The World This Week: Votes for president or a king

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The Independent Online
SEVERAL peoples vote this week in polls that reveal how deeply political crises have shaken constitutional foundations. More than 100 million Russians will be asked on Sunday whether they support President Boris Yeltsin and his economic reforms and whether they want the country to hold early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Mr Yeltsin has conducted a low- key campaign so far and his prospects for victory are dimmed by rules laid down by conservative MPs in the Congress of Deputies: they say he must win 50 per cent of the votes of the entire electorate, not just of those voting. 'It would be unwise to be sure of victory,' Mr Yeltsin warns.

More than 80 million Brazilians vote on Wednesday on whether to keep their presidential republic, adopt a parliamentary republic or restore the monarchy. After the Fernando Collor de Mello debacle, in which the country's first directly elected president for 33 years was chased from office for corruption, the monarchists are gaining support.

There is no shortage of pretenders: they include Joao Henrique Maria Gabriel Gonzaga de Orleans e Braganza, ('Joaozinho'), a restaurateur and accomplished surfer, who is a distant cousin of King Juan Carlos of Spain and a descendant of Brazil's last emperor, Dom Pedro II.

A black priest, Ogan Neninho de Obaluaye, says he should be king, citing the precedent of the 17th-century slave Zumbi who formed an isolated community or quilombo of escaped slaves in the north-eastern tip of Brazil. The precedent does not augur well, however. The Portuguese invaded and destroyed the quilombo in 1695. Then there is Alcides de Souza, a Funio Indian who wants to be 'Brazil's chief' and promises an 'indigenous form of government - just, uncorrupt and pure'.

The Brazilians, none the less, will probably stick with their presidency. The Eritreans, by contrast, who vote on Sunday on whether to declare independence from Ethiopia, are expected to do so overwhelmingly to become a new, albeit poor, African state.

Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising reaches its climax today when the US Vice-President, Al Gore, joins the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and President Lech Walesa at a ceremony in Warsaw at the foot of the Ghetto Fighters Monument. France will be represented by the Health Minister, Simone Veil, a former deportee to Auschwitz. Visa charges have been waived to encourage thousands to travel to Warsaw for the event. The rebellion of a few hundred Jews against the Nazis in 1943, crushed only by burning the ghetto to the ground, is a symbol of the Holocaust in which millions of Jews died. A Museum of the Holocaust is inaugurated in Washington on Thursday before the German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and Mr Walesa among other international leaders. The Polish President, who will be in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, is to hold talks with members of the US's large Polish community. Breaking the mood, the Ku Klux Klan hold their own counter-demonstration at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami on Saturday.

The Pope makes the first papal visit to Albania on Sunday to consecrate four bishops. He will be welcomed in the recently restored cathedral of Shkodra which Enver Hoxha had turned into a sports hall.

And Red Hot Television strikes back: on Friday it sues Britain for its plans to ban the decoders needed to receive the company's hard-core pornography from Denmark.