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Serbia: Tadic Raises His Party's Election Hopes

Boris Tadic expected to bolster Democratic Party's election chances - but will face wrath of his rivals if things don't go according to plan.
By IWPR

The appointment of popular politician Boris Tadic to head the Democratic Party's campaign in Serbia's upcoming extraordinary parliamentary poll is likely to boost its prospects, but has not gone down well with one of the main factions within the party.


Surveys suggest that by moving Tadic, Serbia-Montenegro's defence minister, to the top of its electoral list, the Democratic Party, DS, the main party in the former DOS coalition, could significantly increase its support at the December 28 ballot.


But his arrival at the helm of the party has ignited simmering tensions between its so-called business lobby - which has been marred by corruption scandals, ties to Milosevic-era oligarchs and allegations of links to organised crime - and a moderate faction.


Tadic represents the latter and as such he may be vulnerable to attack from the former - which enjoys great media and financial power - especially if the DS does badly in the elections.


Bratislav Grubacic, editor in chief of the VIP news agency, told IWPR that he could not rule out the possibility that the faction opposed to Tadic would attempt to damage his election prospects.


Some analysts also believe that newspapers and broadcasters close to the business lobby may even resort to backing the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, SRS, which has recently experienced a surge in popularity.


Analyst Djordje Vukadinovic told IWPR that such methods had been used in the past against the business lobby's various political rivals, but warned that the tactic would be risky prior to the elections.


Many observers believe that Tadic's critics within the party are most likely to go for him if he fails to deliver in the forthcoming poll.


The DS is due to nominate a new leader at its party congress scheduled for early 2004, and a poor showing in the parliamentary ballot is likely to prompt the business lobby to round on Tadic and campaign strongly for the election of one of their candidates.


The party leader post has been vacant since the March 12 assassination of the former incumbent, the late prime minister Zoran Djindjic.


After the murder, four deputy presidents - Tadic, Serbia's prime minister Zoran Zivkovic, his deputy Cedomir Jovanovic and the deputy president of the Serbian parliament Gordana Comic - took charge temporarily.


After a long period on the fringes of the party, Tadic rose to prominence when he was appointed federal defence minister a few days after Djindjic's death.


His efforts to implement reform within the military - dismissing compromised generals, reconstructing the army security service and getting rid of the anti-Hague tribunal lobby - have made him a favourite of the West.


The DS initially selected Zivkovic to head the ballot, but members voted overwhelmingly on November 22 to replace him with Tadic, believing he would improve their electoral prospects.


According to a recent poll conducted by Medium Gallup agency, the party can count on ten per cent support with Tadic at the helm, compared to only 6.4 per cent with Jovanovic.


Tadic's first move has been to remove many DS officials from the party's electoral list, including Jovanovic and federal defence adviser Goran Vesic - both close associates of Djindjic who are believed to be linked to the business lobby.


Tadic is a popular politician who is seen by the public as reform-minded and untouched by the wave of scandals which contributed to the recent break-up of DOS.


"The DS needs a reform-minded politician with a clean past. Tadic has such qualities, and thus he has the approval of Washington, London and Brussels," said one western diplomat.


Among his supporters within the party, the defence minister's high profile role in the election sends out a clear signal to the electorate.


"The arrival of Tadic means return to the basic values of our party," said one DS member, who did not want to give his name. "He is a symbol of everything our party has been fighting for from the very beginning - honesty, true democracy, rule of law and a clear reform path, untarnished by connections to Milosevic-era legacy. We have waited for this moment for a long time."


Many ordinary Serbs seem to share this opinion. "Tadic is the only person in the Serbian political scene who is intelligent, flexible and educated," one retired army officer told IWPR. Belgrade resident Ivan said Tadic's nomination was a step in the right direction. "I will now be able to vote for the Democratic Party," he said.


Zeljko Cvijanovic is a regular IWPR contributor in Belgrade.


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