Skip to main content
February 28, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 334
Negotiations on a New Government

Boss, What Should I Do?

by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

On the second day of protests by the Independent Union of Pensioners of Serbia (last Tuesday), when about 3,000 demonstrators walked in front of the Federal Parliament, there suddenly appeared before the pensioners one of the top SPO men, Milan Komnenic.  Probably due to the laws of inertia, according to which everyone who marches through the streets of Belgrade, shouting slogans against the regime, must belong or gravitate toward SPO, Komnenic wished to address the disgruntled pensioners with words of encouragement.  Also according to inertia, at the appearance of one of the high SPO officials, one of the policemen on duty immediately radioed his chief with the demand: "We have Komnenic here.  What should we do with him?"

And before the chief was even able to make a coherent answer, the disgruntled pensioners began to shove Komnenic and to tug at his necktie, all the while shouting "Vuk, You Thief" and "Vuk, You Pansy".  Komnenic quickly fled to the safety of the flight of stairs leading into Parliament, where short of breath, he explained to journalists that he "wished to offer support for the pensioners' demands", that they are evidently not aware that he is not part of the Government, but merely an MP, that democracy presumes a bit of tie tugging, and, finally, that he "did venture somewhat rashly before the pensioners".

Komnenic's "trials and tribulations" on the parliamentary flight of stairs is a nearly perfect metaphor for the situation on the Serbian political scene at a moment in which new scaffolding is being erected, while the new (also the old) President Mirko Marjanovic is initiating negotiations on forming a government of "National Unity".  SPO materialized on the ladder of authority, with 8-10 ministerial posts and a lot more which comes under the notion of "division of authority at all levels" being allotted to it in Marjanovic's cabinet.  Those who have up to now been duped and embezzled, and who are now asking in the streets for that which is theirs, have put SPO in with the new government.  The policeman, who on previous occasions always knew how to react when faced by similar Komnenics, is himself at a loss when faced by the confusing status of what was once the biggest opposition party and whose leader until recently rushed through the streets, and is having to ask his chief for instructions.  And finally there is the no less confused Komnenic himself who admits to having ventured somewhat rashly.

All this confusion, unpleasantness and rashness ought to be done away with by the middle of March, when Marjanovic's deadline for forming a new cabinet expires.  The fate of the new government still continues to be in the hands of SPO.  Draskovic left the possibility for the Head Committee of this Party to voice its opinion on having Marjanovic as President.  Not that long ago, the attitude of the SPO Head Committee was nothing if not uncertain on the question of the Premier.  Until recently, Marjanovic's government was regarded by SPO as "kleptocratic" and "unsuccessful", and its ministers were perceived as corruption-prone and protective of their own interests.  Marjanovic himself was characterized as an anti-reformist, and a man whose only success in life was the transfer of the football megastar Pedja Mijatovic to the Belgrade football club "Partizan".  Namely, in the former Yugoslavia, Pedja was about to leave "Buducnost" of Podgorica for "Hajduk" of Split, but Marjanovic literally stole him by paying off both Split and Podgorica for the former to come to Belgrade.

In the newly created situation in SPO, Marjanovic's "qualities" have ceased to be a topic for discussion.  Draskovic himself keeps mentioning that the most important task is to adopt a program of state and national renewal.  When that is achieved, he claims, it becomes irrelevant who is the captain of a successful team.  Indirectly, this could mean that "even Mirko's OK" when higher national interests are at stake.

Officially, in SPO there is still talk of not giving up on the position of Premier.  Unofficially, they will wait to see everything that the Socialists are willing to offer if SPO accepts a compromised and unsuccessful Marjanovic.  The latest news from the HQ of the Left indicates that the position of finance minister surprisingly found itself on the negotiating table.  Prior to negotiations, SPO was told that everything is open to negotiation — except for the positions controlling finances and the police.

A Government of National Unity ought to follow the release of a program for general renewal.  That document should include, as is being said, everything the socialists could have done earlier, but didn't: democratization, parliament controlled privatization, accelerated return to the international community... Draskovic especially insists on the importance of the Declaration of a National Truce and on a final agreement on the national anthem, flag, coat of arms, holidays...

However, among the Left there are still many who believe that it is impossible to join those two divergent paths, and they fear that an alliance between sworn leftists and republicans, and monarchists and Chetniks will be extremely risky business for both sides.  In SPS and JUL something of that kind will not be understood by many, while disillusionment and confusion could also take hold of SPO.  The first who has refused the possibility of a coalition with SPO would be the JUL Spokesman, Aleksandar Vulin, claiming that such a coalition would be impossible to justify to voters.  Since his statement there has been significant progress toward forming a coalition, as some newspapers report, which is why Vulin has decided to resign from all his positions in JUL.  His "strong principles" could be interpreted as pressure from an important Left lobby which is working toward a new elections, instead of toward power comes into reach.  At such a moment, all repellence usually&stops.  In any case, it is not as important for members of such a government to constantly be face to face, as it is to see eye to eye.  Besides power, seeing eye to eye also means, of course, a successful avoidance of new parliamentary elections.  In the Serbian Renewal Movement there is added motivation — to keep out of the political game, for as long as possible, all those who boycotted the elections, above all Djindjic.  Draskovic even speaks about a speedy reduction of the entire political scene to a two or three party system in which the only "survivors" would be the Radicals.

One of Draskovic's top associates, Milan Bozic, claimed several days ago on Radio B-92, that caution is necessary when it comes to forming the new government, especially now when it appears that everything is said and done.  Rozic obviously knows that Milosevic is entering into business with SPO out of necessity, that he has been "styling" Vuk for some time and with difficulty, and that he needs very little to give up on the whole affair and to call a new election.  In actual fact, he does not like, indeed, is not capable of sharing power, and punishes all disloyalty.  New Democracy is best aware of this, being left to rely on only two ministerial portfolios, instead of the five which they had thus far.  And even the two are uncertain.  The President of New Democracy, Dusan Mihajlovic, did not succeed as candidate for the Council of the Republics to the Federal Parliament (only SPO and ND voted for him), while those in the know claim that Gorica Gajevic somewhat cynically offered her partner in the Left to be on the list with Vuk.  These days the police has begun to pay visits to companies whose owners are top ND people.  To the question of how to avoid a similar fate, come tomorrow, Milan Bozic offers the following advice: first, you cannot be small, and second, you must share power with the socialists on all levels.  Otherwise, they will easily write you off.

The once president of "the Cleopatra government", and now only the candidate for the captain's jersey on the team of national unity, Mirko Marjanovic is the first Premier of a multi-party Serbia who has managed to last out a four-year mandate.  He became Premier on March 18, 1994, and it could easily happen that on the same day, four years later, he could be reading the same swearing in oath — under a new coat of arms, a flag and maybe even to the sounds of a new anthem.  The new candidacy of a man whose favorite expression is "screw the lot", and whose oath is "Kinkel, one",(is perhaps the best indication of Milosevic's unreadiness to make any significant changes.  With Marjanovic, he is showing that he is still in control, and that he is above all concerned with showing that he stands behind continuity.  When everyone becomes convinced of this, Marjanovic will be free to look for another job.  Or maybe even to go back to Progres Co.

Even though the contours of a new government are slowly coming into view, there is still time until the middle of March for many things to change.  Theoretically, it is still possible for Draskovic to assert himself more forcefully and to demand a new, less compromised candidate for Premier than the one who is being named on the same day that the decrees and decisions, which did irreparable harm to the economy of the country and which he passed, are being annulled.  Admittedly, there is also the other possibility.  That Marjanovic will call Milosevic to tell him: "Chief, I have Vuk here.  What should I do with him?"  And that the Chief will answer: "Nothing Mirko, forget it." 

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