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Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK


Can the Serb opposition topple Milosevic?



" It's too late... I am afraid that the Serbs will have a civil war or a state of emergency...""
Gordana Igric

" When the people were in the streets before, we did nothing -- doing nothing was our policy. (Now) we can help channel funding through to the Alliance for Change and other parties and members and figures..."
Charles Radcliffe


Click here to listen to both sides of the debate
Listen to our debate hosted by Wanda Petrusewicz. Do you agree with the views of our contributors?

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Listen to the debate

The Background:

The Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, has so far withstood the wave of public anger in Serbia following the military withdrawal from Kosovo and the end of Nato's bombing campaign.

But for how much longer?

Talking Point - Europewide
After the biggest opposition protest so far, is the political resistance to President Milosevic building or fragmenting?

Can what the West refers to as the democratic forces in the Serbian opposition sweep Mr Milosevic from power?

Joining Wanda Petrusewicz for this week's Europewide debate are Gordana Igric, an independent Serb journalist currently with the Institute of War and Peace Reporting in London, and from Brussels Charles Radcliffe, vice-president of the conflict analysis unit, the International Crisis Group.

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Listen to the debate

Your Reaction:

Unlike the violent "counter-revolutionary" tactics used by the former Communist leaders of Romania, Poland, East Germany and Soviet Union, Milosevic has allowed the existence of an opposition as a means not to "fan the fire". Milosevic is going to sit back and let it "flame out".
Tony, USA

Not yet. The Serbs need to lose more before the military and police will abandon Milosevic et el. The West makes the situation worst by protecting the Serbs, their WWI ally, whenever the Serbs lose in war.
Nato, EU, and the UN have given Croatia's Prevlaka, half of Croatia's heart, Bosnia-Hezergovina, and the Illyrians' Kosovo to the Serbs. So 3 more wars await the Serbs and the West. Nato will break its teeth, if not die, here. There are 3 wars awaiting Serbia
Shirley, Canada

If they don't topple him I fear a continuance of the detrimental policies of Milosevic. If they do topple him, I fear Serbia will splinter into a state of civil war like that which plagued Lebanon - faction versus faction, no one having control of anything, year after year. And look at Kosovo, it's now almost entirely Albanian, ethnically cleansed of nearly all non-Albanians.
Steve Kenney, USA

The opposition is no doubt fragmented, and will continue to be so because of both the greed of opposition politicians for personal gain, especially Vuk Draskovic, and their inexperience in politics. People keep forgetting that the opposition has never been in power, wheeling and dealing. They are like Solidarity in Poland ('89-'93). The West's job is really to help with advice and some funds (contrary to popular opinion, the sum received by the opposition from the West is highly insignificant) in order to forge a rather unholy alliance between opposition partners.
As much as I personally dislike it, one must admit that the Alliance for Change surely will not be able to form a government without Draskovic and his SPO Chetniks. In fact if today were election day, they would need to beg Draskovic to be a junior partner in his government. The best strategy for the Alliance is to start and continue with MASSIVE civil disobedience tactics until Milosevic is gone, gather enough political momentum from the protests to surpass Draskovic in popular support, and, come election day, heal old wounds with Draskovic and take them as coalition partners.
This is not a perfect solution, but there is no such thing in politics. It's a marriage made in hell, but it must be done to save Serbia and FR Yugoslavia, and it needs to be forged with the help of the West, who can create incentives for both the Alliance and Draskovic to put up with each other for a couple of years, at least until Milosevic, Selelj and his cronies have been politically marginalised.
J Ivosevic, Belgrade, YU

While there are people like Vuk Draskovic in opposition there is no way Milosevic will fall. Draskovic did only damage to Serbian opposition for last 10 years. He is only trying to make good deal with Milosevic. He is no different from Milosevic, in Serbia not only Milosevic should be changed but the whole system must be changed. US and Europe should support only real democratic opposition.
Marko, Belgrade

WHY, after 11 weeks of Nato campaign, all of a sudden it's the Serbian opposition who must topple Milosevic? Nato, don't try to sneak out of the picture. YOU went to Yugoslavia to end Milosevic's rule. YOU spent billions out of taxpayer's money (mine, too) on this. DO THE JOB YOU WERE PAID FOR! After killing hundreds of innocent people as collateral victims instead of Milosevic and after devastating entire Yugoslavia in the name of finishing Milosevic - DO YOUR JOB!
JŠnos, Yugoslavia *and* US

According to Vuk Draskovic there are 197 political parties in FRY. The opposition cannot remove Milosevic. Only a revolt in the army can do that.
Sigurd R. Borgen, Norway

No. Two reasons for this: if they do, Serbs will get nothing, just like other people of former Yugoslavia (Croats, Macedonians...). Second reason: there is no true alternative to Milosevic. The most serious candidate is Draskovic, and he has no guts nor manners of a politician. He doesn't know what to say and what to withhold, he doesn't know how to keep his pride and self respect. By far too emotional for a real politician.
Steven Tasic, Canada

Everyone's blaming Milosevic and his thugs, but like the Germans and the nazis, the Serbian people have to look in the mirror and figure out that it's nationalism and racism that has put them where they are.
Page, Canada

With all the money spent by the English and Americans on any opposition to the Serbian government in an effort to destabilise the country you'd expect the government to fall. When you add to this the evil bombing of Serbia and the constant western media lies aimed at ousting the legitimately elected government it's hard to believe that the Serbs still want to run their own lives. Perhaps they have a lot more basic guts than Nato's American and English killers who just flung their bombs onto "military" targets like hospitals and post offices. Best of luck to all Serbs who wish to raise their country from the depths to which it has been driven by outside forces.
Roger Bailey, Australia

It seems unlikely that anyone will be able to topple this madman. We can only hope that an assassin's bullet may yet do the trick .
Major Charles Oliver Cup, UK

Opposition parties can't topple Milosevic because they are not united and lambaste one another as much as they attack the regime. They attack M. but it is fuzzy about how they expect to bring economic and political regeneration. The regime is trying to cushion widespread exasperation. Milosevic's skill to intimidate, buy off and/or divide opposition is well known, so despite losing all the conflicts his regime endured.
It is as if the people wanted to be deceived. Romans used to say populus vult decepi. Another problem is that the majority of the Serbs dislike Nato/US, which is skilfully handled by the regime, connecting opposition leaders to "Nato aggressors". One possible way out of this situation could be a palace coup which may be able to remove Milosevic, but that will have to wait until wintertime and further suffering of the Serbian people.
Mary Vkovich, USA

The Serbian opposition will never be truly successful without the backing of Western Europe, but if the Serbian people continue to shelter their war criminals then what chance will the opposition have to gain that vital backing?
Jonathan Malcolm, UK

Yes, the question is when. Only if larger parts of the army and police will support the opposition. The West should give massive help to the rest of the Balkan so that people in Serbia see the advantages of toppling Milosevic. Many Serbian may see the opposition as corrupt as the current government and are afraid that supporting the opposition will lead to civil war (even between the opposition). The opposition should organise the East-German type of peaceful 'Monday' demonstrations of 1989.
George Hanff, Germany

I find it interesting that the BBC showed a picture of an old woman holding a sign in ENGLISH which read: "Slobo step down"; you don't think US intelligence had anything to do with it, do you?.
Albert Conti, USA

I'd say 'Yes' as an answer to this question not so long ago, but since the Belgrade Rally on 19th August was used by the Serbian Renewal Movement and it's leader Vuk Draskovic, to destroy and degrade the project of experts government - I think now, chances to change this regime are smaller. Vuk Draskovic wants elections again, and he's again so naive that Milosevic will accept his election terms - no. Draskovic is a brake of Serbian opposition and he's strongly trying to push his own interest, with crucial usage of his local Belgrade TV - that way we can have, again, less than a million of Draskovic's voters and new government - a coalition of fascists, communists and these corrupted 'democrats'. That's not a change and that's not what we need. I'm afraid if regime doesn't step out peacefully, Serbia will die during winter.
Djordje Karan, Yugoslavia

Hopefully the Serbs realise that even with Milosevic imprisoned in the Hague, and no matter who is in power in Belgrade, the West will do as little as possible (ie. nothing) to help them and their country. A vote against Milosevic will not be a vote for European unity and an end to wars. Sad but true.
NM, Scotland

Yes, Serb opposition can topple Milosevic but it is not likely that you will see it at anytime soon. Why? Because what Nato did in Yugoslavia was to help increase his popularity. That was not expected, but, it happened. The small groups of 'anti Milosevic' supporters hardly seem to represent any major desire of the citizens to topple Milosevic. But, that may change.
Dave Adams, USA

Yes, but only if they stumble on better tactics than standing around and gesticulating. This makes a good show for the media, but is too easy to ignore.
J. Vickers, Britain

Like him or not Vuk Draskovie is the only viable alternative to Milosevic. Djindjic, Pesic and the other western-backed candidates enjoy very little popular support and their goal of forcing Milosevic to resign through civil disobedience is just a pipe dream that appeals to their Western backers. Supervised elections are the only hope; the Serbian people must decide: Draskovic or Milosevic. Unless the anti-Milosevic movement rallies around Draskovic, it will be too easy for Slobo to stay in power.
Milan , Canada

Of course Serb opposition can topple Milosevic. But it has to be united. At the moment Draskovic seems to be on a different course from the rest of the opposition. United, they stand a chance as even sections of the Army (Milosevic's power base) are voicing discontent with him, but if Milosevic manages to keep the opposition in seperate camps he wins....and Serbia looses.
Matt, Ireland

I believe they can. However, I also believe that the west should be able to topple the serbs in the near future. These war criminals are no different from Milosevic. When he was slaughtering Bosnians and Kosovars, these same people were applauding him as a hero. If he had it his way and won the war they would have marched behind him to finish slaughtering the rest. They are a blood-thirsty nation and the West should give them no support or credibility. Instead, they should be starved to death, to make the world a better place.
Sunil Broshti, UK

The big problem in Serbia is the fact that Milosevic stole nationalist opposition programme, and, as a communist style leader, by implementing it started chain reaction of wars in former Yu. The biggest criticism of Milosevic by leaders such as Draskovic are not that he implemented ethnic cleansing, genocide and "Greater Serbia" plan, but that he did it badly and that's why he has to go.
That kind of opposition even if it changes Milosevic will not change things profoundly in Serbia. If changes come based on a pro-democratic, pro-European and pro-western view, which rejects Serbian nationalists and their ideas completely, only then there will be a light at the end of a tunnel for Serbian people. Let's hope that leaders such as Zoran Djindjic, Vesna Pesic and Milan Panic can drive towards such, real change...
Z Pera, UK & Belgrade, YU

I think Democracy will eventually defeat the Milosevic regime and mass rallies are a sure sign that opinion in Yugoslavia is slowly turning against them. However Serbia not only needs rallies, it needs a fair voting system, a willing electorate and most importantly a free media. The sooner broadcasters and publishers are allowed to represent the voices of opposition unhindered by the censorship of a paranoid nationalist Government the sooner really effective opposition will be fostered. Maybe then Serbia can say good riddance to the destructive nationalism of Milosevic and his Cronies.
Robert Fox, UK

I think YES, but united only! I'm student and I want free and open country.
Tamara Celic, Yugoslavia

Serbia's "Politika" newspaper estimated 25 000 people at the opposition rally in Belgrade. If you'd believe the BBC and other NATO media (i.e. you've learnt nothing from the war) there were over 100 000 people there; the organisers reckon 150 000. The BBC's picture shows around 20 000 people and seems to cover about 80% of the area in front of the parliament where the rally was held. Why is Nato's propaganda wing exaggerating opposition support in Serbia? It won't enable the pro-Nato opposition to win the election, it's just so that, after they lose, western propaganda can discredit the election process.
Brendan Tuohy, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Milosevic's future rests in the hands of the Army. Since the Yugoslav Communist Party and the secret police seem to be solidly behind Milosevic, the decisive factor will rest in the hands of those who possess the firepower capable of removing him. After the series of military defeats in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, one has to wonder how much more it will take before the army decides to take action.
Tom Byrne, USA

Yes - maybe now, maybe later - but the Serbian people will oust Milosevic. He is the one responsible for the suffering throughout the Balkans in the name of Serbia. Now that "his" people realise how he has misled them, they must reclaim Serbia for themselves. I believe they will but I hope that the outside world - both East and West - will support them and not meddle.
Alister McClure, UK

The opposition did not do a very good job in the last election. They will not defeat Milosevic by boycotting elections. Hopefully Nato will ensure that the Kosovan Albanians will vote this time. They kept him in power throughout the '90's by refusing to vote on the orders of their political leaders in order to show that they were being persecuted by the regime. Had they voted and had the opposition not boycotted the last election, the present regime (which has a very small majority and was democratically elected) would not be in power.
In order to replace the present Government the opposition must put up candidates and those not in favour of the regime must vote. The 90's boycotts basically are responsible for the situation in Yugoslavia today. Milosevic may have been given dictatorial powers, however he is not a dictator and can be voted out of office.
J. Knight, UK

All I will say is maybe the Serbian people would have a chance of toppling Milosevic if he wasn't just another "Puppet" of the western countries who created him in the first place to destroy Serbia and its brave people. Thank You
Alex, Australia

Milosevic - known throughout the world as a warlord - once again tries to beat the opposition with these early elections - only under a united front may the opposition succeed. We have seen his tactics before, charge to the warfront, discharge his load, and then run off up the rear. The opposition is still disjointed from the war - but they must seize their moment as with more time he may have more power to destroy them. I pray this is not allowed to happen - therefore I think the UN should ensure the election is carried out under fair conditions.
Bogaerde Mladic, UK

For power, Milosevic has sacrificed his people and his nation, and left them to suffer for his actions. I pray that he will be removed soon. I hope that those that will replace his regime mean what they say, and aren't capitalising on the fear of the people. After all, that is how Milosevic came to power in the first place
Tina Veizovic, UK

Unlike many of the Americans of Serbian descent who were strong backers of Milosevic I think that the average young Serb has now realised the impossibility of fighting the whole world. Without overseas Serbs sending home money Yugoslavia will fold up like an accordion if it does not change
Leonard Morris, USA

Hopefully. This must occur in the interests of freedom, peace and democracy world-wide. Milosevic must go and Serb oppression in Kosovo and Montenegro must end. Following Milosevic's departure, Yugoslavia should be desegregated into Serbia and Montenegro sovereign states.
Andrew Stevens, England

Can the Serb opposition topple Milosevic?

Final Votes:

100%

0%
Yes: 50% No: 50%




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