Two Serb opposition parties quit daily protests

By Beti Bilandzic

NOVI SAD, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Two major opposition parties in Serbia's northern Vojvodina province on Friday decided to withdraw from daily street protests against President Slobodan Milosevic, saying they were getting nowhere.

"Energy is being exhausted without any plans this way and people do not want to hear the same stories every day," Mile Isakov, the leader of the Reform Democratic Party of Vojvodina, said by telephone.

Nenad Canak, of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV), said his party and the Reform Democratic Party would stop taking part in the organisation of daily gatherings in Vojvodina after a big rally planned in Novi Sad on Saturday.

The two parties play a major role in the opposition in the province, which makes up a quarter of Serbia.

Canak said, without elaborating, that the opposition should should seek other ways: "The point is not to hold rallies but to participate in the toppling of Milosevic's regime."


The decision adds to pressure for a review of tactics by opposition leaders from Serbia, who have seen attendance at the countrywide demonstrations dwindle rapidly since they were launched on September 21.

Opposition leaders would not comment on the move, but party sources indicated they might switch from daily protests to weekly ones, stressing that no decision had been made.

Up to 10,000 people turned out in the central Serbian town of Cacak on Friday to listen to the main Serbian opposition leaders, including former Yugoslav National Bank governor Dragoslav Avramovic.

Avramovic has been proposed by the opposition umbrella grouping Alliance for Change to head an interim government if the current leaders step down -- a distant prospect so far.

"They should leave immediately," Avramovic told a cheering crowd.

Cacak was the first Serbian town to host an opposition rally on July 3, less than a month after NATO's 11-week-long air raids against Yugoslavia for its repression of the ethnic Albanian majority in the southern province of Kosovo.

The protests were aimed at capitalising at discontent with Milosevic over the air strikes and years of ethnic conflict, economic decline and international isolation. But they failed to gather steam.

Their initiators, however, remained upbeat.

"Four months ago we began in Cacak with protests which will end in the victory of a democratic Serbia," Vladan Batic, the Alliance's coordinator, said.

Isakov said everyone but the Alliance's biggest member, the Democratic Party, understood that rallies as a form of protest were exhausted.

A local Democratic Party official said the party would continue with daily marches and gatherings until its main board decided otherwise.

The Alliance has previously said it would stick to daily rallies, arguing that perseverance would topple Milosevic.

So far, a big opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, led by the unpredictable Vuk Draskovic, once called the "King of the Squares" for his appeal to demonstrators, has failed to join the street protests.

He says they risk igniting a civil war and that only elections can bring democracy.