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August 10, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 253
The Zajedno Coalition


by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

Despite that customary party bragging and exaggeration, the coalition held a series of rallies across Serbia and seemed to be becoming a respectable political force. It also seemed that Milosevic would have a hard time winning or at least that his rule was less secure and lacking that certain majority in parliament.

Just a few months later Zajedno looked like it was dying after knocking itself out in the careless handling of party vanity and bad deals among the leaders. The people who claimed they would win the elections and adopt laws to fundamentally change the system of authority failed to adopt a protocol on cooperation among themselves. The decision on the fate of the coalition will be made public in early September unless inter-party diplomacy can patch things up.

Regardless of whether it exists or not, the coalition regime seems to be very afraid and it will obviously do everything to prevent opposition leaders from getting together again. Every calculation shows that the Socialists, under existing election rules and the media monopoly, could be shaken only by a wide coalition. That was proved in many east European countries where the regimes were replaced by coalitions. Most of those coalitions were just a thing of convenience which broke up quickly after elections. The Demos coalition in Slovenia didn’t even last a year and Slovenia is now being ruled by a third coalition. In Macedonia, the Alliance for Macedonia headed by President Kiro Gligorov won the October 1994 elections but a year later while the president was recovering from an assassination attempt, the Social Democrats and Liberals broke out of the coalition to become political rivals but early elections have not been called.

Three months prior to the FRY elections, the offer is huge but no one could say for sure whether there will be a coalition at all. The current situation and existing elections rules have raised a Socialist rock in front of the opposition and they’ll get over it only if they band together.

The latest DS statement shows that the party still believes the coalition can survive. The DS presidency said there is still reason enough to reach agreement on a joint stand at the elections because quarrels can only strengthen the regime. The DS said many local opposition coalitions have been in place in Serbia for a while and added that cooperation in them is much better than at party leader level. Djindjic said the recent incidents can be resolved but added that the coalition members drew close too soon. He said now there can only be mention of a minimum of the needed unity which means agreement on a joint candidate’s list including DSS leader Vojislav Kostunica.

SPO leader Vuk Draskovic told Nasa Borba last week that Djindjic was to blame for attempts to break up the SPO through the coalition list. He made similar accusations against Kostunica earlier. Unlike Djindjic, Draskovic seems to have a less optimistic view of the future and possible damage control.

DSS leader Vojislav Kostunica said the layout of the opposition scene will be known in a few days when the DSS will finally decide whether to join the coalition or not. He said the only winning combination is a technical coalition including the SRS. Any coalition without Seselj, he said, would achieve very little. A possible DSS-SRS coalition seems highly unlikely because of fierce resistance inside the DSS and a lack of interest in the SRS.

The SRS is also the smallest enigma in terms of possible coalitions. They decided long ago to stand alone in elections and don’t want anyone’s company. Their election campaign has two goals: going against the SPS and Zajedno.

One of the people who doubts the opposition can stand together in elections is Democratic Center leader Dragoljub Micunovic. "It’s hard to say what the common denominator among the opposition is except that it does not want Milosevic," he said. "That is not enough to unite people since there can be any number of reasons to get closer to or further from the ruling party."

One of the most interesting coalition offers came from the ND, a party with experience in a coalition with the SPS. ND leader Dusan Mihajlovic is cautious in terms of the coming elections. He recently told Politika that it’s too early to talk of a JUL-SPS-ND coalition. "What’s logical is not always the accepted solution here," he said and added that if the SPS realizes that coalitions are formed on the basis of two party determinations, pro-European and everyone else, the ND-SPS-JUL coalition will be possible and probable.

Uncertainty is also dominant on the subject of who’s company the SPS will keep in the elections. An SPS-JUL-ND coalition was taken for granted for a long time. Recently JUL said they would stand alone. Mira Markovic said recently JUL will probably not be in a coalition. Asked about a possible leftist union she said: "You have to ask the SPS and other parties. As for JUL, we believe a front of all leftists parties has to be united."

Sociologist Vladimir Goati said recently JUL and the SPS are actually rivals. "The moment those two parties stand alone in elections, the same voters would have to choose between them," he said and warned that polls show that opposition voters would not vote for JUL and vice versa.

A coalition decision will be left to Slobodan Milosevic as well as a decision on whether the SPS will merge into JUL. Some analysts said that is the only way to stop the political bigamy considering the obvious transfer of people from the SPS to JUL.

Two things are clear in terms of the opposition: a serious coalition is still far away and standing alone in the elections is not very smart. Many assessments said there will be big changes after the elections and some opposition leaders will retire sooner than they thought.

The opposition leaders who quarreled most also feel the election campaign will cure everything. But they seem to be forgetting that the voters want no part of it. After reading everything the potential coalition partners said about each other recently, voters can almost swear they won’t turn out. And that is what everyone who wants to topple the authorities should fear most.

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