The Federal Constitutional Court (SIK) voted Wednesday to annul parts of the election proceedings for the Yugoslav presidency connected with voting and the counting and declaration of results on 24 September. Specifically, the Presidential element of the election was annulled, leaving the local election results intact.
The ruling was greeted with suspicion by opposition figures Vojislav Koštunica and Zoran Đinđic, who accused the regime of setting traps and stalling for time.
On Friday, following the "Uprising in Belgrade," however, SIK notified the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) that the appeal against the presidential election results had been upheld, irrevocably confirming the victory of Vojislav Koštunica.
The Court acknowledged "irregularities" in the work of the Federal Election Commission and annulled results presented from Kosovo polling stations that had not been open on election day.
Quo vadis Milošević?
The location and future of Slobodan Milošević (and his wife Mira Marković) had prompted a great deal of speculation by the end of the week. Three different versions of the couple's whereabouts were widely reported:
1. Milošević was in a bunker in Beljanica, some 40km west of Bor, near the Romanian and Bulgarian borders. This theory was put forward by opposition sources, who added that Milošević was being protected by the 92nd Light Infantry Brigade and other troops. The theory was accepted and reported by Reuters.
2. He fled the country. The theory that Milošević had fled the country for a safe haven such as China, North Korea or Libya was given added credence by reports that three heavy aircraft had flown out of a military airport near Belgrade on Thursday evening, heading south. However, Macedonian Air Traffic Control reported that nothing had crossed their airspace as of 21:30 Thursday.
3. Milošević is still in Belgrade. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said at the beginning of the week that Slobodan Milošević was still in Belgrade. Bacon said that despite numerous rumours, no information was available that could confirm that Milošević had left the country. Ivan Marković, secretary of the Yugoslav United Left (JUL, Mira Marković's party), said "I expect that they are in their apartment."
The great rounds of speculation ended Friday and Saturday. Although Marković was said to be in China and Marko Milošević has fled to Moscow, Slobodan Milošević was shown on "new state television" meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Serbia on Friday in a comfortable living room setting, while now-President Vojislav Koštunica spoke with Milošević on Saturday.
Koštunica is said to have promised Milošević that he will not be extradited to The Hague to stand trial on charges of war crimes, but did not rule out the possibility of trying Milošević in a domestic court proceeding.
Meanwhile, international protest was sparked by UN Special Envoy for Human Rights Jiři Dienstbier's suggestion that Milošević may be granted immunity from prosecution in return for relinquishing power.ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte said there was no possibility of such a development.
"I am a prosecutor, I have a special mandate from the Security Council, I am not involved in politics and my duty is to bring Milošević to the Hague," del Ponte told media in Sarajevo.
On Friday 6 October, politicians and other senior officials announced their formal recognition of Koštunica's legitimacy.
Those making statements of congratulations and support included the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO)'s Borijove Borović; Montenegro's Socialist People's Party Vice-President Zoran Zizić; Dragan Tomić, President of the Serbian Parliament and one of Slobodan Milošević's closest associates; National Bank governor Dušan Vlatković; Bishop Atanasije Rakita, on behalf of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle; Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Gen Nebojša Pavković; Belgrade police head Branko Đurić (who quelled fears of police attack by announcing that the police would not intervene, but would only perform their duty in protecting order and property); and, finally, Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević, who congratulated Vojislav Koštunica on his election victory in a phone conversation.
Milošević later made a public television appearance in which he congratulated the new President. He also said that he planned to take a break from public life to spend time with his grandson before shaping his party for the next election.
World leaders continued to congratulate Koštunica and Yugoslavia, and included: German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and his Spanish counterpart, Josep Pique; French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, US President Bill Clinton, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, British PM Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and (as the diplomatic world breathed a sigh of relief) Russian President Vladimir Putin.
General strike brings the regime to its knees
The general strike called this week by the DOS in protest of election fraud reached massive proportions and included, among other participants, Belgrade's City Transport Drivers and Workers Union, the Belgrade University Independent Workers Union, the Serbian Union of Educational Workers, the teacher's union Prosvećenost, Belgrade's cinemas, Sevojno copper mill, the Studio B staff, Serbian postal services, the Nikola Tesla Electrotechnical Institute, the Union of Private Pharmacies of Serbia, the staff of Belgrade University and the Majdanpek copper mine.
This list, which is far from comprehensive, is intended to give a sense of the strike's overwhelming scope and scale.
One of the most symbolic and influential acts of civil disobedience this week, however, was the Kolubara miners' strike at Lažarevac. The strike on the part of 7500 miners caused power cuts across Serbia, attracting widespread media attention when Yugoslav Army chief Nebojša Pavković and the director of Serbia's electric power authority paid a visit to the mine after midnight on Monday to demand an end to the action.
Despite a heavy police presence throughout the week, and constant rumours that miners from Trepča in Kosovo would be bussed in to work the mine, there was no violence, and police who entered the premises on Wednesday pulled back when faced with the large crowds that had gathered to support the miners.
When police finally left the complex entirely at 18:30 on Thursday evening, there were some 10,000 protesters gathered outside. Individual police officers leaving the building told journalists they felt "fantastic."
Wresting control of the media
Radio B92 was liberated by a group of Otpor activists on Thursday, and the staff of Radio B2-92, now merged with B92, are broadcasting from their former premises, which had been confiscated by the regime last year.
ANEM Chairman Veran Matić announced that the entire ANEM network of independent radio and television stations is now liberated and operating at full power across Serbia.
The state media network Radio Televizija Srbija (RTS) came under physical attack from protesters during the Thursday uprising. Demonstrators set fire to the premises on Tarkovska Street, and the burning building, long seen as the font of propaganda for the Milošević regime, quickly became a symbol of the country's liberation.
The fire raged for several hours before being extinguished, and three of the five floors were gutted by the blaze.
Eyewitnesses said director Dragoljub Milanović and news editor Spomenka Jović were both beaten by demonstrators. RTS stopped broadcasting due to the damage, recommencing with new programming in early evening.
The programming was opened by RTS cultural editor Bojan Bosiljcić, who told viewers that this was now their television station. Bosiljić announced Vojislav Koštunica as a forthcoming guest on RTS programmes, calling him the newly elected Yugoslavian President. Koštunica appeared as an in-studio guest just before midnight.
Bosiljić also said that henceforth, reports from independent radio stations B2-92/B92 and Index would be used on all RTS channels.
The first guest on the new RTS was the Democratic Opposition of Serbia's Nebojša Čović.
The state news agency Tanjug, long a mouthpiece of Milošević and his leftist coalition, referred to opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica as "elected president of Yugoslavia" in a report signed "Journalists of Liberated Tanjug" on Thursday evening. The report announced that, henceforth, the agency was siding with the people of its country and that it would uphold principles of professional journalism in its reporting.
And in other news...
- Two Britons and two Canadians held in custody in Belgrade since July on charges of planned terrorist activities in Yugoslavia were released this week. The four, all of whom were working in Kosovo, were arrested while on vacation in Montenegro.
- Former Serbian President Ivan Stambolić, who disappeared several weeks ago, is alive and in prison, police sources revealed this week, but his whereabouts are unknown.
Files from B92 were also consulted in the compilation of this report.
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