SUN, 07 JUL 1996 16:23:51 GMT
Opposition in Serbia: "Together" or "All Together"
When the opposition started negotiating the possible coalitions, it seemed that two strong opposition coalition blocks could equal the Socialists. It is clear after recent changes of the Electoral Law that the one who comes out third can count with only several places in Parliament. Kostunica therefore did not show much queasiness towards anyone within the coalition, which he calls a "technical" one. It seems that all the others want to pick their coalition companions and are not ready for "all together", if that implies pinching one's nose shut on account of some from that coalition.
AIM, July 1, 1996
"The way to the much needed change is simple and can be expressed with only two words - all together", Dr.Vojislav Kostunica, President of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) sent a message last weekend from the party's Third Congress.
The Congress of DSS, the only party on the Serbian political scene which has never flirted and plotted with Milosevic's Socialists, and with which the whole opposition is flirting now, was expected with much impatience in the Serbian opposition circles. It was more or less certain that Dr.Kostunica (for whom some claimed several months ago to be "fed up with politics" and "returning to science") will remain at the DSS helm (which came true), but the stance of the new party leadership on the possible coalition linking with other parties on the eve of the federal elections was awaited rather impatiently.
Namely, for some time now Kostunica and his Democrats have been receiving both most cordial invitations as well as threats, to decide once and for all which side they will take. Many times have Djindjic, Draskovic and Vesna Pesic in the name of the Democratic Party (DS), the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and the Civil Alliance of Serbia (GSS) respectively, invited DSS to finally join the already formed coalition which was originally called "Partnership for Change" to change it later to "Zajedno" (Together). Dr.Vojislav Seselj too, sent a coalition offers to DSS reckoning that this party, together with his Radicals could represent far mightier coalition than the one under the name "Together". Vesna Pesic and Zoran Djindjic personally came to the DSS Congress to once again invite the leadership and members of this party to join them. Draskovic's envoy Milan Komnenic did the same, asking whether "it is truly harder to be together, then to tolerate Milosevic".
On that day Seselj had some more pressing things to do and hurried to Pale to once again show his support for Radovan Karadzic, and therefore to Kostunica's party congress sent an envoy of a rather low rating (those present remarked that he could have sent a doorman").
The Opposition Again at the Beginning
In his programme address at this gathering Kostunica warned that the Socialists can be stopped only if the parties which at previous elections have won the votes of the majority of voters of Serbia, i.e. SPO, SRS, DS and DSS, come out with the slogan "All together". The DSS leader thinks that it has to be a target-specific and time-limited coalition, with but a single task: to create conditions for democratic execution of power.
"The one who wins the federal elections, will win the republican ones as well. Partial coalitions can for thus joined parties ensure only a short-term survival under unchanged order, perilous both for the people and the state", concluded Dr.Kostunica in his address, letting once again everyone know that he was interested only in the option which includes Seselj also. Thus, at least as far as the opposition is concerned, things have returned to where they were few months ago, when possible coalitions were mentioned for the first time.
In the meantime, in the absence of the opposition which still abstains from participating in Assembly sessions, the Socialists have rather significantly changed the Electoral Law by increasing the number of election units for federal elections. Theoretically, everything has remained within the limits of a proportionate electoral system, but experts in this field immediately warned that this practically results in a majority one-round election system which emphatically favours the party in power. Thus, it could easily happen for the Socialist to win the absolute majority in Parliament with only one third of votes at the next elections.
At the time the opposition started negotiations on possible coalitions, it seemed that two strong opposition coalition blocks could be able to cope with the Socialists. Everything has fundamentally changed after the recent amendments to the Electoral Law. The one who comes out third at the elections, which have been tailored so as to resemble a guillotine, will get practically nothing. Actually, he will be able to count on only leftovers and some places in Parliament, irrespective of the actual number of voters. Therefore, it is important to be the first, or second, and any wasting of strength will actually be a job well done for the Socialists.
Kostunica therefore wants to keep to this mathematics and is not much avert to anyone within a coalition, which he terms "technical". It seems that all the others want to pick their coalition companions and are not ready for the "all together" thing, if that implies pinching one's nose shut on account of some from that coalition.
Thus, for example, the GSS supports a coalition from Milosevic to Seselj. Draskovic's SPO is on irreconcilable positions when it comes to possible cooperation with the Radicals. After rapprochement with Djindjic, Draskovic invested much effort into attracting the DSS to the SPO-DS-GSS coalition. He first gave Kostunica a deadline by which he should join them, and after losing patience started accusing the top echelons of this party of "harmful policy" which will eventually cause the disappearance of the DSS from the political scene. Obviously, Draskovic's ultimate intention is to have the Radicals totally isolated and doomed to the "third" place, which most probably brings nothing, by winning over the DSS.
In this company Djindjic is somewhat more "flexible" and could, under certain conditions, see also the Radicals within the coalition of the opposition parties. As usual, his philosophy is expressed in a rather pragmatic approach: "So far we have tried everything against the Socialists. The only thing we did not try is to beat them together".
At their recent Congress the Radicals have decided to go to the elections precisely as Vuk Draskovic wants them to - totally alone. Rather self-confidently, this gathering marked two opponents to be defeated - the Socialist and the opposition "traitors" from the coalition "Together". The Radicals stated that they do not want to form an alliance with "dishonourable people" who do not care for morals, obviously thinking primarily of Draskovic's SPO. In the meantime they repeatedly emphasized the closeness with the DSS and fully understanding existing between these two parties which started way back in 1993. People around Vojislav Seselj think that by winning over Kostunica they could attract Djindjic also, thereby leaving Draskovic at the exposed and isolated losing position.
"Glue" of A Dubious Quality
That everything that is happening on the Serbian opposition scene is not all that simple is attested by many examples which demonstrate that local party leaderships do not fully follow the policy of their centers. Without waiting for the final agreements of their leaders, local leaderships of the SPO, DS and DSS in Krusevac have signed an agreement on joint action. The same happened in Valjevo, where joint list is already being prepared. These days the SPO leadership in Leskovac warned the DSS and SRS representatives that in case of lost elections they will be responsible because they hesitated to get on the joint list. In Prilike, near Ivanjica, that job is already over - SPO, DS, SRS and DSS have elected joint candidates.
Dressed in the uniform of Djindjic's Democrats, Milan Paroski, once sharp-tongued deputy, who at that time had ambitions to bring Croats in order like "dogs around a telegraph post", appeared at that rally. In Prilike he promised the annihilation of an "artificial" Montenegrin nation. According to news reports, this recent reinforcement of the Djindjic's Democratic Party presented his quite original programme of conversion of Moslems with the help of cockroaches. According to that programme, the Serbs would throw cockroaches into the Moslem shops in Sanjak and Serbia, after which the inspection would shut them down for poor hygienic conditions. After that, suggested Paroski, Orthodox priests would come to the Moslem owners offering protection of their shops in return for their conversion.
Danica Draskovic, wife of the SPO President, mentioned this example and Paroski's speech in the last issue of "Srpska rec" (The Serbian Word), voicing her doubts that such presentations in the name of the coalition "Together" could persuade the voters in the supremacy of that coalition over other political options. Paroski, says Danica Draskovic, "came to that rostrum by someone's mistake and spoke in the name of coalition of my party and the Democratic Party, and I sincerely hope that he will vanish from the political scene. If not, if the Democratic Party, whose member and official he is, is behind such political option, then I hope that the SPO will leave the coalition with such a programme, or I will leave the Serbian Renewal Movement".
In contrast to such examples which rather seriously raise a question as to how strong is that glue which holds the coalition "Together", joint tours of Draskovic, Djindjic and Vesna Pesic and their rallies in towns of Serbia leave an entirely different impression - of a rather respectable political force. At the majority of these rallies the three leaders speak mostly from the position of the already won power. They claim that they have pulled Serbia out of languor and "broke the backbone of the SPS pre-election campaign". In return the Socialist attack them more fiercely envisaging the imminent end of this "strolling company Together", calling it also a "sandcastle".
Most party leaderships still rely on the results of previous elections, although much has changed since. In the meantime the Socialists have executed a number of sharp loops and agreed to being "sucked in" by the JUL (the United Yugoslav Left). With much effort the SPO and DS have tried to preserve at least a part of the former party infrastructure and membership. As far as the Radicals are concerned, over a half of their Kragujevac SRS Board resigned, and there are announcements of a new radical party which will rally all radical factions which have left Seselj (and did not join Jovan Glamocanin), which at least number six. The Civil Alliance of Serbia also split up several months ago.
It is therefore hard to believe that the road to changes in Serbia could really be simple, as envisaged by Vojislav Kostunica, DSS President. It could rather be expected that the opposition blocks and coalitions will take shape just before the elections, in other words, rather late. Even today the opposition lacks a clear political strategy, while the Socialists already now know for sure what to expect of the elections. It seems that they are even prepared for the case that "all together" should call for a boycott of the elections on account of the media blockade. Still, they will find someone whom they will promise a share of the power, media promotion, business premises and other things which usually come with such an "opposition".
Nenad Lj. Stefanovic (AIM)