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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Pre-Election Revival in Serbia

The Church Demands Resignations

At this moment, all political protagonists obviously rely on possible profitting in the elections at the expense of Milosevic's loss in Kosovo. After all, regardless of how great animosity the Serbs may feel for the Tribunal in the Hague, many of them will refer to the data collected by its prosecutors.

(By AIM correspondent from Belgrade)

After two and a half months of bombing Yugoslavia, with his retinue and numerous bodyguards Slobodan Milosevic came out of his shelter to announce from the ruins of Voivodina bridges and Aleksinac (the badly ruined town in the south of Serbia) the time of reconstruction and revival, praised patriotism of his people and reminded them that they lived "in the freest and most democratic country". Milosevic's pompous words about opening of the country and establishing connections with democratic and progressive part of the world were interpreted by many as the announcement of election campaign. All this while FRY is still, at least formally, at war with the most powerful military alliance of the world.

On that same day, on Wednesday 15 June, the Sacred Archbishops' Synod of the Serb Orthodox Church demanded that president of the FRY and the federal government submit their resignations. Church dignitaries estimated that the country needs new men, acceptable for the domestic and the international public as the government of national salvation. After ten years of almost unquestioned power, Milosevic has officially become disagreeable even to God.

While NATO troops under auspices of the United Nations are moving into Kosovo, and tens of thousand Serbs are leaving "the sacred land" together with the army and the police, Milosevic has stepped out from the subterranean into the light, perhaps to try with what is left of his charisma to cover up his greatest defeat and prolong his rule again. Regardless of when the elections will be held in Serbia - and the well- informed assess that they must be scheduled by the end of this year - the initial postwar political developments announce one of the severest struggles for power.

The conditions in which this political struggle will be fought will certainly be the hardest in the short parliamentary life of the third Yugoslavia. First, the country is in almost complete media blockade, partly due to electronic media and transmitters destroyed by bombs, partly because of censorship which many in the press fear might continue even after official abolishing of the state of war. After all, the Law on Information that is in force is as it is the regime's sword for facts. There are almost two million people in the state who receive no salary and are left with no hope that they might find a job or an income in the foreseeable future.

The exhausted economy which was greatly finished off by bombs of the Alliance can be put back on its feet again only by big money. Billions of dollars which the European Union intends to invest in Yugoslavia and the Balkans for the time being will not arrive as long as Milosevic is in power. Even what he personally and his closest friends and associates and businessmen have is blocked on their bank accounts in the world. They are not allowed even to enter European countries, least of all have the possibility to raise cash from their accounts.

Moreover, the head of the state and his most loyal cronies live with the burden of the indictment of the Hague Tribunal. And while investigators of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia are digging up graves in Kosovo, Milosevic is explaining to the people in Belgrade how they suffered in the war in order to set out headed by him to defend the world from aggression of the most powerful force - America.

Among the coalition partners - the Yugoslav Left (JUL), the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), considerable commotion was caused by departure of Seselj's Radicals from the Serbian government because NATO soldiers had entered Kosovo. With a lot of pomp and the remaining TV cameras, the Radicals made their decision public a few days ago. With a decree issued in a hurry, which legal experts say is contrary to the constitution, Milan Milutinovic, president of Serbia reacted the very next day. Referring to the state of war, he forbade the ministers from the Radical Party to leave the cabinet.

Refusal to accept resignations of 15 ministers of the Serb Radical Party may mean feverish attempts of the regime to save itslf from dissolution, but majority opinion is that it is yet another game for the masses of the loyal associates of the government of national unity: JUL, SPS and the Radicals. All Vojislav Seselj, head of SRS, has to do is weigh whether his price will go up thanks to "capitulation" of his coalition partners due to which he is allegedly leaving the government, or whether he can still squeeze something for himself out of them, even determine the date when he will appear in front of the voters. On 17 June, Seselj publicly declared that the decree of the president of Serbia was unnecessary, because the Radical ministers would remain in the cabinet anyway until October, when the regular assembly session begins which is necessary for the ministers from the Radical Party to be dismissed from duty. This means that the red-and-black coalition in Serbia continues cooperation. They will have to share responsibility for everything that the country has gone through in the past months.

It may appear to the ruling parties that winter would be most suitable for an election campaign, because the people's greatest concern will be how to survive the cold with no electricity and how to keep the wolf from the door.

All things considered, this time Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serb Revival Movement (SPO), should be trusted when he says that his party will not support a minority Republican government if the Radicals make their coalition partners angry again and they will not cooperate with JUL and SPS without firm commitment to democratic reconstruction of the country and inclusion of Milo Djukanovic in the federal government. The Serb Revival Movement would have every reason to enter a transitional government which would ensure it a much stronger position in the election campaign and finally enable it to set the rules of the election race for itself. But even without it since he was kicked out from the post of the deputy prime minister in Momir Bulatovic's cabinet, Draskovic has already created a firm starting position. He declares that he is convinced that early parliamentary elections will take place by the end of this year already and bring about a change of Yugoslav regime and that his SPO will win these elections.

In the past few days, members of the non- parliamentary coalition League for Changes wholeheartedly demanded resignations of the Republican and the Federal government and new elections. Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, a member party of this coalition, announces that he will soon return to Belgrade from Podgorica and fight for changes in Serbia. With logistic and actual support of the president of Montenegro, the League for Changes has a chance for a serious, but difficult political struggle in view of its non- parliamentary position.

At this moment, all political protagonists obviously rely on making at the expense of Milosevic's loss in Kosovo. After all, regardless of how great animosity the Serbs may feel for the Tribunal in the Hague, many of them will refer to the data collected by its prosecutors. And if there will be insufficient space in the media, the leaders will be forced to walk around Serbia. The whole country and the people have anyway lost contact with the modern world.

Vesna Vujic

Source: BalkanPeaceNetwork

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