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December 12, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 168
Extra Elections

Big Trouble in Nova Mala

by Perica Vucinic

Nova Mala is holding a fourth repeat performance of the elections for its parliamentary deputy.

The first two rounds saw opposition coalition candidate Dusan Zorcic beat Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) candidate Ramiz Jasarevic. It turned out that the electorate followed the custom set by elections which had no uncertainty and voted for members of their family. The third round was spoiled by the SPS spiritual presence and three extra ballots.

So the opposition and the authorities are facing off again and Nova Mala is gaining first rate political importance.

Opposition bureaus in Belgrade know of Nova Mala. Slobodanka Ciric, the local mayor and a federal SPS deputy, said the opposition overdid things a little and she rejected claims that the authorities were solving communal problems for the sake of the election. But she didn't deny what she called understandable links with SPS headquarters in Belgrade.

Ciric said cooperation between opposition and SPS local council members was good. That was confirmed by Olgica Dzunic, a Democratic Party (DS) local leader, but she said that any criticism fell on deaf ears.

The Pirot city council has 50 members. Prior to this election it had 34 SPS members. The Nova Mala election won't change the balance, but it is still important. Both the DS and the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) want to show that the SPS is vulnerable and the SPS wants to show that it is still strong and invincible.

Both the DS and the SPS said that the Romanies in Pirot were good peaceful people. The Romanies point out their poverty. Salija Askovic, a DS sympathizer, showed us Nova Mala. Compared to typical Romany settlements this one is a bit better: it has some paved streets, some big houses and even some street lights, but there's a lot more mud and poverty.

Most of the houses haven't been finished and most families live in only one room even though they have many members. Frequently, children attend schools for the mentally handicapped. "It's cheaper that way," says Snezana Selic. "They need only one notebook and one pencil all through school." Before they enroll, the children are taught not to answer psychologists' questions. The Selic family lives on some 70 dinars a month that Snezana's husband Sava earns and the money she earns cleaning other peoples' homes.

Salija Askovic adds: "We want to live like the people in other parts of town." But he adds that he is more worried by the fears of the Nova Mala residents than poverty. "They're afraid. Who knows how, but there's a rumor that our social security money will be stopped if the DS wins. Many families live on that money."

That evening, once the horse-drawn carts were put away and the children put to bed, a lot of people gathered at the Three Sisters shop.

"We never saw a reporter until this election or anyone else," they said. The shop owner didn't believe us until he saw our ID cards and then asked: "Can Dusko transfer to the SPS and then we'll vote for him?" "No, I can't," Dusko said several times that night. Sefko Uskovic, a world war II veteran who was left without a veteran's pension said that everyone would vote for Dusko if he joined Milosevic's party and Jasarevic could join the DS.

The locals like Dusko Zorcic: his high school diploma makes him one of the best-educated in Nova Mala; he teaches the kids math and fixes TVs for free; he's from a well-known family. Some people still wonder: "What if it takes two or three years for democracy to stabilize and they say you can't get your pension because you're on the other side."

"To make things clearer, you should know that the philosophy of the Romanies is not earning and piling up money or anything for their heirs," Zorcic said. "Our life philosophy is 'live today for today and tomorrow for tomorrow'."

Partly politics has the same philosophy: win today, but tomorrow as well.

The fourth election round is on Sunday, December 11.

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