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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 106, 00-06-01

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. 106, 1 June 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] NEW ARMENIAN BLOC HOLDS FIRST CONGRESS
  • [02] ARMENIAN WAR VETERANS STILL INTENT ON OUSTING PRESIDENT
  • [03] SENIOR OSCE OFFICIAL DISCUSSES ELECTION LAW IN AZERBAIJAN
  • [04] CAR BOMB KILLS GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER'S BROTHER
  • [05] CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY VISITS GEORGIA
  • [06] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES PIPELINE AGREEMENT
  • [07] OSCE CHAIRWOMAN IN KYRGZYSTAN
  • [08] OPPOSITION KYRGYZ POLITICIAN SUES ELECTION COMMISSION
  • [09] CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST
  • [10] TAJIKISTAN DENIES GUERRILLA PRESENCE ON ITS BORDER WITH
  • [11] UZBEKISTAN DENIES VIOLATING AFGHANISTAN'S AIR SPACE

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] FAILED ATTEMPT TO ARREST PLAVSIC?
  • [13] SFOR DENIES BID TO SEIZE PLAVSIC
  • [14] DJUKANOVIC AIDE SHOT DEAD...
  • [15] ...AS SOME BLAME MILOSEVIC
  • [16] KOSOVA SERBS BURN NORWEGIAN KFOR VEHICLE
  • [17] DRASKOVIC PRAISES RUSSIAN ROLE IN SERBIA...
  • [18] ...WHILE DJINDJIC, PERISIC BLAST IT
  • [19] SERBIAN POLICE HOLD DRASKOVIC'S BODYGUARDS
  • [20] BELGRADE STUDENTS CALL OFF PROTEST
  • [21] YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER IN SOUTH AFRICA
  • [22] CROATIA, MONTENEGRO SIGN AGREEMENT
  • [23] NEW GOVERNEMENT FOR ZAGREB
  • [24] TUDJMAN'S SON: GOVERNMENT LEAVING CROATIA WITHOUT SECURITY
  • [25] ROMANIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL SAYS BANK CRISIS WAS 'THREAT TO
  • [26] ...WHILE RULING PARTY POINTS FINGER AT OPPOSITION...
  • [27] ...AND INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED INTO FUND OFFICIALS
  • [28] GAGAUZ-YERI ASSEMBLY THREATENS RETALIATION
  • [29] BULGARIA 'WORRIED' ABOUT LIBYAN TRIAL

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] CABAL AND LOVE--CZECH STYLE

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] NEW ARMENIAN BLOC HOLDS FIRST CONGRESS

    The Union of Right-

    Wing Forces, which is composed of four small right-wing

    parties that split in the late 1990s from the then ruling

    Armenian Pan-National Movement, held its founding congress in

    Yerevan on 29 May, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital

    reported. The more than 1,000 participants adopted a

    statement accusing President Robert Kocharian of having

    "seized power" in February 1998 and the present Armenian

    leadership of rolling back political and economic reform and

    making Armenia "an obstacle to regional integration." David

    Shahnazarian," the leader of the 21st Century party, who ran

    unsuccessfully against Kocharian in the March 1998

    presidential poll, also accused the president of planning to

    resolve the Karabakh conflict by means of a territorial

    exchange that would entail ceding Armenia's southern Meghri

    region to Azerbaijan. The Armenian leadership has repeatedly

    denied that it would ever agree to such an exchange of

    territory. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN WAR VETERANS STILL INTENT ON OUSTING PRESIDENT

    The

    12 members of the Yerkrapah Union of veterans of the Karabakh

    war who quit the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc and

    the second-largest Kayunutiun faction last month to protest

    Andranik Markarian's appointment as premier told RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau on 31 May that the primary objective of their

    new Hayastan parliament faction will be to force Kocharian's

    resignation. Hayastan leader Miasnik Malkhasian on 31 May

    accused Miasnutiun of an "unprincipled" move in agreeing to

    cooperate with Kocharian on the formation of a new

    government. LF

    [03] SENIOR OSCE OFFICIAL DISCUSSES ELECTION LAW IN AZERBAIJAN

    OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairwoman Helle Degn met in Baku

    on 31 May with parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov and

    with opposition party leaders to discuss possible amendments

    to the country's election legislation proposed by the OSCE's

    Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Turan

    reported. Also discussed were the Karabakh conflict,

    Azerbaijan's quest for full membership in the Council of

    Europe, and its participation in European security

    structures. LF

    [04] CAR BOMB KILLS GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER'S BROTHER

    Guram

    Tevzadze died and two of his relatives were injured when his

    jeep was blown up in Tbilisi on the morning of 1 June,

    Caucasus Press reported. Guram Tevzadze, whose brother David

    is defense minister, headed the NGO Tanadgoma, which provides

    supplies to the Georgian armed forces. The organization

    figures prominently in repeated charges of embezzlement

    within the Defense Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6

    December 1999 and 19 January 2000). LF

    [05] CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY VISITS GEORGIA

    Visiting Tbilisi on

    31 May, Yurii Yarov met with Georgian President Eduard

    Shevardnadze to discuss preparations for the 21 June CIS

    summit, in particular the planned CIS free trade zone, which

    the Georgian parliament has not yet endorsed, Caucasus Press

    reported. Yarov also discussed with both Shevardnadze and

    with Minister for Conflict Resolution Malkhaz Kakabadze and

    UN Special Representative for Abkhazia Dieter Boden the

    prospects for a greater CIS input toward resolving the Abkhaz

    conflict, which he vowed to make a priority. Speaking to

    journalists after those talks, Yarov denied that the Russian

    air force is planning air strikes against suspected Chechen

    guerrilla bases in Georgia's Pankisi gorge. He also denied

    that the Russia-Belarus Union is intended as an alternative

    to the CIS. Nor, he added, will the anticipated visa

    requirement for Georgians visiting Russia and vice versa

    contribute to the breakup of the CIS. LF

    [06] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES PIPELINE AGREEMENT

    Parliamentary deputies voted unanimously on 31 May to ratify

    the package of agreements on construction of the Baku-Ceyhan

    export pipeline for Caspian oil, Caucasus Press reported.

    Georgia stands to earn up to $62.5 million in annual transit

    fees from oil transiting that pipeline. In Baku, Valekh

    Alesqerov, who is a senior official of the state oil company

    SOCAR, said that the governments of the three states that the

    pipeline will cross (Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey) will

    not have to meet any of the estimated $2.4 billion

    construction costs. Those costs will be borne by a special

    consortium, still to be formed, which will seek loans from

    international financial institutions. He expressed the hope

    that some oil from Kazakhstan will also be exported via the

    Baku-Ceyhan route. LF

    [07] OSCE CHAIRWOMAN IN KYRGZYSTAN

    Austrian Foreign Minister and

    OSCE chairwoman Benita Ferrero-Waldner held talks in Bishkek

    on 31 May with the chairmen of both chambers of Kyrgyzstan's

    parliament and with President Askat Akaev, RFE/RL's bureau in

    the Kyrgyz capital reported. Ferrero-Waldner told journalists

    that she discussed three issues with Akaev: regional

    security, regional cooperation, including in the rational use

    of water resources, and the progress of democratic reforms in

    Kyrgyzstan. She also raised with Akaev the cases of arrested

    opposition Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov and of El (Bei

    Bechara) leader Daniyar Usenov, who was sentenced in April to

    three years' imprisonment. Ferrero-Waldner said the OSCE will

    convene a conference in Tashkent in October to focus on

    security problems in Central Asia, Reuters reported. LF

    [08] OPPOSITION KYRGYZ POLITICIAN SUES ELECTION COMMISSION

    El

    leader Usenov told RFE/RL on 31 May that he brought legal

    proceedings against the Central Electoral Commission two days

    earlier. The commission had barred Usenov from contending the

    12 March parliamentary runoff election in a constituency

    where he won the majority of votes during the 20 February

    first round, claiming that he had falsified his income and

    property declaration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 13 March

    2000). LF

    [09] CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST

    IMMINENT

    In an e-mail message to international human rights

    organizations on 31 May, which was forwarded to "RFE/RL

    Newsline," Ramazan Dyryldaev, the chairman of the Human

    Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan, said that he was informed

    earlier that day by a Bishkek district prosecutor that

    charges of failing to comply with an earlier court order are

    being prepared against him. Dyryldaev characterized these

    charges as part of a broader campaign to neutralize all

    opposition figures and NGOs in the runup to the presidential

    elections scheduled to be held later this year. LF

    [10] TAJIKISTAN DENIES GUERRILLA PRESENCE ON ITS BORDER WITH

    KYRGYZSTAN

    Adylbek Kadyrbekov, the deputy governor of

    Kyrgzystan's southern Batken Oblast, which borders on

    Tajikistan, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 31 May that some

    1,000 Islamic rebels are currently concentrated on the Tajik

    side of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border and could invade Kyrgyzstan

    at any time. But he said Kyrgyz troops are prepared to repel

    such an incursion. President Akaev, accompanied by the

    ministers of defense and security, visited Batken on 27 May

    to address a meeting of defense and security personnel. Also

    on 31 May, Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov

    denied the Kyrgyz allegations, affirming that "at present

    there are absolutely no terrorists or any other kind of armed

    groups [in Tajikistan] which could threaten the security of

    neighboring republics," Reuters reported. LF

    [11] UZBEKISTAN DENIES VIOLATING AFGHANISTAN'S AIR SPACE

    The

    Uzbek Foreign Ministry on 1 June denied reports circulated

    the previous day by the Afghan Islamic Press that five of its

    aircraft violated Afghanistan's air space north of Mazar-i-

    Sharif on three occasions during the previous two days, ITAR-

    TASS reported. The Taliban had warned Uzbekistan against

    repeating those incursions and deployed artillery on hills

    close to the Afghan-Uzbek border. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] FAILED ATTEMPT TO ARREST PLAVSIC?

    "Vesti" reported from Banja

    Luka on 1 June that "several" unidentified, uniformed men

    tried the previous day to enter the apartment building where

    former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic lives. In

    front of the building stood a "jeep with dark windows and

    diplomatic license plates," the daily added. Eyewitnesses

    told "Vesti" that they believe the men were foreign special

    troops sent to arrest Plavsic, presumably under a secret

    indictment from the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The

    daily reported that Plavsic and the Bosnian Serb police had

    apparently been warned of the attempt in advance because the

    number of police in her building had been increased that day

    to "at least 10" from the usual two. Several hours after

    Bosnian Serb police prevented the uniformed men from entering

    the building, Plavsic left her flat "visibly angry and with a

    large police escort." Bosnian Serb police made no official

    statement, but an unidentified police official told "Vesti"

    that "everything points to an attempt to arrest" her. PM

    [13] SFOR DENIES BID TO SEIZE PLAVSIC

    Speaking in Banja Luka on

    31 May, an unidentified spokesman for NATO peacekeepers

    denied that there had been an incident involving SFOR and

    Plavsic, REFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Observers

    note that there has long been speculation in Serbian and

    Bosnian Serb media as to whether Plavsic might have been

    secretly indicted by the tribunal for her role in the Bosnian

    Serb leadership early in the 1992-1995 war. She broke with

    her former hard-line allies and began cooperating with the

    international community well before the conclusion of the

    Dayton agreement in 1995. She subsequently appeared publicly

    with many Western leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State

    Madeleine Albright, who praised Plavsic. PM

    [14] DJUKANOVIC AIDE SHOT DEAD...

    An unidentified assailant shot

    and killed Goran Zugic in Podgorica late on 31 May. The

    killer escaped, but police are conducting a search for one

    man whom eyewitnesses clearly saw kill Zugic, Reuters

    reported. Zugic was security adviser to Montenegrin President

    Milo Djukanovic and a former police chief in the coastal town

    of Herceg Novi. It is unclear what the motive for the killing

    might be. The BBC's Serbian Service reported that murder may

    be linked to the lucrative smuggling trade between Italy and

    Montenegrin ports. Reuters noted that Zugic was politically a

    thorn in the side of local supporters of Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic. Gangland-style slayings of politicians

    and underworld figures have been no rarity in Serbia in

    recent years, but this is the first such execution-style

    killing of a public figure in Montenegro. PM

    [15] ...AS SOME BLAME MILOSEVIC

    Liberal Alliance leader Miroslav

    Vickovic told Reuters on 1 June: "Both Serbia and Montenegro

    have lost the thin line between politics and crime." Rifat

    Rastoder, who is a deputy speaker of the parliament, was

    blunt in his remarks to AP: "It was a classic politically-

    motivated assassination, with all the characteristics of [the

    recent] series of murders in Serbia. It is a direct and

    desperate attempt to transfer Serbia's shotgun policies to

    Montenegro and create conditions for the imposition of a

    state of emergency and dictatorship" by Milosevic, Rastoder

    added. PM

    [16] KOSOVA SERBS BURN NORWEGIAN KFOR VEHICLE

    A crowd of angry

    local Serbs surrounded a vehicle carrying an unspecified

    number of Norwegian peacekeepers in the village of Babin Most

    on 31 May. Details of the incident are unclear, but two

    soldiers were slightly injured before the Serbs set the

    vehicle alight. The KFOR troops were investigating the drive-

    by shooting of a Serb in that same village earlier in the

    day. French peacekeepers stopped a car carrying two badly

    wounded men, one of whom later died. The two are the primary

    suspects in that killing. Reuters reported that attacks on

    Serbs by ethnic Albanians "sometimes provoke spontaneous

    protests by local Serbs, who block roads or take out their

    anger on KFOR soldiers." PM

    [17] DRASKOVIC PRAISES RUSSIAN ROLE IN SERBIA...

    The Serbian

    Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic, who epitomizes the

    nationalist, anti-Western elements in the opposition, said in

    Moscow on 30 May that "if there is any voice today that has

    to be respected, it is the voice of Russia," RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2000).

    He told reporters that Russian officials back his call for

    early elections and an end to repression. Russian Foreign

    Ministry statements did not support Draskovic's claims,

    however, Reuters reported on 29 May. PM

    [18] ...WHILE DJINDJIC, PERISIC BLAST IT

    Democratic Party leader

    Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 31 May that Russian

    officials are using double standards by "trying to protect a

    state based on the rule of law and independent media at home

    while showing an understanding" for the oppressive Milosevic

    regime. He was particularly critical of the Russian military,

    who recently played host to indicted war criminal and Defense

    Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic. Djindjic also noted that "in

    contrast with Russian diplomats, who have to think something

    over five times before coming to an agreement with us,

    Westerners act much more decisively.... After Milosevic's

    inevitable exit, Serbs won't forget that Moscow, by not

    deciding to completely break with him, had prolonged the

    regime's agony," AP reported, citing "Kommersant-Daily" (see

    also Part 1). Former General Momcilo Perisic, who was not

    present in Moscow, called the Russian treatment of the

    opposition delegation "a slap in the face" for the

    opposition, "Vesti" reported on 1 June. PM

    [19] SERBIAN POLICE HOLD DRASKOVIC'S BODYGUARDS

    Police arrested

    four of Draskovic's personal security guards at Belgrade

    airport on 31 May while they were waiting for him to return

    from Moscow. Police said that the men were carrying weapons,

    which they are not legally entitled to do, Reuters reported.

    Draskovic charged that the real reason for the arrests was

    "to create a scandal and leave me unprotected to make it

    easier for anyone who would like to kill me [to do so] and

    finish the job they failed to do last October." Draskovic has

    accused the authorities of having tried to kill him in a

    mysterious road accident in October 1999. PM

    [20] BELGRADE STUDENTS CALL OFF PROTEST

    A group of Belgrade

    university students decided on 31 May to end protests in view

    of a lack of support from their colleagues (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 24 May 2000). Only 10 students turned out for what

    proved to be the final rally, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. PM

    [21] YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER IN SOUTH AFRICA

    Zivadin Jovanovic

    met with Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad and other,

    unnamed officials in Johannesburg on 31 May in a previously

    unannounced visit, AP reported. No details of the talks are

    available. The Serbian private media have often suggested

    that South Africa and China are possible places of exile for

    Milosevic, should he try to leave the Serbian political

    scene. PM

    [22] CROATIA, MONTENEGRO SIGN AGREEMENT

    Local government

    officials from the Dubrovnik area in Croatia and Herceg Novi

    in Montenegro approved a one-year project for the Dubrovnik

    water plant to supply Herceg Novi with fresh water for

    $45,000 per month, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported

    from Cavtat on 31 May. PM

    [23] NEW GOVERNEMENT FOR ZAGREB

    The city council elected Franjo

    Zenko from the Social Liberals as its president on 31 May.

    The council also voted in the Social Democrats' Milan Bandic

    as mayor. PM

    [24] TUDJMAN'S SON: GOVERNMENT LEAVING CROATIA WITHOUT SECURITY

    Miroslav Tudjman, who is the son of the late president and

    former head of the Croatian Intelligence Service (HIS), told

    "Slobodna Dalmacija" of 1 June that recent changes in the HIS

    amount to its destruction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May

    2000). Tudjman charged that the government is eliminating

    proven institutions and has no idea of what to put in their

    place. He added that President Stipe Mesic acted illegally in

    recently publishing the transcripts of several of the late

    president's taped conversations (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report,"

    2 May 2000). PM

    [25] ROMANIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL SAYS BANK CRISIS WAS 'THREAT TO

    NATIONAL SECURITY'...

    Meeting on 31 May under the

    chairmanship of President Emil Constantinescu, the National

    Defense Council announced it will set up a commission to

    work with the Prosecutor General's Office in order to

    establish the reasons that led to the collapse of the

    National Investment Fund (FNI). The council recommended

    that the cabinet initiate legislation regulating investment

    schemes. And it added that the recent panic around the

    alleged imminent collapse of Commercial Bank had been a

    "threat to national security." The council did not

    elaborate. Media reports said the destabilization attempt

    had been masterminded in Bucharest, noting that anonymous

    phone callers had urged holders of accounts with the bank

    to close those accounts, while an attempt had been

    undertaken to disrupt communications between the Bucharest

    headquarters of the main savings bank CEC and its branches.

    The IMF, meanwhile, has extended until 7 June Romania's

    $540 million stand-by credit. MS

    [26] ...WHILE RULING PARTY POINTS FINGER AT OPPOSITION...

    National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD)

    Chairman Ion Diaconescu said on 31 May that the main

    opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) was

    behind the recent attempts to destabilize the country's

    economy. Diaconescu said it was not by chance that those

    attempts occurred before the IMF was due to decide on

    extending the stand-by credit and before the upcoming local

    elections. He said the PDSR was hoping to deflect attention

    from scandals in which it was involved, including the

    Moscow-Bucharest hot-line and the Adrian Costea money-

    laundering affair, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The

    PDSR rejected the accusations and said those scandals were

    fabricated by the PNTCD before the 2000 ballots in order to

    deflect attention from its failures in governing the

    country. MS

    [27] ...AND INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED INTO FUND OFFICIALS

    Police

    on 31 May launched a criminal investigation into six

    suspended senior FNI executives. Interior Minister

    Constantin Dudu Ionescu said the former manager of the

    fund, Ioana Maria Vlas, "has been traced," but he did not

    elaborate. According to media reports, Vlas flew from Sofia

    to Tel Aviv and from there to Venezuela. Meanwhile, an

    opinion poll conducted by Metromedia Transylvania shows

    PDSR Chairman Iliescu has 51 percent backing as the

    country's next president while the PDSR enjoys the greatest

    support of any political party (47 percent). MS

    [28] GAGAUZ-YERI ASSEMBLY THREATENS RETALIATION

    The Popular

    Assembly of the Autonomous Gagauz-Yeri region on 31 May

    approved a resolution accusing the central government of

    failing to implement the provisions of the agreement on its

    autonomous status. The assembly warned against this

    "adventurous policy" and said it will demand the status of

    a "third equal partner," alongside Tiraspol and Chisinau,

    in negotiations on the "joint common state." It also said

    it may refuse to allow the region to participate in the

    2000 presidential elections if Chisinau "does not stop its

    economic and financial blockade of Gagauz-Yeri," Infotag

    reported. The resolution was approved after the parliament

    in Chisinau refused to approve the duty-free import from

    Turkey of diesel fuel granted to the region as

    "humanitarian aid." The government said it was informed

    about the transport only when it was already on its way to

    Moldova. MS

    [29] BULGARIA 'WORRIED' ABOUT LIBYAN TRIAL

    Foreign Ministry

    spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 31 May told journalists that

    Bulgaria is "worried" that the trial of six Bulgarian

    nationals, scheduled to begin on 4 June in Libya, will not be

    fair, Reuters reported. The five nurses and one doctor are

    accused of having deliberately infected children in a

    Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus that causes AIDS; if

    convicted, they will face the death sentence. Vlaikov said

    the Libyan authorities have denied the defendants the right

    to meet with their lawyers and have ignored Bulgaria's

    questions over whether force has been used against them to

    extract confessions. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [30] CABAL AND LOVE--CZECH STYLE

    By Michael Shafir

    Two hundred and sixteen years have passed since

    Friedrich von Schiller wrote "Cabal and Love," sometimes

    translated as "Intrigue and Love," which used to be staged

    with great success by Prague's German-language theater. While

    that theater no longer exists, cabal is definitely not absent

    from another stage in Prague--the political one. What may be

    more difficult to find there, however, is love.

    The amendment to the electoral law passed by the Chamber

    of Deputies at the end of last week is illustrative of this

    state of affairs. A majority of 117 out of the 163 deputies

    present approved that amendment, which is likely to have a

    major impact on the composition of the country's lower house.

    Its passage was ensured by the "opposition agreement" under

    which the minority Social Democratic (CSSD) cabinet of Milos

    Zeman rules with the tacit support of the largest opposition

    formation, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). There is little

    love lost between these two formations, yet from the start of

    their "unholy marriage" they announced their intent to

    introduce constitutional changes whose undeclared purpose was

    to weaken potential rivals and President Vaclav Havel's

    powers.

    The problem with constitutional change is that under

    Czech law, these require a three-fifths majority in both the

    Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate. The CSSD and the ODS

    do not have such a majority in the upper house. This explains

    why the law curtailing Havel's prerogatives, which was

    approved in January 2000 by the chamber, has stalled in the

    Senate. To circumvent such problems, the electoral system was

    changed in such a way as to keep the existing proportional

    system but alter it drastically. This was no longer a

    "constitutional change," as envisaged by the ODS, when it

    called for replacing the proportional system with that of

    single-district simple majority. Rather, it was called an

    "amendment" to existing legislation and thus can be passed

    with a simple majority by both chambers.

    The main change rests in a "gerrymandering" trick:

    instead of the previous eight electoral districts, there will

    now be 35 in which deputies are to be elected according to

    the D'Hondt, rather than the previously used Hagen-Bischoff

    system of proportional distribution. The D'Hondt system

    favors larger formations, and since the number of districts

    has increased almost fourfold, smaller parties will find it

    harder to gain representation. This is because a smaller

    district will now sends fewer deputies (approximately six)

    than previously to the 200-seat parliament, whereas under the

    previous distribution system, smaller formations could still

    gain representation if they received single-digit support.

    Those formations are now less likely to be represented in the

    parliament, even if they pass the (unchanged) 5 percent

    electoral hurdle.

    But the hurdle was also raised de facto, since under the

    "amended" legislation, an alliance of parties, which

    previously required a minimum of 7 percent to gain entry to

    the chamber, can now require as much as 20 percent to do so,

    depending on the number of members in the alliance. A two-

    party alliance now requires 10 percent backing, three parties

    require 15 percent, and four parties and more 20 percent.

    This change is obviously aimed at the four-party coalition

    comprising the opposition Freedom Union, the Christian

    Democratic Party, the Civic Democratic Alliance, which is

    represented only in the Senate, and the extraparliamentary

    Democratic Union.

    This provision is very much reminiscent of what former

    Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar tried to do before the

    elections that he lost, prompting the unification of the

    opposition parties. It is unclear whether the same would

    happen in the case of the "four-party" coalition. For now,

    however, that coalition seems "safe," even under the amended

    legislation: according to opinion polls, it has a good chance

    of overcoming the new minimal threshold.

    Even so, it is obvious that the new distribution system

    would have a significant impact on the parties'

    representation in the chamber. According to figures

    calculated by the Czech Academy of Sciences and cited by CTK

    on 26 May, the CSSD would have received 102 seats under the

    new system (compared with the 74 it has now) and the ODS

    would have obtained 86 seats (63). The smaller Christian

    Democrats and Freedom Union would have received seven

    (instead of 20) or one (instead of 19), respectively, had the

    new system been in place in 1998. Some may even claim that it

    is not "Cabal and Love" but rather an earlier play by

    Schiller that best describes this situation--except that in

    "The Thieves," written in 1781, the German poet and

    playwright obviously admired his heroes.

    The cabal, however, has not ended with the passage of

    this legislation. According to Ivan Langer, ODS deputy

    chairman, his party might decide to include in its platform

    for the 2002 parliamentary elections a recommendation that

    the country's president be popularly elected and the

    prerogatives of both that office and those of the premier

    strengthened. In fact, Langer spoke about introducing a

    "chancellor-type" of government.

    At first glance, this is contradictory. How could a

    popularly elected president with wider prerogatives be

    compatible with legislation advocating the weakening of the

    presidential powers? It must not be forgotten, however, that

    Havel's mandate ends in early 2003 and that ODS Chairman

    Vaclav Klaus might run for that post. In which case, Langer,

    Klaus's "crown prince," would certainly not mind becoming the

    Czech Republic's first "chancellor." The performance

    continues, no matter which of the two Schiller plays one opts

    for.

    01-06-00


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


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