Skip to main content
January 31, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 123
Serbia In a Broken Mirror

Everybody's A Minority

by Milan Milosevic

For two days all were in a minority in the Serbian Assembly. There was something in the fact that DEPOS proposed Gvozden Ristic (29), a doctor from Kragujevac for the post of Speaker. Ristic is man of democratic leaning, tolerant and open to compromise. He represents a young and educated Serbia, a class which has suffered greatly from the ruling chaos. Ristic watched quietly and in surprise from behind his round glasses, as he became the talk of the day in the match against SPS candidate Zoran Arandjelovic, the former Speaker of the dissolved Assembly.

A Rotten Apple

The day that the new dinar was introduced, the Federal Minister of Science, Technology and Development wrote a letter to the Federal Prime Minister in which he proposed the dismissal of Stojan Stamenkovic. We must remind our readers that Stamenkovic is the man who exactly two years ago, said in this weekly that the authorities were leading to the annulling of money, the disappearance of goods from shops and a return to the economy of the Middle Agesto bartering, either state sponsored, or individually initiated. Stamenkovic repeated all this last week with proof taken from the new policy followed by the three governments (at a press conference at the Institute of Economics, and the Belgrade Circle on Saturday, which was carried by several TV stations.)

The Minister's letter contains an explanation: Stamenkovic is acting contrary to the efforts of the government and ministers in their successful preparing and implementing of the country's economic policy; his behavior is contrary to the responsibility and obligations of a federal advisor, so that he does not measure up to the demands of such an important post...

Milan Dimitrijevic is the Federal Minister of Science, Technology and Development; Radoje Kontic is the Federal Prime Minister; Stojan Stamenkovic has been an advisor for several decadesin his capacity as a mathematician and analyst with Federal government departments, and is less than a year away from retirement. But this, and other moves made by the Serbian and Federal governments, make it clear that there is no time for vacillating: the enemy is the enemy, taxes are taxes...

We leave it up to the reader to judge a government and its minister and their willingness to dismiss a man who has a different point of view. What would have happened if the matter concerned a controversial political issue?

After two days of voting, DEPOS announced that they would not have a candidate for the third round of voting, and it seemed as if the whole thing would end as an unsuccessful attempt at obstruction. Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) leader Vuk Draskovic changed this impression after sensibly proposing a compromise. The Socialists immediately agreed that the blocking of the Assembly's work should be avoided, and suggested that an agreement should be reached by party leaders on a ``division of responsibilities'' in the executive, legislative and judicial authorities, and on changes in the electoral law and the law on television.

Somewhat earlier, SPS deputy Dragan Tomic had proposed that the work of the Assembly be postponed until the following Monday, in order that consultations might be carried out. He thus indicated that the Socialists wished to negotiate. On Wednesday, Tomic was proposed for the post of Speaker. Tomic is probably an important member of SPS nomenclature, considering that he heads the strategically important oil industry of Serbia.

Rumors swept through the opposition that during his meeting with Draskovic, Milosevic had been very specific when he said that he wasn't going to let the opposition have the place of Speaker. At such moments there was a lot of skepticism among DEPOS members as to the Socialist's intentions to reach a compromise. DEPOS member Zarko Korac said that Milosevic has never made concessions unless forced to do so, and that it was highly unlikely that he would start behaving differently.

Milosevic is up to his usual tricksstalling for time and leading his opponents to think that he is prepared to bend a little, while in fact, he just continues the way he has planned. Milosevic must have realized how the vote in the Assembly would go, and could have, had he so wished, offered a compromise before the voting.

It is a fact that he proposed Zoran Arandjelovic, a hardliner and the man who held the post of Speaker at the time when the former Assembly was dissolved. This could indicate that he wanted a confrontation with the opposition and waved a red flag before their noses.

It is not quite clear what exactly the Socialists wished to achieve with Arandjelovic. Perhaps they wanted to propose a candidate who was bound to lose, or maybe Milosevic is just out to spite someone.

The opposition was badly shaken. It became clear to them for the first time that they were also a minority and like the others, could not form a government on their own. A new dissolving of the Assembly is hardly probable. President of the Constitutional Court of Serbia Balsa Spadijer talked to VREME during the first Session of the Assembly, from the standpoint of a professor of Political Sciences, and said that both sides would have to go for a compromise because they couldn't rule independently. He added that those who sabotaged the reaching of a compromise or tried to trip it up, should be ``punished'' at the next elections. Spadijer believes that the future government must be one of party compromise, and not an administrative one, since our administrative employees are not politically neutral and we do have the institution of civil servants as in England.

The Socialists signalized again on Wednesday that they wished to reach an agreement. Slobodan Unkovic spoke in the name of the SPS group of deputies. In March 1991 under very tense circumstances, Unkovic, who was Speaker of the Serbian Assembly, made it possible for a compromise to be reached with the opposition after which (many think because of which) he resigned. The Socialists picked a man who they believed would not irritate the opposition.

Concessions, however, irritate the hawks in the SPS. Speaking on Radio Belgrade, SPS deputy and the National Theater Director, Aleksandar Bercek, called the opposition's wish for a compromise ``blackmail.'' The Socialists will have to withstand such internal pressures from their national fighters who have destroyed national institutions, and who by wishing to hide their own activities, do not want the ideological war to come to an end.

On the other hand, the Radicals were also opposed to concessions and they took advantage of the debate to continue with their criticism of the government, and to pay back the Socialists for their hate campaign prior to last autumn's campaign and parliamentary elections, and deepen their conflict with Milosevic. SRS deputy group leader Tomislav Nikolic did not agree to meet with President Milosevic on the grounds that Milosevic had not sent the invitation to SRS leader Vojislav Seselj.

With their open refusal to cooperate with the Hungarians and ethnic Albanians, the Radicals have prevented the motley Serbian opposition from starting negotiations on a government... On Sunday evening, DEPOS members claimed that Draskovic would be their candidate for the post of Speaker. It was allegedly Seselj who made the support of the Radicals conditional to Draskovic not being proposed as candidate for the post of Speaker. After the first round of voting they suggested that the democrats come up with a new candidate, thus increasing the jealousy between them and DEPOS. At the same time they urged DS leader Zoran Djindjic to abandon his showdown with the government.

By entering into negotiations, the Socialists opted for a manoeuver which destroyed the fragile agreement between the 3D opposition parties and the Radicals. Tomislav Nikolic concluded on Tuesday afternoon that there was no opposition in the Assembly, but that there were various parties which agreed occasionally on certain issues. When Draskovic proposed a compromise on Tuesday, he said that an agreement in the Assembly would leave a positive impression of Serbia and facilitate negotiations aimed at lifting sanctions. Nikolic replied that the SRS would not fight for the lifting of sanctions, because the SRS considered the stipulations for their lifting unacceptable. The Radicals voted in the second round with crossed out ballots, and did not enter negotiations with the Socialists. They made it clear that the deadline for their agreement with DEPOS had passed. This means that if the negotiations fall through, the opposition will not have the strength it did in the first round of voting and that the Socialists could get the post of Speaker. The idea of a ``government of national unity'' is a washout, so that it remains for DEPOS and the 3D to see what they can gain in an eventual coalition with the Socialists. The democratic opposition proposed on several occasions that a government of national unity should be formed. In the summer of 1991 the then DS leader Dragoljub Micunovic and prominent DEPOS member Slobodan Rakitic proposed to Milosevic that he form a government of national salvation. The proposal was turned down coldly. The demand for a government of national salvation was underscored often during numerous demonstrations in the course of 1992. DEPOSsponsored actions were characterized by the demand that Serbia get ``a government of wise and intelligent men.'' In June 1992, at the St. Vitus's Day rally, Draskovic was applauded when he said that such a government should have an ethnic Albanian member. Last autumn, at a rally in Valjevo, Draskovic called Milosevic ``Serbia's head of the house,'' and returned to the idea of a government of national unity. The other members of the opposition interpreted this as Draskovic's expression of gratitude to Milosevic for his act of discontinuing further legal proceedings against Draskovic.

Last Friday afternoon (January 21, 1994) Milosevic called on opposition members to support a government of national unity, but didn't mention its mandator. He met with Draskovic, Djindjic and Democratic Union of Vojvodina Hungarians (DZVM) leader Andras Agoston and the SPS General secretary Milomir Minic. All men showed up for the meeting only a few hours after receiving invitations.

On leaving the building Draskovic said that Milosevic was ``likable'' and ``engaging to talk to,'' and that he had never said anything nasty about Milosevic personally, but had just criticized his moves.

After three years of battle, demonization, arrest and being beaten up, Draskovic who represents 700,000 voters, was thought fit to be sent an invitation. (It is said that at the meeting, Milosevic first said that he and Draskovic had not met before, but that they had certainly thought about each other.) During the audience which lasted twice as long as the one with Djindjic and six times longer than the one with Agoston, Draskovic tried to extract the ``liberating of TV Bastille'' from Milosevic, to which he received the laconic reply: ``I'll fix things there!'' Suspicions that Milosevic did not negotiate seriously with Draskovic were confirmed when a mudslinging broadcast against Draskovic was made one day after the meeting.

Even though he couldn't disguise the satisfaction of having been granted an audience at the Palace, Draskovic managed an ironical quip and said that coffee had been served, and that there had been a glass of water too, albeit with ice in it. Two hours later, after he had digested his impressions, Draskovic told independent television NTV Studio B, that motivated by party and national interests, he had magnanimously passed over the fact that he had been arrested and beaten up by Milosevic's police, adding that Milosevic had not shown a wish to compromise.

After meeting with Milosevic, Djindjic said that the idea for the setting up of a government of national unity was a positive one, one he had proposed after December's election, and which had raised speculations as to whether the DS would enter into coalition with the SPS. Djindjic had denied such a possibility on several occasions, especially after the battle for the post of DS President started.

SPS General secretary Milomir Minic said after meeting with Milosevic that the Socialists intended to hold on to the post of Speaker in the Serbian Assembly, and as far as the government was concerned, he recalled that there had been ministers in Socialist governments who were not officially SPS members.

Andras Agoston specified that the DZVM was ``in opposition to the authorities and the opposition,'' and made it clear that he liked the idea of a government made thanks to party compromise, since the DZVM did not intend to play the role of the factor which would tip the balance between the government and the opposition, or the role of arbiter in the Serbian controversy. During the Assembly session, 3D politicians tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Hungarians to vote for the opposition's candidate for Speaker. They refused to do so, enjoying the situation and probably making some small deals. It seems that last week's meeting between Agoston and Milosevic was not their first this month.

DSS leader Vojislav Kostunica who refused to meet with Milosevic on the grounds that he was ``busy,'' had no illusions as to the Socialists' intentions. He said that the SPS lacked three deputies in the Assembly. During the marathon voting, Kostunica told VREME that he believed that the Socialists' aim was to persuade one of the opposition parties to support a Socialist government and so share responsibility for the situation created by the ruling party.

Djindjic was chosen to tell the Assembly that the negotiations had started successfully and that they would last until next Tuesday (Feb. 1), when the Assembly would continue sitting. Using a trap in the standing orders, the Radicals tried to force a continuation of the session without a pause in the negotiations. Djindjic lost his temper and snapped at the Radicals, winning applause from the Socialists.

The first round of talks which were attended by the Socialists, the 3D parties, Hungarians and the two ethnic Albanians, did not yield any concrete results. The Socialists said that they supported an agreement in principle, but pretended not to have the authority to negotiate on questions which interested the opposition most. On leaving the negotiations, Draskovic said that an agreement on an agreement could be interpreted as the setting up of the institution of a ``round table.'' This would mean that the negotiations should result in some sort of a mechanism which would guarantee the implementation of promises made. Such an outcome seems highly unlikely.

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.