Departure of Biljana Plavsic?

Branko Peric

MON, 15 MAY 2000

Banja Luka, May 11 - Yet another party disaster is in sight on the political scene of the Republic of Srpska (RS). Biljana Plavsic, leader of the Serbian National Party (SNS) and second favourite person of the international community (after Prime Minister Milorad Dodik), has submitted her resignation from party functions and left the session of the party's Main Board.

Brief newspaper reports led to the conclusion that Plavsic was dissatisfied with the confidence the Main Board has voted to Jova Mitrovic, party Vice-President, whom Executive Committee has called to account for his actions.

The schism in SNS was announced at the time of the publication of the results of local elections at which SNS was heavily defeated. The party managed to secure less then 10 percent of the electorate and will have only one or two municipal delegates to the Parliament.

The electoral defeat of Plavsic's party raised the issue of party's reputation and authority since its members hold the most responsible posts in state authorities and sit on management bodies of a large number of state enterprises (Telekom, Serbian Forests). Five key Ministries in the RS Government are controlled by Plavsic's closest party associates (finance, internal affairs, industry, judiciary and agriculture), as well as some important control authorities (financial and forest inspection and public revenues services).

According to sources close to this party's leadership, the question of the responsibility of party officials, was most decisively raised by Jovo Mitrovic, the party Vice-President. Mitrovic did not agree with the general policy the party pursued as a coalition partner in the "Accord" being of the opinion that SNS had fallen under the influence of Prime Minister Dodik and his party's policy. "SNS must not tie itself to either SP RS, SNSD or any other party so as not to finally lose all it has been building since 1997" said Mitrovic. Undoubtedly, Mitrovic had every right to take such a radical stand since he was the main candidate on the party's electoral list in Zvornik, where he won 20 percent of votes, in contrast to his party colleague and Minister Novak Kondic who managed to secure only 2 delegate mandates in Banja Luka.

The internal disintegration and schism within SNS which will most probably ensue, very much resembles the recent schism among Socialists. Both these situations have one thing in common. The Socialists have fallen apart at the seams because of their policy within the coalition "Accord" and the relations between the party and Prime Minister Dodik. The conflict within SNS ranks was caused by the same problem. A group of SNS party officials, led by Mitrovic, though that Dodik and his Social Democrats have overshadowed SNS which has, thus, lost its characteristic political colouring. In their opinion, the unreserved political support to the Prime Minister and his Government's policy compromised the basic political platform of the party which scored its initial political success by declaring war on organised crime and corruption.

The political collapse of party structures reveals two major omissions in their construction: undeveloped inter-party relations and undefined relations within the coalition "Accord". Behind both these consequences is the fact that two years ago, when they came to power, members of the "Accord" coalition were quite unprepared and assumed it in a way which was not the result of their actual political strength and without developed party structure. Joining the Government these parties have swallowed themselves, while only individuals linked to the authorities, which were controlled by Prime Minister Dodik's Government, remained on the surface.

The shock within SNA could easily deal a deadly blow to the rest of the "Accord" coalition and seriously undermine Prime Minister Dodik. Judging by the deployment of forces in the Main Board, the majority of SNS deputies to the National Assembly will side with Mitrovic and turn their backs on the Prime Minister. Dodik might be easily left with only Ministers from SNS, just as it happened with the Socialists.

If things take this course, Dodik will be faced with not only losing parliamentary support, but also with charges of breaking up the "Accord" coalition and endangering the political stability of the Republic of Srpska by creating puppet parties from people from power structures. With such a mortgage, his Social Democrats would be taking a great risk by running at the fall parliamentary elections.

SNS and Socialist will have much trouble restoring the lost political glamour from the times of democratic take-over of power. Local elections were the test that showed that current authorities, which they have created, do not enjoy the trust of the electorate. The focus of the political power has been shifted to the opposition (SDS and Party of Democratic Progress). Therefore, the fate of Socialists and SNS should be a lesson to Dodik.

Irrespective of the outcome of the extraordinary RS Assembly session scheduled for early June, which should decide about resignation of its officials and resolve party problems, one thing is certain Biljana Plavsic is leaving politics. Recently, she announced this decision, obviously aware in which direction her party's ship was sailing.

Although cynics will say that this was a logical conclusion of a controversial political biography, credit should be given to Biljana Plavsic for courage and determination to break up with the policy of confrontation with the international community and to introduce democratic reforms in the Republic of Srpska. It would be unjust if the disintegration of the party she is heading, would cast a shadow on her political merits.

Original article