In Belgrade, a new hand at the helm of the government

16/04/2012

Assuming the post of acting president until the May 6th elections, Parliament Speaker Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic said she is ready for the responsibility.

By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 16/04/12

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Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic became acting president when Boris Tadic resigned to run for another term. [Reuters]

When Serbian President Boris Tadic resigned on April 5th, Parliament Speaker Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic took the reins as acting president. Although her stint will be brief -- as elections are scheduled for May 6th -- it is long enough for Serbia to start considering what it is like to have a woman at the helm.

According to the constitution, as acting president, top Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) official Djukic-Dejanovic will also be the supreme commander of the army and will carry out all diplomatic duties related to foreign policy.

After taking on the duty of acting president, Djukic-Dejanovic said she was ready for the task, and will do her job conscientiously and in accordance with the law.

"As a state official, I have co-operated with other state institutions. I will carry out the presidential duty by relying on the decisions of the parliament and cabinet," Djukic-Dejanovic told the Belgrade media.

However, she has expressed hope that she will not be called on to make "delicate decisions" about the escalating tensions in Kosovo due to the upcoming vote.

"Clearly, diplomacy is the wisest solution, but we also have a constitutional obligation to protect our people should some situation require it. However, we will always go for dialogue and political compromise," Djukic-Dejanovic told B92.

She is the second woman to be acting president of Serbia since Slobodan Milosevic's removal in 1997. Former Parliamentary Speaker Natasa Micic took control in December 2002 for more than a year when two elections failed to draw a clear mandate.

Djukic-Dejanovic's colleagues have nothing but praise for her.

"I think she has done a great deal as parliament speaker for the breakthrough of women in Serbian politics. With her decency and restraint, she has demonstrated how top state duties are performed," Djukic-Dejanovic's closest associate, parliament secretary Veljko Odalovic, told SETimes.

Natalija Micunovic, head of the government's Gender Equality Directorate, said that Djukic-Dejanovic's taking over the presidential post is less important than the fact that she has been running parliament.

"Much has been done in the breakthrough of women in Serbian politics, as proven, among other things, by the fact that [some] parties [may enter] female candidates for prime minister. That would allow for women to demonstrate their skill and prove themselves as officials of executive power, where they're currently in the background," Micunovic told SETimes.

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So far, only the Serbian Radical Party has announced a woman candidate for president in the May elections. Wife of the radical leader Vojislav Seselj -- Jadranka Seselj -- will enter the race.

As for the acting president, she is backing SPS leader Ivica Dacic.

"Voters have had enough of both Nikolic, who always comes in second, and Tadic, who has been here for a decade," she said.

"I expect to see frank voting in the presidential election. Unless there is too great an influence exerted on the public, and unless the atmosphere of a referendum is created, I think that Dacic is the person whom Serbia needs the most."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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