Milosevic: losing his Yugoslavia

As the final results of Yugoslavia’s presidential election are tallied, President Slobodan Milosevic must be extremely nervous. The iron grip that he has held on the republics of Montenegro and Serbia, which now comprise Yugoslavia, seems to be unraveling. Although the official results of the election will not be known until at least tomorrow, Milosevic has already called for a runoff, while his opponent, law professor Vojislav Kostunica has tentatively declared victory. Both sides should avoid premature announcements because the conflicting accounts of the results mixed with the possibility of election fraud will probably only delay the actual results.
Despite the Montenegran government’s call for an election boycott, voter turnout appears to be about 70 percent. Compared to the United State’s last presidential election — less than half of all those eligible voted, Yugoslavia’s turnout is quite high. Many western nations and international organizations had feared that Milosevic would use voter fraud to maintain his power, and thus far, it appears their fear might be justified.
Milosevic and his supporters have been accused of being the source of the election fraud as the president tries to maintain his hold on power. Still, the voters will have the final say in the matter and decide if they want him to remain in office.
As soon as the votes are completely counted, accusations of poll rigging and other voting irregularities will probably lead to local and international investigations.
Within Serbia, there were no independently-accredited monitors watching the polls. The political parties had control, and the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, a local non-governmental organization, began reporting irregularities before the polls closed. Some representatives from the Kostunica’s opposition party were being removed from the polling stations and were not allowed to inspect the ballots, voter lists and voting boxes. In other locations, voters were forced to declare their choices publicly.
The United Nations, after first indicating it would have little to do with the elections which member states called neither free nor fair, decided to count voters in Kosovo as they left voting stations to prevent Milosevic from turnout padding. Although the embattled leader has many reasons to want to remain in power, his desire to stay out of jail is the most compelling. If Milosevic is not reelected, he may have difficulty avoiding the war criminal charge, which an international war crimes tribunal at the Hague has presented against him.
If Kostunica does emerge as the election’s victor, he will not necessarily turn Milosevic in to the tribunal. Kostunica is a moderate nationalist and has no use for what he considers Western-dominated international organizations, much like Milosevic. Although the opposition leader is in favor of democracy, he has no particular connection to the Western powers.
It is a sad spectacle when a political leader must resort to rigging an election in order to insure victory. The people of Yugoslavia have suffered so much in the past few years, that if Milosevic truly was the caring leader that he claims to be, he would respect the results of an untainted election. If he is good for the future of Yugoslavia, his previous actions and the support of his people should reflect that. Instead, his attempts to manipulate the polls only show his weakness. The people’s voice — silenced so long by a terrible war — must finally be heard, and respected.