The World: Yugoslavia: Tito's Daring Experiment

THE moment was superbly stage-managed. Just as the chairman of Yugoslavia's Federal Assembly finished his announcement that Josip Broz Tito had been re-elected as the country's President for the sixth time, a side door was flung open. To a crescendo of applause, Tito himself stepped into the crowded marble-walled chamber. Deeply tanned, smiling broadly and dressed impeccably in a white tropical suit, he looked remarkably fit for a man of 79.

His re-election to a five-year term was a mere formality. Tito was appearing before the Assembly on a far more urgent and historic mission: to put into effect 20 amendments to the constitution that are aimed at a fundamental overhaul of Yugoslavia's political and economic life. He knows his time is short, and he fears that his system of participatory and highly innovative Communism may not survive him. Thus he is seeking to revamp the governmental framework so that the country's future will depend not so much on individuals as on stable institutions designed to prevent a power struggle for dictatorship or, equally undesirable, a return to a deadening centralized bureaucracy. Tito is also seeking to ease Yugoslavia's severe regional tensions, which could tear the country apart after his death—and give the Soviet Union an excuse to intervene.

The 23rd Man. Tito's new departures could have as profound an effect on the course of world Communism as his 1948 break with the Soviet-dominated Cominform and the subsequent economic innovations that have made the Yugoslav model the inspiration of East European reformers. The new measures included two main steps:

A COLLECTIVE PRESIDENCY. A 22-member collective leadership was installed in office last week as the highest executive agency in the country. Three members are chosen from each of Yugoslavia's six republics and two from each of the two autonomous provinces. The 23rd man, and the one who will run things as long as he is around, is Tito, who was named Chairman of the presidency. After he is gone, the chairmanship will rotate among the republics. In the event the Federal Assembly fails to agree on legislation, the collective presidency will have the power to rule by decree.

A STRONGER CABINET. In a departure from the usual Communist practice that relegates parliaments to the role of mere rubber stamps for party orders, the Yugoslav parliament and the new Cabinet will have considerable power to initiate and pursue policies independent of the party. Ministers will be required to answer questions in the Assembly, and the Cabinet will have the right to resign if the ministers feel that they cannot carry out their programs. The new Premier is Djemal Bijedic, 54, a Moslem who has been assembly president of the poor southern republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The 20 new constitutional amendments that the Cabinet and the collective presidency will put into operation will drastically alter the relationship between the central government in Belgrade and the republics and provinces. Since its creation in the wake of World War I, Yugoslavia has been an uneasy alliance of six republics with three official languages, three dominant religions and two alphabets. on Digg


For use in rail of Articles page or Section Fronts pages. Duplicate and change name as necesssary to distinguish.