BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- He is hailed as the consummate Balkan politician, a master of the Byzantine maneuver and supreme practitioner of power politics. But President Slobodan Milosevic's complete grip on Serbia apparently does not include his own home.
The problem is his wife, Mirjana, who last December agreed to write a column for the magazine Duga. Her first effort dealt with just-held elections that gave her husband a landslide victory and solidified support for his Bosnian policy.
Did she wax happy or content? Did she praise the wisdom of the electorate? No, she took a different focus. Some of the people elected to the Serbian legislature, she wrote, "should be sitting behind bars."
Mrs. Milosevic never hits her husband directly. However, his ruling party, his nationalist policies and political allies such as Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, all were subjected to scathing criticism.
"Two or three times I have heard or read statements by Radovan Karadzic which he is presenting to the world on behalf of the 12 million Serbs," she wrote.
"I do not know that he has received, at any time, the mandate of these 12 million people to represent them. I am one of these 12 million, but I certainly did not authorize him to speak in my name. He also does not speak in the name of my children."
The Milosevics, both 50, are described as a loving couple who became sweethearts while attending high school in the town of Pozarevac. They have a 26-year-old daughter, Marija, and an 18-year-old son, Marko, and live in the exclusive suburb of Dedinje.
Mrs. Milosevic is professor of sociology at Belgrade University. She comes from a well-known family of Communists that included several top officials in the Tito regime that ruled postwar Yugoslavia. Her mother was a Communist executed by the Nazis in 1943, when Mirjana Milosevic was a year old. Her family connections helped Mr. Milosevic in the early part of his political career.
In her columns, Mrs. Milosevic lashed out at her husband's Socialist [former Communist] Party, which has defended its war policy as a struggle for the very existence of the Serbian people. This, she said, has "imposed a false choice -- bare existence or no existence at all."
In another column, she came to the defense of journalists attacked by radical nationalists for their efforts to present a balanced picture.
Their "absence of nationalism," she wrote, represented the journalists' best side especially "at a time when the danger of nationalism -- extreme, violent and pathological -- hangs over our society and is the greatest danger it faces."
The attack on the journalists was an injustice, she said, "but this is not the only or occasional injustice. This is a season of extreme injustices."
Even though Duga has a small circulation, Mrs. Milosevic's outspoken criticism of the values her husband represents has become a topic of discussion.
It is not known if the controversial columns have produced domestic arguments in the Milosevic household.
Mrs. Milosevic's columns are well written and make telling points. One of her targets are former Communists who recently have found religion.
If her grandmother was alive, Mrs. Milosevic wrote, "she would have stopped going to church."