Viewing cable 08BELGRADE145

08BELGRADE1452008-02-06 17:42:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Belgrade

DE RUEHBW #0145/01 0371742
R 061742Z FEB 08
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1.  (SBU) The continuing political crisis in the Serbia has brought 
the government to a standstill.  Prime Minister Kostunica refuses to 
convene his Cabinet and the Speaker refuses to convene Parliament. 
The first casualty of the show-down between the members of the 
ruling coalition is the interim agreement for cooperation with 
Europe the signing of which the EU has had to postpone.  The second 
casualty may be the Prime Minister.  There seems little likelihood 
that Kostunica will recover from his self-inflicted -- even 
irrational -- blows and no one seems eager to join ranks with him in 
a new coalition.  His phoenix-like qualities, however, remain his 
main strength.  End Summary. 
Government Paralyzed 
¶2.  (U) The Government has delayed the signing of an interim 
cooperation agreement with the European Union, originally scheduled 
for February 7.  Prime Minister Kostunica refuses to convene a 
regular government session, thereby preventing the Cabinet from 
authorizing Deputy Prime Minister Djelic to sign the agreement.  On 
Febrary 5, the Prime Minister attempted to refer the matter to 
Parliament (ref A), where the SRS and DSS blocs would undoubtedly 
kill the agreement, but Parliament Speaker Dulic (DS) kicked it back 
to the Cabinet.  After consulting with the President early February 
6, Dulic commented on radio that common practice called for the 
Government to refer matters to Parliament with a recommendation. 
The Speaker said he would wait patiently for the Government to 
convene and follow this practice.  His adviser told poloff that the 
Speaker then promptly left town, with plans to return in time for 
the meeting of party whips that he called for Monday morning, 
February 11.  Echoing the Speaker's message and challenge in a radio 
broadcast later in the evening, President Tadic called on Kostunica 
to schedule a government session for Thursday, February 7. 
Parliament can not replace Government, Tadic said. 
The PM Stands Alone 
No One to the Rescue 
¶3.  (U) The morning of February 6, Radical Party (SRS) leader 
Tomisalv Nikolic dispelled rumors (circulating about town all night 
via SMS) of a deal to form a coalition with Kostunica's Democratic 
Party of Serbia.  In a statement on B92 television, Nikolic said he 
saw no sense in supporting those whose party strength is so 
uncertain and who chose not to accept his cooperation in the past. 
A Liberal Democratic Party contact summed up the increasingly common 
assessment of the week's events:  "Kostunica's ship is sinking." 
Radical Rebuff 
¶4.  (U) In his televised statement, Nikolic was equally dismissive 
of Prime Minister and President.  Referring to Tadic's election-day 
announcement that he would seek to meet with Nikolic soon, Nikolic 
rejected the gesture.  "We congratulated each other after the 
election, and that is the only contact we expect to have" for the 
time being, he said.  The government opposition is in good shape, he 
said and advised coalition partners to meet with one another, rather 
than with him.  Until the government crisis and Kosovo issues were 
resolved, Nikolic said he would not seek meetings with either 
Kostunica or Tadic.  A Tadic advisor taken aback by Nikolic's 
remarks said that the President had proposed the meeting to 
demonstrate respect for the two million voters who had supported his 
Radical Party opponent and to show that Tadic wanted to be President 
of all Serbians, despite their differences.  The advisor called 
Nikolic's comments "shameful." 
Constitutional Limbo 
¶6.  (U) In the absence of government authorization of the DPM, the 
Democratic Party was looking for an alternatve mechanism that would 
allow the EU agreement signing to go forward.  Presidential Foreign 
Policy Advisor Jovan Ratkovic said that until Tadic took the oath of 
office under the 2006 Constitution, he had questionable authority to 
act without government concurrence.  (Serbia's adoption of a new 
Constitution in 2006 required the Speaker of Parliament to call for 
presidential elections nearly 18 months before the end of Tadic's 
term of office.  His inauguration and swearing in under the 2006 
Constitution is currently set for February 15.) 
Fixing the Government 
¶7.  (SBU) Neither Tadic's advisor nor Kostunica's saw a possibility 
of the ruling coalition surviving much longer.  The situation was 
deteriorating daily, PM Advisor Miroslav Sestovic told poloff. 
Sestovic implied that the PM had overreacted to the proposed EU 
agreement, which he described as "just a statement of good will," 
but he saw no way to bring the sides back together.  "It would take 
a miracle," said President's Ratkovic. 
Kostunica's Mental Stability 
¶8.  (SBU) Growing buzz around Belgrade questions Kostunica's mental 
health.  After surviving political crisis after political crisis, 
his current grasp on reality appears shaky.  A number of 
high-ranking Serbian Government officials have said during the last 
24 hours that Kostunica was alternately unbalanced, unstable, 
irrational, and incapacitated.  There are rumors in recent months 
that Kostunica does not consult with his DSS advisors and mostly 
relies on the rabidly anti-American, shadowy Chief of Staff 
Aleksandar Nikitovic -- and Russians. 
Road Ahead 
¶9.  (SBU) All interlocutors with whom emboffs spoke today expect the 
government to fall.  With no apparent support for a minority 
government or DSS participation in a coalition, President Tadic 
would have to call parliamentary elections.  The earliest likely 
date would be in May, coinciding with scheduled local elections. 
¶10.  (SBU) The challenges to Tadic's authority and political agenda, 
days after his reelection, may have provided the President an 
opportunity, not only to stand up to Kostunica, but to get rid of 
him.  The PM and President have sparred for years, but their 
relationship kept each other in power.  For the past month, however, 
Tadic has repeatedly challenged the Prime Minister and emerged 
stronger for it.  Though his future looks bleak, Kostunica's ability 
to survive are extraordinary, perhaps his strongest quality.  End