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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK

Profile: Vuk Draskovic

Vuk Draskovic: At times sounded more nationalist than Milosevic

Vuk Draskovic is back in opposition, following his dismissal as deputy prime minister.

His criticisms of his country's handling of the Kosovo crisis made it hard for him to continue in a government he joined only a few months ago. It also placed him on a collision course with Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Kosovo: Special Report
The former novelist and journalist rose to prominence in the 1980s with his espousal of the Serbian nationalist cause - both in his fiction and later in his political career.

He became one of the founders of the political opposition when President Slobodan Milosevic allowed multi-party politics in 1990, and for much of the 1990s was seen as the most prominent opposition figure in Serbia.

But success continued to elude Mr Draskovic. He led his conservative Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) through a dozen or so defeats at Serbian and federal Yugoslav elections.

And as an individual, he did no better than his party. He repeatedly challenged Mr Milosevic or his associates in the presidential race in Serbia - and was heavily defeated on each occasion.

Outsmarted by Milosevic

Apart from lacking the publicity and resources of President Milosevic's ruling Socialists, Mr Draskovic's string of defeats was due also to poor tactics.

[ image: Vuk Draskovic: At times sounded more nationalist than Milosevic]
Vuk Draskovic: At times sounded more nationalist than Milosevic
At times he sounded more nationalist than the Serbian strongman, at other times less so.

On each occasion, he got the timing wrong and was outsmarted by Mr Milosevic.

When Mr Draskovic tried street protests in 1993, he and his wife, Danica, were beaten up by the police and then jailed for assaulting police officers.

Political shift

Yet in spite of his bitter experiences at the hands of Mr Milosevic's regime, Mr Draskovic began to move closer to the government following his electoral defeats at the end of 1997.

This political shift came after the disintegration of the mainstream opposition coalition - partly because Mr Draskovic insisted he should be, yet again, the opposition's presidential candidate.

Initially, Mr Draskovic's attempts to be included in the coalition were rebuffed. Last year President Milosevic picked the ultra-nationalist Radical Party to join the Serbian Government.

But Mr Draskovic's time finally came when he and his SPO party were invited to join the Yugoslav federal government in January.

'Marriage of convenience'

Mr Draskovic showed no hesitation in taking up the offer to work within a governing establishment dominated by ex-communists, neo-communists and ultra-nationalists.

Neither did he hesitate serving under President Milosevic - notwithstanding the fact that after the Bosnian war he said he would gladly send Mr Milosevic to stand trial before The Hague Tribunal for war crimes.

Mr Draskovic explained his volte-face by the need for national unity and by his willingness to use his influence within government to work for better relations with the rest of the world.

That role was put the test after the bombs began to fall on Belgrade. His fluency in English ensured that he became the main spokesmen for the Serb viewpoint on the BBC and CNN.

But when the messenger began to criticise President Milosevic himself, urging him to be more honest with the Serbian people, Vuk Draskovic's fate was sealed.

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