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New Series no.17/18 July - September 2000

Seselj against Milosevic?

Interviewed recently by the Belgrade weekly Nedeljnji Telegraf, Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Radical Party which at present governs Serbia and FRY in coalition with Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party and JUL, the party of Milosevic's wife Mira Markovic, attacked frontally `the four pillars of Milosevic's re gime': the Army, the state security service, the state-owned enterprises, and the state-controlled media, for being too close to the Socialist Party and JUL. Belgrade, as a result, is currently awash with speculation regarding the possibility of a conflict emerging between Serbia's two strongmen: Milosevic and Seselj. It has been noted that the Radicals have not joined in the attack spearheaded by JUL on the student movement Otpor, and that they have refused to support the `law against terrorism' directed against it. Seselj and his party have also been conspicuous by their refusal to join the `public demand' that Milosevic be awarded the title of National Hero.

A motive for Seselj's stance is sought in his alleged concern with the possible outcome of the forthcoming elections. As things are now, Milosevic cannot govern either in Serbia or in FRY without the support of the Radicals. If Äukanovic boycotts the elections, however, his Montenegrin rival Momir Bulatovic would mop up 20 Montenegrin seats in the lower house and 30 seats in the upper house of the FRY assembly. Milosevic would then be in a position to dispense with Seselj's support in the federal bodies. The Radicals are said to be pressing for the coming elections for the FRY parliament and presidency to be combined with elections for the presidency of Serbia, which ý in view of his power base there ý would strengthen Seselj's hand in future dealings with Milosevic.

Those who do not believe in this conflict argue that it is only a smokescreen designed to weaken the official opposition, since the prospect of Radicals in opposition would encourage some of the anti-Milosevic constituency to vote for the Radicals. The Belgrade weekly NIN, which reported on this speculation in its issue of 27 July 2000, is inclined to believe that Milosevic and Seselj cannot afford to fall out, and that Seselj's current sparring is nothing but the opening move in what will be a new round of horse-trading over the post-election distribution of power. Because of his indictment by The Hague, Milosevic needs to win elections far more than Seselj does. And there is always the danger for him that the Americans may decide to play the `Plavsic trick': i.e. use Seselj to dethrone Milosevic, just as they used Biljana Plavsic to bring down Radovan KaradÓic in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

NIN accompanied its report with extracts from a breathtakingly vulgar exchange between Vojislav Seselj and Mira Markovic in 1995, the year of the Dayton Agreement.

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