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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    TUE, 11 FEB 1997 23:31:55 GMT

    All Milosevic's Moves


    In Milosevic's interpretation of Tito's political "skill", this is how it all looks: first you beat up and bathe with water guns the "fascists" in the streets, and then you invent a law with which you admit to these same "fascists" that they have won in the elections.

    AIM Belgrade, 6 February, 1997

    Just a day after Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic addressed a letter to the Government of Mirko Marjanovic and in the form of a recommendation ordered speedy adoption of a special law (lex specialis) which should finally mark the end of last year's local elections in Serbia (in the way Gonzales said it should be done), during the customary students' walk around Belgrade, the following banner appeared: "Tito had Rex, Sloba has Lex". The street "jury" immediately proclaimed that this slogan was among the best creations of the students' protest and awarded it with the maximum number of points for "artistic impression". As concerning the essence, all things considered, Lex will not become part of Sloba's fictionalized biography, nor school readers. Contrary to Rex (the famous dog which saved Tito's life during the Second World War), Lex appeared too late to save its master.

    That is why Milosevic is nowadays politically "wounded" incomparably more seriously than Tito was wounded on the river of Sutjeska. So seriously that for the first time since the beginning of his career the question whether and for how long he will be able to politically survive has been put forward. Especially since after a series of thoughtless and bulling moves, he lost diplomatic protection and the status of "the favourite of the West" which he had enjoyed while he had been considered to be the "guarantor of peace in Bosnia" and "the factor of stability in the Balkans". Milosevic is gradually sinking into deeper and deeper international isolation, while there are more and more special airplanes from Paris, London, Vienna, Bonne or Rome landing on Belgrade airport in order to take his political opponents from the coalition Together to the European capitals at the invitation of statesmen who had until recently believed that Milosevic had been the only man worth talking to because he had been more powerful than any "lex". airport

    Students' reminder of Tito's German shepherd Rex was not the only witty and picturesque reaction to Milosevic's law with which the Serbian regime would now wished to pull itself out of the deep political crisis it had sunk into on 17 November last year, after the unsuccessful attempts of forgery of the electoral will of the citizens. The students were obviously "enchanted" by the name of the drafted law - lex specialis - which should hurriedly bury and conceal the attempt of the election theft, so they also sent the following message by their placards: "Long live eternal friendship between the Serbian and the Latin people". In Belgrade protest jargon which is enriched every day, this law has also got its special name - "lex specialis cordonis", in view of the fact that it appeared just a day or two after the police cordons brutally beat up the people in Belgrade streets.

    Even before the text of the draft of this law was published, municipal boards of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) had started to praise the wisdom of their President and through statements from sessions once again expressing admiration of Milosevic's ingenuity thanks to which Serbia had always and at the right moment managed to find a "beneficial solution". The opposition was more inclined to repeat the long ago stated conclusion: Milosevic always acted as a doctor who prescribed his patient the right drug. But only after its shelf life had expired and after it had turned into poison.

    According to the scenario of the Socialists, the law should be adopted on 11 February at the session of the Serbian parliament, and in the end of next week the opposition would have the power in all the cities which OSCE mission mentioned in its report. This means also in Belgrade because of which the whole adventure with the theft of votes seems to have begun in the first place, the adventure which the recent mayor of Belgrade and renegade of the Socialist Party Nebojsa Covic claims could in the end cost the SPS loss of power in the next republican elections. Although it refers to Mr Gonzales's report, the scenario of the Socialists does not necessarily imply liberation of the media and opening of the dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, probably in the form of a round table which comes too late, immediately after recognition of election results. In their statements, the authorities (meaning SPS+JUL), mention mostly that there will be no more reason for street protests and that all future discussions must be returned into "institutions of the system" which the President of Serbia is especially fond of.

    Regardless of the new gush of appreciation and admiration the Socialists are offering to Slobodan Milosevic and their conviction that with "lex specialis" the political crisis in Serbia will soon be ended, the impression is that everything is in fact just beginning. Everything that in the past two and a half months preceded drafting of this law shows that the ruling party is in the greatest crisis since the night in June 1990 when the Serbian communists entered the Belgrade Centre Sava and in the morning came out as socialists. This party is at the moment shaken again by the already forgotten "spectre of differentiation" in which all those who have recently lost local elections will be removed from their posts. Before these elections are disentangled personnel-wise, everybody in the SPS must make an analysis of what has happened to them. In writing these analyses which will be completed in the next few days, leaders on different levels are accusing each other. Party leadership thinks that there were many mistakes in the party "basis", especially in places where conflicts with JUL broke out. The "basis", however, thinks that elections are lost or won only by party leadership and points in this direction. In the end, of course, they will all go in the direction which Milosevic's forefinger will point out. That nobody is safe at his post any more is best illustrated by the recent replacement at the very top of the Post, Telephone and Telegraph Company of a powerful party member Milorad Jaksic, and rumour goes among the Socialists that the forefinger is also rising towards some other, until recently unquestioned SPS authorities.

    Incomparably more than the announced and the initiated differentiation, the crisis in the ranks of the ruling SPS is reflected by almost panic-stricken (sometimes even schizophrenic) reactions of the leadership of this party in the attempts to come out of the crisis provoked by forgery of election results. The series of such moves began in the night between 17 and 18 November, 1996, when it had become clear that the Socialists were losing almost all cities around Serbia. On that night, Milosevic first yelled at those he marked as the main culprits for the election defeat, but just a few hours later concluded that everything was not as hopeless and that the defeat might even mobilize his party before the incomparably more important elections for the republican parliament.

    On the very next day, "somebody" allegedly convinced President of Serbia that the election defeat could be transformed into a victory by reckless jurisprudence and mathematical acrobatics, and the party course was changed overnight. After that, everything followed similar logic - one day one thing, the next another. The leader of the SPS from Nis Mile Ilic was then expelled from the party because he had too obviously stolen votes in the elections, and mayor of Belgrade Nibojsa Covic was also expelled because he had publicly refused to steal and call it the will of the people; Gonzales was invited to come to Belgrade and then his report was ignored; in statements, love with JUL flourished, in the field however, they fought like cats and dogs; in the Government of Serbia, the students were told that they were right, and on that same evening, this information was deleted from the program of state-controlled media.

    They were promised that the Rector would resign, but two days later he won a vote of confidence; at meetings of the SPS held behind closed doors, members were told that the new federal prime minister would be Zoran Lilic, and that Pavle Bulatovic was planned for the post of the President of the FRY currently held by Lilic, but just a few days later an experimental news was issued in which Slobodan Milosevic and Momir Bulatovic were mentioned on the top federal posts; at a session of the Main Board of the SPS, Zoran Lilic appealed for full implementation of Gonzales's report, and just a day later municipal assemblies were constituted with majority of the Socialists in the very same cities in which according to Gonzales's report the opposition had won; at meetings with foreign diplomats, Milosevic's associates persistently claim that "the President intends to initiate serious reforms with new capable men", and after that Dragan Tomic, the known "reformer" was nominated for the head of Belgrade Socialists; Chairman of the Serbian Assembly Dragan Tomic, who was the first who called the people protesting against the election theft "fascists" and "terrorists", hurried also to be the first to praise Milosevic's "lex specialis" which practically recognized election victory of the "fascists" in all the cities; after 73 days of peaceful protests, the police suddenly begins to brutally beat up the people in the streets of Belgrade; two days after police violence, in the style "first I will beat you up, and then I will recognize it", Milosevic proposes that the law be adopted which practically legalizes the victory of those beaten up ...

    All the mentioned examples (and there are more) primarily speak about panic and confusion which after the decision not to surrender power at all costs struck the Socialists, most of all their party leadership. It is possible to hear here and there theories that all these confusing moves are not at all accidental and that they in fact belong to a well elaborated tactic. And it was allegedly revealed by Ljubisa Ristic at the joint session of the leadership of JUL and the SPS. At this gathering, the President of JUL demanded that "confusing moves" be drawn in order to disorientate and definitely defeat the opposition. According to some opinions, however, naive members of the SPS are in fact guilty for creating confusion, because their moves do not always coincide with wishes and stances of JUL (especially those from diary notes of Dr Mira Markovic).

    That is how it could happen that news that the students were right and that their rector would certainly be discharged was first read as the central news in Radio Belgrade program called News of the Day, and on that same evening it was just said that the students' delegation met representatives of the Government. According to one theory, confusion is produced by Milosevic himself with the intention to make the crisis last in order to give time to both his opponents and his associated to appear in the true light. And then, as a confirmed strategist, he would in the end make moves by which he would on the one hand knock out the opposition, and on the other put all his Covics, Sainovics and Tomics where they belong. As proof of Milosevic's cunning and inclination towards conspiracies, a rumour was started a few days ago that the President in person ordered the police to beat up the people in order to blame it all on police commanders and then remove them.

    In interpretation of the moves of the authorities, it can also be heard that the Socialists are moving from one wrong move to the other because it is done by dictate of the immediate President's surroundings, men who know that in the case of a definite defeat they will not be able to evade responsibility for what they have done. These people allegedly, use every opportunity to remind Milosevic by their behavior of the message of the first American President George Washington to general Lafayette: "General, if we are not together today, tomorrow we shall hang apart". In this way Milosevic has become the victim and hostage of the surrounding team he himself had chosen.

    Although each and every one of these "theories" and assumptions probably include titbits of truth, most probably the confusing moves made by the Serbian regime are not the result of a well elaborated strategy for "confusing the enemy". Based on rumours which are spread by the SPS itself, it appears that the Socialists are confused by what has befallen them. After Dayton, this part does not seem to be able to take the initiative. Ever since then, significant changes and reforms are constantly announced, but in fact nothing is happening except that at the last party congress it was concluded that in a few years the 21st century would come. And that the Socialists would like to be in the institutions of the system, in other words - in power when it does.

    At the recent session of the Main Board of this party, the view of the future adopted at the party congress seems to have been partially corrected. It was concluded that the Socialists had reached "the upper limit of winning the electorate and that the issue of an acceptable and profitable coalition which will ensure a longterm ruling position should be put on the agenda". Some people have immediately interpreted this as a message "let Dr Vojislav Seselj be prepared". The Socialists, however, have in mind the empty space towards the centre which is "undetermined" and which is still too far away from the present left coalition.

    Students' reminder that "Tito had Rex, and Sloba has Lex" makes another comparison spring to mind which again does not speak in favour of Milosevic. Those who are well informed say that whenever the Russians pressured him for something, Tito would first arrest a few prominent supporters of the Information Bureau, and then he would meet demands of the Russians. He acted in the similar manner in relation to the Americans. First Mihajlov or Djilas would be put in jail, and then the Americans would get what they asked for. In Milosevic's interpretation of Tito's political "skill" this is what it is like: first you beat up and by water guns bathe the "fascists" in the streets and then you invent a law according to which you admit to these same "fascists" that they have won in the elections.

    Nenad Lj. Stefanovic (AIM)