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Seselj Rails Against Coalition Parties

Vojislav Seselj may be attempting to woo back supporters he lost when his party joined the governing coalition
By IWPR

The head of the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, Vojislav Seselj, has openly attacked his partners in the ruling coalition, Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party and the Yugoslav Left headed by his wife Mira Markovic.


His remarks expose tensions within the government and may signal his intention to run an independent pre-election campaign.


In a recent interview with the Belgrade weekly, Nedeljni


Telegraf, Seselj condemned the domination of various institutions by


people close to the Yugoslav Left, JUL. He also lambasted the Yugoslav


Army, VJ - an institution normally considered beyond criticism -accusing its leader


General Nebojsa Pavkovic, of creating his own


personality cult.


Seselj complained that the general was elevating his own role by publishing


books through the Yugoslav Army. "It's all very well for General Pavkovic


to write and publish books privately in his spare time, but it is not


acceptable for his work to be published by the Yugoslav Army," he said.


The VJ's publishing house recently published "On the Media Front", a


compilation of Pavkovic's interviews and media statements, and a book about


the Yugoslav Army leadership, which included an exhaustive


portrait of the general. Extensive photographs of Pavkovic in both


military and civilian life were included.


Seselj compared the books to the


various tomes of former Yugoslav ruler, Josip Broz Tito, saying they


had "no academic value". He also complained that Pavkovic's public


pronouncements are "frequently ideologically tainted, which is not good at


all."


By attacking Pavkovic, Seseljl was sending an indirect message to


the ruling couple. The general is known to be closely linked to Mira


Markovic's party JUL. The Pavkovics have often been seen in public with the ruling


couple, who use their public appearances as a coded way of bestowing


approval on selected companions.


Seselj also criticised SPS and JUL influence within the Serbian


Security Service, SDB. He said JUL members should be removed from the leadership of


the national oil company, NIS, and the Politika media enterprise.


Conflict first arose between the SRS and JUL over a controversial


JUL-sponsored anti-terrorism law. Opposition from


Seselj's precipitated its defeat in the federal


parliament. Although Seselj said his party had withheld support because


of a "lack of precision and clarity", it was thought the real reason


was a fear it might ultimately be used against him and his party.


Political observers in Belgrade agree that by criticising state


institutions, Seselj has not only exposed conflicts in the ruling


coalition, but may also be laying the groundwork for an independent


pre-election campaign. By skilfully distancing himself from JUL, he is creating a platform for


himself. Moreover, he needs to find a way to win back supporters who


abandoned the SRS when it joined the SPS-JUL coalition. Their votes are


sorely needed if the SRS is to improve its ratings.


Istvan Molnar is the pseudonym of an independent journalist in Belgrade