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November 20, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 216
Democratic Clash

Work Group for Kostunica

by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

Rumors on the reunification of the two parties which divorced in 1992 were last week expressed as an official initiative of the Democratic Party Executive Board that, at the request of a large number of members and voters, DS and DSS open official talks on rallying the democratic centrist forces in Serbia. A recent statement by DS port-parole Slobodan Vuksanovic that DS considered its reunification with DSS a natural phenomenon, which of course "no-one is opposed to", testifies of the DS leadership's current interest in the topic. Before that, DSS Main Board member Tihomir Milosevic joined Djindjic's DS. He explained to the journalists he was leaving Kostunica's DSS because he was exasperated with the "politically exclusive" DSS leadership for not wanting to talk with DS.

Miodrag Stanisavljevic, ex-Chairman of the DSS Pecince Municipal Board, had left the party for the same reason. Three other eminent DSS members in Leskovac followed suit in late October, returning to their "old party". After the frequent and one-way "defections", DSS definitely stopped being called a party with the least number of renegades on the Serbian political stage.

Justifying the initiative for reunification, DS President Dr. Zoran Djindjic mentioned the unreasonable duplication of democratic potentials and wondered whether "we in Serbia have enough strength to make five of the same factories, if we need only one." Many were reminded by these words of 1992, when Kostunica and his "dissidents" seceded from DS and set up their own Democratic Party of Serbia. The divorce seemed quite unnatural at the time and did indeed resemble the duplication of capacities in Serbia's "democratic factory". The then DS leader Dr. Dragoljub Micunovic had not wanted to join DEPOS headed by the "street-happy" Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic; he had wanted for his party a status similar to the one New Democracy now enjoys. Kostunica, who was not reconciled with such a role, joined DEPOS and cut the Democratic Party in two again (Nikola Milosevic did it the first time, when he set up the Serbian Liberal Party). There were rumors at the time that DEPOS was being made to measure Kostunica and that he, as the only party leader who is a true Serb from Serbia, and, also moderate, well-educated and good-looking, might one day head the whole opposition. Kostunica, not used to DEPOS' street stage, however, soon gave up on the coalition and went his own way with DSS. He has since adhered to his political philosophy: "Better to have less, but better". Djindjic's offer that he return to his old team coincided with rumors in Belgrade that Kostunica "has had enough of politics" and intends to go back to science.

The reaction of DSS' top leadership to the offer on the two parties' reunification, however, had suggested a contrary conclusion. Instead of speaking about the traits they had in common, it mentioned the obvious, insurmountable differences. The relationship towards the authorities, the church, the monarchy... The impression was that Djindjic had made an absolute error in judgement. DSS leadership's official statement regarding the offer contained a dose of maliciousness besides restrained anger. Djindjic was told to first unite the factions within his own party and then to strive for uniting with others. Rumor even has it that the reunification proposal lost 87:2 at a recent DSS Main Board session. Therefore, reunification is out of the question. Cooperation isn't.

The first comments of DS' initiative reiterated that all of this was directly linked to the peace talks in Ohio. According to these interpretations, pragmatic Djindjic realized that the stage is being set in Serbia for a political play quite different from the present one and that the search is on for both new actors and new screenplays. Not much will be gained by supporting Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb authorities and the question arises whether an even decent suit can be sewn from the remaining national remnants. The question also arises whether the moaning that Milosevic will not bring just peace back from Dayton will have any effect, as the state media have been actively preparing fire-works and celebrations.

It seemed somewhat illogical at first sight that the pragmatic Djindjic has now made such a rash step and suggested the two parties' reunification without first paving the way and investigating the other side's readiness. It seems that the way has been paved as much as possible and that there was no time for waiting. Several financially, extremely powerful people have over the past few months left the Democratic Party, most of them to join New Democracy. Their businesses and wish to be closer to the authorities (for business purposes again) have caused them to lose their patience and switch sides. The Democrats are likely to soon undergo a painful divorce from Micunovic's Democratic Center, a DS faction; rumor has it that the Center (and New Democracy) may take part in the creation of a major "Democratic Center Coalition", a new phenomenon on Serbia's political stage. It's difficult to estimate how many people Micunovic, once the first President of the Democratic Party, will pull out with him. Their number will be in any case sufficient for the DS to hurry and seek compensation elsewhere - Kostunica's party would be the most logical option. He is said to be tired and sick of politics anyway.

After two days of silence, Kostunica spoke up. If he had really been sick of everything, Djindjic had this time perked him up to say: "Unite yourselves, don't touch us!" He mentioned the classical Communist persuasion techniques and buying-off people in the interior a lot of other things reflecting his anger and ambitions to hold on to his members. The imminent clash has already been qualified by some as a "crowd in the center of the field" while the others, who view these two parties as part of the "war-mongering lobby", claim a "rightist clash" is in question. Regardless of the precise venue of the clash originating in the story of the two parties' reunification, it seems Serbia's political future after Dayton will be much more affected by the developments within the ruling party. Many of the so-called "right-wing Socialists" have been rapidly crossing over to the bank of forced peace-making. The way in which the new Serbian political scenery will be painted depends mostly on how many of them will cross in time and how much resistance will be offered by the ones who do not. They are in a great hurry, as the Boss may return any moment now.

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