BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 13:47 GMT
Zoran Djindjic: Pragmatist or opportunist?
Mr Djindjic arriving at a Belgrade military court in July 1997
Branded a Nato mercenary, Djindjic was tried on charges of draft dodging
By Tim Judah

Zoran Djindjic is the new face of Serbia following the triumph of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition.

The suave 48-year-old leader of the Democratic Party took the job thanks to a pre-election agreement amongst the leaders of the 18 party DOS coalition, which assigned Mr Djindjic the role of future premier.


Above all he is a political pragmatist - or, as his detractors would say, an immoral political opportunist

A veteran opposition leader, Mr Djindjic was one of the main organisers of last September's election campaign, which led, on 5 October, to the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president.

It is widely believed that Mr Milosevic finally gave way after Mr Djindjic, using his contacts in the army and security services, had persuaded them not to intervene to prop up the faltering regime.

Rebel

Mr Djindjic was born in Bosnia on 1 August 1952, the son of a Yugoslav Army officer.

Draskovic: Fiery orator
Draskovic: Djindjic's ally, then enemy
He turned out to be a rebel, being expelled from high school in Belgrade when he tried to collect signatures protesting against the law that made Marshal Tito president for life.

In 1974 he fell foul of the authorities again when, along with fellow students from Croatia and Slovenia, he attempted to set up a non-communist student movement.

After gaining his undergraduate degree in Belgrade, Mr Djindjic went to Germany, where he lived for several years and wrote a PhD in philosophy.

At the same time he went into business selling textile machines and making clothes.

By the late 1980s he had returned to Yugoslavia where he became a founder member of the Democratic Party, which he now leads.

Nationalist hawk

Although he always opposed Slobodan Milosevic, he often took hawkishly nationalistic stances during the Croatian and Bosnian wars, and once famously roasted an ox with Radovan Karadzic, the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs.


Mr Djindjic has repeatedly said that he believes that Mr Milosevic should now be jailed, and he may well soon move to have him arrested

He also had occasional meetings with Zeljko Raznatovic, the assassinated paramilitary leader and mafia chieftain, nicknamed Arkan, who spearheaded several ethnic cleansing campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia.

Few dispute Mr Djindjic's ferocious intelligence or his organisational abilities.

But, above all he is a political pragmatist - or, as his detractors would say, an immoral political opportunist. He enjoys being in control.

During the winter of 1996-97, Mr Djindjic was one of the main leaders of the mass demonstrations against the Milosevic regime, along with the fiery orator Vuk Draskovic.

Belgrade mayor

Together they won their fight against the Milosevic regime and Mr Djindjic became Mayor of Belgrade.

Djindjic after the election victory
Djindjic after the election victory
However, conflict and the deep-seated mutual antipathy of the two leaders now became so intense that Mr Djindjic refused to support Mr Draskovic's presidential candidacy and Mr Draskovic teamed up with Mr Milosevic's party to remove Mr Djindjic from office.

Both Mr Djindjic and Mr Draskovic accused one another of secretly betraying the opposition by meeting Mr Milosevic during the demonstrations. It later emerged that both of them had done this.

Later still, Mr Draskovic became a government minister, but Mr Djindjic did not.

The internecine squabbling between the two main Serbian opposition leaders enabled Mr Milosevic to prolong his time in office, thanks to his successful policy of divide and rule.

Not so popular

During Nato's 78-day bombing campaign of Yugoslavia Mr Djindjic received warnings from inside the security services that he risked his life by remaining in Serbia.

President Vojislav Kostunica
Kostunica comes from the opposite end of the political spectrum
Mr Djindjic fled to Montenegro, a move which damaged his political standing and, after he had met western leaders, enabled the Milosevic regime to denounce him as a "Nato mercenary".

Although Mr Djindjic has played a prominent role in Serbian politics over the last decade he has never been particularly popular with voters.

Indeed a recent poll showed that, despite his current political standing, he was only the 11th most popular politician in the country.

It was Mr Djindjic's appreciation of his personal lack of appeal that led to his decision to back Vojislav Kostunica as candidate for the Yugoslav presidential poll last September.

Split expected

Mr Djindjic and Mr Kostunica come from different ends of the Serbian political spectrum and, now that their joint aim of ending the Milosevic era has been achieved, it is widely expected that the two will part company.


Some caution that Mr Djindjic, who loves smart designer suits, must be careful to curb what they say is his 'love of money' and to make sure that the country's interests come first

Sooner or later the now-misnamed Democratic Opposition of Serbia should split and it is believed that Mr Djindjic will lead a bloc of social democratic parties to emerge from DOS, while Mr Kostunica leads a Christian democratic wing.

Amongst his first priorities as premier will be to negotiate with the Montenegrin authorities about the future of the Yugoslav federation.

Mr Djindjic would like to agree on some form of new union with Montenegro but not at any price.

Indeed he has said that whether or not Montenegro opts for independence, "Serbia is in a position to feel equally relaxed accepting either of the solutions."

Mr Djindjic has repeatedly said that he believes that Mr Milosevic should now be jailed, and he may well soon move to have him arrested.

Mr Djindjic is gathering an experienced team of economists and experts around him to reconstruct the shattered Serbian economy.

However some caution that Mr Djindjic, who loves smart designer suits, must be careful to curb what they say is his "love of money" and to make sure that the country's interests come first.

Tim Judah is the author of The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia


At The Hague

Still wanted

CLICKABLE GUIDE

FORUM

AUDIO VIDEO
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes