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Friday, 14 April, 2000, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Milosevic opponents unite for demo
crowd
Serbian opposition is aiming to present a united front
By regional analyst Gabriel Partos

For the first time in eight months, Serbian opposition parties have held a joint demonstration against President Slobodan Milosevic.

The last time the main opposition parties came together on this way was in August 1999.

After Nato forced Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo last summer, President Milosevic's days in power seemed numbered.

Instead, he has survived in office and consolidated his hold on power. Much of his success is undoubtedly due to the lack of effective opposition.

Protests by one party, the Alliance for Change, fizzled out late last year partly because the other major force, the Serbian Renewal Movement, or SPO, refused to lend its support.

Professor Dragoslav Avramovic, of the Alliance for Change, points to the fractious nature of the Serbian opposition as being a major factor.

"There's a very large number of people who are involved, (and) too many small parties. Under those circumstances creating a common plan of action is not easy," he says.

Turf war

Another problem is the history of mutual competition amongst opponents.

SPO leader Vuk Draskovic and Alliance for Change leader Zoran Djindic are intense personal rivals.


Vuk Draskovic
SPO leader, Vuk Draskovic

Until recently, Mr Draskovic and the SPO had been unwilling to join street protests organised by the Alliance for Change.

Parties have long been divided about whether to attempt to effect change from the inside, by taking posts within the government, or to adopt an outside, confrontational approach.

Last year, Mr Draskovic joined the federal Yugoslav government.

However, he was sacked by Mr Milosevic after declaring that Serbia could not win the war against Nato.

Western links

Another problem is that Serbia under Mr Milosevic, an indicted war crimes suspect, has become a pariah state.



The opposition is seen a symbol of the West, a symbol of failure. (Nato) failed in Kosovo because Serbs are now not protected there. For the Serbs in Serbia, it is proof the West has double standards and they shouldn't support the opposition.

Svetlana Djurdjevic-Lukic, journalist
Now the West is willing to talk only to the opposition.

However, Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia and its failure to prevent large-scale revenge attacks on ethnic Serbs by returning Kosovar Albanian refugees hasn't made the West popular.

This has meant that many Serbs now see the opposition as aligned to the West.

Positive signs

It is not entirely a case of failure on the part of the opposition. At the beginning of the year, the main opposition parties agreed a joint strategy to demand early elections.

In many towns, they have been quietly working together since 1996, while the national party leaders have carried on arguing.

Friday's demonstration is one of the first steps the opposition needs to take to dispel the apathy and general gloom among Serbia's population.

But on its own, it will do little to change things unless the opposition parties can learn to work together again consistently.

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See also:

28 Apr 99 | Kosovo
Profile: Vuk Draskovic
11 Jan 00 | Europe
Serbian opposition unites
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