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March 6, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 179
Martic Vs. Mikelic

Springtime Change

by Filip Svarm and the VREME documentation center

The first regular session of the Republic of Serb Krajina (RSK) parliament opened on March 1 at 11:00. It discussed the spring harvest and electricity supplies. The session was interrupted the same day at 7:00 p.m. when deputies expected to hear a demand by RSK president Milan Martic for the ousting of prime minister Borislav Mikelic. Speaker Rajko Lezajic explained that the initiative was late and was not submitted on paper to all parliament members. Martic's demand has the support of 20 deputies: 11 from the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), five from the Serb Democratic Party of Socialists (SDP), and four from the Serbian National Renewal (SNO) (Vecernje Novosti).

It has been clear that there will be infighting in the top ranks of the RSK ever since the special parliament session in Okucani on February 24. Deputies then asked the government to look into problems with "the flow of goods and illegal trade" and SDP leader Ranko Bakic appealed to the "political leaders of Krajina to overcome their differences in the interest of the Serb people". Bakic lent support to Mikelic's proposal for the next parliament session to "precisely define the tasks and authority of parliament, the president and government".

The differences were not overcome and nothing was defined. Bakic's deputies voted to oust Mikelic. So what's it all about.

Mikelic is sees as the RSK leader with the highest rating in the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), an even better rating in the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) and the best man to make sure Knin does not unite with Pale. Also he is chief RSK negotiator with Croatia and a businessman with many connections. Since the RSK-Croatia negotiations are impossible without Belgrade's blessing and the RSK economy can't function without help from Serbia, the first independent assessments said Martic's demand for the ouster of MIkelic means he's grown apart from the Serbian president and SPS leader. They don't say he has joined with the Pale leaders (but he has shown increasing affinity for them over the past months) but do add that his initiative is part of the increasingly open rift among the Socialists over exchanging recognition for the lifting of the sanctions. A recent interview with Mihajlo Markovic is being mentioned in that context. He told Dnevnik Novi Sad daily that the Z-4 plan splits up the Krajina, integrates it into Croatia, Leaves the Krajina Serbs defenseless since it includes demilitarization and added that they couldn't accept it. A visit by Markovic and Petar Skundric to Knin is even more significant. That visit was not noted officially but was made public by RS vice-president Nikola Koljevic in Oslobodjenje. Koljevic said the visit sent signals that FR Yugoslavia will get involved in the final battle, an obligation it took when it signed and guaranteed the Vance plan. In other words, if the RSK is persistent enough, "patriots" in the SPS can prevent the recognition of Bosnia and Croatia. In that case, Mikelic has to go. His statement on Serbia's state TV (February 26) that he is ready to renew talks with Zagreb and accusation against Krajina foreign minister Milan Babic of collaborating with Croatia's chief negotiator Hrvoje Sarinic over the transport of goods to Krajina are an indication that he could accept Milosevic's recognition of Croatia and the Z-4 plan. Martic's demand to topple Mikelic throws an obstacle in Milosevic's path. Presumably, Karadzic doesn't have anything against that development.

The surprising thing is the silence of Babic's Krajina SDS over the Martic demand. That party opposed Mikelic's appointment and that clash was not ironed out. There are assessments that Babic, aware of the tumult in Belgrade, pushed Martic into dealing with Mikelic. His moves will depend on the outcome.

Lezajic has scheduled a new session for March 8. He invoked article 87 of the constitution which says "a vote of (non)confidence in the prime minister or any minister can be held three days after the request is submitted".

Mikelic's political fate hinges on the balance of power achieved by then unless this is just a step towards Knin's complete allegiance to Pale.

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