209. An Analysis of the Yugoslav Elections and Its Implications

By
Robert M. Hayden and Eric Gordy

In their discussion, Robert Hayden and Eric Gordy identified the main reasons for the opposition's electoral victory in the September 24 presidential elections and elaborated on potential challenges facing the new regime once in power.

Several factors contributed to the opposition party's victory. Hayden and Gordy cited the: the decreasing amount of support for Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) party as well as a crisis of orientation within the party; the ongoing repression and open violence which exposed a sign of desperation within the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS); the influence of the student resistance movement OTPOR; and, the uncertainty of support for Milosevic by the military and the police. In addition, several potential divisions and defections within Milosevic's coalition further threaten to weaken the ruling regime's hold on power.

According to the speakers, the new coalition Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) faces numerous challenges if their candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, actually becomes President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). First and foremost, the opposition's only experience is as an opposition movement and its leaders have little, if any, experience in positions of power. Furthermore, in keeping with the Yugoslav constitution, the position of the President of the FRY is a weak one. Kostunica would face a powerful parliament supporting Milosevic's SPS and Milosevic himself as a potential Prime Minister.

The current position of the Yugoslav Federation closely parallels that of its neighbor Croatia, and it is expected that the FRY will experience similar difficulties if and when Milosevic is removed from power. A major problem is that the DOS coalition itself is a compromise of many groups and may fragment once it is no longer united against a common enemy - Milosevic. The challenge to deliver on economic problems is also a daunting task, as the nation faces severe shortages and a crumbling infrastructure which will be difficult to solve for several years.

A main problem identified by both speakers is the possible danger for the opposition in boycotting the second round of elections on October 8. Montenegro and Kosovo chose to boycott the elections altogether, which permitted Milosevic to manipulate the votes in both regions. Now, Kostunica faces a similar decision regarding a second round of presidential elections - participation would legitimize the fraudulent first round, while boycotting would hand the election back to Milosevic.

It is uncertain if or how Milosevic will relinquish his position as President of FRY. Hayden claims that there are currently three options available to him: 1) that Milosevic goes, 2) that Milosevic becomes Prime Minister of the FRY, or 3) that marshall law be invoked.

The best thing that the US can do to help the situation is to keep quiet and cease its public praise for Kostunica and his party. Open support is deadly to the DOS, as anti-western sentiment runs high in Yugoslavia, and only increases tension.

Robert Hayden and Eric Gordy spoke at an EES Noon Discussion on October 2, 2000

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