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          The minister and the ministry that have been appearing in media and in public most often in the last few months certainly are Boris Tadić and Defence Ministry. Among the factors that influenced this situation were recent tragic events but definitely those were also energetic moves taken by Tadić so far, in refer to the reform of the Serbian and Montenegrin Army, Ministry and the General Staff. Many local and foreign observers agree that more have been done for the last couple of months than in the previous two years and a half. In spite of the obvious progress, numerous critical remarks are well founded - the principle of the legislative powers is almost completely lost, the reform has begun although the national defence strategy had not been adopted... Still, there is no doubt the political situation in the country will have decisive influence on the reform of the army and the whole security system.

          Political situation in the country depends, in a great deal, on the issue of power distribution within the Democratic Party (DS) itself. Many people believe the best result of the turbulence in DS would be the victory of Prime Minister Zoran Živković and Defence Minister Boris Tadić (both deputy presidents of the Democratic Party). At the same time, they are both believed to be the politicians who are in not in shady dealings and who are not, at least up to now, connected with any affair - so, the politicians of the kind which is, unfortunately, more and more difficult to find. Taking part in political life in Serbia for a long time, both Prime Minister Živković, as the former chief of federal police, and Tadić, as the present defence minister, do know very well which enemies they face - particularly after the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjić: those are powerful interest groups, not very well-known in public, which have strong and deep connections within the present Security Intelligence Agency (BIA) and Military Security Service; those are mighty clans close to the previous regime  which managed to "survive" and link with new authorities. The last affair, referring to the alleged Filip Cepter‘s involvement in the assassination of the former Defence Minister Pavle Bulatović, which came from the UN High Representative’s Office in Bosnia, then the summer affair referring to Nemanja Kolesar and Zoran Janjušević, and even the spring affair referring to the controversial chief of Serbian government Press Bureau - Vladimir Beba Popović and the Prime Minister’s hesitation to dismiss them show that Živković is very well aware of what kind of people he is dealing with. If Živković and/or Tadić won, it would probably stabilise the course of Serbian boat and therefore accelerate and fasten the changes that are bringing us closer to Europe. This scenario would further mean easier and faster foreign investments, bringing industry and production to life which would further bring more money for citizens and the budget and therefore for the army, too. Furthermore, Montenegro would probably drop the pressure for separation, which would otherwise take us the step away from the European integrations. In addition, it would strengthen Serbian negotiating side in the facing dialogue on Kosovo. In refer to political situation, this would make the Democratic Party a much more attractive choice for voters and the partners in possible pre/post-election coalitions. The consequences could also be some serious personnel cleansing in some other parties which originally belonged to DOS (which would include the Democratic Party of Serbia) but the opposition parties also. All of these would influence the army and reforms in it, which have already been started. Along with the faster economic recovery, it would be easier to carry out the painful and expensive process of army forces reform, it would be easier to convert military industry and to reduce the number of officers which would find jobs in civil sector more easily. This would make modernisation easier and improve the technical equipment of the army. In addition, national defence strategy would be carried out more easily, which would greatly contribute to founding main reform direction and diminish the resistance to the changes.

          The rumours that presidential elections would be scheduled by the end of September could accelerate the party outcome both in DS and in Serbia. At the same time, they could make already complex political equilibration even more complicated. If the elections were held - due to a political decision or by the force of the law, it would not be surprising if the Democratic Party would like to have its own party candidate, after so many years since during the previous elections it supported Vojislav Koštunica in 2000 and Miroljub Labus in 2002. Already, many people "bet" the DS candidate could be Boris Tadić, who enjoys great trust and affinity of the voters, according to the last surveys. If he enters the presidential elections, the position of defence minister will be left empty which may slow down and even jeopardize the changes started within the army. Namely, this can be a signal for those forces in the army, which are against the reforms, and to the mighty interest groups closely, although informally, connected with the army to start the obstruction. The lack or slowing down the process of the armed forces reform would, in turn, influence the society in general because, whether we like it or not, certain standards should be reached in the whole security sector in order to obtain serious foreign investments. While political and security instability make favourable circumstances for "dirty" money, legal money needs stable and secure environment: political and security stability, legislative adherence to principles and predictability and economic fair play in the market competition. Unfortunately, we are still on the stage where political circumstances decisively influence economic and security parts of the state, as well as all the other ones.

          Let us, therefore, get back to political speculations and possible outcomes. The changes within DS and possible strengthening of "Živković - Tadić positions" would bring better political atmosphere and therefore better chances for more radical army reform. Under such circumstances, Tadić’s run for the president and his possible victory may result in additional acceleration of the army reforms since the job he had started would get additional legitimatisation during the elections. However, here we come to the question who would succeed him in his ministry and continue the started process in such a quick pace. The second important dilemma is based on the fact that the mandate of the president elected on possible elections would be very short since the constitutional commission has been working for some time and the new constitution is announced to be finished by the Visitation. Adoption of the new constitution would be logically followed by new elections at all levels, including presidential ones. If he won, Boris Tadić would be the president just for several months - too little time for any significant political activities and too much time to be lost, considering the army crying out for as fast reforms as possible. Possible Tadić’s defeat would, on the other side, have a serious consequence in diminishing his minister’s legitimacy and, what is even more dangerous, the drop of enthusiasm and support for reforms in the society and in the Serbian and Montenegrin Army itself. So the question is - is there any point in spending the voters’ affinity in the pre-constitutional presidential campaign if it is known that the president will remain on this position for the time as short as it is for a winner in the sport competition.

          The worst scenario would be if Tadić were the DS’s candidate while the relations within the party had not been clarified in advance. Such a candidacy could have the result as follows - without the strengthened legitimacy in the party, his chances in the elections are diminished, the started reforms are slowed down, he loses the elections but also his position in the party, the reform of the army and, therefore, of almost whole security sector is not carried out or is being postponed for some other time and the story about joining Europe remains a fairy tale. Therefore, one should very carefully consider the advices for Boris Tadić to start presidential campaign from the position he is taking now even if the relations in his party have not been clarified yet. This is exactly what may be a scenario for status quo.

          The destiny of the army is, therefore, in the hands of democratically chosen politicians, which is the first step on the long way of genuine democratic civil control of the armed forces. During previous years, an expression "hot political autumn" has become one of the favourite, this autumn may bring some fresh air after hot weather and hot political atmosphere we have had this summer.

        • Tags: army, Serbia, Defense Ministry, Law, Tadić, reform, Defence minister
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