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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

    SUN, 04 JAN 1998 23:16:46 GMT

    AFTER PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN SERBIA

    Between Minority and Coalition Government

    AIM Belgrade, 25 December, 1997

    A French journalist who came to Belgrade to report about the presidential elections in Serbia says that every time she arrives to this country she has the impression she has entered a time machine. Such observations do not surprise anybody any more. For example, when ballot boxes were turned upside down, the name of Josip Broz appeared on invalid ballots. Instead of interest for the evident stealing of votes in the duel between Milutinovic and Seselj, it became more exciting for some to calculate how the late president fared in some electoral districts.

    Before the central electoral commission managed to make the official results of the vote public, the Socialists had convened all the ritual ceremonies: from fireworks and champagne to telegram-congratulations. This just meant that the leader of the Radicals, Vojislav Seselj can stuff his hundred complaints about irregularities of the election up his shirt. Of course, it does not matter that this is a matter of obvious reshaping of the will of the voters, especially in Kosovo, the number of which can affect the outconme of the elections. According to the words of Srbobran Brankovic from the agency for public opinion polls called Medijum, about 250 thousand votes in Kosovo are an obious lie for the domestic and the international public, which practically confirms the election theft.

    The Radicals accused the ruling left coalition of having concealed about 300 thousand of votes given to them, and Vojislav Seselj himself arrived at the figure of 700 thousand. He said that his party would not recognize Milan Milutinovic as the president and that the Radicals would not nominate the prime minister even if they were offered to do. It is evident, however, that this time Seselj accuses the "regime" for the theft, although so many times before he did not hesistate to pronounce loud and clear the name and address of persons who had trodden on his toes.

    It is a fact that according to the calculation of the Radicals, about 49 per cent of the voters voted in these elections. Estimates of the non-governmental organizations Centre for Free Elections and the Students' Political Club differ by one per cent less. The Serb Revival Movement also expressed doubt about the official figure of the voters who had voted (50.98 per cent) and openly declared that there had been a major manipulation with ballots in Kosovo. President of the Civic Alliance of Serbia, Vesna Pesic, and leader of the Democrats, Zoran Djundjic, addressed an open letter to the domestic and the international public stressing all the irregularities of the December election procedure. They believe that the ruling party in Serbia has practically decided to completely disregard the Gonsales report.

    In their first reactions, the opinions of local analysts vary concerning their views of the denouement of the newly created situation. Majority of them believe that matters will further complicate. Vladimir Goati, researcher of public opinion, expects political conflicts which will already become evident during establishment of the new Republican administration. Matters are complex especially because it is impossible to expect efficient resolving of economic difficulties, on the contrary, further increase of social poverty is quite certain.

    There are opinions, although rare ones, among which is that of the sociologist Bora Kuzmanovic, who thinks that the authorities will stabilize because the Left coalition and the Radicals, and perhaps even the Serb Revival Movement, will quickly reach an agreement about division of power. Opinions are common that the reaction of the Radicals will come down to kicking up dust, and that it will all in fact end up in an agreement with the Socialists. Only Zoran Djundjic is convinced that the Radicals will fight for their election justice all the way. It is questionable, however, whether it is in the interest of the Radicals to split hairs when Seselj himself admitted that Milutinovic had won more votes, regardless of the theft. Indeed, annulment of the elections would be most convenient for those who refused to participate. Adnitting of the fact that the necessary majority of the citizens failed to vote would mean success of the boycott and affirmation of such a political decision. Besides, it would almost certainly lead to new parliamentary elections in spring, and a comeback of parties of the democratic opposition to parliamentary life.

    If the Radicals have no intention to change their tactics and rely more on cooperation with the Democrats in the future, they have no reason to work in their favour by "enforcement" of the law. Those who are knowledgable about the strategy and the ways of the head of the Radicals are convinced that he can charge "checking of appetites" caused by presidential elections by asking many favours in return. Vojislav Seselj, there is no doubt about it, is one of the best political traders on the Serbian political scene.

    In any case, while the leader of the Radicals is claiming that he will seek the truth about the elections at court and the state commission, the janitors in the office of the president of the Republic are cleaning layers of dust which accumulated there for months. Although Milutinovic will move into the same office occuppied by Milosevic for five years it does not mean that he will be the head with the same power as his predecessor.

    What the relations between the president of FRY and the president of Serbia will be like has already been demonstrated by state television. In the demonstration what it will be like, in the central news program of Radio-Television Serbia, the official declaration of Milutinovic's victory had to wait until all the details of Milosevic's protocol activities were told. Milutinovic's significance will be exactly just as large as his best friend who has promoted him into the presidential candidate decides to give him. It will hardly exceed that of a master of ceremonies, except of course when it will be necessary to state something unpleasant to the people. The election of president of the Republic was brought to an end after the fourth round just because Milosevic had openly demanded it. This screw in the system of his personal power simply had to be fastened so that strengthening of his position could continue. With the victory of Milutinovic, however dubious it may be, the Socialists have restored their strength. If this trend continues, many believe that local elections may be scheduled for the spring which would enable the Left to re-establish its domination of the cities. There are also those, Djundjic and Seselj inclusive, who believe that there will be new parliamentary elections next year.

    At this moment, the new government is in the focus of political interest. The party of Vuk Draskovic is constantly repeating that the Socialists will decide to enter an alliance with the Serb Radical Party. Seselj, however, responds that the pact between the Socialist Party and the Serb Revival Movement is an accomplished fact. The name of Dusan Mihajlovic, head of New Democracy, has already reached the public as the possible candidate for prime minister in the variant of a cabinet with Vuk Draskovic. The well-informed, however, say that there has been no specific agreements, at least there will be none before New Year, so that coming out in public with accusations of collaboration is nothing but an attempt to compromise the opponent in possible future negotiations.

    There is no doubt that it will not be easy to establish the new Republican administration. If the Socialists manage to keep the post of the prime minister for themselves (another mandate of Mirko Marjanovic is most frequently mentioned) it still does not mean that they will not be forced to pay dearly for all the ministerial posts, regardless of whether they will form a minority, or a coalition government. A minority cabinet, according to the opinion of many, is more likely with the support of the Radicals. On the other hand, a government of national unity is more likely with Vuk Draskovic, representatives of the Hungarians, and perhaps even with some of the minor parliamentary parties. In any case, a government in which the biggest parliamentary parties will be together: all the three parties of the left block, the Serb Radical Party and the Serb Revival Movement, has no chance any more.

    Vesna Vujic

    (AIM)