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Friday, June 18, 1999 Published at 03:10 GMT 04:10 UK


World: Europe

Serbs weigh Milosevic's policies

President Milosevic has been "omnipresent" this week

By Brian Hanrahan in Belgrade

Slobodan Milosevic is quietly surviving in Belgrade.

Kosovo: Special Report
But tucked away all over Belgrade small groups of men are openly plotting to overthrow the president.

They are the political parties, freed now from the restraints imposed by war, and fiercely critical of the man who led them into it, and the policies he adopted.

The Christian Democrats are currently the convenors of a 30 strong opposition alliance, which is demanding an end to emergency regulations which stop them from openly campaigning against the president while he is politically weakened.


[ image: The popular papers hint at what is happening]
The popular papers hint at what is happening
The party leader, Vladan Batic, says if the state of war is not lifted next week they will take their activities on to the streets - they are already planning demonstrations for the weekend after.

Out on the streets the politicians smell the raw material of insurrection - the hardship of years of economic sanctions have been amplified by bombing and isolation. People do not have jobs, buses do not have fuel, travel is curtailed, and while President Milosevic is in control nobody is going to help Serbia recover.

There is no money to buy goods. It is time to window shop for a new leader.

The problem for Serbia's many and quite vociferous opposition politicians is that they can't get their act together. They're constantly out-manoeuvred by President Milosevic, who plays the factions off against each other, and never lets an effective opponent emerge.


[ image: Former General Obradovic wants elections in October or November]
Former General Obradovic wants elections in October or November
But now political soundings suggest that there's been a change in the public mood. President Milosevic has become unpopular, and for the opposition there is a chance to vote him out of office without having to have somebody to replace him.

The exodus of Serb refugees from Kosovo may further erode the president's position.

Mr Milosevic came to power, promising to protect Kosovo's Serbs, and the opposition believe his failure to keep that promise may be what topples him.

Pictures of the Serb refugees have been kept off Serb television, and the refugees themselves off the streets of the major cities.

So far they have been confined to country lanes.

The sensitivity of the issue is reflected in the controlled Serbian press. There is no mention of the Serbs leaving Kosovo, but the popular papers are starting to drop hints.


[ image: No economic help for Serbia while Milosevic in charge]
No economic help for Serbia while Milosevic in charge
A photograph of tractors on the road, or the Serb Orthodox bishop in Kosovo forced to flee his seat.

The Serbian church has called for the president's resignation. That too has gone unreported.

Instead Mr Milosevic has been on TV every day this week, trying to spin retreat into victory. Hardly seen for weeks, he is suddenly omni-present, celebrating army day, congratulating his forces on emerging almost intact from a clash with far superior forces.

But it is not his generals he must convince. It is the public he must win round . The opposition want elections under international supervision before the memories fade.

Vuk Obradovic, former army general, president of Social democratic party, say the opposition parties are asking for general and extraordinary elections in Serbia, and at the Federal level, at the latest in October or November.

If the government is not prepared to do it, then the opposition will. "If others aren't prepared to do it, we will do it alone."

Retreating Serb forces have been received as heroes, but beneath the happiness of the safe return, there is an edge of anxiety.

Whether it is the thousand or so casualties which Serbia admits, or the 10,000 Nato estimates, a lot of soldiers have not come home.

It is the first time Serbs have been able to weigh President Milosevic's policies against results , and ask if they are worth it.



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