United States once again showed its contempt for elections
by orchestrating last weeks coup detat in Belgrade.
Had Washington been remotely interested in a democratic
change of power in Yugoslavia, it would have urged Vojislav
Kostunica to run in the second round of voting. For months
the Clinton administration had dismissed the upcoming elections
as meaningless, claiming without much evidence
that Slobodan Milosevic intended to "steal" them.
Overnight the U.S. line changed. It turned out that the
Sept. 24 vote was definitive, and that Vojislav Kostunica
had secured well over 50 percent of the vote. A runoff was
out of the question. It was "time for Milosevic to
go" as U.S. officials repeated robot-like.
U.S. media presented the Yugoslav opposition as conquering
heroes, trustees of a popular mandate. Few bothered to take
a closer look at the figures. Kostunicas supporters
claimed, first, that their man had won 55 percent of the
vote. What this estimate was based on remains a mystery.
Then the day after the vote it was that Kostunica had won
with 57 percent. Since then Kostunica has been forced daily
to revise his estimated vote downward. Last week, he was
down to 51.34 percent. And he only ekes out this number
if the votes of the Montenegrins and the Kosovo Serbs strongly
pro-Milosevic are discounted. Clearly then, Kostunicas
figures and those of the Yugoslav Electoral Commission (Kostunica
has 48.96 percent to Milosevics 38.62 percent) were
not that far apart.
the insistence of the U.S. government and the opposition
that there was to be no second round of voting was nothing
more than cancellation of democracy. The ploy was particularly
outrageous given that Milosevics coalition and
this is something no one denies had won majorities
in both chambers of the federal parliament. The government
coalition now has 74 out of 137 seats in the lower chamber;
and 26 out of 40 seats in the upper chamber.
events that led to the trashing of the parliament and the
seizure of power remain murky as I write this. What apparently
acted as the trigger was the news that the Yugoslav Constitutional
Court had ruled to annul the Sept. 24 vote. But the court
had made no such ruling. Last Wednesday the court heard
arguments from the Democratic opposition to have Kostunica
declared the outright winner. A ruling was promised within
72 hours. Reuters ran a story saying that the head of the
Yugoslav Constitutional Court, Milutin Srdic, had told the
Bulgarian office of Radio Free Europe that the presidential
election had to be held again after the end of Milosevics
term of office. Radio Free Europe, as everyone knows, is
a U.S. agency. Bulgarians at Radio Free Europe are presumably
not the first on the list of people who need to be told
of a Constitutional Court decision.
to the L.A. Times, the "court had decided to
annul part of the electoral procedures for the disputed
Sept. 24 presidential election. The statement did not specify
which portion of the election had been voided or what action,
if any, would be ordered." Yet Zoran Djindjic, Kostunicas
campaign manager and the most important figure in the Democratic
opposition, was in no time claiming, "According to
the information I have they annulled the first round."
However, the Reuters report added, "He did not say
where the information came from." Not surprisingly,
Madeleine Albright was soon denouncing the courts
decision as an effort to "thwart the will of the people."
The story of the courts ruling clearly was a piece
of disinformation to sow hatred of Milosevic.
violation of Yugoslavias electoral process was the
perfect culmination of a campaign that U.S. funds had disfigured
to the point of absurdity. In August the U.S. opened an
Office of Yugoslav Affairs in Budapest with a view to organizing
the oppositions campaign. Even The New York Times
has written about the "suitcases of cash" coming
in from Hungary. The U.S., with quasi-independent organizations
that work in tandem with it like George Soros Open
Society Institute, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars
to try to oust Milosevic. At least $77 million of U.S. taxpayer
money has poured into the bank accounts of the opposition
in the last year alone. The National Endowment for Democracy
(NED) channels money to Serb newspapers, tv and radio. Since
1999 the International Republican Institute, yet another
conduit for U.S. money, has been bankrolling student organizations.
The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) channels
money to economists in Yugoslavia. In the words of NED Program
Officer Paul McCarthy, CIPE along "with the G-17 group
of independent economists, is conducting a research program
to identify barriers to private sector development at the
local and federal levels and to promote economic reform
next finance minister of Yugoslavia is likely to be Mladjan
Dinkic, director of G-17 Plus (same as G-17). It was G-17
Plus that crafted the Democratic oppositions economics
program. In a recent interview, he stated that the opposition
had already drafted a letter of intent asking for Yugoslavias
readmission to the IMF and the World Bank. He speaks with
relish about free trade and privatization.
Serbs will not enjoy what the IMF has in mind for them.
They will like even less the plans of the U.S. government.
Giving up independence has a price a rather high one,
as the Serbs are about to find out.