TRANSITIONS ONLINE: Milosevic Loses Krajina: Elections
20 December 1993
The first unofficial results of the elections in Krajina have come as a complete surprise. Milan Babic has become the first war lord in the former Yugoslavia who had been created by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and then replaced after openly opposing the Serbian President. Babic has made a grand come-back into high politics despite Milosevic's will.
The results of the parliamentary elections in Krajina have also caused additional disappointment in Belgrade. Babic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) of Krajina has gained 40 seats, the local Serbian Radical Party (SRS) 16, as many have been won by the regional Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) of Serb lands of Goran Hadzic (former RSK president) while the newly-founded Serbian Party of Socialists (SPS) and the Socialdemocratic Party from Okucani secured 4 seats each. Nine more independent candidates were also elected. Apart from winning the republican elections, SDS of Krajina scored an electoral victory in several municipalities. However, these results are still considered to be unofficial. The republic electoral commission is still unable to declare the elections either regular or invalid although the elections were held five days ago. Many are convinced that the commission will not commit itself either way until the situation after the Serbian elections is clear or unless something spectacular happens in the Serb lands, as was announced by Zoran Lilic, the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Babic's come-back has made all political parties in Serbia happy, except for the ruling party. Ivica Dacic, the spokesman of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), dryly commented on the elections in Krajina by saying that the elections are the internal matter of the people who live there. He easily gave up on Milan Martic, whom his party had favoured by stating that Martic was "only a candidate of a group of workers, fighters and intellectuals, and nothing else."
However, the opposition did not try to hide its exaltation. Vojislav Kostunica, the leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), as well as others congratulated Babic. It is believed that his success represents the first ever electoral defeat of the Socialists and that it ought to have an effect on the Serbian public. Even those political forces which support a compromise and a peaceful resolution of the bloody Yugoslav drama have closed their eyes before the fact that the newly-elected President of Krajina had never abandoned his hard line nationalist stands - Krajina's demarcation with Croatia and the unification of all Serbs.
Babic's taking over of power by winning the elections even though he was ignored by Serbian media is important because it proved that the people have finally started to think on their empty stomachs. There was no enthusiasm for the opposing candidate. Martic spoke about a need to fight war profiteers and criminals and the crowds booed asking him where he had obtained fuel for flying around in a helicopter or money for his campaign, etc. Visits to prominent Socialists in Krajina and their statements that they had created and defended Krajina in addition to spending 20 per cent of the GNP on their brethern across the Drina River seem to have produced a counter-effect.
Babic, just like a part of the Serbian opposition, have been warning that Krajina may be sold at the negotiating table. Murky negotiations in Geneva, secret talks and agreements along with hopelessness and frustration on the large part of the local population help them decide.
The results of the elections in Krajina are coming in very slowly and defeated competitors are making a whole lot of objections to the regularity of the elections. As far as could be unofficially learned, Babic had scored an easy victory almost in the whole of Krajina, even in Eastern Slavonija which was not expected. The election results in this area are specially interesting; the local population is constantly exposed to Radio Television Serbia and political conflicts in Serbia carry more weight here because Serbia is so close. Although the political parties close to the Serbian ruling party, like SDS of Serb lands, have had some success (the people of Vukovar have voted for Martic), in the last analysis SDS of Krajina celebrated their victory in the area and the Radicals got most of their candidates elected here. Can the analogy be made on the mood of the electorate?
In any case, if the elections are not annulled, Babic will have to recommend a mandator for the government. Babic should not have problems with the parliament. He is close with the Radicals and this relationship was carefully nourished over the months of conflicts with Hadzic (together they hold a majority in the parliament which has 84 seats). It has been unofficially learned that Lazar Macura, once Babic's Information Minister and editor-in-chief of Radio Knin, will be the mandator. The post of the Foreign Minister is reserved for Rade Leskovac and the current Prime Minister of the Republic of Serb Krajina Djordje Bjegovic is to be offered the post of the Defense Minister. If all information is correct, the new president of Krajina is planing to thank Mile Martic for his service. He should be replaced by Dusan Vjestica, the secretary for organization of the Republic of Serb Krajina. Martic is believed to be exercising control of Belgrade in Krajina, which means that by his replacement Babic is making sure that nothing similar to what happened in February 1992 happens again. Moreover, judging by new members of government Babic is working on securing his political independence. In other words, a relationship with the Yugoslav Army (VJ) through Bjegovic, the moderate, (some relationship with Belgrade must be retained) and a removal of the main commissioner of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior represent the only guarantee that he will be able to remain in power, if he takes over power at all. The Serbian opposition is like-minded.
And, finally, Babic is unable to feed his hungry people in the current situation nor are the people of Krajina able to persevere on the road to statehood if their are all alone. Therefore, the new President of Krajina will make sure to make it clear to the Serbian leadership, regardless of who is in power, that he is ready to do anything to stop Serbia's giving up on Krajina. He is even ready to pull Serbia into a total war if necessary. Depending on the Serbian elections, he will remain a thorn in the side and everybody will have to keep this in mind. It is also to be expected that he will oppose any sort of co-habitation with Croatia. Those opposition leaders who have hailed Babic's come-back may easily find themselves in the situation to be supporting Slobodan Milosevic by having supported hard-liner Babic. Besides, the question of Krajina may well prove to be a bond in the case of a parliamentary stalemate for a concentration government in Serbia which would allow the Serbian President to achieve political unity under his rule (there are reports that Babic and Milosevic have met on two occasions recently). But, if the people of Krajina are left on their own no one will bother regardless of what Babic may do. The importance of his victory is momentary. He has proved that the Serbian policy has been exhausted and if it continues to be the same then total anarchy is a real threat.
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