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August 3, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 252
Elections in November

Dream Team Advantage

by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

"The date of elections in all societies is a surprise factor and is announced suddenly," federal MP and prominent SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia) member Ratko Markovic said two weeks ago, adding that the ruling party has the freedom to call elections when it suits it best. He said the coming federal elections will be held when the ruling party feels the political situation suits it best which means when it is sure it will win. Markovic said he couldn’t stand in for the party and say when the elections will be held which means the SPS leaders decided when and the federal government formally announces the elections a day later.

Montenegrin president Momir Bulatovic spoke up last Saturday to schedule local and republican elections for November 3. Since the organization of the elections is expensive it would be logical to hold the federal elections on the same day. Most of the opposition believes Bulatovic was allowed to spring the surprise this time. The only question now is whether that was agreed or Bulatovic decided to announce the secret early.

Although he wouldn’t predict the date of the elections, SPO (Serbian Renewal Movement) spokesman Ivan Kovacevic said November 3 is a possible date for federal elections. DS (Democratic Party) spokesman Slobodan Vuksanovic said it’s hard to predict a date since "the Montenegrin and Milosevic only agree on issues of mutual interest" as when NBJ Governor Dragoslav Avramovic was ousted. He said they look out only for themselves when there is no common interest and November 3 might not be the date.

The DSS (Democratic Party of Serbia) also feels November 3 could be the date. Party spokesman Milorad Jovanovic said the date of the elections is not a crucial issue for the DSS. "We were cautious because we feared elections in September," he said.

SK-PJ (Communist Union - Movement for Yugoslavia) official Goran Latinovic confirmed indirectly that elections will be held in November. In a comment on the disagreements among party leader for Dnevni Telegraf, he added "I hope the electorate will assess the seriousness of the Zajedno coalition in November and know who to vote for".

Certainty that the elections will happen in November does not mean there won’t be any surprises. Informed sources close to the authorities said Milosevic will stand in elections after Bulatovic (November 3) and Clinton (November 5), i.e. that the federal elections will be held on November 17. Some even said they saw documents on the November 17 elections prepared for a parliament session in August although the decision is formally the federal government’s. Belgrade political circles are saying there could be a vote in Belgrade on November 3 on changes to the constitution or a referendum. The people behind that rumor said the referendum would be on strengthening the Serbia-Montenegro alliance.

The question that remains is why November or why does the ruling party think conditions will be best in November.

November is far away but it’s hard to believe that even the state TV (RTS) could declare the catastrophic harvest a success or that the cattle foot and mouth disease won’t affect consumers, that people will forget the new taxes and duties on school books, the services price rises of 200-300%.

The people who are speculating when the elections will take place said they are still a long way away because the authorities are not sucking up to the electorate and no money is being printed to raise salaries and pensions.

The aftermath of some of the mass workers’ protests show that the regime knows who it can buy and for how much and who it can convince that any change will mean even worse poverty. Since money can’t be printed without inflation the Socialists probably think November is the last moment when the semblance of stability can be preserved.

Milan Bozic wrote recently in Srpska Rec that Richard Holbrooke probably brought offers of serious economic aid to Belgrade if Karadzic is ousted. He added that if the exchange rate remains stable and money is still being printed, that means money has come in. "It’s significant that Beobanka announced that its Visa cards can be used anywhere in the world the day Holbrooke was here."

So if, economically, the only thing in their favor is printing money, the Socialists have to fall back on politics. And their standing is good because they see what the opposition refuses to see. Primarily the fact that the opposition is returning to its own chaos and that their alliance could fall apart easily. By increasing the number of electoral districts, holding firmly onto the state media and everything else that can affect the elections, they gained the kind of advantage over the opposition that the US Dream Team has in Atlanta. They left the opposition to argue among themselves over who’s going to come in second since third place at the elections gets nothing. At one point the SPO-DS-GSS coalition and Seselj’s Radicals tried to bring in Kostunica’s DSS in the belief that they would come in second for sure.

The regime is counting on opposition arguments growing by November and it will do everything to get the coalition leaders to argue among themselves. A lot of indications show that is the regime’s main trump card. They will do everything to prove the opposition coalition is not strong. The situation now proves them right.

The Socialists are building their conviction of their own invincibility on the weakness of their rivals.

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