of proclaiming a first-round victory, or even claiming to
be ahead, Milosevic and his neo-Communist allies have thrown
out all their previous tallies which invariably showed
Milosevic with a big lead and
announced that Kostunica did indeed come out ahead, but
not enough to claim a first-round victory. According to an
announcement on the state-run RTS television network, Kostunica
won 48.2%, Milosevic garnered 40.2 percent, and the rest went
to minor party also-rans This is alleged to be a "preliminary"
tally, based on results from 10,153 of 10,500 polling stations:
the entire Federal Election Commission, including representatives
of the opposition, will meet on Wednesday, when the final
tally will be announced. These "official" numbers, whatever
they turn out to be, are sure to be wildly at variance not
only with the count conducted by the Opposition, but even
contradicting the tallies announced by the once pro-government
Serbian Radical Party, and Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal
Party. The reaction from some in the Opposition was immediate
and unequivocal, even before the state-run Tanjug "News" Agency
released the election commission's figures. In this morning's
New York Times [26 September 2000], Zarko Korac, leader
of the small and slavishly
pro-NATO Social Democratic Union, and a member of the
Serbian parliament, declared:
the Socialists declare victory or say we go to a second round,
and it goes against the voting data we gather, we must defend
our vote. Why should we accept his offer for a second round,
if it's illegal? Our problems are in a way beginning. We have
to get him to concede his defeat."
IS OUR STRONGEST WEAPON"
why provoke an armed confrontation when victory is within
the Opposition's grasp? Unless Kostunica steps in, and reins
in his supporters, the united Opposition is headed for disaster
and the near certainty of US military intervention.
To his great credit, Kostunica seems to understand this: "The
numbers speak for us," he says. "We will fight in democratic
ways. The truth is our strongest weapon. We don't want to
provoke internal tensions and foreign intervention." Already
the US and Great Britain have announced with
great fanfare the beginning of a concerted campaign of
"international pressure" to make old Slobo cry "uncle!" But
the real leaders of the opposition, Serbian patriots such
as former military Chief of Staff Momcilo Perisic, must take
the Zoracs of the movement by the scruff of the neck and subject
them to a little party discipline: it was Gen. Perisic who
remarked, on hearing of defense secretary William Cohen's
and UK warlord Robin Cook's sabre-rattling, that he wished
some "loony" Western leaders would shut up and let the Serbs
settle their own political problem.
"DEMOCRACY" IN ACTION
one outside of the "observers" invited in from China, North
Korea, Tadjikistan, and the British Socialist Workers Party
believes that this election was conducted under any but the
most onerous conditions. Hundreds of Opposition activists
were arrested and brutalized, radio stations sympathetic to
Kostunica's candidacy were shut down, the offices of independent
organizations were invaded, and even Kostunica was attacked
by a mob of pro-government thugs while out on the stump. Now
the election officials, all answerable to Milosevic, are manipulating
the results. Is anybody surprised? What is surprising, however,
is that the Opposition not only managed to unite behind a
single candidate, but also managed to achieve such a turnout
for Kostunica that the numbers couldn't be cooked even quasi-convincingly.
And here's where it gets interesting. . . .
news of the catastrophe spread throughout the ruling party
three-way split developed over the question of how to
respond. The hard-liners, affiliated with the nutball neo-communists
of the Yugoslav Left (JUL), led by Mirjana
Markovic that's Mrs. Milosevic wanted
to declare victory in the first round and be done with it.
But the resentment against the JUL, which has been taking
over the traditional prerogatives of the ruling Socialist
Party (SPS) as a result of Markovic's all-pervasive influence,
finally found its voice: according to the newsletter VIP,
senior SPS official Nikola Sainovic "advocates a second round
which would give them time to consolidate and try to find
a way for Milosevic to win." A "small number" of Milosevic
supporters, according to this report, argued for conceding
defeat: after all, they accurately noted, the SPS-Left coalition
would still control the federal legislature, thanks to the
boycott of the election by Montenegrin President Milos Djukanovic.
The scoop is that Sainovic was assigned the task of telling
Slobo the bad news and was thrown out of the cabinet
for his trouble.
it appears, has won, at least for the moment, against the
ultra-left loonies in Mrs. Milosevic's inner circle
and provided the Opposition with a lever by which to decisively
split the ruling party and hand them a decisive defeat. For
the reality is that, in the end, it is the loyalty, not of
the nation, but of the police and the army that Milosevic
is counting on. While that cannot
be taken for granted under the present circumstances,
not by any means, Milosevic would still command the allegiance
of some 30,000 "special police" forces, recruited from jails
and sent to Bosnia and Kosovo to fight: they could arrive
in Belgrade in a matter of hours and crush any incipient rebellion.
This could likely provoke the Western intervention that Kostunica
rightly fears and opposes. But he would, in effect,
be powerless to stop it. Instead of taking advantage of the
split in the ranks of the government, the Opposition would
itself split, Kostunica would be sidelined, and the country
would descend into civil war, followed by a shooting war with
NATO in which Kostunica and his supporters would be caught
in the middle.
accepting the terms of the election as set down by Milosevic
by saying, in effect, okay so you cheated us, and you're
playing for time, but your time is up on October 8th
the Opposition would be calling his bluff. They would
also be sealing Slobo's fate. For if it was a landslide in
the first round, then the proportions of Kostunica's victory
in the second round are bound to be even more decisive. In
appearing to adhere to the forms of democracy, in at least
conceding the necessity for a second round, Milosevic's government
has managed to salvage at least the shreds of legitimacy,
albeit only among its active and self-interested supporters.
A second and even more crushing defeat in the October 8 run-offs
would deal the ruling coalition a death blow and isolate
the hard-liners. De-legitimizing Milosevic not only in the
eyes of university students and urban activists but in the
view of many of his own demoralized followers in rural areas
and in the Yugoslav Army, would be the death knell of the
is Milosevic counting on? That wily old fox, backed into a
corner, is holding out for the prospect of US/NATO military
intervention. October 8th isn't that far away,
but a lot can happen in two weeks, and old Slobo is counting
on his friends in Washington, London, Berlin, and Paris to
come to his rescue. When Robin Cook pointed out that NATO
has the military capability in the region to retaliate if
Milosevic should resort to force, this only confirmed the
rightness of Sainovic's survival strategy.
symbiotic relationship between Milosevic and the NATO-crats
has never been clearer. Milosevic and his Socialist-Left coalition,
who couldn't hope to tarnish the impeccable sheen of Kostunica's
reputation as a man of high principle and patriotism, instead
chose to run against NATO. In turn, at this crucial moment,
the NATO-crats are beating the war drums a sound that
is music to Slobo's ears. What better excuse to cancel the
election than the threat of war? It wouldn't be hard to provoke
a confrontation in Montenegro, whose
shady President a former Milosevic crony
has been angling for secession under NATO's auspices: Yugoslav
troops are already face-to-face with Montengrin police, and
the pressure from certain circles (both in Montenegro and
abroad) for a formal declaration of independence has been
building for many months. A recent edition of Antiwar.com
carried a story reporting that Albanians in the breakaway
province of Kosovo were rooting
for Milosevic, although how many actually voted for him
is impossible to say. It couldn't have been more than 50,000,
according to UN accounts of the voter turnout. In any case,
the KLA is quite clear about pursuing its own territorial
interests, and that involves the breakup of what remains of
Yugoslavia a far less likely prospect under Kostunica.
Without the villain Milosevic in Belgrade, the Montenegrin
separatists have a hard case to make for "independence," either
historically or economically. Without the unlovable Milosevic,
whose villainy is virtually cartoonish, the whole campaign
against Serbia loses its rationale: for here is a leader who
represents more than just the aspirations of the Serbian people.
. . .
MOVEMENT FOR SOVEREIGNTY
the tenor of his recent remarks, Kostunica, should he succeed,
will fast become a rising force in European politics, part
of a generalized rebellion against the rule of the acronyms
and in favor of national sovereignty. In his first
major comments since his stunning upset, Kostunica took
on not only Milosevic but also NATO, the EU, the OSCE, and
the endlessly proliferating organizations that have subverted
the idea of national sovereignty. Yugoslavia, he declared,
will never become "anybody's protectorate." Furthermore, he
upbraided former European communist countries that went unnamed
who, he said, had applied for membership in supra-national
organizations "without caring much for their independence,
their own freedom in relations with the outside world."
was an unmistakable reference to the European Union, which
had just recommended the lifting of sanctions against Yugoslavia.
Now here is a dangerous man. As Danes go to the polls to make
a decision on the euro, and the specter of a continental tax
revolt threatens the Social Democratic governments of Europe,
these words have resonance. If, by some miracle, Kostunica
prevails, how long before he's declared a hateful nationalist
and treated like Joerg Haider?
CULT OF SLOBO
understands the strange symbiosis of NATO and Slobo. He blames
the "Western powers, primarily the U.S. policy of sanctions
against Serbia" that "enabled Milosevic's authoritarian regime
to stay on. It has thrived on isolation. The West, primarily
Washington, effectively created a cult of Slobodan Milosevic.
The international community, the United States, saw only Slobodan
Milosevic in Serbia.'' And that's all they want to
see in Serbia, all the better to carry out their plans for
the breakup of the Yugoslav remnant and the military occupation
of the Balkans. The cult of Slobodan Milosevic is not confined,
it seems, to the far-left fringes of the Western left: he
has his share of devotees at NATO headquarters. . . .
SOMEBODY TAPE HIS MOUTH SHUT?
Robin Cook alluded to the circumstances under which NATO might
consider intervening in the election crisis, a Reuters dispatch
reporting that this caused "consternation"
among the NATO-crats underscored the meaning of his remarks:
"The Western powers, while doing what they can to encourage
a big turnout at the polls in hopes of seeing an overwhelming
vote for Milosevic's opponent Vojislav Kostunica, are only
too aware of how counterproductive it would be with Serbs
to interfere blatantly in their political process at such
a delicate stage." You bet they are aware of how counterproductive
their behavior is, yet no one has taped Robin Cook's mouth
shut. Perhaps we can get some British tax protesters to blockade
him, so he can't get anywhere near a microphone. Meanwhile,
Bill Cohen is grandstanding, while an armada
is on its way to the Adriatic could Slobo himself have
thought of a better way to keep his cult a going concern?
benefits from the squeezing of Kostunica between two combatants
ready for war? Milosevic, for one: he gets to declare martial
law in the name of a national emergency, cancel the elections,
arrest his political opponents, and complete Yugoslavia's
transition to neo-communism, in which Serbia would become
the equivalent of North Korea (before the thaw with Seoul).
The NATO-crats would also benefit: they would have their villain
back, in full form, and, what's more, they would have the
pretext they've been looking for to complete the conquest
of the Balkans. This tragic outcome will be hard to avoid
if the Opposition provokes a violent confrontation with the
authorities. Nobody believes that Yugoslavia measures up to
even the less exacting standards of what is "democratic,"
and to pretend otherwise is indulging in wishful thinking
when the occasion calls for hardheaded realism. Demonstrations
in the streets by university students out on a lark can accomplish
nothing but provocations: the real break in the regime will
come when the Opposition wins over key elements of the Army
and the national security apparatus a possibility that
could be only a matter of weeks. . . .
VIRTUE OF PATIENCE
answer to questions as to what means of protest he will lead
against Milosevic's electoral fakery, Kostunica replied: "We
will defend our victory by peaceful means ... we will protest
for as long as it takes,'' he said. "If I had the patience
to struggle for years against communism ... I certainly won't
become impatient now.'' I hope and pray not.
For impatience, at this crucial juncture, would be fatal,
not only to his own cause, the struggle for Serbian dignity
and independence, but to the cause of those in the West who
oppose US intervention in the Balkans and around the world.
DOESN'T LOOK GOOD . . .
we prepare this edition of Antiwar.com, the news that Kostunica
has reacted "angrily" to the prospect of a second round, and
rejected it out of hand, is puzzling. What, exactly, does
this mean will he have his name taken off the ballot?
Will he urge his followers to boycott an election that he
is sure to win? Surely this would be the ultimate absurdity.
Yet, in Serbia, things are not always what they seem: in any
case, the election commission has yet to make its final pronouncement.
Whatever the significance of Kostunica's initial reaction,
it does not portend well for the future, for it is hard to
imagine what road the Opposition can take other than to press
on to victory on October 8th. The alternative is unthinkable.