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March 27, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 182
Radicals On Tour

Seselj Goes to Krajina

by Filip Svarm

A delegation of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) headed by party leader Vojislav Seselj ended its tour of the Krajina (RSK). The tour is believed to have had at least three goals: demonstrating their influence in RSK politics, helping and encouraging Krajina president Milan Martic in his duel with prime minister Borislav Mikelic and solidifying the offensive by the Serbian nationalist opposition and Bosnian Serb leaders against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

The 4,000 people who showed up for the SRS rally in Knin showed that the Radicals have wide-spread support in the RSK despite interventions from Belgrade

The SRS support for Martic's initiative to oust Mikelic was a complete failure. Seselj failed to restore his coalition with Milan Babic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) for the Krajina. The RSK foreign minister did not answer his calls and refused to see him in Knin. If the coalition had been restored the SRS would have joined the RSK government which would mean Knin would link up with Pale.

But, Martic greeted Seselj with open arms.

No details were released on their talks just 24 hours before Martic met Milosevic and conference on former Yugoslavia co-chairman Thorwald Stoltenberg. Clearly, what Martic told Stoltenberg is close to SRS stands: the new name of the UN peacekeepers is unacceptable just like the change of mandate which would allow them to control the borders between the RSK and Bosnian Serb Republic (RS) and FR Yugoslavia.

Unconfirmed reports said Milosevic tried hard to convince Martic to accept the changes. If that is true, then Seselj has scored a political victory.

The SRS attacks on Mikelic show that they see him as the embodiment of Milosevic's policies in the RSK.

Milosevic knows the danger of Seselj in the Krajina and that is shown by a comment in Belgrade's Vecernje Novosti daily on March 20. The comment said the SRS leader is "fighting against peace and the interests of the Serb people at any cost". Mikelic told the daily that Seselj is "inciting people against the Serbian leadership, especially Milosevic" and trying to "discredit the RSK government and parliament", but he "failed to win popular support". Mikelic added that Seselj told Banja Luka TV that he was preparing subversive activities in Serbia.

Babic is reaping the biggest harvest this time. Mikelic's survival as prime minister depends on Babic's voting machine in parliament. Milosevic will have to take that into account if he really wants the war to end and have the sanctions lifted. The real bargaining is yet to come and Seselj is just one of the chips.


Of Love and Hate

Krajina Revisited

Seselj's Krajina tour was termed the return of the criminal to the site of the crime by cynics who recalled that his political career was made riding on the back of the RSK. Seselj was known mainly as a brawler until the war in the Krajina started. He seemed an insignificant extreme right political figure before that.

In early 1991, Seselj started touring Serb villages in Croatia. His most prominent chauvinist speech was in Jagodnjak village. After he returned from Serbia he was handed over to the Croatian police. He said later 200 Chetniks prevented the extradition. In truth, the Serbian and federal police ministers Radmilo Bogdanovic and Petar Gracanin pressured their Croatian colleague Josip Boljkovac and Seselj went free. That was when the rumors of his involvement with the regime started. He missed the March 9, 1991 demonstrations because he was in Slavonia where he and Babic (then Krajina president) condemned the demonstrations and offered Milosevic his full support. He then became "the officially acceptable extremist in the RSK". He called his activities caring for the Serb people on the territory of Tito's Croatia. He was declared Vojvoda (Serb royal military rank) by a surviving royalist Vojvoda and sentenced Croatian president Franjo Tudjman to death in absentia: "If a single Serb head falls over there we're going to Zagreb for Tudjman's". Some time before the war erupted, estimates were that 50,000 people would turn out to see Milosevic and three times that number to see Seselj.

Much more importantly, he took part in the March of Peace from Korenica to Plitvice organized by the SDS on April 22, 1991. He broke through a cordon of Yugoslav army soldiers, showing who had Milosevic's support and what the army should do from then on. He was also given unprecedented prime time in the Serbian state media. His role became clear after the first battle of the war erupted in Borovo Selo when he said 14 of his Chetniks, two volunteers and six locals fought off a Croatian police task force.

Apart from spreading national hatred, pointing his finger at all possible traitors and sending volunteers to Krajina, Seselj did not take part in duels among Krajina leaders. He called for unity and issued statements saying his party regrets the clash between RSK president Babic and internal affairs minister Milan Martic. But he easily abandoned Babic when the RSK president refused to sign the Vance plan and clashed with Milosevic. He soon started organizing his party in the Krajina.

In mid-1993, probably sensing his impending conflict with Milosevic, Seselj started interfering in Krajina politics. He caused a conflict with then president Goran Hadzic, calling him a criminal. But before he could get his party on its feet over there, he clashed with the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) and became a persona non grata overnight. The RSK authorities stayed out of that clash at first but once it became clear that things were serious, Knin sent a letter to Milosevic swearing loyalty and condemning Seselj. The letter was signed by the RSK top leaders. Seselj dismissed it as written in Belgrade and only signed in Knin by corrupt politicians.

The Radicals stood in the RSK elections in 1993 and 1994. Many people feel the 20,000 votes the SRS candidate won in the first round cost Babic the presidency. The SRS won 16 parliament seats, ranking second only to the SDS. Babic and Seselj met in Belgrade on February 1, 1994 and formed a coalition. Seselj said the agreement was important because it meant the SRS would share power for the first time as a ruling party. Both Babic and Milosevic remembered that statement.

Martic, the new president, didn't want Babic as prime minister and pushed Mikelic (Milosevic's man) until Babic chose to make a deal with them, ending the coalition with the SRS. The SRS member who became parliament speaker was ousted once the Pale-Belgrade conflict started.

Milosevic's main problem is that he doesn't want Seselj in the RSK at all because he fears the same situation as he had with the Bosnian Serb refusal to accept the Contact Group plan. He never misses an opportunity to tell Krajina leaders that the greatest danger is Seselj and his Radicals in their midst.

Now, Seselj seems to have found a new ally in Martic. He forgave everything at the rally in Knin, forgot that Martic was one of the "corrupt politicians" and called him a flawless Serb patriot.

F. S.

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