Skip to main content
August 2, 1997
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 304
Elections ‘97

Successors’ Race

by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

As president of the FRY, Zoran Lilic was often described by the opposition as a man who doesn’t interfere in his own job except when he’s signing telegrams to foreign dignitaries. The Socialists said he was the right man for the job: he always got it right and didn’t take his role as president too seriously and he always showed that he respects Milosevic’s authority.

Since he became the official SPS candidate for Serbian president, Lilic’s popularity has risen among many people who had no opinion about him before. Some see him as Milosevic’s first sacrifice in his new job. Others say that Lilic could be the man who undermines Milosevic’s power one day when he reads the Serbian constitution and realizes the mess he’s been pushed into. Only the SPS expects the same of him: win on Milosevic’s wave, remain conscious of his role and not interfere in his job.

Lilic’s popularity is rising. When the SPS sends him on the road, like last week’s trip to Podgorica, with Dragan Tomic and when both men talk into microphones and cameras, Lilic seems to be a political and intellectual giant compared to Tomic. He’s growing in the eyes of the people who aren’t too close to the Socialists but who see Vojislav Seselj’s election victory as a nightmare. It’s not surprising that the latest telephone polls show that Lilic is the only politician more popular than Seselj.

At Milosevic’s inauguration, Seselj shook hands with Lilic and said "here’s my favorite presidential candidate" in a clear allusion that he thinks Lilic stands no chance against him.

Opposition circles are maliciously saying that Vuk Draskovic is becoming the favorite opposition leader. What Draskovic’s real intentions are in terms of the presidential and parliamentary elections is not quite clear especially since they’ve been saying they’re neither for or against the elections. Draskovic did meet Milosevic the day after the inauguration and made statements that indicate he was impressed. Viewed from another side, it seems Milosevic promised Draskovic and other party leaders that he will make acting Serbian President Dragan Tomic do everything that could contribute to fair elections. Soon after that meeting, the shutting down of local media stopped with indications that their broadcast licenses will be handed back. Draskovic even appeared on Serbian state TV and TV Politika.

The block of opposition parties which decided to boycott the elections when the new election law was adopted, are whispering that Draskovic’s strategy is a betrayal of opposition interests. They’re not going after Draskovic fiercely because there’s still hope that he’s playing a game and could join the boycott later. Some former Draskovic associates said he and Milosevic made a deal to trick Seselj and share power later. Others believe there will be trickery on all sides, even the parties that said they’ll boycott the elections. That situation, when no one trusts anyone among the opposition, is what Milosevic likes best before an election.

Without the SPO, the election boycott won’t have a big impact. Ognjen Pribicevic, a science associate at the Social Sciences Institute in Belgrade and author of the book The Authorities and Opposition in Serbia, said this is the last moment for the opposition to decisively reject the imposed election conditions. "These election conditions force the opposition parties that stand in the elections into a form of political suicide", he told VREME. "Even if the SPO agrees to these unfair conditions, I am convinced that they won’t have democratic legitimacy and won’t be recognized by the international community. The call for a boycott will have a strong response in cities and Draskovic would be risking a lot, even his status and that of his party if he stands in the elections. There’s also a risk of marginalizing the parties which stay out of the elections. Djindjic, Kostunica and the others are guided by the logic that the offered system could win them between five and 15 seats. This way they risk losing in the short term but they could be the long term winners. If false elections are held in September, new elections have to be held next spring. I believe the boycott of these elections is a certain investment in the future which could soon bring political profits. In any case, their risk is lower than the risk of whoever decides to be tricked again."

There have been other arguments about the election boycott. One of them is that the boycott boils down to an attempt to convince most of the electorate not to turn out. But, whoever controls the majority of the electorate does not have to boycott the elections. Opinions also vary on how the international community, especially the US is going to accept the boycott. Some people feel that the US doesn’t care and finds the idea strange. Kostunica returned from Washington recently with the feeling that the US is interested in supporting the opposition in its efforts to win fair election conditions.

If part of the opposition decides to boycott the elections and Draskovic stands in them, many people believe the presidential race will end in a Lilic-Seselj final. Pribicevic mentioned polls in March and May which showed that Seselj and an SPS candidate are the strongest. Lilic was always the most popular SPS official. Pribicevic added that Draskovic could fall short of his mark by the votes of the parties which boycott the elections and some of his own confused voters.

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.