Every poll throughout the campaign showed that the opposition candidate, Vojislav Koštunica, was in the lead and would likely get the most votes in the 24 September elections. But while many coveted a victory in the first round, few actually expected it would happen. Aside from Koštunica, Vuk Drašković and Vojislav Šešelj also fielded their own candidates, and from the very start, that fact precluded the election from becoming a "for or against Milošević" referendum.
In other words, the citizens of Serbia could choose from among four relevant candidates and therein lies, hypothetically speaking, the chance that the vote could have been dispersed and the result would have been to Slobodan Milošević's advantage. Despite the war-like propaganda of the ruling party, however, and the government's control over the media, the citizens of Serbia saw that only one candidate had a chance against Milošević. So by themselves, using their votes, they created a referendum anyway, and as a result, Koštunica won in the first round.
At first glance, it appears that no one expected this sort of outcome, least of all the government, which was in a state of shock the evening of the election. State organs took hours to announce new information, and the faces of Socialist Party and Leftist functionaries were obviously in spasms.
Furthermore, the Federal Election Commission (SIK) did not convene and the only information that made its way to the electorate came from the election committees of the Serbian Democratic Opposition (DOS), the Serbian Movement for Renewal (SPO) and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). The SPO and the SRS declared results that confirmed those of the DOS even though they experienced crushing defeats themselves.
Election Commission scam
The Federal Election Commission, as the organ mandated to conduct elections, was supposed to inform the public on the progress of the elections and to give preliminary results, but being that the commission is under the direct influence of Milošević, its work is far from objective or professional. Even though the commission counts among its members high court judges, it ignored the will of the people in 1996, and is now doing it again.
It is obvious that the SIK manipulated the number of registered voters and the number of votes cast. Votes by Albanians in Kosovo have conspicuously appeared in the records of the polling stations that were supposedly set up in Kosovo. More to the point, on 11 September 2000, the SIK issued a statement showing the number of registered voters in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at about 7.8 million; on 26 September, they confirmed that figure; but on 28 September, they announced that the electorate amounted to about 7.2 million, which means that the SIK "swallowed" more than 600,000 voters.
This bit of information is significant, since there is a law that states that the SIK must publish a sufficient number of ballots, and consequently the much lowered number of registered voters means that up to 600,000 unused ballots were not reported to anyone anywhere. This enabled some electoral districts to use these extra ballots in place of the authentic ones, and produce falsified results.
Milošević: in need of an energizer
From SIK announcements, it is even apparent that up to 70,000 of Milošević's votes had disappeared when compared with earlier SIK announcements, and that the number of invalid ballots also fell. Practically none of the official SIK announcements match, and even the sums in those announcements do not give the appropriate total. Such clumsiness on the part of the election commission shows that the results were tallied in great haste and under great pressure. It also shows that Milošević's machinery had broken down, and that he will need much more energy in order to control all segments of the state administration, military and police.
The Serbian Democratic Opposition was no less amazed by the election results and some of the leaders acknowledged that fact, but theirs was a pleasant surprise. However, the arrogant decision of the election commission to falsify the results created a test for the opposition, a dilemma over which way to go and how to fight the outgoing government. They quickly called upon citizens to proclaim victory in the election, organized concerts and have now called for a general strike and acts of civil disobedience.
International diplomacy has been very cautious, and though it is too early for any conclusions, it seem possible that the opposition will be left to fight for the verification of their victory by themselves. That battle may be quite difficult, because it would seem that the government of Slobodan Milošević is regrouping and consolidating itself in this intermezzo, this reprieve in the elections, and that he is ready for further manipulation and maybe even some sort of confrontation.
A second round at any cost
So far, the citizens of Serbia have stated their unyielding determination to oppose the falsification of the election results, but the government is equally determined to push for a second round in the presidential election. Milošević's insistence on the second round casts doubt that it will have even the illusion of the legitimacy that the first round had.
His sacrifice in falsifying the results was great. He has led the members of the election commission into an unenviable position, discredited state institutions for the umpteenth time, weakened and strained his authority and his regime more than ever, and it is known that a large segment of the citizenry supports Koštunica.
These facts make one suspect that Milošević has prepared one of his well-known scenarios for holding on to power, because for Milošević and those around him, holding on to power is a matter of life or death. If there is a second round over the protests of the opposition, it will be very hard for Milošević to win it. But if he has made his peace with the fact that he has lost power, why does he want a second round at any cost?
Slavko Živanov, 2 October 2000
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