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September 28, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 510
DOS in Broken Mirror

Split-Up Before Anniversary

by Milan Milosevic

A year after the celebration of the October victory, there is still a feeling of drowsiness in Serbia. Just on the day of the anniversary of the electoral triumph (51.33%) the crisis of the federal state escalated, causing direct consequences to the position of the Serbian Government, which has been severely criticised by the biggest coalition member for the last two months.

Montenegrin President and Prime Minister have not responded to the invitation of the FRY President to attend the meeting on the redefinition of the federal state since September 19th. The reason why the Montenegrins No. 1 and No. 2 have not come to Belgrade is due to the fact that the Federal Government Prime Minister, Dragisa Pesic from SNP (the Socialist National Party) - who is not acknowledged by the official Montenegro - was meant to participate in the talks.

Last Monday, in the Press Club of the Media Centre, Ilija Vujacic, an expert in the issues of federalism from the Faculty of Political Sciences, estimated that Djukanovic's delay and conditioning of the negotiations were tactful.

Zoran Lutovac, from the Institute of Social Sciences, who as an expert took part in the creation of the platform for DOS and coalition For Yugoslavia (KZJ, Montenegrin), believes in the negotiations with the Montenegrin majority and estimates that if something has to be cleared out, it is the relations within Montenegro, since the referendum in that republic is not possible without the coalition Together for Yugoslavia and without the proper unity of the independence-orientated bloc. The Liberal Alliance, for example, a priori accuses Djukanovic of an attempt of going to Belgrade and trying to save the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In that case, does Vujanovic represent the majority, even without the Liberals who are against any negotiations? If he isn't the 'majority', why don't they have him overturned? Or, why is the Montenegrin opposition excluded from the Montenegrin dialogue? For this reason, Lutovac foretold that the Government of Montenegro would attempt to 'make Belgrade annoyed'. And that's how it was.

Having got hold of power, DOS lost an important coalition partner in Djukanovic, which could have resulted in his opting for a complete independence. In such circumstances, DOS was forced to enter into a tactful coalition with SNP, the former coalition partner of SPS (the Socialist Party of Serbia). Afterwards, Djukanovic's coalition developed a story about the official Belgrade's 'continuity' with the remnants of the 'previous regime', etc., though Djukanovic's team, along with Lukasenko, represents a single nomenclature that has been in power since 1945. In any way, after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic's regime, one could have seen that, in spite of the accident that had occurred to him at that time, Djukanovic had the appearance of the worst-humoured man in the whole of Europe.

The coalition DOS/SNP experienced two huge crises on the state level, owing to the latter party's evidently demonstrated consideration towards the former FRY President. First, Kostunica, who is in general negatively disposed towards The Hague Tribunal, could not manage to influence his Montenegrin coalition partners to pass the Law on Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal since December 2000 till June 2001, after which the Serbian Government tock over the liabilities of the federal state and directly extradited Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague.

That induced the split-up within DOS, had Djukanovic relaxed and confronted the Serbian Government with the carrier of DOS's electoral list. Kostunica reproached Djindjic for the latter's giving of what is not directly required and for undermining the federal state. Djindjic, on the other hand, admonished Kostunica for his alleged aspirations to keep the FRY isolated from the rest of the world.

After the collapse of Zizic's Federal Government and the election of Pesic's Government, another crisis, though of smaller in scope, occurred in the Federal Parliament: SNP once more refused to vote for the withdrawal of MP immunities to tow former Serbian ministers, Milutin Bojic and Vlajko Stojiljkovic. Kostunica was summoned (by Batic) to step out as a 'custodian of Montenegro'.

Now, the question of Montenegro is about to burst out into a dispute within DOS. Kostunica reproaches Djindjic for not having taken his responsibilities seriously enough, which causes the delay of getting to a proper solution and the uncertainty of the whole situation.

Beforehand, Djindjic has even humiliated Kostunica by not coming to the Serbian-Montenegrin talks, which Kostunica finally managed to schedule after long-term preparations and a personal contact with Djukanovic. Djindjic's excuse was that he had allegedly heard that Djukanovic was not coming, so he thought that, in that way, the meeting had no sense at all. Thus, Djindjic gave Djukanovic a great symbolical political compliment. Kostunica's suspicions that Djindjic and Djukanovic would build a 'bypass' and amputate the Federal President are most likely to have amplified by now.

Defending himself from a number of remarks addressed to him, Djindjic repeated several times (7-8) that he had received an invitation by Vujanovic to embark on negotiations about the future of the FRY and stressed that what he wished to discuss with the Montenegrin Prime Minister were only some technical details, not the future of the federation and that he did not wish to take over the liabilities that still belong to President Kostunica. He accused Kostunica of not having accomplished his task, of not even preparing the meeting in a right way, and anxiously send the message to the public: 'To accuse me that I don't intent to discuss the future of the federation, but only some technical details is either entirely irrational or malevolent', says Djindjic, who has previously criticised Djukanovic for his refusal to come to Belgrade.

Serbian Prime Minister thus merited himself a present from Montenegro - Djukanovic's associates repeat that the meeting with Djindjic is a matter of time.

Without Kostunica and DSS (the Democratic Party of Serbia, which enjoys about 28-30% of potential votes), Djindjic is hardly going to represent the essential public support for the holdup of negotiations (he himself 'weighs' 13-16%, and can hardly be helped even by the consensus of his other coalition members). He received another call by Filip Vujanovic, and promised to come out with a decision after some consultations within DOS.

Djukanovic's DPS (the Democratic Party of Socialist) seems to be in need of some kind of negotiations, since this party is trying to maintain the story that the dissolution of the federal state is not supposed to be complete, promoting some form of union of independent states, something like the remainder of the former USSR.  Serbian side has not yet shown sympathy towards this kind of solution.

The publicity in Serbia is mainly (about 60%), but not that passionately, concentrated on maintaining the joint state, and is ready to make things easier by showing the readiness to let the Montenegrins make their own decision about the new status of the state. If there are no new revolutions, the official Serbia will have to call its own referendum.

Mijat Damjanovic, from the Palgo centre, says that the constitutional crisis, wanderings and misunderstandings speak to themselves about our lack of strength to project our own future and to give the priority to the basic and all-encompassing reforms, as well as the passing of a number of system laws. Ilija Vujacic, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the small-scale reformist performances in Montenegro are more likely to produce further instabilities than to solve the matter of the state status.

In the shadow of the constitution problems in Serbia, we are getting closer to the core of the matter. After last summer's 'counseling debates', last week Kostunica tried to give the finishing touches to the criticism of the Serbian Government, from which he had withdrawn one of the vice-presidents and one of the ministers. He admitted that the Serbian Government did accomplish 'something positive' in the reform of the taxation system and in creating the conditions for the forthcoming process of privatisation, but estimated that that process had not been brought to completion. The FRY President also repeated that what his party was interested in were the effects of the Serbian Government's work, not the number of ministerial posts.

Serbian Prime Minister immediately responded that he had ready reports and added that he had nothing against discussing the DSS's remarks at the session of the Government. He underlines that he would like the FRY President to be present at that session.
Djindjic, however, is still attempting to translate the debate on disapproving remarks to the session of the DOS Presidency. The Central Committee of DSS, on the other hand, insists on an opportunity to have their remarks discussed about at the session of the Government.  The DOS Presidency is a body in which Djindjic has already managed to attain advantage of 17:1. At one point, he even started with threatening that DSS might be expelled from the DOS due to too much criticism.

It is hardly likely that the Prime Minister will be able to sacrifice his 'coalition in the coalition', since it is not plausible to believe that the presidents of minor DOS parties will deny their state functions. It is beyond likelihood to expect them to withdraw. It would be more elegant of them to conclude the same thing at the session of the Presidency. Djindjic has probably much shortened his term of office thanks to that 'coalition in coalition', since he turned the most influential politician in the country against him self.

Both cases in the dispute agree over one thing and that is the necessity of debate on the work of the Government, which opens a possibility for a relatively productive compromise. Djindjic's side will probably continue to be determined in their insistence on putting Kostunica's side on agenda too. That came across approval by DSS, which in turn is ready to reveal new accusations of the Prime Minister.

They are definitely not used to be called and treated like government, for some reason, they maintained the word 'opposition' in the coalition's official title. They have spent too much time only wondering at what their predecessors had been doing, and what is more, it seems that they are still wondering.

However, they are still owners of the general compliments for their heroism in pulling down the infamous former regime; they are still credited as brave reformers, although there was much criticism behind congratulations.

There is no more isolation, the sanctions were lifted, the country is finally open towards the rest of the world, re-included in many international institutions, its national flag is now fluttering in front of the United Nations building in New York, etc. Still, they have not managed to create a productive coalition within the country, which would uphold the joint state represented by that fluttering flag.

They have probably stimulated higher expectations among people about the future of the country, but they could not escape the reality. There were promises of foreign donations, which were not coming that regularly and in anticipated quantities, especially not enough to cover the damages caused by the NATO bombing.

As liberal reformers, they officially do not interfere in the economy, but it appears that they did not react in a right way in this tough transitional period. Industrial production is inferior to that of last year, though there are indications that by the end of the year we may reach that famous Bojic's (the former manager of Zastava and Serbian Prime Minister) 'positive zero'.

The budget is more balanced. Salaries increased from 90 DM to about 140 DM, although the prices got up; strikes (the Post Office is currently on strike) are not devastating.

The media are free from severe censorship, but are still subject to manipulations, slanders, biased opinions, defrauds, etc. The reliability of information is little; there is almost no media control power.

The majority of citizens are aware that such a big coalition is choking in its own plentitude, hardly makes decisions and has quite a lot of difficulties in running the business of the state. It does not necessarily mean that the hunger for power and vanity are the main causes of the crises that follow one another. Even some more monolithic parties might have easily split before such tough decisions.

Before the moment of creation of a new government, after the imminent elections, which will not bear the name 'opposition', they will have to bring into line some crucial decisions - that the citizens have a right to know in what kind of country they live, even during the transitional period. That implies, one or two constitutions, one statute, one electoral law, and a few more laws on reforms, the beginning of establishing the elementary state structure. Or, they will soon be forced to call the elections for the constitutional parliament. Another dilemma - constitution or elections.

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