208. Top Yugoslav Expert Expects Milosevic to Go Peacefully

By
Stojan Cerovic

Giving an optimistic presentation, Stojan Cerovic expressed a feeling of certainty that Milosevic will soon relinquish power peacefully, although there may be a few tense moments along the way.

Milosevic has gradually been losing credibility over the past few years and these recent elections signify the beginning of the end for him. According to Cerovic, Milosevic's cronies will most likely turn their support towards the victorious presidential candidate of the democratic opposition, Vojislav Kostunica. Election results tallied by the opposition indicate an overwhelming 55% support for Kostunica. By contrast, election votes counted by the regime's Federal Election Commission gave Kostunica only 48% - short of the 50% +1 margin needed to forgo a second round. Cerovic believes that only by seizing the moment and defying the government's call for a second round of elections can the united opposition continue to exert additional pressure on Milosevic and further weaken his grip on power.

At this point, Cerovic sees no way out for Milosevic but to step down within the next few days or weeks. The possibility that he will use force exists, though it is believed that he will not do so - primarily because he may no longer have the support of the police or the military.

Cerovic strongly urges the West to not push Kostunica too hard immediately following expected ratification of his coalition's victory, particularly with respect to sending Milosevic to the Hague Tribunal. During his campaign, Kostunica pledged not to turn Milosevic over to the Hague Tribunal. In this, he reflects the mood of most of the Serbian people who resent both the Hague Tribunal and the NATO intervention in Kosovo. Kostunica, himself, has strongly criticized Western intervention in the former Yugoslavia and to push this point would provoke another conflict and mark a terrible start to Serbia's new government. According to Cerovic, to force such an issue by external entities would only perpetuate the animosity felt by many Yugoslav citizens towards the West and possibly ruin the chance to finally mend relations.

Credit for the surprising turn of events in Serbia on September 24 rests with the opposition, in particular Zoran Djindjic who successfully united all 18 parties under one umbrella coalition, the student movement OTPOR, and the Yugoslav people. Opposition leader Djindjic's decision not to run for the presidency himself, but to back Kostunica - the leader of one of the smaller opposition parties - and work as his campaign manager was key in uniting the opposition behind one candidate. OTPOR endured brutal police treatment, including regular interrogations and beatings, to protest against the Milosevic regime. Overall, the Serbian people deserve all of the credit for their endurance and bravery.

Despite the recent influx of aid, Western assistance to the Serbian opposition or promises of lifting sanctions were not primary factors in the nation's electoral defeat of Milosevic. While the sanctions themselves did help develop anti-regime sentiments, the promise to remove the sanctions was secondary to the people's desire for democracy and justice.

The expected change of guard will also have a positive impact on Serbian-Montenegrin relations. The opposition has been more tolerant and sensitive to the Montenegrin demands for fair, if not equal, treatment in the federation. While Montenegro is now only symbolically part of Yugoslavia, there is much goodwill on both sides to debate a new arrangement. It is doubtful that the federation will continue to exist in its current state, as no fair formula exists which would allow Montenegro equal representation. However, both sides should now be able to find an "unorthodox" solution to this issue.

Focus on Kosovo will also diminish, as the Serbian people are expected to recognize the reality of the only possible peaceful solution - partition of the area with minimal protection for Serbian monasteries and cultural monuments.

Cerovic concluded by stating that he expects a serious change in US and European policy towards Yugoslavia to occur rather quickly. Sanctions will be lifted and relations normalized, perhaps even while Milosevic is still trying to survive in his current capacity. The people will not be denied this time. The majority of citizens have called for a change and under the newly elected leadership, the desire for peace, justice and democracy can be achieved.

Stojan Cerovic spoke at an EES Noon Discussion on September 27, 2000

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