Milošević to win "hands down"
United Yugoslav Left (JUL) party secretary Ivan Marković predicted this week that President Slobodan Milošević will win "an absolute majority" in the 24 September presidential elections.
JUL is the party of Milošević's wife, Mira Marković, and rules in coalition with Milošević's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and Vojislav Šešelj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS).
"It will be a hundred to none in the presidential elections, because Milošević has maintained, defended and developed this nation for the past ten years. The people of Yugoslavia must know that they all live in freedom thanks to Milošević," said Marković.
The JUL secretary went on the describe opposition parties as "enemies of Serbia," repeating the regime line—once again a favourite of state-run media—that opposition parties are working for NATO.
"There is no opposition in Serbia, there is only opposition to Serbia and the Serbian people. There are enemies of the state and traitors who are exactly the same as NATO, which has continued its aggression against Yugoslavia with different methods."
"It is cheaper for NATO to buy puppets than a rocket," Marković continued.
Meanwhile, his assertion that the fall contest would be a "free and fair democratic contest" was undercut by a report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Gerard Studman, the organization's director for democracy and human rights, told media in Vienna that Yugoslav election laws do not conform to international standards.
Studman said that both Yugoslav legislation and regime intransigence prevented effective scrutiny by the media or international monitors, leaving the ruling parties "complete control over the election commissions."
Milošević to visit Montenegro, Kosovo?
Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainović, who is also a senior official in the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, said at mid-week that President Slobodan Milošević "will go to Kosovo and Montenegro," but did not specify whether the Yugoslav strongman's visit would come before or after the 24 September federal elections.
Pressed by reporters at a press conference on Thursday, Sainović would only add that "President Milošević has planned election campaign activities" for Kosovo and Montenegro, and that the public would be "informed about all his travels in time."
The possibility of a Milošević visit to Kosovo or Montenegro was greeted with predictable denouncements in both regions.
Stambolić still missing
At press time, former Serbian President Ivan Stambolić was still missing following his apparent kidnapping on 25 August 2000.
Stambolić was President of the Presidency of Serbia in the former Yugoslavia until the reformist Communist leader was ousted by his one-time protégé Slobodan Milošević in December 1987. Stambolić has since lived quietly in private life as a banker, and the two men are not believed to have spoken since the funeral of Stambolić's daughter, Bojana, a few weeks after his ousting.
On Friday, 25 August, Stambolić went jogging at golf club near his home when he was snatched by at least two armed men.
According to the daily Blic, an eye-witness saw Stambolić resting on a jogging trail near a restaurant when a white van stopped. Two armed men jumped out and one put a handgun to Stambolić's head, ushering him into the vehicle.
Stambolić's neighbours reported seeing a van of the same description circling the neighbourhood in the days prior to his abduction.
His wife, Katja Stambolić, was puzzled by the abduction, claiming it had nothing to do with business or politics.
"Ivan led ordinary life, he moved freely and without fear. He was not in politics and had no intention to deal with it. I really do not know what could be the reason for his disappearance. Nobody threatened him, there were no disturbing phone calls," she told Blic.
Although police authorities have not commented on the abduction and state media remained mum until mid-week, the regime-run dailies Politika and Politika ekpress published stories late in the week quoting anonymous police sources who claimed Stambolić had been targeted because of his business dealings, allegations which his wife denies.
The Politika story emphasized that Stambolić was involved in the banking industry, "in which millions in foreign currencies are being turned over."
Although his wife Katja remains adamant that her husband's kidnapping is not connected with politics, Stambolić's friend and lawyer Nikola Barović told Blic that the disappearance was "clearly a political act" intended to foster a climate of uncertainty in the run-up to the 24 September presidential elections, a claim echoed by international observers.
Anti-opposition crackdown continues...
Belgrade police this week continued their crackdown against grass roots opposition groups campaigning against President Milošević, banning activities planned by the "It's Time" campaign and the non-governmental organization Group 484.
The "It's Time" campaign, which aims to convince disaffected youth to participate in this month's presidential elections, was banned from distributing leaflets at seven locations in downtown Belgrade despite having given the police advance notification of their activities.
Organizers held a press conference to denounce the ban, saying they would continue delivering promotional material for their "rock the vote" campaign door-to-door. More than 45,000 people have already attended ten concerts organized by the group.
Police also barred Group 484 from distributing campaign materials in Belgrade, saying that as a humanitarian organization, the group was barred from political activity. Group spokeswoman Vesna Golić said that while it is true the organization is primarily a humanitarian organization, "humanitarian issues [in Serbia] cannot be separated from politics."
...as do opposition activities
Election campaigning by independent opposition groups continued in Novi Sad and Kragujevac despite crackdowns there similar to the one in Belgrade.
G17 Plus announced this week that it was cooperating with local independent television production houses in organizing public screenings of news and current affairs programs at three locations in the Vojvodina capital Novi Sad.
The move came after the regime banned five independent television stations from local cable networks. Using video projectors, news and current affairs programs from four of the five banned networks will be screened at outdoor venues at nine o'clock every evening until the pre-election media blackout begins on 22 September.
Meanwhile, despite the arrest of nine Otpor members, Otpor and G17 Plus declared a Monday night rally in Kragujevac a "great success," announcing plans to host other joint gatherings throughout the country. At least 5000 people attended the gathering.
Charges against "enemies of Serbia"
It was a busy week for Serbian Public Prosecutor Dragiša Krsmanović and lawyers for the Yugoslav Army (VJ) as their offices levied charges against a host of international figures and a high-profile domestic human rights activitist.
Among those charged with "crimes against the Serbian people" stemming from NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia last year were US President Bill Clinton, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, US Defence Secretary William Cohen, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and former NATO European Commander Wesley Clark.
The charges were laid by Krsmanović's office, and all could face 15 to 20 years in Serbian jails if convicted.
Meanwhile, prominent Serbian human rights activist and Fund for Humanitarian Law head Nataša Kandić was told this week she would be sued by the VJ for "improvised claims" she made about VJ activities.
VJ spokesman Col Svetozar Radišić told reporters that "Kandić must be sentenced" for defaming the honour of the military, but did not specify the legal charge against her or whether she would be prosecuted by military or civilian court.
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