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June 13, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 349
Shaking in SPS

Hold on!

by Nenad Stefanovic.

On the day we close this issue of Vreme (Wednesday, June 10), it looks like the Contact Group will take a day off (only some working meeting of the political directors), and on that day there probably won’t be an addition or subtraction to already imposed sanctions.  But, because of that, Slobodan Milosevic (this time in the role of SPS president) will assemble the Executive Council of his party following the long pause.  The last time members of the ruling party met at the same meeting was on the eve of the referendum when they agreed to give the world the “historical no.” This time the aim of the meeting is to soften that decisive “no” into a variant of “no, but it’s not important.”

The meeting of SPS’s Executive Council will be held in the Yugopetrol building where the Socialists always meet when something important occurs or they are determining a new course for the ruling party.  This time there were two items on the agenda:  strengthening party cadres and analyzing the economic and political situation in the country with a special review of events in Montenegro and Kosovo.  Concerning the strengthening of party cadres, opening remarks fell to General Secretary Gorica Gajevic, but many Socialists worry that behind this occasionally uncertain agenda item stand announcements that will cause some in the higher eschalons of the party to slump into a depression around their armchairs.  Such fears and concerns follow every meeting of SPS’s Executive Council because in the meantime no one knows if they made a mistake somewhere or said something that “daddy”, especially “mommy”, or the JULies didn’t like.

Milomir Minic was responsible for informing the party elite about occurrences in Kosovo, but everything remaining to be said at the meeting that was of importance concerning Kosovo, Montenegro, Djukanovic, Bulatovic, Rugova, sanctions, and the NATO pact was said by Slobodan Milosevic.  On the eve of this meeting, Milosevic’s choices in Kosovo came down to two Spaniards—Solana and Gonzales; and in such a situation (even for politics that often make all laws of logic into a lie) it is logical that he opted for that, “all right, we said no, but now it’s not important, let Gonzales come, we just have to find some form of explanation.”  Following the elections in Montenegro (“The police and Mafia won there,” Ivica Dacic.), the decisive “no” was said to Djukanovic and his victorious coalition, but a few days later Milosevic finally convened the Federal Security Council in its entirety and in so doing indirectly recognized what the entire world had more than half a year ago—that Milo Djukanovic is the legal president of the republic.  That is how the decisive “no” became “no, but it’s not important.”  But, if in place of a tardy “recognition of reality”, it’s about an attempt to subsequently bring Djukanovic into the Kosovo story and now share responsibility when matters in the southern province went too far.

The Executive Council of SPS had to have spoken about the frequent mention of new elections at the federal level.  Of course, it isn’t unknown to SPS’s elite how foreign diplomats (particularly American) put pressure on Rugova to accept a part in such elections and with that problematize Milosevic’s survival on the political scene to the very end.  Until now, Albanians have rejected decidedly such a possibility, but it is questionable how they will escape this pressure in the end, particularly if they offer them something concrete in return like so-called “special status.”

Talk of new federal elections otherwise started out of Podgorica and could soon receive a completely official form particularly if the left in Serbia quickly, and for the better, repudiate their president of the federal government, Momir Bulatovic, and give the position up to DPS.  In SPS, there are many who believe that something like that should be done before trying to find some kind of compromise with Djukanovic.  However, judging from statements made by the directorship of JUL dated the same day Milosevic invited Djukanovic to the National Security Council, such a possibility was not in sight.  That is to say, JUL summoned all patriotic strength in SRJ to, “unite in a front for the defense of the country following the undemocratic elections in Montenegro.”

Concurrent to the semi-official demands from Podgorica calling for elections on the federal level, completely unofficial speculation concerning whether  DPS will in the future register in Serbia or if Milo Djukanovic will try to plant the reform virus in Belgrade such that he would stand at the head of some potential federal reform coalition were set in motion.  Following a meeting with former premier Milan Panic,  Montenegro’s president answered a similar question, diplomatically stating that the government in Montenegro isn’t so pretentious as to think that it should change the political scene in Serbia.  “We only want to help and encourage all who want to participate in a project to democratize the whole country and lead SRJ on a healthy, prosperous, and European course.”

Djukanovic still continuously emphasized that he always believed in the democratic potential of the opposition in Serbia and noted that the potential somehow couldn’t disappear in reference to the possibility of reanimating it.  Podgorica’s political sociologist Srdjan Darmanovic these days writes that he doubts that a politician as pragmatic and realistic as Djukanovic would venture a direct appearance on the political scene in Serbia.  He will above all lean on countries like those of the so-called Contact Group in order to try and strengthen his power in Montenegro and become untouchable to Milosevic and his “eventual malignant intentions.”  According to this view,  Milosevic and Djukanovic will in the immediate future each rule  his own territory and wait for the moment of a final clearing of accounts.  “The political future of Milosevic must be determined in Serbia,” says Darmanovic while at the same time Serbia doesn’t have a powerful alternative to the regime, nor does one come into view at this time.  “If in this or that way it (the opposition) doesn’t appear or is created in the foreseeable future, neither Djukanovic nor anyone else can help.

Many of those who for years have for watched and followed the Serbian opposition turn in circles under the regime’s control and its own impotency think as the sociologist from Podgorica.  In Belgrade these days, there are many who inquire as to how legal matters stand, can Djukanovic bring his party here and in a coalition of parties from Serbia participate in federal elections?  And, there are many who think that perhaps Djukanovic couldn’t escape the siren’s song calling him to put himself as the slandered separatist at the head of a list of those who would live in a different Yugoslavia, a lot closer to Europe.  In such pre-election campaigns, RTS programming has already described him as in the movement to rip Montenegro away while a the same time trying to become the president of Yugoslavia.  Let him try.

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