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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, 01 FEB 1998 16:37:55 GMT

    Four Months After the Elections

    SERBIA WITHOUT A GOVERNMENT

    It seems that there is no hope for the future in Serbia. It is as if with every new day we go further into the past. Pictures which brought back the memories of 1993: empty supermarket shelves, no washing powder, no sugar, no flour, no oil...have sent a chill down people's spines during last couple of days. On the street one German Mark is already worth six dinars. Waiting for a new government, ministers from the old one reaffirm their commitment to defending the stable dinar exchange rate, and at the same time change price-lists in their firms.

    AIM, BELGRADE, January 27, 1998

    At the recent consultations with Milan Milutinovic, President of Serbia, Gorica Gajevic, the SPS Secretary-General stated that her party was still in favour of a government of the national unity as it "had already achieved outstanding results". However, the talks with the newly elected chief of Serbia, at least judging by what the representatives of different parties officially stated, resembled more a political theatre that an agreement between serious partners. When the doors of the new Milutinovic's office closed, it was said that the consultations would continue, but since then not a word. There are only speculations about possible agreements between the SPO and the SPS, and also conclusions that this time nothing would come out of this and that new parliamentary elections would have to be held.

    Calling of new elections put the fear of God into all parties which have won mandates in the National Assembly so that there is not a single one that is not interested in having a part in the new Cabinet. The Radicals are in favour of a concentration government and think that apart from them and the Socialist, only the JUL and the SPO deserve ministerial posts, but not the New Democracy. The Socialists did not name names, but "a government of the national unity" should mean that the doors are open to everyone, even the Radicals. The Serbian Revival Movement and the New Democracy would join forces with the JUL and the SPS, but, under no condition with Seselj.

    According to Srbobran Brankovic, a political scientist, "as regards the constitution of the new government, the situation looks as if it has been created by an ingenious, but sick enigmatist" He says that none of the parties are interested in forming a coalition with each other. A coalition between the SPS and the SRS would bring into question the country's international position, which is already unfavourable. The same goes for the SPO and the SRS, while an alliance between the SPO and the SPS would be a strategic defeat for the former as in that way it would lose a half of its voter, thinks Brankovic. This, however, does not mean that a government will not be formed, as in his opinion "irrational motives will overcome the rational ones".

    When representative of different parties informed the public of their proposals submitted to Milutinovic, it seemed that the repeated Radical proposal of Tomislav Nikolic, the Radical Vice-President and a national delegate, for the new Prime-Minister designate drew least attention. However, the list of wishes submitted by Vuk Draskovic, the SPO leader, made a formidable impression. Apart from the prime-minister's post, his party also demanded ten ministries. The list was extended so as to also include the Federal Government in which the SPO should have a Vice Prime Minister and five ministers, including the foreign affairs department. In addition, this also included forty percent of all management posts and membership on governing boards in state and public enterprises. As far as diplomatic and ambassadorial posts are concerned, the SPO wanted one third of the Serbian quota, including the United Nations mission. According to Draskovic, as a party with a strong personnel structure in the division of powers the SPO should also get the place of the Director or Editor-in-Chief of the state TV and the "Politika".

    Dusan Mihajlovic, the first man of the New Democracy, whose party is a member of the left coalition, was in favour of a SPS-SPO Government and remarked that it would only be natural for the Prime Minister to come from the SPO ranks since the Socialist already have the President of Serbia and of the National Assembly. He claimed that it would be impossible to form a government without a compromise between these two parties. The ND leader also thought that there would be no government of the national unity since every cabinet in which the Radicals would sit would be out of the question. This was primarily because of the world which would not tolerate that, which would mean that Serbia would remain isolated and without financial assistance it needs so badly. In such a situation there could be no reform of the illiquid economy. Mihajlovic did not deny that the Socialist had a choice to either share the power with Vuk Draskovic's party or to call new elections.

    Draskovic's list of demands caused sneers among not only the so called Left, but was also characterized as inappropriate by the opposition, especially by the Democrats and the Civil Alliance. Draskovic first had to make it clear to his voters that as an authentic anti-regime party it would agree to share the power only if it got serious jobs in it. In other words, it meant that he had put a high price on his skin. Aware that it was getting too hot for the Socialists and that the Radicals were the least desirable partner for them, he saw a chance to expand his demands for some potentially serious trading. Finally, if the SPO failed to strike a deal regarding the new government it would still have the excuse of having shown its good will to share the responsibility for leading Serbia under these extremely difficult circumstances!

    Ljubisa Ristic, President of the JUL, called Draskovic's demands ridiculous and stated that his folly would surely cause a one-month delay in the formation of the government. His wishes notwithstanding, the Serbian Revival Movement's boss is not much liked by the parties of the so called Left. High placed sources in these parties consider Draskovic a partner lacking seriousness, the more so as after all the agreements that had been reached, he submitted new demands.

    A political scientist, Slobodan Antonic, is convinced that the SPO will lower its price as at new elections it would be unable to win again the present 45 mandates in the Republican Parliament. Dusan Mihajlovic, who served as a mediator between the SPO and the SPS in recent months, is the greatest guarantee that Draskovic will undoubtedly take the edge off his appetite. In any case, after the 1993 elections the SPO forced the Democratic Party out of government by agreeing for the New Democracy to join Mirko Marjanovic's cabinet. A new showdown before the voters would re-introduce Mr.Djindjic's Democrats into the game which serves as an additional incentive for Mr.Draskovic to reach a compromise.

    In any case, a possibility of the Socialists and the SPO striking a deal is present not only in rumours but also in serious analysis. According to those well-versed, Mirko Marjanovic will get another mandate to form a 35-member cabinet in which the Draskovic's party will get the post of a vice-president and ten portfolios. Apart from these two parties, the new government would include the JUL and the ND, and it would enjoy the support of 155 deputies.

    For the moment the only thing certain is that the Socialists are in no hurry. If four months after the elections they have not yet formed the cabinet, another month or two is neither here nor there, particularly as the law does not prescribe deadlines for the constitution of the new government. Just in case, they have up their sleeve a reserve variant - an alliance with Vojislav Seselj - who would eventually bill them for his support to a minority government. Many interpreted Seselj's recent crossing of the Drina river with the intention of calming down the situation among the Radicals in the Republic of Srpska as a proof that there might be some truth in this story about the Radical leader.

    By not denying that all options are open, in other words including those with the SRS and the SPO, the Socialists are trying Seselj's and Draskovic's patience and lowering their price. In the meantime, they are buying time, assessing whether they can ever share the power with anyone or perhaps manage to find a trump card for the new elections at which they would attempt to somehow obtain a majority for their continued independent and undisturbed rule. It seems that for the time being they do not fear a potential alliance of the two best men (Vuk and Seselj).

    Vesna Vujic

    (AIM)