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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

    THU, 08 JAN 1998 21:28:56 GMT

    SERBIA RULED BY SILENT COALITION OF SPO AND SPS

    Time of Milosevic's Easy Rule Gone

    Due to the loss of majority in the parliament of Serbia, the Socialists are forced to make concessions in order to form "their" government. The first concession has already been made to the Serb Revival Movement (SPO) by passing the regulation on city tax without which this party would not have been able to preserve power in Belgrade. This marked creation of the coalition of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the SPO based on interest, which enabled the former to preserve power in Serbia and the latter in Belgrade. Although loose, this coalition may last for quite some time. Not out of "love" but out of interest

    AIM Belgrade, 5 January, 1998

    For Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and his Socialist Party the period of stable and easy rule internally, both in Serbia itself and on the level of the federation has ended. Contrary to previous times when he mostly "wrestled" with representatives of the international community because he could not resolve many internal questions according to world standards, Milosevic is now faced with unpleasant conflicts at home.

    This was best illustrated by the last parliamentary sessions of the federal and the republican assembly, because he has in neither the necessary majority at his disposal which would enable him to hold all the strings in his hands. Time of internal easy rule for Milosevic has passed. On the federal level he does not seem to be able to pass amendment of the Constitution in order to transfer the centre of power and decision-making to his presidential office. Montenegrin Milo Djukanovic opposed his intention because of which the condflict between the two has lasted for almost a year now, not only reflecting impotence of the federal authorities but also questioning the very survival of the federal community.

    Not even in Serbia does Milosevic's regime still have at his disposal the key levers of power with which he would hold power undisturbed. Although Milosevic has managed to have his close associate and the man of confidence, Milan Milutinovic, elected president of Serbia, he still does not control all the mechanisms he had while he himself was at the post.

    Constitution of the republican assembly showed that due to relation of forces of the parliamentary parties in the assembly in which nobody has the majority, Milosevic must pay a high price to his political opponents if he wishes to have his left coalition control Serbia. In order to pass the republican budget without which the left coalition cannot rule, because it is exposed to danger of being the first victim of social disturbances, a compromise was made with the Serb Revival Movement which the regime made large concessions to.

    The budget is exceptionally important for those in power, because with resources from the budget obligations are met to health, education, police, recipients of relief, as well as pensioners, because their funds are empty. That is why control of the republican cashbox is the most important condition for remaining in power. Passing of the budget went smoothly only apparently. In order to do it, the left coalition had to agree to conditions imposed by the SPO and that was primarily adoption of the city tax which activities of Belgrade municipal services are financed from.

    Without money collected from the tax supply of Belgrade with water would be questioned, city transportation would stop operation, as well as city garbage collectors. Just as the rule of the Socialists depends on preservation of social peace on the level of the republic, SPO cannot rule Belgrade if municipal services do not operate. After dissolution of coalition Together, SPO controls power in Belgrade on its own, although it does not have the majority of votes in the city assembly. It is able to do it only thanks to the silent support of deputies from among the Socialist Party.

    Power was constructed in the similar manner in the republican parliament where the Socialists have the minority of votes but survive thanks to the deputies of the SPO who support them. That is how circumstances created an unofficial coalition based on interest thanks to which SPO controls Belgrade, and the Socialists control Serbia. Although it is difficult to anticipate how long the coalition will last between partners whose political programs, at least publicly, differ as chalk and cheese, it is certain that it is doing the greatest damage to Seselj's Radicals who are, politically speaking, completely pushed to the margins as well as the Democratic Party which, due to the boycott of the elections, has no representatives in the republican parliament.

    That is why the Radicals, but especially the Democratic Party and some other minor parties from the democratic block wish for the earliest possible parliamentary elections in Serbia, in order to do the left coalition in, which apart from the SPS is formed by the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) and New Democracy, as well as the SPO. For that to happen it would be necessary to split the interest coalition which is tested whenever an issue is discussed in the republican or the Belgrade city assembly.

    This will also be the case when the new government of Serbia will be elected. Connoisseurs assess that that the SPO will let the left coalition form a minority government which they will support, but at the same time ask for favours in return. In distribution of mandates won by coalition Together in the federal elections in November 1996, the federal electoral commission was most generous to SPO allocating it 12 out of 22 mandates and proclaiming that four were questionable, mostly in order to give the Socialists who control the federal electoral commission something to trade with in its bargaining with its interest coalition partner. That is why it is assumed that these four mandates will also be allocated to SPO.

    It is exceptionally important for the Socialists to get the majority in the Chamber of the Republics of the Assembly of Yugoslavia, in order to gain advantage over deputies from Montenegro who support Milo Djukanovic. This Chamber is unoperational at the moment because there are no deputies from the assembly of Serbia in it, and among Montenegrin deputies eight are in favour of Djukanovic, and six of Bulatovic. The remaining six seats which belong to the Montenegrin parliament are vacant because mandates which had belonged to deputies from Novak Kilibarda's National Party have been taken away from them. This weakened Djukanovic's position because they too had been his supporters. What relation of power will be established depends on the elections in the Assembly of Montenegro.

    Serbian Socialists are very keen on having as many deputies in the Chamber of the Republics as possible, because the federal assembly decides about Constitutional amendments. If the "key" of representation in the republican parliament would be applied, the left coalition can count on only nine deputies. It is believed, however, that the Serbian side, regardless of whose deputies will be seated in the Assembly of FRY, will vote for Constitutional amendments. The question remains open to what extent Djukanovic will be ready to accept outvoting in the parliament in which the republics have the right to equal treatment of their interests.

    Although at first sight, the Serbian political scene appears to be quite unsteady, because the interest coalition will constantly be tested, and that is why many believe that it has not much chance to persist for long, although it is not at all impossible that it will resist many temptations. Not because of "love" between the SPS and the SPO, but primarily because of pure party interests. The main reason why the SPS can count on support of the SPO is the fact that it is not convenient for Vuk Draskovic to have new elections soon. It is estimated that in these elections SPO would lose the largest number of votes, because parties of the democratic block would win over most of its supporters. Nevertheless, uncertain power will impose on the regime the need to manifest more flexibility and indulgence in resolving many issues, and these are the characteristics it lacked in its previous behavior. Only in such circumstances is it possible to expect moves which the Serbian authorities had neither understanding nor sympathy for so far.

    Ratomir Petkovic

    (AIM)