The Tactics Behind Serb Opposition's Split

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Just whose side is Vuk Draskovic on? He’s the only opposition leader in Serbia with the charisma and support to oust Slobodan Milosevic with peaceful protest. Problem is, Draskovic doesn’t think it can be done. The bearded general-turned-politician turned Serbian lone wolf again Tuesday, pulling out of a major anti-Slobo rally set for Thursday in the heart of Belgrade. The rally’s mood and turnout was meant to serve as a closely watched barometer for the state of the Serbian opposition; without Draskovic, it promises to be less than inspiring. That will not trouble the lone wolf much; he’s lost his faith in the way it has taken shape. "I cannot accept many, many stupid ideas of irresponsible people," he snarled at a news conference. Civil disobedience on a far greater scale failed to unseat Milosevic in 1996-97, and with current efforts appearing to be equally ineffective, Draskovic –- who nonetheless urged his supporters to attend the rally in his absence –- is looking for a subtler way.

Some say too subtle. Draskovic, of course, has been in and out of Milosevic’s government, just as he has been in and out of the attempt to unseat him. Officials in the Alliance for Change, the party of Draskovic’s nemesis, Zoran Djindjic, whispered that Draskovic’s non-marching orders were coming straight from Slobo himself, in order to sap the rally’s significance. Certainly some of Draskovic’s stated reasons for withdrawing –- the rally was too late in the summer, it has a distasteful guest list –- sound petty for a true believer, which Draskovic hardly is. He is looking to deal with Milosevic about a transitional government and broad immunity for Milosevic’s inner circle –- or to engineer a palace coup. Not the telegenic idealism of a street rally, but historically much more effective. Spoilsport or not, Draskovic seems to want Milosevic out just as much as the opposition does –- just in different way. A way that could be very good for Vuk Draskovic.