Contract with the People

What the democratic opposition of Serbia has to offer its citizens

Biserka Matic

TUE, 29 AUG 2000

Belgrade/Podgorica, August 23, 2000 - Democratic Opposition of Serbia guarantees what for at least half a century nobody has ever done - a platform for better and democratic Serbia. What after a possible victory in the elections, the new assembly will do on the very first day and the new government in the first hundred days and the first year.

There was neither a rally, nor a rock concert, but the Republic Square in Belgrade was thronged with people on that tropical night, on Transfiguration Day. Foreign and local independent media reported that people queued in silence, patiently and in a civilised manned, for several hours, in order to sign their names in support of Vojislav Kostunica. As if they had succumbed to the intoxicating effect of optimism which has quite unexpectedly in the midst of unprecedented August heat struck Serbia until just recently flooded by black premonitions and disbelief in the possibility of a change, for the first time foreign reporters concluded that it was all over with apathy. While regime controlled media were completely silent about it and pretended that they had neither seen nor heard anyone in that square on August 19, foreign reporters reported that Serbia pulled itself together, awakened, that light had appeared, that there was hope...

The hope in the possibility of changes in Serbia, primarily among the apathetic and distressed population was aroused by a rather small booklet on the total of sixteen pages on which G-17 Plus summarised a platform on everything that should be done in a year, until the next elections, in order to make Serbia a democratic and economically revived country. The opposition (without Serb Revival Movement) has united and it finally has a platform. It is nowadays a reading matter which by the interest of the citizens it has aroused it surpasses even the expectations of its authors. It is the reading matter which indicates a possibility of normal life in a sick country like Serbia.

At the beginning of the election campaign the regime is offering oil and sugar, and Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) democracy and revival - what for at least half a century nobody has ever offered the citizens of Serbia. To the entire public it took on the obligation that it will first abolish all privileges of the officials, put an end to the stepmotherly attitude of the regime towards the people and profoundly change the current unsuccessful state policy. In order to prevent this being understood as nothing but "lightly promised speed" or a cheap election trick, creators of the platform wrote in the introductory sentence that they will start with the radical changes from themselves. "With this document which we are signing with full responsibility, we take the obligation that we will restore confidence of the citizens in the state, uproot corruption in the administration and public institutions and start jointly all-inclusive reform aimed at reclaiming of an equal place for Serbia in the community of European states”.

Victory in the elections on 25 September is marked as only the first step towards the main goal - democratisation and economic revival of Serbia. This is the contract with the citizens which Socialist Party of Serbia swooped down on as soon as it was mentioned. After they had exhausted the whole supply of promises from its well, from fast railway, Swedish standard of living, oil fields, to promises such as "we shall not kneel" and "no foreign boot shall ever tread on our land" when heavy military boots of KFOR soldiers were already marching all over Kosovo, the Leftists have nothing else to offer before these elections but oil and sugar and reconstruction of the country. As the credulous were convinced after queueing at 40 degrees Centigrade, nothing came out of this much too modest promise of the ambitious and increasingly aggressive regime. There are simply no essential foodstuffs in Serbia.

The other promise of the regime summarised in the slogan "peace, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity" was received by majority of the population as sheer mockery. In thirteen years of its rule of Serbia, the regime has crushed both the state and the people, and at least four times destroyed the peace with war and the rest from this latest slogan was either jeopardised or utterly questioned. To make matters even worse, the Socialists themselves are aware of that. When they organised a poll in Belgrade in the second half of August and asked three thousand people who they would vote for, they found out that hardly anyone had been attracted by their slogan. On the contrary, 60 per cent of the pollees declared themselves in favour of DOS, and just 25 per cent in favour of the Socialists! The panic because of the declined rating the Left was stricken by is even greater because it is aware that there is even less time than money to lure the citizens with something more attractive.

Unlike them, DOS has offered a specific platform with explicitly listed obligations: for the first day, for the first hundred days, for the first year. Having taken the elections as signing of a contract with the voters, candidates for assembly deputies of the opposition consider the victory to be an assumed obligation to pass ten documents on the very first day of the first session of the newly-elected assembly of Yugoslavia which are essential for re-establishment of confidence of the people in the state and its agencies. At the top of the list is the declaration on urgent preparations of a new constitution "for the purpose of elimination of the existing constitutional chaos" (produced by Slobodan Milosevic with the sixth-of-July amendments which are equal to a coup). Apart from decentralisation of the state and recognition of autonomy of Voivodina and Kosovo it is literally stated in this item that the new regime, "in formulating the law and pursuing policy be governed by the principle that the citizens are allowed to do everything that is not explicitly banned by law, and the regime and the state are banned to do anything that is not explicitly prescribed by law". In view of the just the opposite practice in Milosevic's state, reminding of this notorious principle that every normal regime sticks to was inevitable.

Passing of a resolution with which the current economic and political blockade of Montenegro will be abolished and the highest state agencies obliged to immediately begin talks with legitimately elected leadership of that Republic on the nature and jurisdiction of the future state union of Serbia and Montenegro is marked as the second task of the first assembly session.

The third job concerns Kosovo and imposing an obligation on UN Security Council to consistently implement Resolution 1244, and the fourth refers to reduction of the number of ministries by one third, reduction of the number of the posts of deputy prime ministers in the government to three at the most, and assembly committees and commissions by one third.

With the fifth item the deputies undertook the obligation, if they won, to pass the law which would ban accumulation of posts. It is stated that “members of the government shall explicitly be forbidden to control economic organisations”. And there is another thing that should be good for re-instill confidence of the people in the state: all members of the government will be banned to “use government means of transportation, equipment and accompanying state services except for carrying out their official duties”. The seventh task of the first session is linked to the resolution which obliges the new government to enable access for relevant assembly committees within the first hundred days to all secret police files about the citizens formed without their knowledge…

With a special resolution which will also be passed on that day all members of the government and deputies will be obliged to make public a detailed list of their own property and that of their families on the day they assume their duties and on the day their term in office expires.

With a special resolution the assembly of Serbia will be required to immediately abolish implementation of all laws that inflict great damage to Serbia and its citizens, and this means that the laws on information and university will cease to be in force and the previous laws will be put back into force, that the law on “confiscation of uncultivated land from the peasants” will be abolished, and implementation of the law on privatisation would be interrupted. On that day the tax for leaving the country will also be abolished. That is how the citizens will be able to make a distinction between the old and the new administration from the very beginning.

The assembly will establish an independent commission of experts which will re-examine and make public all relevant documents and audio-visual records the current regime has kept secret which refer to pursuing internal and foreign policy of Serbia and Yugoslavia in the period between 1987 and 2000. The content of all talks and negotiations of high state officials who, as stated, had predetermined the destiny of the nation during these years will also be examined and made public.

All major system laws will be passed in the first hundred days. Within the first hundred days of its term in office the new democratic government, as noted in the Platform “For Better Serbia” will be bound to present to the assembly drafts of system laws each of which must be in complete compliance with the legislature of the European Union now in force. Local legal experts and economists will elaborate these draft laws together with OSCE experts and those from other competent international organisations. In order to enable immediate reform of the monetary system and the beginning of the change of the fiscal system a whole package of reformist economic laws will also be drafted.

Special importance is attached to passing of a law for prevention of corruption, since Yugoslavia is the most corrupted country in Europe. It is stated in the Platform that it will introduce draconian punishments for all forms of abuse and embezzlement of state-, socially- and privately-owned money and property. All actions aimed at making profit and benefiting from performing a public duty will also be specially sanctioned.

New laws on the army and the police will redefine their roles, their political abuse will be prevented and their use as a means of repression and limiting constitutional freedoms and rights of the citizens. All forms of paramilitary and parapolice forces will be prevented and severely punished.

DOS is promising that after an election victory it will profoundly reorganise the army, in order to make it professional, modern and develop a new military doctrine. On the other hand they promise the army, as a specially important issue, a stable financial position and sources of financing. In this Platform the police is presented as a highly specialised state service members of which will be trained to prevent crime, efficiently discover perpetrators of criminal acts and protect personal and property safety of the citizens. Parliamentary control of its work will be introduced, but especially of the work of state security service.

Judges will be nominated and relieved of duty by a high judicial council. The law on courts and judges will be just the opposite of everything that is happening to the courts and judges at this moment. Amendments of the Constitution will enable a new system of nomination and election of judges. Candidates for judges and presidents of courts will be nominated by the high judicial council two thirds of which will be judges of the courts of the highest instance and prominent professors of law, and one third will be representatives of the assembly.

A new criminal law and law on criminal proceedings will abolish every possibility of introduction a verbal delict which is nowadays abundantly used by the regime in protecting its power from the people.

When speaking of the new law on public information, DOS promises that it will be founded on international standards on freedom of the press, ban of all forms of censorship and rights of the citizens to state their opinions and convictions in public, publicly criticise the work of state agencies and officials. Regular courts will deal with possible violations and abuses of the freedom of the press which contrary to the Constitution disturb the privacy, dignity, honour and reputation of the citizens.

Since the Law on University is in the jurisdiction of the Assembly of Serbia, the federal assembly will demand with a special resolution that it pass a new law which will give the university back its full autonomy, independence in the choice of teaching staff and administration, adoption of teaching plans and curriculae and management of financial means.

While the Radicals of Vojislav Seselj who were the first to launch a campaign, are offering as the main election promise, along with a “the Serb who is a patriot” or the Serb by profession, “the Serb with a soul” which is intended to be a synonym for their presidential candidate Tomislav Nikolic, and who claim that they support Slobodan Milosevic only because “the Americans hate him”, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia guarantees that the new government will in the first year of its rule enable Yugoslavia and Serbia to resume their position in all international institutions.

The new government will also have the obligation to stabilise money. Two possibilities are proposed in this respect: either a new convertible currency will be issued or a two-currency monetary system will be introduced, that is, payment operations in German marks will be legalised. There is also another Sisyphean task in this sphere: re-establishment of the destroyed confidence in the financial system, banks and savings.

The election platform of the opposition of Serbia proposes profound changes which are appropriate for a destroyed and devastated country. If it wins the elections, it will have to carry it out. Should it get around it, because it is fighting for change of power, it will lose power in the elections that will follow. But even this fact in Serbia where for thirteen long years this was impossible is a completely novelty.

The elections in Serbia are completely uncertain, and the candidates, regardless of the disposition of the public, are in an unequal position. The current regime is fighting for survival, if it does not win the elections, it will either end up in the Hague or somewhere similar, and it is already obvious that it will not readily yield power regardless of election results. The opposition, on the other hand, quite discreditted by ten years of lack of success, judging by all public opinion polls, is regaining confidence of the citizens. In presentday Serbia that does not mean much.

Original article