DATE=3/30/2000 TYPE=WORLD OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=PRESIDENT PUTIN'S CHALLENGES NUMBER=6-11754 BYLINE=GEORGE MEEK DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-2702 CONTENT= NOT VOICED: INTRO: Russian voters gave a clear mandate in last Sunday's (3-26) election for Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin to occupy the presidency. Editorial writers around the world are looking at the challenges he will face, and asking if he is capable of the political and economic miracles that the Russian people are going to expect of him. We get a sampling of the editorial views from ______________ in this week's World Opinion Roundup. TEXT: Vladimir Putin is obviously younger and healthier than his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Newspapers around the globe are saying he will need more than this to run his country. In Tokyo, Asahi has concerns about a possible return to hard-line rule in Russia. VOICE: During his election campaign, Mr. Putin stressed the need to restore law and order, to create "a dictatorship of the law" and to reform the country's economy. Russia's priority to restoring law and order is understandable, but we are concerned over the possible formation of an oppressive and authoritarian government by [Mr.] Putin, a former K-G-B operative who, for instance, imposed strict control on media coverage of Russia's recent military operation into Chechnya. ... Now he must give top priority to eradicating corruption. TEXT: In Madrid, El Pais shares the concern about corruption, and wonders if President Putin can avoid it. VOICE: Can [Mr.] Putin put an end to Russia's chaos? This is what voters in a demoralized society hoped. ... It now remains to be seen how the new president will deal with the country's financial oligarchs. Will he end up dominating them or allow them to ensnare him in their web of corruption? TEXT: Another Spanish daily, El Mundo, is worried about the same problem. VOICE: It is doubtful that [Mr.] Putin is seriously interested in doing away with corruption and speculation. He owes his rapid ascent, in large part, to the support of [Mr.] Yeltsin's entourage, who sought a successor willing to guarantee their impunity. It is therefore unlikely that his policies will differ much from those of his predecessor. TEXT: Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau also doubts Mr. Putin's ability to live up to expectations for his presidency. VOICE: After the years of a policy which caricatured terms like democracy and reforms, [Mr.] Putin's voters simply want better times, but it is very likely that their hopes will be disappointed, for [Mr.] Putin is the wrong man for Russia. ... Russia lacks not only the culture of openness but also the will to develop it. Under [Mr.] Putin the mania to keep as much secret as possible has not decreased but increased. TEXT: In Singapore, the Straits Times takes a more sanguine view of the chances for success of the Putin administration. VOICE: [H]ere is a man who can provide leadership. He does come imbued with a sense of mission. This is precisely what Russia needs at this juncture. Many a time has Mr. Putin said he wants to restore Russia to greatness. The fretful Americans take this to mean a lurch to dangerous nationalism, a harking back to a lost past which dredges up all sorts of prejudices and hegemonic ambitions. ... If [Mr. Putin] can merge his vigor and decisiveness with a credible plan of action to reorganize the economy and alter the course of morality of the wealthy business class, Russia stands a chance. ... In foreign affairs, where Mr. Putin sees Russia in the global scheme of things could challenge American notions of omnipotence. This is a welcome development. TEXT: That was the view of the Singapore Straits Times. Toronto's Globe and Mail also gives Mr. Putin the benefit of the doubt. VOICE: After Boris Yeltsin, there was nowhere to go but up. ... As for Mr. Putin's Western counterparts, they welcome him as the devil they know. A strong, reasonably predictable administration in the Kremlin will help the day- to-day conduct of international affairs. It will also reduce the chance of a disastrous misuse of Russia's nuclear arsenal. ... Repression, intolerance, racism and crony capitalism ... are all features of present-day Russia. The new president has much to do, and much to undo. TEXT: Finally, Le Monde in Paris says Russia's new president remains an enigma. VOICE: Far from the triumph promised by the polls, the results indicate a certain mistrust of the population for a secretive man yet to be revealed. ... Aside from the war in Chechnya, no one knows what this new president is capable of doing. ... [Mr.] Putin needs to address the question of reforms for small business, land ownership and transparency in foreign investment. While this would not be democracy per se, it would already be the opposite of arbitrary power. [This is] something that is in no one's interest, not the Russian people nor the international community. TEXT: With that view from Le Monde, we conclude this review of world editorial opinion on the challenges facing Russia's newly-elected president, Vladimir Putin. NEB/GM/WTW 30-Mar-2000 18:17 PM EDT (30-Mar-2000 2317 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .