Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1997: WORLD-AFFAIRS: RUSSIA in English

RUSSIA: Russia's Democratic Election When campaigning opened at the beginning of 1996, Pres. Boris Yeltsin's popularity was close to zero. He himself did not at first want to run, since he had spent several months in 1995 convalescing after two heart attacks. Panic struck the Yeltsin team when opinion polls indicated that Yeltsin could not win; members of his staff urged him to find a pretext to cancel the election. Instead, Yeltsin changed his team, assigning a key role to his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, and appointing staunchly pro-capitalist Anatoly Chubais campaign manager. Chubais recruited a team of six leading Russian financiers and media moguls, who bankrolled the campaign to the tune of $3 million and guaranteed favourable coverage on television and in leading newspapers. In the outlying regions of the country, the Yeltsin campaign relied for support on local governors, most of whom had been appointed by the president. The campaign of Gennady Zyuganov, the candidate of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, had a strong grass roots organization, particularly in rural areas and small towns, but it had nothing like the financial resources that the Yeltsin campaign could command. Yeltsin threw himself into the campaign, stumping the country, dancing at rock concerts, exploiting all the advantages of the incumbent to maintain a high media profile. He vowed to abandon unpopular policies and increase welfare spending, end the war in Chechnya, pay wage and pension arrears, and abolish military conscription. His advertising campaign was fiercely anticommunist, playing up the threat of civil war and recalling the lean years following the 1917 revolution, with pictures of starving children and destroyed churches. There were several attractive democratic candidates, notably the economist Grigory Yavlinsky. Seeing these candidates as a threat, the Yeltsin campaign worked to polarize the debate--to exclude the middle ground--and convince voters that only Yeltsin could defeat the Communist menace. The election soon became a two-horse race, but Zyuganov, who lacked Yeltsin's charisma and fought a lacklustre campaign, watched helplessly as his strong initial lead was whittled away. Voter turnout in the first round on June 16 was 69.8%. Yeltsin won 35.3% of the vote; Zyuganov 32%; Aleksandr Lebed, the mercurial ex-general, an unexpectedly high 14.5%; Grigory Yavlinsky 7.3%; far-right Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky 5.7%; and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev 0.5%. With no candidate securing an absolute majority, Yeltsin and Zyuganov went into a second round of voting. In the meantime, Yeltsin cleverly annexed a large section of the voters by appointing Lebed to the posts of national security adviser and secretary of the Security Council. His election tactics paid off. In the second round on July 3, with a turnout of 68.9%, Yeltsin won 53.8% of the vote and Zyuganov 40.3%, with 4.8% voting against both candidates. Moscow and St. Petersburg together provided over half of Yeltsin's support, but he also did well in large cities in the Urals and in the north and northeast. He lost in the traditional red belt in the south, but the Communists did not improve on the one-third of the national vote that they had commanded since 1991. Many people sided with Yeltsin not because they liked his politics but because they liked the Communists even less and did not want to turn the clock back to the past. In addition, they voted for Yeltsin because he promised to abandon his government's unpopular austerity policies and increase public spending to help those suffering from the pain of economic reform. Within a month of the election, Yeltsin had issued a decree canceling almost all these promises. (ELIZABETH TEAGUE) RWANDA The landlocked republic of Rwanda is situated in central Africa. Area: 26,338 sq km (10,169 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 6.9 million, including 1,650,000 refugees, of whom 1.1 million are in Zaire and more than 500,000 are in Tanzania. Cap.: Kigali. Monetary unit: Rwanda franc, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of RF 327.21 to U.S. $1 (RF 515.45 = 1 sterling). President in 1996, Pasteur Bizimungu; prime minister, Pierre Celestin Rwigema. Clashes between Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated army and the Burundian Hutu occurred in January 1996 and caused some 15,000 refugees to flee to Tanzania from camps in Burundi. In December 1995 Rwanda and Tanzania had agreed that 500,000 Rwandans would be repatriated from Tanzania and that refugees who obstructed this process were to be confined. In February Zaire announced plans to repatriate one million refugees; the Zaire government promised the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that there would be no forced repatriation but deployed troops around the Kibumba camp of 200,000 to encourage the refugees to return. The UNHCR, which faced dwindling funds and the reluctance of donors to provide more money, endorsed the Zaire action. In August the prime ministers of Zaire and Rwanda signed an agreement calling for the repatriation of a million refugees from over 30 camps in eastern Zaire. In mid-November hundreds of thousands of Rwandans began to leave Zaire voluntarily. The exodus surprised UN personnel who were organizing a humanitarian mission to avert starvation and death from deadly diseases. The whereabouts of hundreds of thousands of other refugees was unknown. Violence continued throughout the year, some carried out by government soldiers and some by Hutu extremists. On June 1 a communiqu was issued by a new group, People Bearing Arms to Liberate Rwanda (PALIR), which claimed to have established a base in Cyangugu in southwestern Rwanda, near Zaire. It was thought to support rebel Hutu actions in the region; the government insisted it was no threat to security. (GUY ARNOLD) This article updates Rwanda, history of. SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, St. Kitts and Nevis comprises the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Area: 269 sq km (104 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 39,400. Cap.: Basseterre. Monetary unit: Eastern Caribbean dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of EC$2.70 to U.S. $1 (free rate of EC$4.25 = 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1996, Cuthbert Sebastian; prime minister, Denzil Douglas. In June 1996 St. Kitts-Nevis faced its most serious constitutional crisis since the secession of Anguilla 25 years earlier. Vance Amory, premier of Nevis, declared that he had instructed the territory's legal department to prepare a bill for secession from the twin-island federal state. His decision appeared to have been influenced by the central government's insistence on asserting control over much of Nevis's affairs, including financial matters. Prime Minister Denzil Douglas responded to Amory by warning of the risks of fragmentation. Under the federal constitution a referendum in Nevis was required for secession to be legal. (DAVID RENWICK) This article updates Saint Kitts and Nevis. SAINT LUCIA A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, St. Lucia is the second largest of the Windward Islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Area: 617 sq km (238 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 144,000. Cap.: Castries. Monetary unit: Eastern Caribbean dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of EC$2.70 to U.S. $1 (free rate of EC$4.25 = 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governors-general in 1996, Stanislaus A. James and, from June 1, George Mallet; prime ministers, John Compton and, from April 2, Vaughan Lewis. Vaughan Lewis, a former director general of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, was endorsed as the new leader of the governing United Workers' Party (UWP) in January 1996 to replace John Compton, who retired from the party leadership after more than 30 years. Lewis later won a by-election made possible by the resignation from the parliament of the UWP's deputy leader, George Mallet, and was sworn in as prime minister on April 2. In June Mallet was named governor-general of St. Lucia, an appointment strongly criticized by the opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) because of his former association with the UWP. The SLP threatened to boycott all events at which he served as host. (DAVID RENWICK) This article updates Saint Lucia. SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES A constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth, St. Vincent and the Grenadines comprises the islands of St. Vincent and the northern Grenadines in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Area: 389 sq km (150 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 113,000. Cap.: Kingstown. Monetary unit: Eastern Caribbean dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of EC$2.70 to U.S. $1 (free rate of EC$4.25 = 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1996, Sir David Jack; prime minister, Sir James Fitz-Allen Mitchell. In 1996 St. Vincent and the Grenadines was among those Caribbean countries that signed agreements with the U.S. that allowed U.S. Coast Guard personnel to pursue suspected drug smugglers into their territorial waters. This cooperation was further strengthened in August with an extradition treaty that provided for a rapid transfer of drug lords to U.S. jurisdiction. (DAVID RENWICK) This article updates Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. SAN MARINO The republic of San Marino is a landlocked enclave in northeastern Italy. Area: 61 sq km (24 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 25,300. Cap.: San Marino. Monetary unit: Italian lira, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 1,523 lire to U.S. $1 (2,399 lire = 1 sterling). The republic is governed by two capitani reggenti, or coregents, appointed every six months by a popularly elected Great and General Council. Executive power rests with the Congress of State, headed by the coregents and composed of three secretaries of state and seven ministers. San Marino in 1996 engaged in diplomatic exchanges with a host of other countries, including Cuba, Germany, Finland, and--not least--one of Europe's other tiny sovereign states, Malta. Though small, San Marino made its presence felt, as witnessed by funds made available for the construction of a school and a clinic in Bosnia and Herzegovina and by its involvement in the International Labour Organization conference in Geneva. (GREGORY O. SMITH) This article updates SAN MARINO. SO TOM AND PRNCIPE The republic of So Tom and Prncipe comprises two main islands and several smaller islets that straddle the Equator in the Gulf of Guinea, off the west coast of Africa. Area: 1,001 sq km (386 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 134,000. Cap.: So Tom. Monetary unit: dobra, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 2,385 dobras to U.S. $1 (3,757 dobras = 1 sterling). President in 1996, Miguel Trovoada; prime ministers, Armindo Vaz d'Almeida until September 20 and, from November 13, Raul Bragana Neto. A government of national unity was appointed on Jan. 5, 1996, by the new prime minister, Armindo Vaz d'Almeida; it included members of opposition parties as well as members of the Movement for the Liberation of So Tom and Prncipe (MLSTP-PSD). In March, reacting to wrangling in the MLSTP-PSD, the prime minister resigned, but he later agreed to serve until presidential elections had been held. Miguel Trovoada was reelected president in July when he defeated Manuel Pinto da Costa in a second ballot. On November 13 Trovoada appointed Raul Bragana Neto prime minister. (GUY ARNOLD) This article updates So Tom and Prncipe, history of. SAUDI ARABIA The kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula, with coastlines on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Area: 2,240,000 sq km (865,000 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 18,426,000. Cap.: Riyadh. Monetary unit: Saudi Arabian riyal, with (Oct. 11, 1996) an official rate of 3.75 riyals to U.S. $1 (5.93 riyals = 1 sterling). Kings and prime ministers in 1996, Abdullah (acting) and, from February 21, Fahd. On Jan. 1, 1996, King Fahd handed over the reins of government to his half brother Crown Prince Abdullah, one of the 25 surviving sons of the dynasty's founder, 'Abd al-'Aziz (Ibn Sa'ud). Fahd, though in failing health, took power back on February 21, leaving Abdullah in charge of day-to-day affairs of government. Head of the 57,000 Saudi National Guard, Abdullah was not considered to be as pro-American as Fahd and would require the assent of his 24 half brothers to become king. At 72 years of age, Abdullah was considered by many to be too old for the job. On April 22 the government announced the arrest of four Saudi men in connection with the bombing on Nov. 13, 1995, of the United States military training and communications facility in Riyadh in which 7 people, including 3 U.S. civilians and 2 soldiers, died and about 60 were injured. On May 31 the Saudi government announced that the men, 3 of whom were among the more than 20,000 Saudi veterans of the war in Afghanistan, had been beheaded. Before the execution the U.S. was warned that their deaths would provoke a violent anti-American response. When a truck bomb exploded on June 25 at a military compound near Az-Zahran housing U.S., British, and French military personnel, it was assumed to be a retaliatory measure. The blast caused the death of 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded almost 400 Saudis, Americans, and Bangladeshi. It left a crater 10.5 m (35 ft) deep and blew out windows almost a kilometre away. The large diesel fuel truck packed with plastic explosives was parked at the perimeter of the military complex. It aroused Saudi suspicions when the driver got into a nearby car, but warnings came too late; the bomb exploded within four minutes of the discovery of the truck. Muhammad al-Mas`ari, the Saudi dissident leader of the London-based Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights, denied any complicity in either bomb attack, even though a claim of responsibility was made by the "Legion of the Martyr Abdullah al-Huzaifi," a previously unknown group that appeared to have links to Mas`ari's committee. Already under suspicion earlier in the year for the November bombing, Mas`ari was called in by the British government in April for discussions about his possible deportation to Dominica. He planned an appeal, and when a BBC program about Mas`ari broadcast to Saudi Arabia was censored by the Saudi government and the BBC Arabic channel was taken off the air, the British were visibly upset. At the year's end Mas`ari continued to operate from the U.K. Osama bin Laden, resident in Afghanistan after having been deported from The Sudan, also denied responsibility for the attack but warned Britain and France to remove their troops from Saudi Arabia. The multimillionaire member of a Saudi family whose wealth derived from construction was suspected of being a major bankroller for Islamist groups throughout the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North America. He was disowned by his family and stripped of Saudi citizenship in 1994 because of his activities. On November 1 Saudi officials announced the arrest for complicity in the truck-bombing attack of some 40 Saudi citizens who had been secretly held in custody for three months. This was in addition to the arrest of 80 to 100 members of the Saudi Hezbollah opposition party, which was reputed to be affiliated with the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah organization. The party, formed in 1993, had taken up Shi'ite grievances against the government. Many of the dominant Sunni Saudis also objected to the government's policies. Though the official government-backed religious officials condemned the attack against the Americans, many religious groups opposed the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the U.S.'s pro-Israel policy, and the Saudi government for allowing foreign troops to be stationed on the soil of the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. In December the Saudi government tightened security around U.S. military installations. (REEVA S. SIMON) This article updates Saudi Arabia. history of. SENEGAL The republic of Senegal is located in West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean; it surrounds the country of The Gambia. Area: 196,712 sq km (75,951 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 8,532,000. Cap.: Dakar. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a par value of CFAF 100 to the French franc and a free rate of CFAF 518.24 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 816.38 = 1 sterling). President in 1996, Abdou Diouf; prime minister, Habib Thiam. At the last minute, the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) from the Casamance region refused to participate in peace negotiations with the government, scheduled to begin in Ziguinchor on April 8, 1996. Augustin Diamacoune, MFDC secretary-general, offered no explanation for the withdrawal but asked that the peace talks be held outside Senegal. Between 20,000 and 30,000 refugees from the Casamance remained in camps in neighbouring Guinea-Bissau. On May 17 Pres. Abdou Diouf appealed for peace and an end to reported violations of the cease-fire by MFDC rebels. Demands by opposition parties that an independent electoral commission be established were rejected by the ruling Socialist Party. Denying accusations that the government had manipulated the voting lists to its own advantage, Interior Minister Abdourahmane Sow nevertheless agreed to modify the existing code before the local elections scheduled for November 24. (NANCY ELLEN LAWLER) This article updates Senegal, history of. SEYCHELLES A republic and member of the Commonwealth, the Seychelles consists of about 100 islands widely scattered over the western Indian Ocean. The main island of Mah is 1,800 km (1,100 mi) from the east coast of the African continent. Area: 455 sq km (176 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 76,100. Cap.: Victoria. Monetary unit: Seychelles rupee, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of SR 5 to U.S. $1 (SR 7.87 = 1 sterling). President in 1996, France-Albert Ren. The Seychelles enjoyed an uneventful year in 1996, with steady if moderate economic growth of about 3.9% over the previous year. International aid totaling $13 million a year helped the government finance a range of projects, including protection of the environment and the transport infrastructure and the rehabilitation of the Victoria Market. The nation's steady progress in recent years was reflected in Human Development Report 1996, which ranked the Seychelles as 60th in world development terms. Some of the important human development statistics were as follows: life expectancy, 71 years; rate of adult literacy, 88%; and copies of daily newspapers per 100 people, 4. The government spent 12.9% of its total expenditure on education. (GUY ARNOLD) This article updates SEYCHELLES. SIERRA LEONE A republic of West Africa and member of the Commonwealth, Sierra Leone lies on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 4,617,000. Cap.: Freetown. Monetary unit: leone, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 870 leones to U.S. $1 (1,371 leones = 1 sterling). Chairmen of the Supreme Council of State in 1996, Capt. Valentine E.M. Strasser and, from January 16 to March 29, Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio; president from March 29, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. On Jan. 16, 1996, a bloodless coup by army officers brought an end to Valentine Strasser's leadership; he was replaced by Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio, a former close associate of Strasser and vice-chairman of the Supreme Council of State. Strasser was allowed to leave the country for the U.K. Despite the coup, elections for a return to civilian rule (which had been deferred from Dec. 5, 1995, to February 26-27) were held as planned. The Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) won 36% of the vote in a 60% turnout of voters. The leading presidential candidate was Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP, although he obtained only 35.8% of the votes. Kabbah became president after a second round of voting, and on March 29 tens of thousands celebrated the return to civilian rule when Bio handed over power. In the new National Assembly of 68 elected seats, the SLPP had 27. Six members of the armed forces attempted to mount a coup on September 8, but it was foiled. Some 20 military leaders, including Strasser and Bio, were retired by President Kabbah. Rebels in the Revolutionary United Front attacked several villages in October, killing at least 17 people. In November Kabbah signed a peace agreement with the RUF. (GUY ARNOLD) This article updates Sierra Leone, histroy of. Signs of Hope in Africa by Kenneth Ingham In November 1996 the Mozambican government withdrew a draft law on defense and the armed forces from the business of the current session of the national assembly because the elected opposition had described it as unconstitutional. This apparently unremarkable act was not without significance in its African context. It would undoubtedly have met with the approval of the International Monetary Fund and other Western donors, which, for some time, have tried to make the grant of aid to African countries conditional not only upon stricter control of the economy but also upon the introduction of Western-style, multiparty democracy. The action of Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, is significant because it is not wholly typical of events in other African countries, though this is not necessarily due to a lack of effort on their part. Several countries have tried to respond to the donors' demands, but with varying degrees of success. The case of Zambia offers a partial but important explanation. After free elections on a multiparty basis in 1991, the United National Independence Party, which had held office for many years, was defeated. It was then suggested that since the victorious Movement for Multiparty Democracy embraced a number of parties representing a wide spectrum of interests, any opposition party was unnecessary. One should hasten to say that no action was taken to pursue that idea. Three years later a government established with high hopes found itself accused by the opposition of corruption and inefficiency, faults that it tried to remedy with commendable speed but with uneven success. The task of reconciling Western-style democracy and strict control of the economy with the situation in Africa is a complex one. In the first place, Western-educated Africans have learned about multiparty democracy but have had little practical experience of it, either in colonial times or since independence. For the majority of Africans, brought up on the basis of consensus within smaller social groups, the concept of a formal opposition is still an alien one. Given the limited economic resources of most African countries, any prospect of wielding power, exercising patronage, or acquiring wealth other than through membership of the party in office is virtually inconceivable. In these circumstances governments are unlikely to cherish opposition parties that are capable of replacing them. In addition, with the disappearance of Marxism-Leninism and African socialism as ideological forces, any idea of alternative governments in waiting, anxious to promote different political philosophies, has evaporated. To these factors must be added a fourth. The relative, and in some cases acute, poverty of most African countries means that if members and supporters of the government acquire more than their fair share of wealth, others will suffer. Given the importance of the extended family in African culture, the benefits and disadvantages of this inequality will probably be determined by ethnic considerations. In this situation anyone wishing to challenge the government will be tempted to play upon tribal loyalties and rivalries to win support. Therefore, if not always justifiably, accusations are leveled against tribalism as the source of Africa's problems. The exception to this rule occurs when control of the armed forces lies outside the government. In those cases the temptation to intervene in the political morass and to enjoy the benefits of political power can prove irresistible, as many senior officers have discovered in various parts of the continent. Should the West then not press quite so urgently for the introduction of Western concepts into Africa? Should Africa be allowed to move at a more leisured pace? Signs of hope in a number of countries suggest that this might be the strategy to adopt. (See Map.) While both Tanzania and Senegal have opposition parties, neither can as yet be said to enjoy full, Western-style democracy, and neither has overcome its economic problems. In more than 40 years since independence, however, neither has had a military government, and, with the exception of a brief skirmish with a mutinous army soon after Tanzania became independent, both countries have been at peace. In each nation the same party remained in office, winning regular elections with widespread popular support, but the personnel of government changed, not only with the changing generations but also in response to the demands of a free electorate. Moreover, both countries survived the resignation of a charismatic leader, who guided them to independence and provided the unifying factor needed to triumph over the pitfalls of ethnic diversity. Each, it is true, had its "offshore problem"--in Tanzania's case, literally, the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and in the case of Senegal the secessionist movement in the southern, virtually isolated, province of Casamance. In both instances the problem was genuinely one of physical as well as of historical and cultural separation rather than of the failure of contemporary government. In neither country had this problem weakened the cohesion of the "mainland" or delayed its slow but steady response to outside pressures for economic growth, tempered by local needs. Zimbabwe, too, after a traumatic civil war between blacks and whites, achieved a measure of stability in spite of searing drought and repeated threats by Pres. Robert Mugabe to seize white-owned land to distribute among the black population. Once again a single party has dominated the political scene after several elections, yet the Marxist-Leninist hankering of the president has been quietly curbed, and a gradual move is taking place in the direction of a market economy. Events in South Africa since 1990 have shed new light on the possibilities of change on the African continent, but South Africa is not truly representative of the rest of Africa. Like Tanzania, Senegal, and Zimbabwe, its politics are effectively dominated by a single party with widespread support. Unlike the other countries, it has considerable wealth and powerful economic pressure groups that are not wholly controlled by the government. Consequently, the prospect of South Africa's approximating to the pattern of Western political and economic systems is far greater than in other parts of the continent. It is a little early to assess the prospects for success in Eritrea, which emerged from a 30-year struggle for independence only in 1993. The alacrity with which the victorious Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) converted itself into the People's Front for Democracy and Justice and set up a commission to draft a new constitution by June 1996 was an indicator of good intentions, even though the transitional government, which is to remain in office for four years, is still the EPLF in civilian guise. The willingness of the transitional government to contemplate multiparty democracy, coupled with its wariness of political parties based solely upon ethnic or religious affiliations, also augurs well for a balanced society. Revitalization of the economy is desperately needed after such a lengthy period of conflict, but the foundations must be secure in the economic as well as in the political sphere. In a region that has had more than its share of civil wars and military dictatorships there are, nevertheless, other areas--Kenya and Cte d'Ivoire among them--that fit neither the blueprint that donor countries would like to see nor yet the patterns created by Tanzania, Senegal, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. But they have achieved a measure of stability accompanied by the prospect, however distant, of economic growth. In each of these countries, innovations have been introduced as modifications of a traditional pattern, and, if economic growth is slow, it proceeds at a pace with which the people can keep in step. Moreover, where nepotism remains a problem, it is at least one that the people understand, even if those who lose out do not approve. Kenneth Ingham is professor emeritus of history at the University of Bristol, Eng., and the author of Politics in Modern Africa: The Uneven Tribal Dimensions. SINGAPORE Singapore, a republic of Southeast Asia and member of the Commonwealth, consists of the island of Singapore and 60 nearby islets, at the southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula. Area: 646 sq km (249 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 3,045,000. Monetary unit: Singapore dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of S$1.41 to U.S. $1 (S$2.22 = 1 sterling). President in 1996, Ong Teng Cheong; prime minister, Goh Chok Tong. The year 1996 started on an upbeat note for Singapore. To the delight of policy makers, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in January reclassified the island republic as a "more advanced developing economy," a classification just below developed status. The island's economic indicators continued to be the envy of many industrialized countries. Overall economic growth was strong at about 8%, with unemployment averaging a low 2.7%. But the good news was tempered in the second half of the year as Singapore's disk drive and computer chip makers, hit by the slump in global electronics demand, reported declining profits. Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew raised speculation in June when he said he could foresee Singapore's eventual reunion with Malaysia, provided the latter adopted the meritocracy of Singapore. The island had left the Malaysian federation in 1965, and six years later Malaysia introduced its New Economic Policy, favouring indigenous Malays over other ethnic groups. Rumours grew about the timing of national elections, due to take place by April 1997. Amid slowly eroding support for the ruling People's Action Party, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong publicly asked voters to give his party at least 60% of the vote. The opposition was spread over eight separate parties, with the largest group, the Singapore Democratic Party, fractured by internal dissent. On the international front, Singapore's ambition to achieve closer ties with Europe was realized with the first Asia-Europe Meeting, which took place in Bangkok in March. At the meeting the delegates decided, among other cooperative measures, to inaugurate an Asia-Europe Foundation, to be based in Singapore. (MATTHEW FLETCHER) This article updates singapore, history of. SLOVAKIA Slovakia is a landlocked state in central Europe. Area: 49,036 sq km (18,933 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 5,372,000. Cap.: Bratislava. Monetary unit: Slovak koruna, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 31.19 koruny to U.S. $1 (49.13 koruny = 1 sterling). President in 1996, Michal Kovac; prime minister, Vladimir Meciar. Politics in Slovakia in 1996 was played out against the backdrop of the continuing feud between Pres. Michal Kovac and Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar; the two men found themselves on opposing sides on practically every important issue. Kovac even initiated a slander suit against Meciar. Before a conference in August 1996, the two men had not met officially in 14 months. The formal investigation of the kidnapping in August 1995 of Kovac's son, in which many believed Meciar's supporters had a role, slowly petered out during the year. Meciar had intimated that the abduction might have been a sham engineered by Kovac himself. A key witness, who might have implicated intelligence service chief Ivan Lexa in the kidnapping, died when his automobile was bombed on April 29. The police found no evidence to support allegations that Lexa and Interior Minister Ludovit Hudek had obstructed the investigation, and charges were dropped in July. Eyebrows were raised in March when the National Council approved the Law on the Protection of the Republic, providing stiff penalties for the dissemination abroad of false information about the state and for the organizers of demonstrations harmful to the state. The law was vetoed by President Kovac in April, but the government was more successful in maintaining tight control over the media. In one visible case, Tatiana Repkova, editor and publisher of Narodna obroda, a newspaper that was uniquely independent of all political factions, was forced to quit in late November. If Slovakia's political life was harsh, its economy was faring well. Western analysts expected a 6% growth rate in 1996, and the inflation rate was 5.2% in September. Unemployment was dropping. Still, the political jockeying between the two top Slovak leaders and the country's human rights record were poor recommendations abroad. Fears were expressed that Slovakia might be passed over in the expansion of the European Union and NATO. (EDITORS) This article updates Slovakia, history of. SLOVENIA A republic at the northeastern head of the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia borders Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, Croatia to the southeast and south, the Adriatic to the southwest, and Italy to the west. Area: 20,255 sq km (7,820 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 1,959,000. Cap.: Ljubljana. Monetary unit: tolar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 139.19 tolarji to U.S. $1 (219.26 tolarji = 1 sterling). President in 1996, Milan Kucan; prime minister, Janez Drnovsek. On June 10, 1996, Slovenia signed an agreement of associate membership with the European Union (EU). The country's ultimate goal was full EU membership, with 2001 as the target date. Slovenia moved closer to membership when its legislature agreed to support changes in the nation's constitution to permit noncitizens to own property. This demand had been pressed strongly by Italy, which thereupon removed its veto against Slovenia. During the year Slovenia continued its efforts to be included in the first group of nations (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic) to be invited to join in the expansion of NATO, winning important support for this in the U.S. Congress. Pope John Paul II visited Slovenia May 17-19, the first pope ever to have visited the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country. He was received enthusiastically despite major problems between the church and state authorities over the slow return of church properties seized during the communist regime. The Vatican, in late 1991, had been the first international entity to recognize the independence of Slovenia. Quadrennial legislative elections held November 10 produced an even split between left-of-centre and right-of-centre parties. The centre-left Liberal Democracy of Slovenia won 25 of the 90 seats, followed by three more conservative parties: the Slovenian People's Party (19 seats), the Social Democratic Party (16), and the Slovenian Christian Democrats (10). In fifth place was the United List of Social Democrats, the reformed Communist Party. On December 8 a national referendum was held, with voters deciding whether to approve a change in the election law toward a majority system and away from proportional representation. In the referendum the voters rejected the proposed change. Slovenia experienced a 3% increase in gross domestic product in 1996. The inflation rate was 10%. (RUDOLPH M. SUSEL) This article updates Slovenia, history of. SOLOMON ISLANDS A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, the Solomon Islands comprises a 1,450-km (900-mi) chain of islands and atolls in the western Pacific Ocean. Area: 28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 396,000. Cap.: Honiara. Monetary unit: Solomon Islands dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of SI$3.54 to U.S. $1 (SI$5.58 = 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1996, Moses Pitakaka; prime minister, Solomon Mamaloni. Despite serious economic problems, political controversy, and a Cabinet reshuffle, the government of Solomon Mamaloni remained in office in 1996. Forestry remained the mainstay of the economy (56% of export revenue). The government, however, planned to end log exports by 1999 in favour of processed products. This encouraged log exporters to accelerate their operations. On the Papua New Guinea border, there was continued tension arising from the civil war on Bougainville, with allegations of border incursions. Measures taken to alleviate the tensions had little effect. (BARRIE MACDONALD) This article updates Solomon Islands. SOMALIA Situated in the Horn of northeastern Africa, Somalia lies on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean (the region on the Gulf of Aden [the self-declared Somaliland] claimed independence in 1991 but is not recognized internationally). Area: 637,000 sq km (246,000 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 6,802,000 (excluding Somali refugees in neighbouring countries estimated to number about 500,000). Cap.: Mogadishu. Monetary unit: Somali shilling, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 2,620 Somali shillings to U.S. $1 (4,128 Somali shillings = 1 sterling). Somalia had no functioning government in 1996. In August 1996 Somalia lost the most commanding figure to emerge in that country since the government collapsed in 1991. Gen. Muhammad Farah Aydid (see OBITUARIES) died on August 1 after being mortally wounded in a battle near Mogadishu on July 24. A national hero to his followers and a dangerous megalomaniac to his opponents, he had differed from the other "warlords" by his determination to become the leader of a reunited Somalia. His death called into question the future of his Somali National Alliance (SNA), one of the two coalitions of clan-based groupings that divided Somalia, apart from the self-declared republic of Somaliland. The other coalition, the Somali Salvation Alliance, was headed by former businessman Ali Mahdi Muhammad. Both men were titled "president" and claimed to head governments. Mogadishu was divided between them. The beginning of the year was marked by military successes for Aydid. He already held much of the southern Somali plain and its capital, Baydhabo, against the guerrilla attacks of the Rahanwayn Resistance Army (RRA). In January he captured the town of Xuddur, and in March he took Diinsoor and Doolow. The SNA was weakened, however, by the split with his fellow clansman and former right-hand man and financier, Osman Hassan Ali ("Ato"). Their conflict became violent in March, when their forces clashed near the port of Marka over control of the lucrative banana trade. In April the violence shifted to Mogadishu, where Ato occupied his own enclave. Intermittent fighting against an anti-Aydid coalition of Ato and Ali Mahdi continued there to the end of the year. In May the RRA recaptured Xuddur. After Aydid's death, he was succeeded by his U.S.-educated son Hussein Aydid, who had served as interpreter to the U.S. command in Somalia in 1992-93 until his identity was discovered. Hopes of an early peace were dashed as fighting continued between Hussein's forces and the Ato-Ali Mahdi coalition. In December more than 100 were killed in street fighting between the rivals in Mogadishu. In the north the self-declared independent Somaliland Republic of Pres. Muhammad Ibrahim Egal continued to establish itself in spite of failure to gain international recognition and continuing hostilities with those who favoured unity with the SNA. A constitution was under discussion, and there were plans for a general election. In November the mandate of President Egal's government reached its term, and a national conference was convened to appoint a new government. (VIRGINIA R. LULING) This article updates Somalia, history of. SPAIN A constitutional monarchy of southwestern Europe with coastlines on the Bay of Biscay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea, Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal; it includes the Balearic and Canary island groups, in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, respectively, and enclaves in northern Morocco. Area: 505,990 sq km (195,364 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 39,270,000. Cap.: Madrid. Monetary unit: Spanish peseta, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 128.79 pesetas to U.S. $1 (202.88 pesetas = 1 sterling). King, Juan Carlos I; prime ministers in 1996, Felipe Gonzlez Mrquez and, from May 6, Jos Mara Aznar Lpez. The much-anticipated victory of the conservative Popular Party in the general elections on March 3 brought about a major shift in Spanish politics during 1996 after 13 years of Socialist rule. Prime Minister Jos Mara Aznar Lpez (see BIOGRAPHIES) appointed a Cabinet, which took office in May.

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