is the winter of our discontent Made
glorious summer by this son of York, And
all the clouds that loured upon our house In
the deep bosom of ocean buried.
are our brows bound with victorious wreaths, Our
bruised arms hung for monuments. Our
stern alarums changed to merry meetings, Our
dreadful marches to delightful measures."
Shakespeare, Richard III, 1:1)
a normal time, an actor of the Yugoslav Drama Theater would
be delivering these lines in front of a full house. These
days, as a winter of somewhat different discontent approaches
in Serbia, the phony accolade of earl Gloucester is echoed
by his modern-day counterpart of somewhat nicer physical stature,
but equally vile in spirit.
time, the man who is "determined to prove a villain and
hate the idle pleasures of these days" is Zoran Djindjic,
the slippery leader of the Democratic Party, a longtime enemy
of President Kostunica, and – by irony uncommon even in the
Balkans – his right hand.
is charismatic, intelligent and vain beyond comprehension.
He was one of the minor founders of the Democratic Party (Demokratska
Stranka - DS)
in 1989, along with Kostunica. During 1991, Djindjic’s wing
of the DS argued for cooperation with Milosevic as the way
to power, and dismissed the Serbian national question as irrelevant.
This was anathema to Kostunica, who founded his own party
– the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS)
in early 1992. Since then, these two men have been bitter
enemies – united only in their opposition to Milosevic.
that is not entirely true. Djindjic’s takeover of the DS in
1994 – an inter-party coup that left its former chairman,
Dragoljub Micunovic, no choice but to back down in favor of
the younger firebrand – is eerily reminiscent of the way Milosevic
gained control of the Serbian Communist League in 1987. Furthermore,
Djindjic kept lines of communication with Milosevic open at
all times, even during the 1996-97 street protests, which
gave him the plum post of Belgrade’s mayor.
attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 revealed the extent of Djindjic’s
conceit and cowardice. As bombs rained on his people, Djindjic
first bemoaned their least significant consequence – a unification
of Serbs under Milosevic’s banner of resistance – then fled
to Montenegro, which backstabbed its federal partner by declaring
neutrality. There he met with American and other NATO officials,
trying to fashion himself into a leader of the unified anti-Milosevic
opposition that would enjoy US support. It was a far cry from
the man who razzed NATO in 1994 while sharing a roasted ox
with Radovan Karadzic on a hill above Sarajevo, but completely
in character. Djindjic has always had a nose for power, and
whatever could give him more of it was target of his entreaties.
was also the main motivator of Serbia’s now former ruler,
Slobodan Milosevic. Despite a long list of accusations by
his enemies that painted him as a Communist, a genocidal fascist,
or a national-chauvinist, Milosevic really respected and fought
for power alone. His constant betrayal of Serbs – whether
in Krajina, Bosnia, Kosovo, or inner Serbia – is evidence
enough of this motive. But while "Slobo" was the
grand master of power, Djindjic is still but an apprentice.
One of Serbia’s most pointed journalistic pens, Aleksandar
Tijanic, labeled him "Mali Sloba" – Little
is Tijanic who first publicly raised the specter of Djindjic’s
takeover, in his October
27 column in Danas daily [currently available only
in Serbian]. Acknowledging Djindjic’s skill and pragmatism,
Tijanic nevertheless warned that Little Slobo is perfectly
capable of pulling a Yeltsin on Kostunica’s stunned Gorbachev
– namely, using Kostunica’s name to win the Serbian elections
in December, then use his connection
with Montenegrin separatists to declare Serbia and Montenegro
separate nations and dissolve Yugoslavia. This would leave
Kostunica without a job and the Serbs saddled with another
power-hungry maniac. Truly, a gambit worth of Richard III.
is plenty of evidence to prove Tijanic’s hypothesis. Djindjic
was one of the main organizers of the October uprising, making
behind-the-scenes deals and coordinating attacks on the Television,
the Parliament and numerous other state institutions. While
Kostunica was addressing the crowds the evening of October
5, Djindjic was busy setting up "crisis committees"
that would govern major enterprises and state institutions,
such as the Customs Service.
thereafter, Djindjic bragged
to UPI how he single-handedly won the "Revolution"
by securing the allegiance of the Special Forces. Within days,
The Independent declared him "the
Shadow Kingmaker" of Serbia, running the show behind
the immediate aftermath of Milosevic’s defeat, it was difficult
to notice how much of Kostunica’s authority was actually usurped
by Djindjic. First of all, because most Western journalists
tended to attribute statements to anonymous "DOS leaders,"
a tag made pointless by the fact that there were eighteen
men who could be so labeled, each quite different from the
others. Secondly, with Djindjic being Kostunica’s official
campaign manager, it was taken as completely normal for him
to make official statements even though Djindjic held no office
in the new government.
Djindjic was one of the loudest voices of the new government
– meeting with the separatist leadership of Montenegro on
matters of constitutional importance, announcing from Belgrade
that the "Milosevic menace" still threatens Serbia,
calling for purges in the military and police leadership,
even threatening violence unless the Socialist government
of Serbia did not resign and call for a new election. Kostunica
seemed reduced to a ceremonial role – meeting foreign dignitaries,
giving "confessions" on CBS and visiting funerals
of dead poets – while Djindjic all but ran Serbia behind his
Malich left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and
currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian
War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo,
and had contributed to the Independent. As a historian who
specialized in international relations and the Balkans, Malich
has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and
Serbian politics, which were published by the Serbian
Unity Congress. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears
was no pushover, though. When Djindjic announced in mid-October
that General Nebojsa Pavkovic – CO of the Third Army during
the Kosovo war and the current chairman of Yugoslavia’s Joint
Chiefs – was to be sacked, Kostunica denied that statement
and kept Pavkovic in his post for the sake of state stability.
More recently, Djindjic’s faction in DOS threatened to quit
the new transitional government unless Rade Markovic, head
of Serbia’s State Security (a cross between the NSA and the
KGB, and about as sinister) and a former Milosevic loyalist,
resigns. Kostunica refused to fire Markovic, saying that Markovic
was responsible to the Serbian government, which is yet to
be elected, and not the federal government. More recently,
Kostunica appointed Goran Svilanovic as his Foreign Minister,
a rare DOS leader who, according to Mr. Tijanic, is not afraid
of talking back to Djindjic.
New York Times’ Belgrade correspondent covered this conflict
detail. In the NY Times article, Djindjic went
on record as saying that "It is sure that Milosevic has
his fingers in everything that is happening in the part of
state security where [Rade] Markovic is the boss." General
Momcilo Perisic, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs and a
bitter enemy of Milosevic, said Markovic and Pavkovic were
"protecting Milosevic and his interests." The NY
Times also attributes to Perisic the accusation that Pavkovic’s
and Markovic’s presence is "part of a general effort
by Milosevic supporters to sabotage normal life, including
electricity supplies and prices."
fact that gen. Pavkovic and Mr. Markovic were accused of loyalty
to Milosevic was not an accident, but rather a part of a clever
strategy employed by Djindjic and his supporters. President
Kostunica enjoys an approval rating of 85%, a dream of every
Western politician. Anyone criticizing him openly would be
shredded by the public opinion. On the other hand, striking
at Kostunica by attacking former Milosevic loyalists who are
now supporting him is a perfect double-blind, as Kostunica
cannot defend them without appearing to defend Milosevic.
As long as Kostunica keeps Pavkovic, Markovic and others like
them in positions of power, Djindjic can discreetly smear
him as a "softie" on the ancien regime.
by the Army and in possession of the SDB files on opposition
leaders – which Milosevic had gathered as leverage – Kostunica
can deflect any dirty tricks by individuals or groups intent
on taking over the country by less than legitimate means.
The power of their organizations is too great to be wielded
by anyone but the legitimate government. Demonstrating this
is a line from the NYT report, stating that "There have
already been leaks from some of those files, of uncertain
authenticity, intended to undermine Mr. Markovic’s position
and embarrass Mr. Kostunica."
are indications that more sinister forces are involved as
well. Mr. Tijanic’s above-mentioned analysis drew a vehement
attack by Vesna Pesic, former head of Mr. Svilanovic’s Civic
Alliance universally scorned for her elitist pseudo-intellectualism.
Sonja Biserko, head of Serbia’s Helsinki Committee for Human
Rights, called Kostunica a "Nazi" right after the
elections. Her associates have been very fond of Djindjic,
and considered him the right man to lead Serbia on the path
of salvation – as they envisioned it. Biserko, incidentally,
testified passionately in front of the US Senate immediately
after the bombing (June 29, 1999) and called for some sort
of occupation of Serbia in order to collectively reeducate
its "Nazified" populace.
it is not an accident that Djindjic enjoys the support of
this pseudo-intellectual elite. Part and parcel of his vanity
is a feeling of arrogant elitism. Whether because he was educated
in Germany, or because his life insulated him from the masses,
Djindjic never really connected with the Serbian farmers and
small-town folk, who constitute the majority of that republic’s
population. In a statement to the Washington Post right
after the elections, he said Kostunica was a better candidate
because the people liked his nationalism, while Djindjic’s
views were "too European for now."
by the Washington Post makes it obvious where Washington’s
preferences lie, describing the "liberal, pro-Western
views" of Djindjic’s party as opposed to Kostunica’s
"conservative Serbian nationalism."
control of a private militia (armed followers, special Security
Forces), most of the Serbian media, much of the government
and many state enterprises, Djindjic is well situated for
the coming showdown with Kostunica. All he lacks now is legitimacy
– which could make him or break him in the end. Vuk Draskovic
and his SPO, once a large and powerful party, lost legitimacy
when they declined to support Kostunica in September. Because
of that, the SPO sank faster than the Titanic after
bumping an iceberg. Djindjic is aware of that danger, and
plans to circumvent it by having Kostunica do all the work.
Kostunica’s name on the ballot will easily win Djindjic the
presidency of Serbia, opening the door to Yugoslavia’s – and
Kostunica’s – demise.
as things are, Kostunica is so determined to remove Milosevic’s
party from power that he is willing to preserve the integrity
of DOS at all cost – even if that means sacrificing himself.
In doing so, he may actually be dooming the very people on
whose behalf he is ready to fall on the sword. Or in this
case, the poisoned dagger.
there is no Earl Richmond on the horizon to defeat this Richard
III-wannabe on some Serbian Bosworth Field. Kostunica will
have to do it. It may not be entirely fair to a man who just
rid the Serbs of a false-minded leader to have to fight another,
but few things are fair these days. And if Djindjic has his
way, few will ever be.
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