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Party Chief Calls For Replacement Of One-Third Of Central Committee

October 19, 1988

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Communist Party chief Stipe Suvar proposed today that one-third of the party’s powerful Central Committee be replaced over the next six weeks, the state news agency Tanjug reported.

He also asked for a secret vote of confidence in members of the ruling party Politburo by the Central Committee.

Four Politburo members whose resignations had already been announced were relieved of their seats on that body today. They are two former party heads, Bosko Krunic and Milanko Renovica; Kolj Siroka, an ethnic Albanian leader from Kosovo; and Franc Setinc, a Communist leader from liberal northern Slovenia.

Suvar made the proposals after two days of bitter debate among the nation’s leaders at a special conference called to deal with the nation’s worst economic and ethnic crisis since World War II.

The Central Committee shake-up would be the largest single sweep through the ruling elite since 1948, when Stalinists were purged after Josip Broz Tito broke with Moscow.

″No purge is involved,″ Suvar stressed, accordig to Tanjug.

He said the replacements should be carried out by secret ballot, with several candidates for each seat.

He said a list of candidates would be prepared over the next month and voting would then start. The Central Committee should have 165 members, but currently has 162 because of the death of one member and the resignation of two others.

Suvar also named Azem Vlasi, an influential ethnic Albanian leader from the autonomous province of Kosovo, and Svetislav Dolasevic, a Slav from the same province, as Central Committee members whose continued membership would have to be decided. He did not say when.

Vlasi’s ouster has been demanded by hundreds of thousands of Serbs rallying in recent weeks to press for more Serbian control over Kosovo, an ancient Serbian heartland now dominated by an ethnic Albanian majority.

Ten members of the 23-man presidium, or ruling party Politburo, including Suvar, face the vote of confidence by the Central Committee.

″We are doing this out of responsibility to the Central Committee, the party membership and the broader public,″ Suvar said.

The vote does not include the four presidium members whose resignations were accepted.

Nine members of the presidium who hold their seats as party chiefs of Yugoslavia’s six republics, two autonomous provinces and the armed forces are exempt from the confidence vote.

They include Slobodan Milosevic, the party leader of Yugoslavia’s largest republic of Serbia.

The call for the massive personnel change and the vote came amid signs of dissatisfaction with the pace of the meeting.

A state newspaper said today that 200,000 Serbs may abandon a troubled province en masse this week unless progress was made at the meeting.

Early editions of the official Yugoslav daily Borba said many of the 200,000 Serbs in the Kosovo province were dissatisfied with the ″fruitless and marathon discussions″ at the party’s Central Committee session and were planning a rally for Thursday.

During the rally, to be held in a suburb of the provincial capital of Pristina, Kosovo Serbs are to decide whether to leave the area and head to Serbia, a republic to the north, Borba said.

Serbian activists want Serbia to have more control over Kosovo and Vojvodina, two autonomous provinces which are part of it but not fully subject to its control.

Serbs allege harassment by the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo.

Yugoslavia consists of six republics and two autonomous provinces. Serbia is the largest republic.

The decentralized system of government and collective federal presidency were devised in former President Josip Broz Tito’s 1974 constitution to prevent one republic from gaining sway, but has resulted in an ineffective government by compromise.

The ethnic clashes in Kosovo have led to broader, more widespread public protests over Yugoslavia’s teetering economy.

Non-Serb leaders fear Milosevic is using the rallies and his campaign for more Serbian control over Vojvodina and Kosovo to increase his own power and that of the Serbs, Yugoslavia’s largest ethnic group.

His drive has brought him into open conflict with Suvar and with Milan Kucan, the head of the Communist party in the liberal northern republic of Slovenia. The three are Yugoslavia’s most important leaders.

Meanwhile, a judge in Titograd, the capital of the southern republic of Montenegro, sentenced a 23-year-old man to 60 days in jail for denouncing state leaders at an anti-government protest, the official Tanjug news agency reported Tuesday.

The man, identified as Vukman Cejovic, was shown on national television at the time declaring that Yugoslavia ″is run by Fascists.″

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