News for January 15th, 1997

The Governing Council of the University of Belgrade has accepted the decisions of the Teaching Council, which supported student demands. But after a secret ballot on the second issue on its agenda, it decided not to replace the University's rector Dragutin Velickovic and the student deputy rector Vojin Djurdjevic, reports FoNet. Member of the student delegation Cedomir Antic stated after the session of the Council: "I am astounded by the double standard of the members of the Council," adding that "students will continue with their protests until the bitter end."

Rector of the University of Belgrade, Dragutin Velickovic, said today that by placing the student demand for his replacement on its agenda, the Governing Council of the University of Belgrade had endorsed that demand. "Secret balloting is a relative thing, because people can vote differently from what they say," said the rector. Asked if he will resign on his own, Velickovic answered: "I am not thinking about it right now. Do not ask me about it tonight. I have the support of the Council, and I will remain rector for the time being."

Member of the Steering Board of the Student Protest 96/97, Ceda Jovanovic, stated at a press conference given today: "UofB students will persist with their protests until the demands that gave rise to these protests are met. The fact that Dragutin Velickovic is still the rector is not a setback but our great moral victory and an incentive to persist with our demands." The Steering Board of the Student Protest will decide about the future protests tonight.

The Student Protest yesterday issued a statement branding minister Mladenovic's claim that the Teaching Council does not support students' demands but instead supports a completely imaginary agreement between the students and the members of the government a shameful attempt to manipulate the public and use the University for purposes of daily politics.

Sasa Ciric and Aleksandar Djukic, representatives of the Student Protest sent the message to a few thousand students gathered before the Chancellor's Office of the Belgrade University that the protest won't be ended before all the students' demands are met. The students are carrying a board on which "Throw us the Chancellor" is written, and are exclaiming "resignation" and "the red gang".

Leaders of the coalition Zajedno today called on the residents of Belgrade to persist with their demands for the recognition of the results of the local elections from November 17. They also stressed that the latest concessions of the authorities may be just a trick in order to deter further protests. Today's protest walk was organized in the Knez Mihajlova street in central Belgrade and the protesters did not approach police lines at all. The next protest rally was announced for tomorrow.

British foreign minister Malcolm Riffkind stated for BBC Radio that it is absolutely necessary that Serbian President Milosevic accept the victory of the opposition in the local elections. The minister also announced that Great Britain has deferred the visit by Nikola Sainovic, a high ranking member of the ruling Socialist party, and invited Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, to visit the island first. This was done to demonstrate Britain's disapproval of the current Serbian policy.

Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), tonight stated for Belgrade's BK Television that the current situation in Yugoslavia may be on the agenda of today's OSCE session in Vienna. She said that no decisions about Yugoslavia will be discussed tomorrow, because all member countries have agrees that the report made by Gonzalez's commission must be accepted in full.

In his letter to Yugoslav foreign minister Milutinovic, French foreign minister, Ervet De Charet today warned of "serious consequences" if the electoral victories of the opposition are not recognized.

Klaus Kinkel, head of German diplomacy, stated today that the decision made yesterday by the City Electoral Committee seemed to be a step in the right direction. He added, however, that it still remains to be seen whether the decision would have effect. He also pointed out that the victory of the opposition in other Serbian cities in which the OSCE delegation confirmed it must also be recognized.

A panel on the issues concerning local elections, electoral laws and the role of the media in the electoral process began its work in the Serbian Parliament last night. It was broadcast live on Channel 2 of Radio Television Serbia. Representatives of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), the New Democracy (ND), the Democratic Union of Vojvodina Hungarians (DZVM) and the Party of December 1 took part in the panel. Representatives of the leading opposition parties did not appear on the panel. Opening the discussion on the rules of procedure to be used by this panel, SPS secretary general, Gorica Gajevic proposed that 3 issues be entered into the panel's agenda -- the role of the media, electoral laws and modes of political organizations. She once again called on the representatives of the parliamentary opposition parties to attend the panel. The second session of the parliamentary panel on the electoral crisis will be held on Thursday, January 16, at 8 p.m. in the building of the Serbian Parliament, announced the Information Service of the Serbian Parliament today. The main topic will be the issue of local elections. This panel discussion will also be broadcast live on Channel 2 of the state-run RTS television.

Slobodan Vucetic, member of the Constitutional Court of Serbia, today told the Belgrade daily Demokratija that the Belgrade Electoral Commission's decision to acknowledge the preliminary results of the second local electoral round is a result of orders given by a panicky Serbian leadership. Vucetic fears that this move is aimed at confusing both the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which gave the Serbian authorities the deadline of January 16 to implement its recommendations, and the mass democratic movement in Serbia.

Dusan Mihajlovic, head of the New Democracy (ND), told the Belgrade daily Blic today that this party has no obligations to its coalition partner the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Asked whether his party was closer to the SPS and the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) [its former coalition partners], or to the coalition Zajedno, Mihajlovic said the question should be put to these parties rather then to his.

The coalition Zajedno has filed 45 legal motions with the First Municipal Court of Belgrade requesting the review of cases and procedures already ruled on, taking into account the new facts which have emerged since November 17, announced today Vesna Rakic- Vodinelic, a member of the Zajedno legal staff.

The electoral crisis in Serbia and the recommendations of the Gonzalez report that the Serbian authorities ought to recognize in full the November 17 electoral results are not on the agenda of tomorrow's meeting of the Organization for Security and Co- operation in Europe. This announcement came from Vienna today.

The city council of New Belgrade, the largest municipality in Serbia, was constituted today in the absence of opposition Zajedno deputies. Zajedno deputies had demanded that the constitution be postponed until the reinstatement of the November 17 electoral results.

Branislav Ivkovic, former leader of the Belgrade branch of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), told Radio B92 that he voted in favor of all decisions made by the SPS Executive Board yesterday.

A delegation of the US Senate, led by Senator Jack Reed, has just spent 2 days in Belgrade. The delegation has met with representatives of the authorities, the opposition and the independent media. In an assessment of the current situation in Serbia, Senator Reed told Radio B92 that the Belgrade authorities have not only isolated themselves from the world, but also brought the people of Yugoslavia into the same kind of isolation Serbia experienced for the part it had taken in the conflicts in Bosnia.

A 3-member council of judges has confirmed the results of the third local electoral round in the town of Smederevska Palanka, rejecting the appeals by the coalition Zajedno against the decisions of the local electoral commission, report Belgrade media today. According to the final results of all three electoral rounds, out of a total of 49 seats, the Socialist Party of Serbia has won 27, while Zajedno has got 22, reports FoNet.

About ten thousand students of the UofN celebrated the opposition's in Nis by holding a night protest walk. The coalition Zajedno today sent a letter to the former Mayor of Nis, Stojan Randjelovic, asking for the immediate convening of the constitutive session of the city council, reports FoNet.

President of the Democratic Party of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica, called the official announcement of the opposition's victory in the local elections in Belgrade the first open acknowledgment of defeat the authorities have yet made, reports FoNet. "What was taken away illegally, was returned illegally, because in the meantime a whole complex judicial system has been created by which truth and facts could not be known. If the results from November 17 are completely recognized, Serbia will need a new beginning, regarding both its judiciary and its media..."

Mayor of Belgrade Nebojsa Covic and chairman of the city council, Zoran Milosevic, today had a meeting with deputy secretary of the Italian foreign ministry, Piero Fassino. They talked about the post-electoral crisis in Serbia and the ways of solving it within a democratic framework. The official statement issued by the mayor's office reads in part: "During an open and cordial conversation, we reached a mutual agreement that the will of the people shown in the local elections must be respected, and that it is the basis for the solution to the crisis. Respect the principles of democracy, the authorities and the opposition should start a dialogue." The announcement emphasizes that "a quick and peaceful solution to the post-electoral crisis would provide a significant contribution for the strengthening of the democratic processes in Serbia."

Head of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, today gave a statement for BBC Radio in which he said that the latest confirmation of the electoral results in Belgrade and Nis "could signal a new policy, but it may also be the sign that the system is falling apart."

Deputy Secretary of the Italian Foreign Ministry, Piero Fassino, claimed today that the decision made by the Belgrade Electoral Commission yesterday has raised great expectations in the international community. He also commented that if the results from the local elections are recognized in full, it will be possible to "re-open the discussion on Yugoslav re-integration into the international community." Fassino today met with General Momcilo Perisic, Chief-of-Staff at the Yugoslav Army Headquarters, His Holiness Patriarch Pavle and the leaders of the party Nova Demokratija.

Mayor of Belgrade, Nebojsa Covic, today gave a statement for Radio B92 in which he commented on his expulsion from the Socialist Party of Serbia. "My expulsion was voted for on the grounds that I had damaged the interests of the party by my pursuit of a quick way out of the crisis and [by my insistence on] the recognition of the election results and a dialogue with the opposition. But the accusation was eventually re-phrased and I was excluded from the party because I came in conflict with party's power figures, Mile Ilic and Branislav Ivkovic. I admit that I have always been in conflict with the likes of those two, for they are the ones who contributed to the defeat of the Socialists in the elections and to the ensuing crisis in Serbia," said Covic in his statement for Radio B92.

Nebojsa Covic, Belgrade's mayor, who was excluded from the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), announced today that he will pursue his involvement in politics, "because he owes it to all the citizens who believe in the political principles and goals he always devoted himself to". "With my two month long insistence that the electoral will of the citizens be respected, and that those who, by not recognizing of the results caused the crisis and, day by day only made it worse, be held responsible, I became a serious obstacle to obstinacy of certain incapable and irresponsible party officials", Covic said in the interview to the Index radio. He said that, on the yesterday's meeting of the Executive Board of the SPS he was excluded because he publicly demanded a democratic solution of the political life paralyses, the recognition of the local elections' results and dialogue between the authorities and the opposition.

Yugoslav foreign minister, Milan Milutinovic, unexpectedly arrived in Madrid today, reports AFP. It is expected that he will meet his Spanish counterpart Abel Matutas. It is still uncertain whether he will meet Felipe Gonzalez, head of the OSCE delegation which inspected the regularity of the election results in Serbia. Milutinovic came to Spain just a day before the OSCE meeting in Vienna, where the situation in Serbia is to be discussed.

President of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, had a long meeting with a delegation of the Student Protest, says today's issue of the daily Blic. Djindjic talked with the students about the alleged incident between them and Vuk Draskovic. He said that private statements, if true, are of much less importance than the protests themselves. The students were evidently in high spirits when they came out of Djindjic's office, reports Blic.

The power of the people on Serbia has, it seems, forced he President Slobodan Milosevic to acknowledge the victory of the opposition, today's "Guardian" writes, as is reported by the BBC radio in its Serbian language broadcast. The London "Times", writing about the decision of the electoral committee in Belgrade, informs on the statements of the leaders of the opposition who accepted the latest moves by the authorities with suspicion, and concludes that there are many reasons to doubt the sincerity of the Serbian authorities' intentions.

The crisis in Serbia has surpassed the Serbian president, and he comes out of the confrontation seriously weakened, the French journal "Liberation" writes today, stressing that Slobodan Milosevic is "no more a factor of stability in this region; on the contrary, he is the factor of constant instability".

Russian weekly Itogi in its latest issue says that the Serbs have woken up politically, but even after two months of protests they have managed to wake up the authorities. "Under the pressure of a high-spirited and ingenious opposition, Serbian President Milosevic is maneuvering, thinking that he still has some aces to pull. But he is forced to gradually give up his positions while trying to give the impression that he is doing it on his own initiative."

"In a metaphorical sense, it may be said that the true leader of the demonstrations in Serbia is Milosevic, and not either the students or the opposition. Only such enormous discontent with his policy could bring so many people out on the streets and keep them there for so long", Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, in the interview for the Czech journal "Pravo". Kostunica considers that the latest happenings on the streets of the major cities in Belgrade "have marked the decline of Slobodan Milosevic".

Predrag Drecun, President of the Executive Board of the People's Party, stated today that the Serbian opposition mustn't be content with the incomplete recognition of the electoral results from November 17th. According to his words, the formal part of the demands must first be fulfilled; only then can the attention be moved to the essential part, i.e. the formation of infrastructure necessary for the establishment of democracy.

Slobodan Rakitic, President of the Congressional People's Party stated today that the "Zajedno" coalition and the students should continue the protest until all demands are completely met, that is, until the electoral results from November 17th are recognized.

Bora Kuzmanovic, President of the Executive Board of the Democratic Center, said today that, after the recognition of the local elections and putting the advice of the OSCE into effect, a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition on liberating the media and creating the democratic conditions for the upcoming elections. He said that the changes in the summit of the Socialist Party of Serbia speak in favor of the fact that the liberal current is not dominant in this party and that Milosevic has decided to "sacrifice the peons and horses in order to save the queen, but that this game of chess will necessarily lead to his checkmate".

The City Electoral Committee of Belgrade will inform all the parties on the decisions regarding the electoral results, with explanations, the BK television reported. Starting that moment, a 48 hour deadline will be set for all those discontent with the solution may lodge complaints.

Slobodan Vuksanovic, spokesman for the Democratic Party (DS), stated to the Beta news agency that the exclusion of Nebojsa Covic from the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the replacement of Branislav Ivkovic from the lead of the Belgrade Socialists demonstrates that the leadership of the SPS has "completely lost its compass and that it by no means has the situation under control". Vuksanovic firmly refused the rumors on the transfer of Nebojsa Covic to the DS. "That is incorrect. There have been no negotiations with Covic", the spokesman for the DS said.

The leaders of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) Vuk Draskovic, and the Democratic Party (DS) Zoran Djindjic met recently, and separately, with the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the Beta news agency discovers from the diplomatic sources in Belgrade. Draskovic and the Serbian President met as soon as the beginning of January. On the other hand, Djindjic met with the President last Friday, January 10th. Neither the content of these talks, nor what Milosevic offered to the leaders of the opposition, whose supporters have been protesting in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia for almost two months has been made public. The source of the Beta agency only said that the offer made to Djindjic by the president, according to the leader of the DS was "ridiculous".

The "motorized" supporters of the oppositional coalition "Zajedno" have blocked the traffic at the 17:00 in the very center of Novi Sad. The hour long blocking of traffic was performed as a sign of solidarity with the protests in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia on the account of the annulment of the opposition's victory in the second rounds of the local elections from November 17th, previous year.

More than 2000 citizens of Leskovac assembled tonight on the 43rd protest gathering against the annulment of the local elections' results in Serbia. A police cordon thwarted the attempt of the citizens to start their protest walk after the rally.

The citizens of Sabac and the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition in this town protested again today against the annulment of the results of the local elections. The protest will continue tomorrow.

Around 500 citizens of Kikinda protested today against the annulment of the results of the local elections in Serbia. it was the 21st day of protest in Kikinda. The gathered citizens demanded the resignations of the head officials of the Journalist public firm "Komuna".

The police prevented the citizens of Svilajnac from taking their protest walk today. However, several hundred citizens gathered in the center and went for a walk in the pedestrian zone, between the police cordons. The citizens of Svilajnac have been protesting for four days now against the annulment of the local elections.

Around 15,000 citizens of Nis protesting against the manipulations connected with the elections booed at Vojislav Seselj, the president of the Serbian Radical Party, who arrived to Nis today. This reaction of the citizens ensued the announcement made by Miroslav Milanovic, the spokesman of the District board of the Serbian Renewal Movement, in which he said Seselj would be a guest of the "Nais" television, in the term which has been reserved for the reports on the citizens' and students' protest. Seselj's participation in the program of the "Nais" television was cancelled after that.

Around 2,000 citizens of Pirot gathered today to express their protest against the third failure of constituting the City Assembly and electing the municipality president. For the first time, the demonstrators were addressed by one of the delegates of the Serbian Socialist Party in the City Assembly. He said that he would be the first person to start the struggle against the thieves in the party to which he belongs.

Momir Bulatovic, President of Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, president of Montenegrin Parliament, and Milo Djukanovic, president of the Montenegrin Government, have sent a letter to Serbian President, in which they demand that the results of the local elections in Serbia should be recognized, writes the "Blic" (a Belgrade daily) today. According to this newspaper, they also demanded that the printing of money should be stopped. The three Montenegrin officials announced that, unless their demands are fulfilled, Montenegro would print its own money and the state would become a loose confederacy.

The Chinese "Hsinhua" news agency reported today of the statement made by Vuk Draskovic, who expressed his satisfaction in connection with the decision of the City Electoral Committee to recognize the results of the local elections and added that, unless the Serbian Socialist Party lodges a complaint, it would mean that the recognition of the election results from November 17 is on the way.

Vesna Rakic-Vodinelic, a member of the Legal council of the "Zajedno" coalition, stated today in the BBC program in Serbian that legally nothing special could be concluded from yesterday's statement of the president of the City Electoral Committee, except that which had already been concluded on November 18.