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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 14:28 GMT
Obituary: Zoran Djindjic
By Gabriel Partos
BBC South-East Europe analyst

The Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, has died at the age of 50, after he was shot by an assassin outside the government building in Belgrade. Djindjic, a long-standing opposition leader, took over as head of government after the authoritarian President, Slobodan Milosevic, fell from power two-and-a-half years ago.

During the long Milosevic era of the 1990s, Djindjic was one of the most prominent opponents of the ruling regime.

He survived an assassination attempt last month
Djindjic was one of the main leaders of the mass demonstrations against Milosevic
Already a dissident in his student days in the mid-1970s, he left for Germany to complete his education and escape harassment.

After his return to Belgrade, Djindjic was among the founding members of the centrist Democratic Party in 1989 - one of the main anti-Milosevic parties. A master tactician and an effective communicator, he soon took over as its leader.

Djinjdic came to international prominence at the end of 1996, when he was one of three opposition leaders who inspired and co-ordinated nearly three months of mass street demonstrations against the attempts of the Milosevic administration to annul the victories of the Zajedno (Together) bloc in municipal elections across Serbia.

The demonstrations - unprecedented in length and intensity in recent European history - brought victory. Djindjic's prize was to become mayor of Belgrade in 1997.

Street protests

But his victory was short-lived. Within months his political ally, the conservative Vuk Draskovic, turned against him, and Djindjic was out of office.

During the Kosovo conflict, when Nato carried out a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Djindjic took refuge in Montenegro after reports that he was high on the list of opponents the Milosevic regime was planning to target for assassination.

Born in Bosnia on 1 August, 1952, the son of a Yugoslav Army officer
Expelled from school in Belgrade for protesting law that made Tito president for life
Tried to set up a non-communist student movement in 1974
1996-1997: a main leader of demonstrations against Milosevic's regime
Key figure in the opposition which toppled Milosevic in October 2000
In Montenegro, Djindjic established a close relationship with the Montengrin President Milo Djukanovic, who had by then turned against President Milosevic.

After Belgrade's defeat at Nato's hands Djindjic launched a fresh campaign of street protests in the summer of 1999 - this time with the objective of forcing early elections in Serbia.

But the campaign, which did not unite all main sections of the Serbian opposition, failed to take off. Mr Milosevic seemed entrenched in office - until he called early elections for the Yugoslav presidency for September 2000.

Djindjic - never the most popular of Serb politicians - stayed in the background directing the ultimately successful campaign of his fellow-opposition leader, Vojislav Kostunica, in the race against Mr Milosevic.


Mr Kostunica gained the largely honorary post of Yugoslav president, while Djindjic then took over at the centre of power - as prime minister of Serbia.

For much of the past two years, there has been a power struggle between Mr Kostunica and Djindjic. Mr Kostunica enjoyed popularity, while Djindjic has been the beneficiary of the grudging respect, even of his own party supporters who have appreciated his energy, businesslike approach and determination to push through reforms.

Milosevic's regime fell in October 2000
Djindjic handed Mr Milosevic to The Hague Tribunal in 2001
By contrast, he has been widely criticised for being arrogant and for getting involved in a whole range of potentially shady backroom deals to consolidate his power.

Yet Djindjic achieved notable successes. He assembled a very competent, technocratic team which has set Serbia onto the road of economic reform. He has used his links with President Djukanovic of Montenegro to establish a loosely-knit union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Even if it does not last long, the union has averted potential instability that might have followed Montenegro's decision to go for independence.

And Mr Djindjic had the courage to transfer Mr Milosevic to The Hague Tribunal in 2001 - in the face of opposition from many Serb political forces, including President Kostunica.

That action, like others, was an example of Djindjic's pragmatism. He knew the reward for sending Mr Milosevic to The Hague was further international financial assistance.

The power struggle with Mr Kostunica finally went Djindjic's way with the replacement of Yugoslavia by the union of Serbia and Montenegro over the past month. This left Mr Kostunica without a job.

But Djindjic was not able to enjoy the fruits of his undisputed power for more than a few weeks.

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