Nationalist allies give Milosevic's coalition a rare defeat

Vesna Peric Zimonjic

1 July 2000

Belgrade - A revolt by Serb ultranationalist MPs in the Yugoslav parliament yesterday prevented the adoption of new "anti-terrorism" laws which would have given the government sweeping powers to clamp down on opposition groups.

The proposals were hastily withdrawn, with the official explanation that "further discussions and consultations" were needed, after Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, announced his MPs would not vote for it.

Without the support of the ultranationalists, the law stood no chance of passing through both chambers of the federal parliament. President Slobodan Milosevic's government clearly wanted to avoid the risk of defeat, accustomed as it is to the parliament rubber-stamping its legislative programme.

Mr Seselj's Radicals are a key part of the ruling coalition in Yugoslavia which includes Mr Milosevic's Socialists and the JUL party, led by his wife, Mirjana Markovic.

This is the first time in years that an important law has been dropped from the parliamentary programme. The federal government had pushed the importance of the new measures for months, making it a key topic in all official media.

But the anti-terrorism laws had been viewed as a threat to opposition parties and the popular students' movement Otpor (Resistance) as the text was said to be deliberately vague and open to wide interpretation.

Analysts believe that Mr Seselj was against the law because it could target both him and his party. Many view his antagonistic position as the first sign of a rift in the governing coalition.

Rumours have been circulating in Belgrade for some time that President Milosevic would like to get rid of the neo-fascist Mr Seselj. Such a move would pave the way for a more moderate party, most likely the Serbian Renewal Movement led by Vuk Draskovic, to enter the federal government.

Original article