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November 17, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 267
Interview: Zoran Djindjic

I Am Not a Loser

by Nenad Stefanovic

The most persistent supporter of the collective appearance of the opposition was surely the leader of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic. He has claimed from the beginning that the opposition against Milosevic "has so far tried everything but the collective appearance". Later, when the coalition Together finally stood on its feet, he claimed that it was the winning combination and "the triumphant coalition". A few days before the elections he said that everything is ready for "the perforation of the balloon of power" in Serbia.

A few days after the elections, only the chance to achieve something in the second round and gain power in numerous communities in Serbia remains. All in all, it is not exactly "triumphant" for the coalition Together, but the bottom line is that it does not have to be so hopeless as it seemed in the first instance.

"In this elections we found ourselves in a completely new position," Zoran Djindjic says in his interview for Vreme. "On the one hand, we faced the unbelievable media war that was led and is still going on against us. Since the opposition was formed here, such a media war has not been led. There was a suppression of facts and slanders, but there was also substantial space, some small oasis, where at least two-three words from us could be heard. There was at least a little something on the basis of which the citizens could get an image of what the opposition wants. Of course, all of that was overpowered by the propaganda of SPS, but at least grains of objectivity existed here and there. In this elections, for the first time, not even that much could penetrate.

The second new fact is that for the first time we entered the elections under the flag that we are not the opposition, and with no name. This time we said: We would not appear as the opposition, but as the coalition of parties. However, we did not calculate with the possibility that they would change our name interim. So it happened that we appeared with no clear identity. To my belief, these are the basic reasons for such unbelievable election results.

Vreme: It seems that it is not possible to fight Milosevic neither individually nor collectively.

Djindjic: We have fulfilled the wish of the majority of the opposition electorate that we unite, and it came out that in the end we gained less than we had won when we participated individually. To my opinion, the only reason for that is in this loss of identity. In this election people could chose between Milosevic and Seselj, the two personalized models and lists, and the third, amorphous list for which it was not clear enough what is exactly represented.

Vreme: Several days prior to the elections you said however that you did not expect spectacular results, but, for instance, 45 seats for the coalition Together in the Council of Citizens. You gained a half less, which is a spectacularly erroneous estimation.

Djindjic: I repeat that the causes for all this must be searched in the unbelievable media blockade which made it hard to promote the new name and the new political group. Our contribution to all this was that we spent a lot of time arguing whether to form the coalition or not, additionally dimming the situation. Many could not recognize us as the opposition finally.

Vreme: Previously you claimed that in Serbia, in spite of the media blockade, elections could be won if Serbia was covered by foot. All of you have cruised more than ever, and results are barely visible...

Djindjic: On the local level, the results are obvious. We have never before been so strong on the local level in Kraljevo, Cacak, Kragujevac, Cuprija, Krusevac, Nis. We have visited Smederevo these days where we also achieved extremely good results. There, all parties were defeated immediately in the first round. The defeat was suffered by the people that were hanging on the local television all day long. This resulted form our direct contacts. SPS and JUL brought some sort of political schizophrenia to Serbia. Through the TV screens votes were gathered for the federal elections, through the rallies for the local elections. The people who visited the rallies took the message home and voted for us.

Vreme: For how long will the coalition Together stay together?

Djindjic: From the political and program point of view, there is no reason why it would not keep on. Only personal features could bring some crisis, but I do not believe it necessarily has to be the crisis of the coalition as a whole. That which was valid for years - that vanity, frustration and complexes of some people which prevent the opposition to fulfill its task, now may prove right.

Personally I have invested much of energy and ambition to form the coalition and I will strive to maintain it.

Vreme: In your opinion, how will the division of those few mandates that you have won end. Won't there be problems in the beginning already?

Djindjic: I hope that all of us will understand it as yet another stage on our way to the goal and that the one that tries to satisfy ambitions through the number of representatives in fact does not see the wood from the trees. As far as we are concerned, from the moment when the negotiations began on the percentile participation in the coalition until today, we do not consider the percentage issue as crucial. Our goal is to lift the blockade off Serbia.

Vreme: In the first round, the abstainers were the most powerful party in Serbia. Have you persuaded them to vote in the second round?

Djindjic: We did, but now the counterattack is at stage which might annul all our efforts. I have visited Smederevska Palanka and Velika Plana recently and had the chance to see on their local television the director of the factory Gosa saying that, if the opposition wins in this region, they will have to close the factory and dismiss workers. He says so far the government freed us of many tributes, but if the opposition wins, we'll have to pay for ten moths back and we'll go bankrupt. Then a director of a public service appears and says - if the opposition wins we'll have no fuel in the gas stations because the announcement has already arrived that the supply for the region will be discontinued. In Nis they said there would be no pensions, as if Nis provides pensions. We have just engaged our legal office to raise charges on the basis of disturbing public, because this is a severe criminal act. People are threatened that their life will be at stake if they use their civil rights. Such things have never happened before the second round. There have never been threats that if opposition won in Belgrade there would be no water, air or sun. I am not positive that this will have no effect.

Vreme: What follows if you lose on the local level?

Djindjic: If we are to remain the same old opposition as in the previous six years, we'll simply vanish. We are cut to the roots. Those roots were in emotional choice of the people for changes and it came to be in those five-six years. Voluntarism and enthusiasm of the activists is draining and the continuation of the policy based on a model of democratic societies in the extremely undemocratic conditions is becoming a theater of absurd.

Vreme: There is still a possibility that the opposition will win in Belgrade, Nis and Novi Sad. What will the possible victory in these cities change when it is well known that it did not exactly proved successful where it had power?

Djindjic: Much will change. It will be a hot potato in our hands, a big chance and a big risk. Most of all a risk that we'll prove we can not cope and that someone says tomorrow - well, they had power and they did nothing. That is the way in the case that we gain power we must create the policy that will be the policy of the parties, and not of the individuals that gained mandates.

Vreme: You had the ambition to become the mayor of Belgrade. Have you given up on that?

Djindjic: No. In the federal elections, for example, we could not lead a personalized campaign and we paid an expensive price. On the city level we have mitigated that because the citizens understand that we are on one side and SPS and JUL on the other. In that context my name was mentioned as the candidate for the mayor. Because of the results in the first round and not wishing to irritate the electorate of other opposition parties on whose votes we count, I believe it is good to postpone those personal issues. This is the reason why we tried not to lead the campaign for the mayor in those two rounds. That could narrow our electorate only to the supporters of our parties. But if we get Belgrade, that will be the vital test of the ability of the opposition to manage big systems.

Vreme: You have not been seen as a loser in politics so far. On the contrary. Some analysis of the completed elections show, however, that you are one of the greatest losers and that it might have been better for you if you had remained in the previous position...

Djindjic: I do not think that I am a loser, but that I am a little bit different from the others because I invest into the future. I am well aware of what most of the mandates in the elections could have brought me. I knew how I could have grabbed a cabin or a chaise lounge on the sinking ship. By tricks, force, frauds... That is absolutely clear to me. But what would I have gained by that? We have to start thinking in strategic terms. The profiles of the three political positions have been drawn currently in this country. One is this administrative-communist that is in power and sometimes changes shades wishing to manage the national wealth through the uncontrolled administration, policy of personnel and personal loyalty. The second is the right wing one, anti-European, anti-developmental position of frustrated individuals that are afraid of development. The third one is the one that must grow bigger as one national, democratic, developmental, pro-European. Without the growth of this third option, even at the cost of enormous sacrifices, we can not expect that our country will stabilize.

If this country is to swing between Mira Markovic and Vojislav Seselj, than it is absolutely unimportant to me whether I participate with 15% or 35%.

Vreme: But you must admit that the general problem of the opposition is exactly that unbearable mortgage of a loser that all of you carry regardless to what you have just said...

Djindjic: Certainly we are terribly in need of one success. The second round is a chance to succeed somewhere. It is not much of a justification, but I really think that under these irregular conditions the great success is that we politically exist at all. A complete monopoly has existed here from the moment when the opposition parties emerged from a reservation with clearly defined boundaries. The goal is to exit from there, and once we achieve it, a task of historical importance for the entire country will be completed. The blockade will be lifted from the whole country. Maybe after that we will no longer exist on the political scene. Maybe we are, as political parties and leaders, just a ladder for the country to climb and then reject. Maybe it will be discovered that we are not capable to lead the country and maybe the new people that have been waiting for the creation of normal conditions will appear. Nobody knows that yet.

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