Monday April 24, 2000
Split opposition tests a monarch
Helena Smith in Athens
From the day he was born in Claridges hotel in war-time London, Crown
Prince Alexander has been raised as the quintessential English gentleman.
Alexander Karadjordjevic has rarely visited his homeland, and speaks
halting Serbo-Croat, but he is the man many hope will unite the forces
to eject Slobodan Milosevic, Europe's last "dictator king".
With the help of the internet the former British army captain has tried
to enhance his role as unifier of Yugoslavia's notoriously fractious opposition.
This weekend he held talks in Greece bringing together Serbian dissident
emigres, politicians, clerics, trade unions, youth activists and journalists.
The aim was to bridge the divisions that have helped keep Yugoslavia's
isolated opposition disunited and Mr Milosevic in power.
"Our quarrel is with the regime, not amongst ourselves," the exiled
crown prince said in an interview at the close of the Athens talks.
"And the issue in Serbia today is democracy, reconciliation and the
country's reintegration into Europe. My contribution is to gather people
from all areas who might not ordinarily meet. Here we have been able to
express views without the bad breath of the regime breathing on us."
Alexander - who lives and works within walking distance of Claridges
- said he hoped the various groups would re turn with renewed impetus to
unite against Mr Milosevic before the local elections.
"We are all very concerned that this dreadful man is firing up another
round of negative nationalism in Montenegro . . . that we could be headed
for another civil war. We must get rid of him," he said,
Polls show that only 25% of the Serbian population favours the restoration
of the monarchy. But opposition leaders said they hoped that dissidents
would accept the Athens declaration, proposing that Prince Alexander should
oversee a council of "wise men", in collaboration with the church, to arbiter
differences between them.
"The crown prince is a very reasonable man, he has shown that he stands
above politics by not taking sides. So why not get him to moderate in cases
that we, the opposition, cannot resolve?" said Zoran Djindjic, heads of
the Democratic party.
Alexander openly admits that he would like to follow in the footsteps
of his distant cousin King Juan Carlos I, who oversaw Spain's peaceful
transition to democracy.
"I don't want to ram the monarchy down their throats, to give them
food they don't like," he said with a smile.
"The biggest gift I can give the nation is democracy, to walk down
the streets and see people being happy. That's a real monarchy. That would