Will there be news this evening?

Serbian deputy premier Miroljub Labus is promising that it will be known by this evening what will happen with the four generals who have been charged by ICTY and whom the governments expects to "voluntarily surrender." However, nobody else seems to have the same information or to be willing to corroborate his statement. His discussion with journalists included this exchange:

Labus: The courts should act on [the issue of ICTY indictments].
B92: The court sent a warrant to the police.
Labus: Then the police has to carry out that warrant.
B92: But the minister of police says they will not.
Labus: That is now the question, do we have a state or do we not. That is what our discussion is about. The catalyst is the question of cooperation with the Hague tribunal, but the theme is whether we respect our own laws and whether our institutions exist as state institutions. That is a much more serious question than whether some general will give himself up or not.

The question remains open as to whether Labus's party G17+, which favors sending indictees to ICTY, would leave the governing coalition if its immobility were to continue. It is a high risk calculation for Labus, who is probably aware that if elections were to be called, his party could probably not hope to do as well as it did the last time around.

Update: It's evening, and looks like no news. Probably the "surprise" will be the surrender of Sreten Lukić sometime in the next week.


Anonymous said...

While I think Labus is shy of new elections, I don't think G17 losses are the reason.

G17 is unlikely to do better, but it probably won't do much worse either. Its base is pretty fixed: middle and upper class city folks, people with a college degree and a white-collar private-sector job, Europhiles, liberals. Unlike, say, the Socialists, they're not in danger of dropping below the 5% threshold. And for coalition-building purposes, it probably doesn't matter much whether they get 12% of the vote (as in 2003) or 10% or 8%. Vuk got just 2/3 as many votes as G17, but his party is just as powerful (or impotent) a member of the present government.

That said, there are other things for Labus to be worried about. Like every normal politician, he enjoys being in power. If he brings down the Kostunica government, then Kostunica -- who is notorious for his long memory -- is sure to hold a grudge. If an election is likely to strengthen the Radicals (which, at the moment, it might), he can't be happy about that.

Note that Labus would like to be Prime Minister himself some day. (At one point he was seen as trying to position himself as Djindjic's successor.) So a grand gesture that might backfire is not what he wants right now.

And all /that/ said, he still might pull the plug, if he calculates it won't do him too much damage. This government is probably approaching the point of limited returns from G17's point of view.

Watching with interest.

Doug M.

Eric Gordy said...

My guess about how G17 and SPS will do is just the opposite of yours, but no matter .... we are almost certain to find out before the year is over! I do enjoy a Serbian election campaign.