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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

    WED, 07 JAN 1998 23:03:40 GMT

    MOVEMENT OF AUTONOMY SUPPORTERS IN VOIVODINA

    Cause on Shaky Foundations

    It will be very difficult to carry out the idea of uniting all the political forces in Voivodina which are in favour of the autonomy, and what meaning the Voivodina movement will have once it is established remains to be seen

    AIM Belgrade, 3 january, 1997

    It was necessary for all the supporters of the long-lasting conviction that Voivodina needs a movement in favour of its autonomy to get together to make them become aware that at this moment such a political business deal would be mostly - futile. If the motive of those who initiated the gathering under technical and organizational leadership of the non-partisan Voivodina Club is exactly that - to gather all political forces which in Voivodina insist on necessity of (re-establishing) its right to decide about its own money, development and right to establish relations in the complicated community of several ethnic groups, religions and cultures - and not just a weak attempt to encourage one's own opinion about the extent, significance and possibility of the mission with high sounding words.

    When the list of possible members of the Movement for Voivodina is summed up the result is not too impressive, and it does not foretell that at this moment it could be the axis around which all those who have a reputation as autonomy lovers in Voivodina confirmed by deputy mandates would gather. On the contrary. It seems that so far, only the following have declared themselves in favour of establishment of the movement: National Peasants' Party (NSS), Alliance of Citizens of Subotica (SGS), and the All-National Democratic Front of Voivodina (SDFV), but even that is not unconditional either. It is also accepted by some minor non-partisan organizations. For the sake of comparison, the proposal for changing the constitutional position of Voivodina offered by Voivodina Club in the beginning of 1997 was signed by eight (out of the invited ten) parties and 13 (out of 19 non-partisan organizations.

    Riding Two Horses at Once

    The explanation that the movement would be joined by the National Peasants' Party, which will be frozen in favour of the political organization Voivodina which would be better known in spring - and the leader of both, Dragan Veselinov, as he made it clear, "out of experience" had certain reservations concerning coalitions - appears as a frivolous political attempt of riding two horses at the same time, a little bit in the movement, and a little bit outside it. Only the completely ignorant may be fascinated by the words of Dragan Veselinov that his Voivodina (founded in the village of Novi Karlovci in Srem) is "very powerful, the most powerful in Voivodina" and it is obvious that such descriptions are meant just to gather votes. They are also intended to annoy former partners from coalition Voivodina (League of Social Democrats of Voivodina and Reform Democratic Party of Voivodina) which excommunicated Veselinov - along with his NSS - because he had created the phantom Voivodina and proclaimed secretary of NSS its new president, attempting to present it as coalition Voivodina to the Republican Electoral Commission, which was qualified as a forgery.

    The All-National Democratic Front of Voivodina is headed by Zivan Berisavljevic, one of the prominent officials of the former league of communists of Voivodina which disappeared from the political scene after the so-called anti-bureaucratic revolution in 1988 (which brought Milosevic to power). The party has no influence, it has never participated in the elections, and it communicates with the public via occasional statements. The Alliance of the Citizens of Subotica has a local significance and reach.

    Hungarian parties reacted to the idea of creation of the Voivodina movement in different, but mostly reserved manner. Democratic Community of Voivodina Hungarians (DZVM) of Sandor Pal did not attend the preparatory meeting, but it did send remarks in writing about the founding papers, especially the part which refers to the possibility of participation of non-partisan personages on election lists of candidates. This is in fact one of the things the Voivodina movement is gathered around, because in circles around Voivodina club it has been believed for quite some time that there are respectable people who do not belong to any party and who could get the votes of abstaining citizens of Voivodina. The reason for abstention, according to this interpretation is party exclusiveness and leadership. Political parties do not accept this, reminding of the experience of Belgrade DEPOS (Democratic Movement of Serbia).

    Politeness without Commitment

    The Civic Movement of Voivodina Hungarians politely greeted the idea and wrote back that if other Hungarian parties will have complaints, they too would think about them. The most influential, Alliance of Voivodina Hungarians (of Joszef Kasa) is trying on the other hand to see eye to eye with other parties which gather Voivodina Hungarians (there are six of them) and in direct talks with the president of the federal state move from the standstill certain controversial issues concerning ethnic rights of the Hungarian minority.

    The Reformists (RDSV) are inclined to assess creation of Voivodina movement as an idea presented in "great haste". They took note of the invitation of the Voivodina club, but they do not wish to join the movement, and the presence of the president of the convention of this party at the negotiations about foundation of the movement stirred unnecessary emotions of the non-partisan Banat Forum - claiming that one of the two rival coalitions Voivodina was given preference - and perhaps this reaction sheds more light on some motives of foundation of the Voivodina movement, that is, it puts the question whether the essence is really the wish for an all-inclusive gathering of the entire autonomy-loving political potential in Voivodina or just rivalry. The League of the Social Democrats of Voivodina (LSV) was not invited to the gathering, so Nenad Canak could quite calmly declare that he did not know what it was about. LSV is investing in this story its long-lasting consistent commitment to autonomy of Voivodina - even at the time when others had not even existed or when they were undecisive - but also presence in parliaments on all levels.

    If the preparatory gathering for the future founding convention - held after (the first of the two Voivodina) Christmas and before (the universal) New Year - served the most ardent agitators of the idea of Voivodina autonomy movement to reconsider the meaning of establishing it and possibly realize that something either exists or does not exist - it will after all have some result because the key question seems to refer to consequences: can they justify all the good intentions? They will have to answer a very practical question - how to react to self-invitation of the national monarchist National Party of Milan Paroski to join the coalition, although it has never been inclined towards autonomy like the others in this movement?

    After they parted firmly willing to convene, despite everything, the founding convention of their political organization in the end of January or mid February, it is necessary to wait and see whether they will find a less ambitious name for their movement, more suitable for its resources.

    Milena Putnik

    (AIM)