigation for illegal possession of weapons (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 22 December 1999 and 24 February 2000).

    Kazhegeldin, who was earlier charged with tax evasion, left

    Kazakhstan early last year. LF

    [09] KAZAKHSTAN DETAINS TWO UZBEK ARMY OFFICERS

    Kazakh border

    guards apprehended and detained two Uzbek military officers

    in South Kazakhstan Oblast on 7 March, RFE/RL's Kazakh

    Service reported the following day, citing Interfax. The two

    officers had reportedly crossed the Uzbek-Kazakh border in a

    truck that also carried Kalashnikov machine guns and

    ammunition. LF

    [10] IRAN LOBBIES FOR OIL EXPORT PIPELINE FROM KAZAKHSTAN

    Hasan

    Gashgavi, Iran's ambassador to Kazakhstan, told journalists

    in Almaty on 7 March that his country constitutes the most

    economical route for a pipeline to export Kazakhstan's oil,

    Interfax reported. Iranian National Oil Company Director Reza

    Majedi added that Tehran has proposed to the Kazakh

    leadership three separate variants of such a pipeline, with

    throughput capacity ranging from 315,000 barrels to 1 million

    barrels per day. LF

    [11] KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST ELECTION RESTRICTIONS

    Several

    hundred people picketed a district court in Bishkek on 7

    March that was scheduled to begin considering a suit brought

    by opposition El (Bei Bechara) Party Chairman Daniyar Usenov

    against the Central Electoral Commission, RFE/RL's bureau in

    the Kyrgyz capital reported. On 4 March, the commission had

    barred Usenov from contesting the 12 March runoff elections

    after a rival candidate accused him of falsifying his income

    declaration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2000). The

    demonstrators carried placards saying "Let us vote on our

    own!" and "The government should not interfere in the

    elections". The court postponed the hearing of Usenov's

    appeal until 9 March, according to Interfax. LF

    [12] MORE RUSSIANS EMIGRATING FROM KYRGYZSTAN

    Almost 8,000 ethnic

    Russians in Kyrgyzstan have applied to emigrate to Russia

    since the beginning of the year, compared with only 200 in

    the first two months of 1999, Interfax reported on 7 March,

    quoting a Russian Federal Migration Service official. Most of

    the 12,000 ethnic Russians who emigrated from Kyrgyzstan in

    1999 did so in the last four months of the year, after the

    incursion and hostage-takings by ethnic Uzbek militants. Most

    of those wishing to leave say they are driven to do so by

    unemployment, fear of Islamic militants and the delay in

    passing legislation raising the official status of the

    Russian language. Ethnic Russians account for approximately

    700,000 of Kyrgyzstan's 4.8 million population. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] SCORES INJURED AS VIOLENCE AGAIN FLARES UP IN MITROVICA

    At

    least 40 people were injured when a street fight broke out

    between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in the divided Kosova city

    of Mitrovica on 7 March and gunfire and grenade explosions

    ensued, AFP reported. Along with 16 French NATO peacekeepers,

    20 Serbs and four ethnic Albanians were injured. NATO said

    four ethnic Albanians were detained after the incident.

    Peacekeepers began door-to-door searches and lengthened a

    curfew already in effect in the town. A NATO official said

    the incident was a local dispute and the main job of the

    peacekeepers was to keep it local. NATO Supreme-Commander in

    Europe General Wesley Clark urged the leaders of both

    communities to remain calm. Clark also met with the leader of

    the Serb-dominated part of the town, Oliver Ivanovic. PB

    [14] RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS TOUGHER MEASURES AGAINST

    'ALBANIAN EXTREMISTS'

    Igor Ivanov urged on 7 March that

    stronger measures be used in Kosova to prevent violent ethnic

    conflicts from occurring, ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov made his

    comments after a meeting in Moscow with Carl Bildt, the UN

    secretary-general's Balkan envoy. Ivanov said it is necessary

    to increase the number of international police in the

    province and to be firm with Albanian "extremists and

    separatists." Ivanov added that "tensions will remain there

    as long as [Albanians] feel carefree." Bildt was reported to

    have agreed with Ivanov's call for more security forces in

    the area. PB

    [15] UN REGISTERS MORE ETHNIC ALBANIANS LEAVING SERBIAN REGION

    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on 7 March that an

    increasing number of ethnic Albanians are fleeing the Presevo

    region of southern Serbia, which borders Kosova, AP reported.

    UNHCR spokesman Chris Janowski said in Geneva that at least

    6,000 ethnic Albanians have fled the area since last June. He

    said the UNHCR estimates that at least 70,000 still live in

    that part of Serbia. Recent refugees say they fled to escape

    fighting between Serbian security forces and ethnic Albanians

    around the town of Dobrasin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March

    2000). PB

    [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION TO PAY FOR TV STATION 'DEBT

    The

    opposition-run Belgrade city council said on 7 March that it

    will pay the some $850,000 owed by its Studio-B television

    station so that it can remain on air, dpa reported. Zarko

    Korac, the leader of the opposition Social Democratic Union,

    said the decision was backed by leaders from the democratic

    opposition. The Yugoslav Telecommunications Ministry said the

    previous day that the fee must be paid in eight days or the

    station will be taken off the air (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7

    March 2000). The OSCE said on 7 March that the various

    actions in recent days against Studio-B seem to be

    politically motivated and could have been prompted by

    programs critical of Yugoslav officials. PB

    [17] MONTENEGRO COMPLAINS THAT MEDICINE SUPPLIES CUT OFF

    The

    Serbian-imposed suspension of trade with Montenegro is

    preventing the delivery of urgently needed medicine to that

    republic, AP reported on 7 March. An association of

    Montenegrin pharmacists said in a protest letter that "the

    senseless and unscrupulous policies of Slobodan Milosevic's

    regime...are jeopardizing the health of Montenegrin

    patients." PB

    [18] WESTERN ENVOYS CRITICIZE IZETBEGOVIC FOR REMARKS

    The

    chairman of the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Alija

    Izetbegovic, was criticized on 7 March by Western officials

    for using "highly inflammatory language" at an election rally

    last week, Reuters reported. Wolfgang Petritsch, Bosnia's

    high representative, and Robert Barry, the head of the OSCE

    mission in Bosnia, said in a joint statement that "the

    liberty to campaign is not the same as a license to slander."

    Izetbegovic reportedly said at a Sarajevo campaign rally on 3

    March that the "real enemies" of his Party for Democratic

    Action were "Chetniks and Ustashe," the Serbian and Croatian

    fascist paramilitary groups that were active during World War

    II. Zivko Radisic, the Serbian member of the Bosnian

    presidency, said the use of such terms is damaging to the

    country's peace process. PB

    [19] ALBRIGHT IN SARAJEVO

    U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine

    Albright arrived in Sarajevo on 8 March and began meetings

    with opposition leaders, an RFE/RL correspondent reported.

    U.S. officials said Albright hopes to gain information on the

    prospects for next month's municipal elections by talking

    with Zlatko Lagumdzija and Kresimir Zubak. Albright will meet

    with other Bosnian officials before travelling to Brcko for a

    ceremony inaugurating the town's new multiethnic governing

    body. A senior U.S. official travelling with Albright said

    there may be more negotiations on Brcko because "not everyone

    is satisfied with the way things worked out." Brcko is the

    only territorial link between the western and eastern parts

    of Republika Srpska. PB

    [20] EU BEGINS EXPANSION OF TIES WITH MACEDONIA

    The EU

    commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, began

    talks in Skopje on 7 March on an agreement expanding

    relations and trade between Macedonia and the EU, AP

    reported. Patten told the country's parliament that the talks

    are a recognition on the part of the EU of the substantial

    progress Macedonia has achieved and reflect the union's

    "admiration" for Macedonia's role during the air strikes

    against Yugoslavia last year. PB

    [21] ALBANIA SACKS JUDGES IN FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

    The

    Albanian Justice Ministry said on 7 March that the country's

    Supreme Justice Council has fired 70 judges for corruption

    and incompetence in the last three years, dpa reported. The

    latest dismissals were on 4 March, when three judges were

    sacked and stripped of their immunity for releasing a rapist

    without sentencing him. In other news, the Albanian Foreign

    Ministry denied Greek reports that Albanian Foreign Minister

    Paskal Milo was involved in the trafficking of Greek visas

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2000). PB

    [22] ROMANIAN PREMIER ADVISES BABIUC TO RESIGN

    Prime Minister

    Mugur Isarescu on 7 March advised Defense Minister Victor

    Babiuc to resign in order to avoid being dismissed from the

    cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. The leadership

    of the ruling coalition will take a decision on his

    dismissal on 9 March. Also on 7 March, Babiuc told Isarescu

    that the Foreign Ministry, which is headed by Petre Roman,

    has inflicted "great harm" on Romanian defense industry

    interests by canceling the Dutch defense minister's visit

    to Bucharest, which was scheduled to begin on 8 March, and

    Babiuc's trip to India from 27 February to 2 March. Babiuc

    said neither he nor the ministry he heads was consulted

    about those cancellations. MS

    [23] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN U.K.

    Roman on 7 March

    discussed with his British counterpart, Robin Cook,

    Romania's bid to join the EU and NATO and ways of

    increasing British investments in the country, Romanian

    Radio and Reuters reported. Roman said Cook repeated his

    country's support for Romania's integration into those

    structures. He also told journalists that "the most

    difficult economic reforms and restructuring are behind

    us." MS

    [24] ROMANIAN STATISTICAL OFFICE SAYS LIVING STANDARDS

    DECLINING

    Per capita GDP in 1999 was down 3.2 percent on

    the 1998 level, according to data released on 6 March by

    the National Commission of Statistics, Mediafax reported.

    Households spent an average of 4.9 percent less in 1999

    than one year earlier. Exports grew by 8.8 percent, while

    imports dropped by 5.1 percent. Total investments in the

    economy were down 12.3 percent on 1998 levels. The private

    sector's share in GDP was 61.5 percent. MS

    [25] BUCHAREST REGRETS MOLDOVA'S 'HASTE'...

    The Romanian Foreign

    Ministry said in a 7 March statement that it "regrets the

    haste" with which Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi has

    responded to "statements attributed" to Foreign Minister

    Petre Roman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2000). The

    ministry said Roman has "never made negative remarks" about

    the situation in Moldova. "On the contrary, in all contacts

    with his counterparts from the EU he has backed the

    aspirations of the Moldovan Republic," Mediafax quoted the

    ministry as saying. MS

    [26] ...BUT CHISINAU ESCALATES DISPUTE

    Foreign Ministry

    spokesman Iurie Vition on 7 March said Romania is

    "indirectly encouraging the infringement of Moldovan

    legislation," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Vition

    said Chisinau has learned from reports in the Romanian

    press that police in eight Romanian counties have been

    authorized to accept applications for Romanian citizenship

    from Moldovans. He said that Bucharest has not officially

    notified Chisinau of this measure and that Moldova has so

    far received no reply to a letter sent to Romania's Foreign

    Ministry asking for clarification and "a dialogue" to solve

    the problem. He also said Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru

    may postpone a visit to Bucharest planned for 21-22 March

    if the issue has not been solved by then. MS

    [27] BULGARIA, SLOVAKIA, TO CO-ORDINATE POSITIONS ON EU

    ACCESSION

    Visiting President Rudolf Schuster and his

    Bulgarian counterpart, Petar Stoyanov, agreed on 7 March

    that their countries must coordinate positions in their

    accession talks with the EU and in their bids to join NATO,

    BTA and TASR reported. Schuster said Slovak firms are

    interested in participating in infrastructure projects

    within the Balkan Stability Pact. He also asked Stoyanov

    for Bulgaria's support in Bratislava's quest to be granted

    a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [28] 'STANDARD' POLITICS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC

    by Victor Gomez

    Few of the addresses and discussions surrounding the

    150th anniversary of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk's birth are

    likely to attract as much media attention as last week's

    speech by Czech Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus.

    Addressing a conference dedicated to the founder and first

    president of Czechoslovakia, Klaus blasted what he described

    as the "Masaryk myth." But, perhaps not surprisingly, his

    remarks reveal more about his own political style and the

    current flaws in the Czech political party system than they

    do about anything else.

    From the outset, Klaus noted that he is not a

    "Masarykologist" and that he did not intend to provide any

    direct assessment of Masaryk or his achievements. Instead,

    his stated aim was to interpret the effects of the "Masaryk

    myth" on current Czech society. In any case, it seems clear

    that the speech had a lot less to do with Masaryk than with

    its hidden protagonist, current Czech President Vaclav Havel.

    This became clear when Klaus noted that the "Masaryk ideal"

    has often been used in the current Czech Republic as a means

    to "defend a world without ideology, an underestimation of

    political parties, a verbal, squeaky clean "democratism," an

    underestimation of the nationalities problem, the effort to

    impress the foreign public more than the domestic public,

    [and] an elitist approach."

    Those formulations are almost identical to Klaus's oft-

    repeated criticisms of Havel's political style and beliefs.

    He has consistently accused Havel of misunderstanding the

    role of political parties in a democracy, of playing to a

    foreign audience, of moralizing about democracy, and of not

    respecting the results of free elections. Those accusations

    became more frequent after Havel played a key role in the

    formation of a caretaker government under Czech National Bank

    Governor Josef Tosovsky in 1997.

    The essential purpose of these and other criticisms is

    to depict Havel and what Klaus calls the president's "castle

    bloc" as a nonstandard, unusual, and elitist band that

    engages in various political intrigues behind the scenes. In

    contrast, Klaus promotes himself as the defender of

    "standard" democratic politics based on political parties and

    conflicting ideologies.

    For instance, Klaus has often argued that his own

    decision to form the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the

    early 1990s played a key role in establishing a Western-style

    political party system in the country. But it was Klaus

    himself who threw a wrench into this shaky new system by

    entering into a strange pseudo-coalition with Milos Zeman's

    Czech Social Democratic Party under the so-called "opposition

    agreement."

    While he would like to claim that the agreement was

    somehow forced on him by the irresponsible ambitions of

    smaller parties or by Havel's intrigues, the fundamental

    decision to enter into such a deal with Zeman was his own.

    Klaus has argued that one of the central aims of the

    agreement was to effect changes to the electoral system that

    would favor large parties and thereby create a smaller system

    of political parties. In other words, the agreement is

    designed to bring about some sort of "standard" system. But

    the agreement itself has already done extensive damage to the

    existing political party system, and there is no guarantee

    that it will succeed in setting up a new one.

    To launch a political campaign based on "mobilization"

    against the leftist forces represented by Zeman and the

    Communist Party--as Klaus did in 1998--and subsequently sign

    a detailed "opposition agreement" with the Social Democrats

    places great strains on the party system, blurs the line

    between the government and the opposition, and disorients

    voters. What is more, the two parties are moving even closer

    together. They recently pledged to consult each other on the

    preparation of certain bills and on several major policy

    goals.

    As the two parties become even more immersed in their

    odd relationship with each other, the political scene in the

    country is becoming increasingly polarized between an ill-

    defined "opposition agreement" bloc and an equally ill-

    defined bloc of parties opposed to the "opposition

    agreement." As a result, the agreement is threatening to turn

    the Communist Party into the only truly independent and

    clearly defined political party in the parliament.

    Klaus may have had a point when he said in his recent

    speech that the constant formation and dissolution of

    coalition governments during Czechoslovakia's First Republic

    had the effect of diminishing the value of elections. One of

    the key problems with the party system in the Masaryk era was

    that power never fully changed hands as a result of a

    standard election. Coalitions came and went, prime ministers

    took office and resigned--usually according to deals

    concluded among the same old set of political parties.

    Similarly, today's political scene in the Czech Republic

    has yet to see a complete change of power as a result of an

    election. Against this background, it is easy to see how the

    "opposition agreement" fits in with its First Republic

    predecessors. But, as Klaus insists, it's not really a

    "standard" coalition in any case.

    08-03-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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