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December 11, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 219
Interview: Dusan Mihajlovic, leader of New Democracy (ND)

Elections in December 1996!

by Ivan Radovanovic

When he turned his back on Slobodan Milosevic in 1990, and left the Serbian Government, formed his party and failed at the first parliamentary elections, Dusan Mihajlovic certainly did not look like someone who, five years later, would be Milosevic's coalition partner and one of Serbia's leading politicians.

That he succeeded in that some interpret by his "character" and call him a traitor, while others praise him as the greatest pragmatist in Serbian politics. What is certain is that, during his political route, he has clearly formulated two basic principles. First, that the opposition is, in relation to Milosevic, in a very simple position - "take it or leave it; we took it, jumped into that cold water which is called a parliamentary coalition and if nothing else, learned to swim". Second - you need information. Mihajlovic is one of the few political figures in Serbia who has access to really important information. He said his opposition colleagues "stumble and fumble, hitting at whatever" in their ignorance.

Strengthening his position, Mihajlovic has also strengthened the New Democracy Party, attracting some rich Serbs into it. The sixth electoral meeting of New Democracy is due to be held on December 8 and 9. That meeting will define a new starting position for the elections. The main topic is the same as what the socialists shall discuss at their convention in March next year - Serbia in the 21st century and the promotion of the pro-European orientation. However, Mihajlovic does not expect elections in the near future.

MIHAJLOVIC: "Not a single reason exists to hold the elections before December of next year. It is a mistake to believe that the ruling party will hold elections immediately after their convention, primarily because there is a major difference between this and the socialists' conventions held in 1990 and 1992. Those were expansive conventions, the party was at its peak, while now the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) has to compose and purge its ranks. Many things exist in it which distance the SPS from concepts of a modern, left socialist party in the European sense of that word. I also believe that the socialists wish to be a modern and European left party, and that the convention in March will have just such a "spring cleaning" function as well as modifying the SPS in that context. Add to that the fact that a gigantic party such as SPS needs time to change its orientation, in other words, each reform takes at least six months to implement. It is easy to calculate that elections shall not be held before December of next year.

By then, in the long run, the sort of (political) credit which will be used for the elections - lifting of the sanctions, reintegration into the world, implementation of Avramovic's Program Two - should have started to give some tangible results. People should have started to breathe easier, live better, social problems should be stabilized by then.

Therefore, I believe that speculation about early elections are mere calculations by the impatient.

Will you stand at elections on your own, despite the coalition government?

During the last couple of years a factual coalition has been formed, I could even call it the "peace coalition", which supported the end of the war, lifting of the sanctions, cooperation with the world. That factual coalition, New Democracy and the ruling Socialists, as well as the Serbian Reform Movement (SPO), Civic Alliance, Reform-Democratic Party, Dragoljub Micunovic's Democratic Center, the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) ..., has won and it would be a logical step to unite now and move on. We told the people some time ago that "peace is better than war". Now we are telling the same people what their future will be like; working towards Serbia's pro-European orientation, the rehabilitation of the economy and state.

You wish to say that it is possible that SPO, the Civic Alliance, Reform-Democratic Party, New Democracy, the Socialists, JUL, could stand together...

No, it would be too daring to put all of them into one electoral basket, and for me, that is not the primary issue. The primary issue is the factual coalition, and not an electoral one. The consensus is important over one basic question, just like a consensus existed over the peace policy, although we never met and discussed it. Therefore, the issue is a joint stand for a pro-European orientation, a pro-European turning point of the whole Serbian political scene, since that is what is most constructive for Serbia. Unfortunately, there is no such thing yet, since certain members of that "peace coalition" are now engaged in witch-hunts and in laying blame for what had happened. Further, it is my belief that every action based on the past is a political failure.

Meaning that you will stand alone at the elections?

Alone or heading a coalition which we shall lead. The electoral coalition is by no means our imperative and we shall not sacrifice a single principle in order to form an election coalition, especially not a loose and sloppy one as was the case up till now.

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