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Archive for Thursday, October 12, 2000

Milosevic loyalists grasp at fading power

October 12, 2000

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— From the chambers of the Serbian parliament to the board rooms of state-run factories across the country, loyalists to ousted president Slobodan Milosevic are fighting a rearguard action to salvage the last vestiges of their privilege and power, but their prospects of reversing the democratic revolution appear remote.

In the parliament, members of Milosevic's Socialist Party said they would ignore directives from the government of new Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and carry on as before.

"The Serbian government will go on ruling the republic since it was elected on a four-year mandate and it is the only body which can make legal decisions," independent radio quoted Socialist Party official Branislav Ivkovic as saying.

Ivkovic also claimed that Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic had assumed control of the Interior Ministry and its force of 100,000 police and security officers.

Top police officials, however, have already pledged their support to Kostunica, while the rank and file made their loyalties known when they refused to move against pro-democracy demonstrators in Belgrade last week.

There also were warnings from the army against purges of top generals, but leaders of Kostunica's fledgling government seemed unperturbed by these latest challenges from the rapidly crumbling old regime.

"They are trying to buy some time and get a better position in the negotiations," said Milan Protic, the newly elected mayor of Belgrade and a key figure in the pro-democracy movement. "It will take the Milosevic loyalists a couple of days to realize the reality of the situation."

Zoran Djindjic, another top figure in the Kostunica camp, also dismissed the claims by the Milosevic loyalists.

"That government can declare itself not only legal but omnipotent, but it's a fact of life they have no control over 80 percent of the processes in the country," he said.

New elections for the Serbian Parliament are not due until September 2001, but earlier this week the maverick Serbian Radical Party, headed by paramilitary leader Vojislav Seselj, abandoned Milosevic's ruling coalition and joined with an opposition call for new elections in December. That deal now appears to be in doubt.

The main concern of Milosevic loyalists in parliament appears to be the nationwide uprising by workers and lower-level managers who are trying to reclaim their enterprises from management stacked with members of Milosevic's Socialist Party.

Across the country, in state-owned businesses large and small, workers have been demanding the resignations of their bosses.

The managers claim these firings are illegal. But the workers and pro-democracy leaders see it as a race against time. There is growing evidence that in the days before the collapse of the regime, Milosevic loyalists looted tens of million of dollars from these businesses and may have spirited the cash out of the country.

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