December 6, 1993 Vreme News Digest Agency No 115

Krajina ahead of Elections

Campaign And Uniforms

by Filip Svarm

What can be expected from the elections in Krajina? It's assumed that there is little likelihood that any party will receive a majority of votes

The delegations of the Republic of Serb Krajina and the Republic of Croatia, have, according to the daily press, ended secret talks held ``somewhere in the vicinity of Belgrade'' at the end of November, but with no results and with new rifts among Krajina's negotiators. In the meantime, Knin remains covered with ice and without electricity, water, bread or any kind of public transportation. At the same time the President of Serbia, by tradition, met with his Croatian counterpart in Geneva. Apart from discussing the Bosnian drama, they also talked about ``modus vivendi'' in Krajina, which is so desperately being sought by international negotiators. Quoting the sources close to Krajina's political leadership, the Belgrade daily ``Borba'' wrote that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was against the Serb Krajina delegation leaving for Geneva, and that a new variant of establishing a ceasefire on the northern Dalmatian front (which is much less favorable than the Erdut agreement) was discussed on his insistence ``somewhere in the vicinity of Belgrade.'' It was also reported that Milosevic was constantly briefed about a course of the talks.

It is worth reminding that the parliamentary and presidential elections are due to take place in a ``westernmost Serb state'' on December 12, if there's still anyone who might be interested.

The elections were put on the agenda the moment when Slobodan Milosevic replaced Milan Babic, the former leader of Krajina Serbs now the President of the local authorities in Knin, and installed Goran Hadzic, the current President of the Republic of Serb Krajina, in his place after the Vance plane was signed and the engagement of the then Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in Croatia ended. The only representatives of the people, with legitimacy of whatsoever kind, were from Knin, Gracac and Donji Lapac where the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) won the election in the then Socialist Republic of Croatian May 1990, while reformed communist won in other municipalities where Serbs were majority population.

However, when the ``log revolution'' began, reformed communists were chased away and replaced with SDS members, who answered only to the executive government formed under direct sponsorship form Belgrade. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the Serb Krajina Parliament always voted for everything the Serbian President demanded from it, as was the case with Babic's replacement, and that those who oppose the current authorities in Krajina and are now out of favor saw the elections as the only possible way for their comeback. The latter, but the former as well, are equally dependent on the Belgrade regime. The only difference is that the latter believe that they can secure their survival by making it clear to that regime (by causing a total SerbCroat war, for example) that it will not survive a possible breakdown of Krajina. Simply speaking, Hadzic's opponents need a Parliament similar to that of Bosnian Serbs.

The elections were eventually demanded because of incompetence and corruption of Hadzic's leadership, i.e. poverty and lawlessness. However, it would be difficult to assert that Belgrade had not realized what parliamentarians' real motives had been. The elections were to take place on several occasions, but were called off in short order, which depended on the balance of power at the time. Firstly, the Belgrade leadership would not put up with disobedience (the sessions of the Bosnian Serb Parliament in Bijeljina and on Mount Jahorina clearly showed where this might lead), and, secondly, Croatia kept making noise, quite justifiably so, that a legitimate Serb state was being created under the auspices of UNPROFOR. It was considered that holding of the elections would further complicate the questions of sanctions and legalization of the big job in BH, which suited neither Zagreb nor Belgrade.

Crises which had hit Krajina caused divisions among its leaders. SDS split into several quarreling factions, regional antagonisms sprouted and outlawed local powerbrokers multiplied. Besides, the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) became dominant on the political scene in Krajina. With the Serbs from over the Drina River on its side, SRS posed a serious threat to the Socialist Party of Serbia in its announced settling of accounts in Serbia. Due to all this Krajina began to erode on its own, which made the elections inevitable (at least, considering the way things are right now).

But, the Socialists were prepared. They arranged through Goran Hadzic that the elections be held on December 12 instead of November 21. They must have thought this was the time they need to vilify the Radicals. Then they made sure Slobodan Milosevic was publicly supported by all armed authorities in Krajina (and there is no other authority there anyway), who are epitomized in the figures of Goran Hadzic, General Mile Novakovic (Krajina's Defense Minister), Mile Martic (Interior Minister), and Prime Minister Djordje Bjegovic. It was thus made clear to disoriented people of Krajina that the official Belgrade does not intend to abandon the concept of the United Serb States, at least as long as the election campaign in Serbia is underway. And, finally, Goran Percevic, a young Socialist and SPS VicePresident, placed emphasis on the Drina River and visited Knin in order to give his blessing to forming of the Serbian Party of Socialists (SPS) under the auspices of Djordje Bjegovic. Then, he warmly greeted with the legendary Interior Minister with a mustache, Mile Martic, who is also a presidential candidate nominated by a group of citizens, but with no other political leaders, at least not publicly. All was designed to prove two things: the namesake of the Socialist Party of Serbia, when its name is abbreviated (SPS), has been formed which means there should be no dilemma as to who will be responsible for interpreting Belgrade's official stands in Knin. Moreover, there's also the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serb Krajina to warn what might happen if someone has an objection. It's also conspicuous that Krajina's SPS has not nominated a candidate, and, in return Martic is not relying on any party.

What can be expected from the elections in Krajina? It's assumed that there is little likelihood that any party will receive a majority of votes. All things considered, Hadzic's regional party is likely to win in Eastern Slavonia, Babic's SDS of Krajina in Knin, other SDS factions in places from where their leaders are and the Radicals will most probably get an equal share of the votes everywhere. Krajina's SPS will not come out as a strong political party, but that was not its goal anyway. Therefore, a maximum diversity in the Parliament is certain. This diversity could later be reduced if SDS factions united, but the chances of this happening are slim at the moment. The situation concerning the presidential candidates is similar. It is believed that nobody will get a sufficient number of votes in the first round, but it is highly likely that the new President will be from Knin. However, it is realistic to expect that his influence in Eastern Slavonia will equal that of Hadzic in Knin Krajina.

Things have come full circle. With a series of separate ceasefire agreements from Eastern Slavonia through Western Slavonia to Banija and Kordun, Belgrade has shown how much it really cares about the official stands of the Republic of Serb Krajina, which had been extracted under the pressure by the Radicals and a hard current in Knin, that there's no ceasefire unless the Croatian Army withdraws. With his statement in Geneva that Krajina's future lies in suspension of hostilities and opening of communications, that its status can be discussed only when a stable peace has been achieved and his insistence on secret talks in Belgrade, Milosevic's position has moved closer to those of Franjo Tudjman and international mediators, regardless of a vast maneuvering room Milosevic has been left with. The well known fact is that they've always considered Krajina as a part of Croatia, while the people of Krajina insisted on demarcation as a precondition for any serious agreement. Public support to Bjegovic who said before the pontoon crisis in the Maslenica area that ``a confederation of Krajina and Croatia is conceivable'' only points to the option which according to the Socialists is optimal.

It seems that the expiration date of the Serbian president's project, called the Republic of Serb Krajina, is approaching. The elections in Krajina, if they are not canceled in great haste, will serve the purpose of proving once again, when it becomes necessary, that quarrels are detrimental for the Serbs, i.e. that everything could have been much worse if ``Vozd'' (translates as the ultimate leader) weren't so wise and clever.