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Conference Delegates Say Party Bungling Is Undermining Trust

May 31, 1988

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A final statement saying the Communist Party can fix the chaotic economy ended a three three-day conference Tuesday during which delegates castigated party leaders and demanded their removal.

Many delegates took the floor to accuse the leadership of bungling. Some said the failure to solve severe economic problems is destroying public trust in the party.

″Young people are reluctant to join the Communist Party because they have no confidence in our organization,″ Metka Tekavcic, a Slovenian delegate, declared during debate.

Fewer than 10 percent of Yugoslavia’s 23 million people belong to the party and the number has been declining rapidly. In the opening speech of the conference Sunday, party chief Bosko Krunic rejected calls for a multiparty system.

Yugoslavia has a foreign debt of $21 billion, Europe’s highest annual inflation at 170 percent and an unemployment rate of 15 percent. Economic problems have caused increasing social and labor unrest.

The 38-page final conference document was not made public immediately, but informants said it did not hold out the prospect of a special party congress to replace the leadership, as many delegates demanded.

Tanjug, the official news agency, said the document declared: ″The party is capable of seeking and finding a way out of the political and economic crisis.″

According to Tanjug, the document ″directs competent institutions and organs to complete the reform of the economic system, based on strong orientation toward market economy, by the end of the year.″

On Monday and Tuesday speakers said party leaders had not implemented reforms recommended in resolutions of the 1986 party congress and should be replaced if economic problems continue.

Congresses are held every four years and have broad powers to change Communist Party rules and personnel, but the conferences held between them are largely advisory.

Boro Avramovic of Serbia, the largest of Yugoslavia’s six republics, declared Tuesday: ″The party needs a general overhaul, and that process has to start with the Presidium (Politburo) of the Central Committee.″

Many delegates have criticized Krunic, the party chief, and his predecessor Milanko Renovica by name for not pursing reforms recommended by the 1986 congress.

″It is unlikely that those people who have led us into this crisis will be able to bring us out of it,″ said Rade Milicevic of Serbia.

Luka Miletic of Zagreb, said Yugoslavs ″increasingly insist″ the entire Communist leadership be replaced since it had not fired officials who impeded radical reform.

The government announced new austerity measures Saturday that party leaders acknowledged would be unpopular and cause more hardship. Krunic said in his speech Sunday that ″social upheavals are certain and may be grave.″

Included in the new plan are substantial price increases, wage cuts and currency devaluation. One result is likely to be lowering the standard of living, which already has declined by one-third since 1980.

On Monday, many delegates said a special party congress should be held by the end of the year to replace the party leadership.

″Unless we carry through a complete social reform by next autumn, it will be necessary to call a special party congress,″ said Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian party chief.

Several delegates said Tuesday, however, that they opposed a special congress and preferred immediate action by the Central Committee.

Vilma Mancek of Slovenia, the most industrially developed republic, said a congress ″would be a waste of time and money.″

″Those who demand a special congress should have the courage to propose the replacement of the party Presidium, since the Central Committee has the power to recall members of the Presidium″ without holding a special congress, she said.

Party officials have said the situation is not critical enough to warrant a special congress.

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