"The refusal to accept that Slobodan Milosevic can be beaten in elections is a strange combination of Bolshevik-liberalistic tastes - " wrote Veran Matic, from Radio Free B92.
This is true. But it holds true also for the U.S. elections: the mainstream media is simply to cynical to believe in possibility of democratic change. As they did not believe that it is possible that Milosevic actually loses to the will of people in Serbia, they do not believe in a possibility that anybody else except Gore or Bush win the American elections. There are 239 presidential candidates in the U.S., yet the big TV networks will feature the TV debates of only 2 of them - the Republican and the Democrat, the representatives of the moneyed elite that rules the global economy, the only two "true" candidates that in the view of the media and pundits deserve the chance of winning the U.S. presidential elections. The corporate media do not believe in democracy - not in Serbia, not in the U.S. In Serbia, they perhaps hope for violence, since new round of NATO bombing would be beneficial for news ratings. (check here).
"Of course, the least of the problems in Serbia is the dictatorship and democracy paradigm. Until the international community truly dedicates itself to the rule of law everywhere and in all circumstances Serbia will doubt its good intentions. In the meantime, perhaps, Milosevic and his family will be granted "protected witness" status. Perhaps he will then have a chance to testify as to who "initiated him into the business"."
That's naughty! Maybe this file can help with the answer: those who initiated Slobo into the business...
About a year ago the Radio B2-92 site put up a question "What to do?". Hundreds of people from the whole of Serbia, along with those who have spread all over the world, tried to find an answer to this question. The discussions focused mainly on the lack of ability and the corruption of the opposition and the defective mentality, that is, "character", of the nation. The suggestions concentrated mainly on recommendations to "settle" the matter by violence.
A year later Serbia comes out of elections for the president of Yugoslavia, both houses of the Federal Parliament, the Provincial Assembly of Vojvodina and local government in Serbia under completely altered circumstances. The Democratic Opposition of Serbia, which integrated 18 parties, movements and unions, is on the way to coming out of these elections as the strongest single political coalition in Serbia. The most important thing, at the same time, is that the DOS candidate for the President of Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica, has a very convincing advantage over the other candidates. Most important of all, his direct opponent, is Slobodan Milosevic. The "spirit of freedom" has been released from the bottle.
In spite of the numerous forms of abuse and pressures imposed by the current government, especially at the polling places, the elections were peaceful and without any major incidents. It is a fact that the government had used to the maximum extent, in the pre-election period, even throughout the election silence, its monopoly on media, its great financial resource (increase and regularity of payment of pensions, supply of great quantities of sugar and oil at loss-making prices as just one example of the regime's ingenuity and resourcefulness). Nevertheless, no matter how undemocratic, unfair and dirty the regime's campaign against its only real opponent at these elections - the Democratic Opposition of Serbia - it proved entirely inefficient and, finally, counterproductive.
Is this a result of a sudden "eye-opening" of the average citizen of Serbia or is something else yet to be discovered. In the meantime it would be useful to try to understand why the regime, and Slobodan Milosevic personally, called elections, that is, why he actually curtailed his own term of office by more than half a year by changing the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Was this a matter of his hand being forced, a misjudgement or simply the loss of a sense of reality which is so common for charismatic and authoritative leaders? I think that we are dealing with all three elements. His hand was forced because the regime analysts and social engineers had assessed that Serbia would face a very difficult economic and social period in October 2000. The misjudgement is reflected in the regime's belief that the split and quarreling Serbian opposition would never integrate and become effective, and that there was no one who could actually jeopardize the sacrosanct power and persuasiveness of Slobodan Milosevic. Third: the loss of a sense of reality relates mostly to the role and abilities of the president's wife, Mira Markovic, and the completely erroneous presumption that she can successfully motivate and win over the electorate. Without doubt she is the only personality in Serbian political life who is equally unpopular with both the sympathizers of the Socialist Party of Serbia and the opposition. (After the disastrous results of the elections for the ruling coalition there are also rumors beginning about a "set-up" which led Slobodan Milosevic to call these elections. This is a totally fantastic assumption that does not take into consideration the inaccessibility of the circle around the President and the unique, proverbial fear of bad news on the part of his immediate milieu).
These circumstances can explain to the greatest extent the possible next steps and actions of the regime. Faced with a united opposition and a most serious rival who is very popular among the people, on one side, and the economic difficulties and hostile international surroundings, on the other side, Slobodan Milosevic has been placed in a situation where the only, and temporary, solution is an attempt to win time. This means that he will try to postpone as much as possible the declaration of the winner of the elections. On one side it is perfectly clear that by recognizing the defeat he has threatened his charisma among his own ranks - the army and the police primarily, and on the other side, he is not in a position to crudely annul the will of the population by trying to falsify and steal votes, as he did at the elections in 1996. He will avoid incidents on the street because they could produce completely uncontrollable effects of disintegration and panic in his own membership. By introducing an overt dictatorship he would inevitably lose legitimacy not only with his own nation but also with his important allies such as Russia, and would enable a NATO intervention, for example in Montenegro, in the first place, for the protection of this rebellious republic in an unequal federation.
The political conflicts with the Radicals, as well as marginalisation of the Serbian Renewal Movement on the federal and local levels, create room for overthrowing the Serbian government and the necessity of the immediate calling of Serbian Parliament elections. The Democratic Opposition of Serbia would have a great advantage in this case because carried on the wings of its triumph at the federal elections it could easily win power at the republic level.
Time and encapsulation of the problem are necessary conditions for Milosevic to survive politically the winter of the year 2000. If this time and inertia are given to him he will most probably engage in destroying the unique, but very different, Serbian opposition, and winning over one of its parts. However it is difficult to imagine that the Serbian opposition would enter any negotiations of deals with Milosevic before it actually ensures its victory. The admission made by Vuk Draskovic that he had made a political mistake in going independently isolates the regime of Slobodan Milosevic even further. -The position of Milo Djukanovic has also been rather shaken because the victory of the Serbian opposition has shown even more dramatically how short-sighted and senseless was his decision not to join a united front against Milosevic. The Democratic Opposition of Serbia can very soon become a much more important and popular alternative than Milo and Momir in Montenegro. The compromising of Milo Djukanovic and his government in the sphere of economy and privatization is very serious. If there were no Slobodan Milosevic threat, Milo Djukanovic would become an utterly marginal player in the great political game on the Balkans. Milo is deeply aware of this.
It is clear that Kostunica will win and Democratic Opposition of Serbia will help in preventing any violence in Montenegro.
It is a similar situation with the Kosovo Albanians. With a democratic Serbia and Montenegro for neighbors, as well as a firm position of the international community that no border changers are permitted, the Kosovo Albanians would have to separate their political and national from their state ambitions. The victory of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia will certainly facilitate democratization within the Albanian political body in Kosovo and will help the international community to become more effective in normalizing the situation in Kosovo.
The elections in Yugoslavia are a dramatic introduction to the deep political and social changes which, it seems, many of the participants in these changes are still not aware of. The acceleration that will now take place will culminate by the end of the year. Unless, of course, this is brought to a halt from a distance. It is still unclear whether the USA has a unique policy and position on this issue. Apart from reiterating publicly that they wish to see Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague it is not known whether the Americans truly desire democratic changes in Serbia. This is quite obviously reflected in articles and contributions in the American media which express much more doubt that any democratic changes have taken place in Serbia than belief that Slobodan Milosevic has lost in free elections.
The refusal to accept that Slobodan Milosevic can be beaten in elections is a strange combination of Bolshevik-liberalistic tastes - or the power is solely in the gun or the space of our freedom is limited solely to not jeopardizing the freedom of others. History written by historical analogy is not only the most usual and, in itself, cheapest analogy but also a metaphor of a spiritual perversion and frivolity.
There are obviously many of those in America who see the only solution as removing Milosevic physically. The entire "Milosevic case" would thereby gain a perfectly enlightening and obvious ending. It is well known how dictators are overthrown. Certainly not at elections. If they are eliminated by elections, this means that they had never been dictators or that the elections were not democratic.
Of course, the least of the problems in Serbia is the dictatorship and democracy paradigm. Until the international community truly dedicates itself to the rule of law everywhere and in all circumstances Serbia will doubt its good intentions. In the meantime, perhaps, Milosevic and his family will be granted "protected witness" status. Perhaps he will then have a chance to testify as to who "initiated him into the business".
Therefore the answer to the question "What next?" must have multiple meanings. "Next" is not just what comes "after Milosevic" but also what is going on in his time. There is no doubt that this time has been curtailed as well. It is certain that Serbia and Montenegro are faced with another couple of months of political struggle and several years of "integration with the world" through the development of a better, more humane and democratic society.