Trajkovic Election Bid?

The international community are pinning their hopes on moderate Kosovo Serb leader, Momcillo Trajkovic.

Trajkovic Election Bid?

The international community are pinning their hopes on moderate Kosovo Serb leader, Momcillo Trajkovic.

There's growing speculation that Kosovo Serb leader, Momcillo Tajkovic, is to contest local elections in the province later this year, a move likely to enrage his former political masters in Belgrade.

The Belgrade leadership has urged its ethnic kin in Kosovo to boycott the October poll while Serb refugees in Serbia have been prevented from registering as voters. Serb participation in the elections is seen as critical, as without it the ballot will lack legitimacy.

Trajkovic, who has co-operated closely with the international community in Kosovo, recently resigned from the Serbian National Council - a church-based civic body, which campaigns on behalf of Kosovo Serbs but is not mandated to represent them in elections.

Following his resignation, Trajkovic hinted that he would take part in the ballot as leader of the Serbian Resistance Movement, a Kosovo Serb party founded several years ago and which has taken a moderate line in recent times. He said there was a need for Serbs in the province to be given an authentic voice.

UNMIK would certainly benefit from Trajkovic's candidacy as he supports its goal of reintegrating Serbs into the province. Some suggest that he might prove to be as useful to the international community as the moderate Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik.

The need for a strong moderate Serb leader in the province has never been more apparent. Belgrade exerts enormous influence over the Serb enclaves in Kosovo. Serbia's ruling Socialist Party, SPS, controls the media and other civil and political institutions in these areas.

Trajkovic, on his own, would struggle to loosen Milosevic's grip on the province's Serbs, but he could at least represent those who feel they have more to gain by fighting for their rights in Kosovo than relying on Belgrade to look after their welfare.

Ironically, Trajkovic's political rise is linked to the SPS and its leader, Slobodan Milosevic. He was Milosevic's right-hand man in Kosovo in the eighties and early nineties. Although he backed the removal of its autonomous status, he became disenchanted with the regime's policy towards the province.

He founded the Resistance Movement as an alternative political vehicle for moderate Serbs and frequently travelled abroad to promote his ideas. In the wake of the NATO bombing campaign and the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from Kosovo, Trajkovic remained in the province and last October helped to set up the Serb National Council, SNC.

At the founding meeting of the organisation, whose members include Bishop Artemije and other moderate Serb representatives, Tajkovic said, "The Serbs of Kosovo need leaders who live with their people, and not puppets who blindly carry out whatever they are told." Moreover, alluding to Milosevic's failed policies in Kosovo, he added that the time had come for the minority to "take their political destiny into their own hands."

Trajkovic, who survived as assassination attempt by Albanian extremists last November, recently appeared to be playing a less prominent role in the SNC, prompting some to suggest that he had fallen out with his colleagues.

The more likely explanation, however, is that he has been winding down his involvement in the Council in preparation for a more political role as head of the Resistance Movement.

Speculation over whether he will stand in the forthcoming poll comes at a crucial time for locals Serbs. An upsurge of terrorist attacks against the minority has undermined its confidence in the future - and could jeopardise plans to repatriate tens of thousands of refugees sheltering in Serbia proper.

The SNC has condemned the latest Albanian extremist violence and withdrawn from the province's Temporary Administrative Council in protest. Trajkovic supported the move but has said little else about the alarming escalation in tension between the two communities.

Serbs who remain in Kosovo are wondering whether the violence is the beginning of the end for them. Trajkovic's political career here will hinge on how he addresses their growing anxieties.

Zvonko Tarle is the Editor-in-Chief of Radio Contact in Pristina

Serbia, Kosovo
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