Two members of the leadership of Yugoslavia’s ruling Communist Party announced their resignations Sunday as the party prepared to open a crucial meeting today.
Milanko Renovica of the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kolj Shiroka of the troubled autonomous province of Kosovo gave up their posts on the 23-member ruling Presidium. The resignations were widely anticipated as a damage-limitation measure on the part of a government under pressure from Slobodan Milosevic, the powerful Serbian party leader whose followers have been pressing for changes in the nation’s Communist system.
The 126-member Central Committee of the national party will meet today in the opening round of what could turn out to be a showdown with Milosevic. Critics contend he is seeking to assume the mantle of Yugoslavia’s towering postwar leader, Josip Broz Tito, who died in 1980.
Will Take Up Demands
The meeting, expected to last at least two days, will take up demands pressed by Milosevic and his followers for wholesale resignations in the party. They are also seeking control over the leadership of Kosovo and the country’s only other autonomous province, Vojvodina.
The Serbs, under Milosevic’s leadership, have mounted large demonstrations over the last three months to demand that the two autonomous provinces, detached from Serbian control by the 1974 Yugoslav constitution, be ceded back to Serbia.
The demonstrations, which brought the resignations of the entire government of Vojvodina, have jolted Yugoslavia’s Communist politicians, already under pressure because of their apparent inability to relieve the country’s deep economic crisis.
Other Leaders Worried
Although the demonstrations have not spread beyond Serbia--except for a brief outburst in Montenegro last weekend--political leaders in each of the nation’s five other republics are clearly worried that the unrest could spread, possibly toppling regional governments all over the country. Such an eventuality could strengthen the hand not only of Milosevic (pronounced mee-LOW-sheh-vitch) but also of Serbia.
Vasil Tupurkovski, a Central Committee member from Macedonia, told reporters Sunday that the party would likely seek resignations from the party Presidium, the Yugoslav version of the Soviet Politburo, in an effort to appease Milosevic with what amounts to ritual sacrifices.
“It would be difficult to persuade the entire government to resign based on pressure from only one part of Yugoslavia,” Tupurkovski said.
But he said about one-third of the Central Committee would be replaced in coming weeks. He said the committee needs “new men capable to cope with three reforms to be introduced” involving the political, economic and party systems, he said.
Tupurkovski acknowledged that the party was “one of the sources” of Yugoslavia’s problems and that many Communist officials were responsible for the “deteriorating economic and political situation.”
Yugoslavia’s Tanjug news agency issued a far more scathing view of the party’s shortcomings. In an editorial, it charged that the party leadership had pushed the country to the “brink of despair” and forced the people to line up for bread.
“It is the crushing fact that Yugoslavs today, 43 years after peace in Europe and on the threshold of the 21st Century, are lining up for black bread,” Tanjug said. “This cannot be justified by anything and cannot be endured any longer.”
Milosevic has charged that the crisis of the economy stems from the government’s mismanagement since the death of Tito. Under the Yugoslav system of annually rotating presidents, no single Yugoslav leader has emerged to fill the vacuum left by Tito.
Withdrawal from Economy
In addition to likely changes in the party’s Presidium, voluntary resignations are also expected from the Central Committee. Tupurkovski said the party is trying to demonstrate its gradual withdrawal from running the Yugoslav economy.
He said moves are under way to carry out “further democratization” within the 2-million-member party and to “separate the party from state power.”