SPS Falling Apart

Members of Serbia's former ruling party are abandoning it in droves

SPS Falling Apart

Members of Serbia's former ruling party are abandoning it in droves

The arrest of former president Slobodan Milosevic has left his once

powerful Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, in ruins.

Even though Milosevic tries vainly to pull party strings from inside

jail, the days of the SPS are plainly numbered. Most of its leadership

is either in prison or on the way there. The party is drowning in debt

as creditors suddenly become bold enough to demand their money, a step

they dared not take for years.

Some SPS officials fear for their lives at the hands of vengeful

opponents who suffered in the Milosevic years. Many SPS members are

rushing to switch to other parties.

After Milosevic's arrest, the SPS leadership was taken over by former

foreign minister Zivadin Jovanovic, now under investigation for allegedly

issuing a diplomatic passport to Milosevic's son Marko.

Serbian president Milan Milutinovic, who is accused of war crimes by the

Hague tribunal, resigned from the post of the SPS vice-president last


The former speaker of the Serbian parliament, Dragan Tomic, once a

senior party official, was expelled from the SPS on charges of financially

ruining the party.

Since 5 October, the party has lost nearly 250,000 people - half its membership.

Some of the defectors joined the Serbian Social Democratic Party headed

by former Yugoslav president Zoran Lilic and some went to the Democratic

Socialist Party, led by a formerly close associate of Milosevic,

Milorad Vucelic.

There are no big names in Lilic's party, except the former head of the

secret police, Jovica Stanisic. Vucelic's party includes one-time senior party officials - Borisav Jovic, Zeljko Simic, Goran Percevic, Slobodan Jovanovic, Petar Skundric and Dusanka Djogo.

Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia decided not to let in anyone from the Left. But in the Serbian provinces rich entrepreneurs from the SPS are managing to wheedle their way in with cash.

A hard core of SPS members have remained loyal to the party and to

Milosevic. They include Branislav Ivkovic, Ivica Dacic, Zivorad Igic,

Gorica Gajevic, Oskar Kovac. Two others Uros Suvakovic and Dragoljub Ivanovic have been arrested and Mihalj Kertes, Nikola Sainovic and Jovan Zebic are under investigation.

From his prison cell, Milosevic recently tried to dismiss the party's

secretary general Zoran Andjekovic. In a letter conveyed by his wife,

Mirjana Markovic, Milosevic complained that Andjelkovic was not by her husband's

side at the moment of his arrest. But Andjelkovic had a good excuse - he

was having gall bladder operation at the time.

One party leader said those SPS officials who are left engage in bitter

recriminations over who was to blame for various illegal deeds.

Panic grows among them as police investigate their property and

financial transactions while in power.

Our source claims that Branislav Ivkovic is constantly being reminded by

his party comrades about the time when he was at the head of the Serbian

government commission for housing, when flats were being given away in

large numbers.

Threats are also directed at Milan Milutinovic, who formally remains the

Serbian president. He is one of the five on the Hague wanted list and has been

refusing any contact with Milosevic recently.

"Milutinovic is constantly being warned to be careful what he says,

because if Slobo goes to The Hague he will not be far behind," our

source said.

Gorica Gajevic, until recently a secretary general of the SPS and one of Milosevic's most loyal associates, is frequently being mentioned in connection with industrial scandals. She is also in fear of her life, after mobs threatening political revenge broke into her flat on two occasions.

Most SPS officials who stuck with Milosevic to the end find it is now

too late to change direction. They know they will not find a job

anywhere outside the party. Informed sources within the police and the

judiciary predict that almost the entire former and present leadership

of the SPS will end up behind bars.

The party's financial situation is dire. Accountants estimate its total

debts at some 10 million German marks. The party owes money to the

Radio Television Serbia, RTS, and several other

big state enterprises.

Nenad Ristic, RTS director, said Andjelkovic had agreed that instead of money, the party should hand over three of the eight local television stations it owns.

The state directorate in charge of rebuilding the country has said it will soon present the Serbian government with a list of debts owed to it by institutions and individuals, a list on which the SPS will figure prominently.

The State Bureau for Accounts and Payments had blocked the central

account of the SPS for three months because of, as we have unofficially

learnt, a debt of four million dinars (over 130,000 marks).

The Serbian government is asking all SPS government officials to return

what they took from the state. Under the previous government, some 150 official mobile phones went missing at a cost of over 500,000 marks. The tally of missing computers

and other equipment is still being assessed. The SPS claims that none of this ended in party hands.

In November last year, the federal parliament adopted legislation on the financing of parties,

specifying that the SPS must return property it inherited from the former Communist League of Yugoslavia ten years ago.

At the moment, the only functioning party building is SPS headquarters where about 20 people are still employed. At other branches, most employees no longer show up for work.

The SPS, it seems, is falling apart at the seams. "There is a great confusion after the arrest of Milosevic", commented one SPS member. "Those leaders who are left are too worried about themselves to think about the fate of the party."

Sinisa Stanimirovic is a regular IWPR contributor

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