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B92 Focus, December 2002.


“Only the Democratic Party is stronger”

G17 Plus: Plotting the political course
| December 21, 2002.

"We're ready for elections. If they were called tomorrow, we'd be prepared."

Miroljub Labus: leading to a responsible political future
Miroljub Labus: leading to a responsible political future

The powerful economic lobby group, G17 Plus, ended months of speculation last week with the announcement that it has registered as a political party.

The group has had a strong influence on the financial policies of the post-revolutionary authorities in Belgrade, numbering among its leaders Deputy Federal Prime Minister Miroljub Labus and National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic.

It was also of strategic importance in the September, 2000, elections which toppled the Milosevic regime, running a strong campaign calling on voters to cast their ballot for change.

The new party announced on December 15 that Labus would be its president and Dinkic one of three vice-presidents, together with economists Predrag Markovic and Milan Pajevic.

The group says it was spurred to move into the political arena by dissatisfaction with the speed and course of reforms in Serbia and Yugoslavia.

Miroljub Labus says that although G17 Plus was already influential in affairs of state, it needs political support for the resumption of reforms and the integration of the country into the EU.

“The political parties are in dispute and are more concerned with their own interrelations than with the long-term interest of the state.  As in 2000, we want to offer people hope and a vision of where the country should be heading,” the new party leader told B92.

Vice-president of G17 Plus and National Bank governor Mladjan Dinkic, launching a new 5,000 dinar note
Vice-president of G17 Plus and National Bank governor Mladjan Dinkic, launching a new 5,000 dinar note

The party says it’s already planning for the next elections, but that it won’t make pre-election deals with anyone.

Dinkic says that the party would have no problem cooperating at a platform level with both the governing DOS coalition and Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia.

“We want to keep the same distance from both.  Speculations in the media and tabloids about conversations I am alleged to have are completely false,” he said adding that the party would not enter election coalitions because it didn’t want people hiding behind other people.

“We want everyone to take responsibility for what they do,” said Dinkic.

Miroljub Labus echoed Dinkic’s ideas on responsibility.

But unlike Dinkic, who expects to remain the governor of the central bank in the new state of Serbia and Montenegro, Labus doesn’t see himself in the new federal administration.

“No one is guaranteed a seat, no matter how capable they are,” he said.

The Djelic option
Health Minister Tomica Milosavljevic: unpleasant position
Health Minister Tomica Milosavljevic: unpleasant position

The move has drawn fire from a number of quarters, not least of them Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who had warned ten days earlier that he wouldn’t allow ministers appointed from outside of politics for expertise in their fields to become a political party in one step.

One of those experts, Health Minister Tomica Milosavljevic, defended his decision to join the party and be appointed a member of its presidency.

“For me, membership in G17 Plus is not ordinary membership,” he told B92. 

“To me it is a matter of being part of a movement, an idea, a three-year project.  If you were to say to me, okay, you belonged to it for three years and now you’re not a member any more, I would feel as if I were betraying myself,” he said.

Milosavljevic remarked that he nevertheless found herself in an unpleasant position because he had joined the party as someone who had never before been involved in party politics.

This meant, he said, that his political background would prescribe a certain restraint when speaking in public as a minister.

“We’ll see how it all turns out,” he added, resignedly.

Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic is one expert minister who has declined the G17 Plus political option.

He said at the beginning of December that he would not join the new party, despite having worked closely with the group.

“It’s a personal decision.  I think it’s fair for me to leave the government the way I entered it,” he told B92.

In any case, said Djelic, G17 Plus’ “purely liberal political platform” was not for him because he believed in “a higher cause and the ideals of social justice”.

“I think I have another option, it’s called the Djelic option,” he added.

Branch leaders beavering away
Out in the party’s branches, local representatives are planning their new activities as party members.

All say that, even as a lobby group, they had been exceptionally busy in their local areas.

Mirjana Zivanovic of the southern town of Pirot said that the branch had about thirty active members.

“I presume that the first task as a party will be to solve problems in the primary school, perhaps deal with road construction,” she said.

In Kikinda, in Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina, Vladimir Srdic says the party will concentrate on preparing for elections, whenever they may be.

He expects the party to attract four or five hundred local members.

Verica Barac from the central Serbian city of Cacak is wary of new local government conflicts with the party.

There could be problems, she said, because of certain questionable decisions by local authorities which “should be reviewed”.

Ready for elections
But whatever problems may be encountered on a local level, Mladjan Dinkic is buoyant about the big picture, saying that G17 Plus was not much behind other leading parties with a developed infrastructure.

“I think we are much stronger than they think.  We currently have about 110 branch offices,” he said, adding that only Zoran Djindjic’s Democratic Party was stronger. 

“You remember we had an adequate independent campaign in 2000.  Then during the recent presidential elections we carried Miroljub Labus’ campaign on our back.

“We’re ready for elections.  If they were called tomorrow we’d be prepared,” said Dinkic.

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