Yugoslav Leadership Shows Clear Sign of Crumbling : Federal crisis: But citizens still show up at schools and factories amid the turmoil.
This nation’s leadership crisis took a turn for the absurd Monday when a member of the embattled federal presidency refused to accept Serbia’s refusal to recognize its authority.
Yet in a clear sign that presidential authority has crumbled, the same official disclosed that the ruling body that is supposed to command Yugoslavia’s armed forces had not heard from the Communist-controlled high command for three days.
Yugoslavs continued to show up at their schools and factories despite the army leadership’s angry warning Friday that it might take unilateral action after failing to get presidential permission for a state of emergency.
Last week, Serbian Communist Borisav Jovic resigned from the presidency in protest, warning that the multinational federation was on the brink of civil war and that only martial law could preserve Yugoslav unity. Then two other Serbian delegates on the eight-man collective presidency resigned in protest over their colleagues’ rejection of martial law.
On Monday, the mainly Communist Serbian Parliament voted 207 to 9 to sack Riza Sapunxiu, the delegate from the once-autonomous province of Kosovo. This left the presidency without a legal quorum.
Macedonia’s presidential delegate, Vasil Tupurkovski, said Serbia had no right to fire Sapunxiu.
“Our constitution does not provide for a situation where we have a vacuum in the presidency and where the presidency is blocked,” he told a news conference.
Tupurkovski said the federal presidency would ignore the Serbian vote, which provided the constitutional justification for Serbia to ignore the presidency by depriving it of a quorum.
The firing of the Kosovo delegate was widely seen as retaliation, because Sapunxiu had refused to side with the Serbs on the presidency in their push for imposition of martial law.
Serbia’s Communist strongman, President Slobodan Milosevic, had said Saturday that his republic would no longer respect decisions of the presidency and called Serbian police and paramilitary troops into a state of alert to guard against an alleged threat from ethnic Albanians and neighboring Croats.
Milosevic’s actions have raised concern that the army might intervene, and Tupurkovski’s statement that the army has failed to make contact with the leadership throughout this escalating crisis intensified that concern.
But Tupurkovski insisted that he is not fearful of an impending military coup.
Tupurkovski said he and the presidential representatives from Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Hercegovina outvoted the three Serbian delegates’ demand for a state of emergency because they believed that conditions in Yugoslavia did not warrant it.
He contended that Serbia’s action was illegal under the 1974 Communist-drafted constitution.
The remaining members of the presidency have called an urgent meeting for Thursday and appealed to the leaders of all republics to take part for the sake of the federation.
Vladimir Stambuk, a top official of the Socialist Party of Serbia, as the Communists now call themselves, said it was under consideration whether Milosevic would attend the crisis meeting but made clear that their republic still considers the presidency illegitimate.
Croatia and Slovenia, the most Westernized republics, had been pushing for a thorough restructuring of the Yugoslav alliance to reduce the financial burden of supporting a massive federal government. They especially opposed spending two-thirds of the federal budget on the military, whose officer corps is 70% Serbian and devoutly loyal to the Communist system that has bestowed them with privilege.
When Serbia refused to agree to any relaxation of central rule, the two northern republics began the process of secession.