Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 21:33:58 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <>
Subject: Milosevic's election in 1990
Article: 64360
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <> Subject: [PEN-L:6708] LA Times commentary on Milosevic's election in 1990

LA Times commentary on Milosevic's election in 1990

By Louis Proyect. Annotations on Carol J. Williams&$39;, Los Angeles Times, article, Wednesday 12 December 1990

[This article is extraordinary for the way it obfuscates what was occurring in former Yugoslavia on the eve of the outbreak of war, while still providing useful information that can be gleaned by reading between the lines. My Translations are interspersed, surrounded by brackets, in an attempt to tease out the political implications of this biased but important article.]

Communist victory in Serbia may signal start of Yugoslav breakup

Nationalism: Incument's reelection puts Republic at odds with the goals of federation's other states.

Communism's sweeping election victory in Serbia may have eased fears of a military coup, but it sets up what observers say is a worst-case-scenario for durable peace and Yugoslav unity.

The only hope for avoiding a breakup of the federation was for Serbia to elect a democratic president or a Parliament willing to negotiate a more equitable relationship with Slovenia and Croatia. Yugoslavia's two most prosperous republics plan to secede unless they are granted economic and military autonomy.

[TRANSLATION: democratic president means pro-western and pro-capitalist.] Instead, Serbian voters gave strong endorsement to incumbent President Slobodan Milosevic and the nationalist policies of the former Communists, now renamed but little reformed as Socialists.

If the results are such that the opposition has failed even to win a majority in the Assembly, then it means the end of Yugoslavia, said a senior Western diplomat.

The choice of Milosevic and what amounts to hard-line communism isolates Serbia, the largest republic, from four other Yugoslav states that have elected center-right governments and set about repairing the economic damage inflicted by half a century of Marxism.

[TRANSLATION: repairing economic damage means dismantling all socialist institutions, which the hard-line communism of Milosevic stands opposed to.] The Socialists have remained popular in Serbia despite an anti-Communist mood in Eastern Europe because Milosevic used his political monopoly to reassert Serbian authority over ethnic Albanians in Kosovo province and by threatening to use force to prevent Slovenia and Croatia from seceding.

Sunday's vote showed that Milosevic enjoys broad support in his efforts to subjugate Kosovo Albanians and for his tough talk against independence for the northern republics.

Balkan bureaucracy continued to delay full returns even two days after the polls closed, but government and opposition sources concurred Tuesday that the Socialists appeared to have won by a landslide.

Milosevic had 62% of the presidential vote in the precincts where the count was deemed official, and those figures appeared to be consistent with preliminary results from other districts, according to Election Committee spokesman Zoran Djumic.

Opposition leaders said their independent counts suggested that the former Communists might win as many as 200 of the 250 seats in the Serbian Assembly.

The Socialists won because of a widespread fear of change and their complete control of the state-run media, according to leaders of the main opposition group, the staunchly nationalist Serbian Renewal Movement. They have lodged numerous complaints of voting fraud and manipulation, but they accepted the Socialist victory as valid.

The Communists stole a lot of the vote, but we feel they couldn't have stolen as much as they won by, said Stanko Kustrin, a campaign activist and Belgrade businessman.

[TRANSLATION: Although Milosevic is widely characterized as a dictator in the western media, this amounts to an open admission that he was the choice of the people. We must remember that Daniel Ortega was also described as a dictator after having been freely elected by the Nicaraguan people in 1987.] Vuk Draskovic, the movement's presidential contender, won only 17% of the vote, according to the partial returns.

The bearded novelist, who had been considered a strong challenger to Milosevic, was visibly shaken by the loss and denounced the electorate for choosing bondage and Bolshevism over the democracy and economic reform championed by his anti-Communist movement.

Draskovic and his party share the same radical views as the Socialists on the Kosovo conflict, but the opposition has been more conciliatory toward Slovenia and Croatia.

[TRANSLATION: Draskovic was removed from office last month. This foaming-at-the-mouth nationalist reactionary was portrayed shamelessly as a liberal in the bourgeois press.] Milosevic has refused to negotiate a realignment of relations within the federation or to reduce the economic burdens placed on the two northern republics.

[TRANSLATION: Those economic burdens were designed to raise the standards of the more backward areas of Yugoslavia, which were resented by racist Slovenes and Croats. When I worked on Wall Street, a Russian migr once told me that his biggest complaint about Communism was that it was giving away Russian wealth to all the niggers in Africa.] Slovenia and Croatia accuse the Socialist-controlled federal government of poor economic management, blaming Belgrade—the capital of both Yugoslavia and Serbia—for the federation's $16-billion foreign debt, rising inflation and unemployment that has left nearly one in five Yugoslavs without a job.

The northern republics also have sought to distance themselves from the human rights abuses repeatedly registered in Kosovo, where the population, 90% ethnic Albanian, has been under Serbian police siege for nearly two years.

Before Sunday's voting, opposition activists said they feared that the Socialists would stir up trouble in Kosovo if they failed to win decisively. They speculated that provoked violence would draw a military crackdown by Belgrade and create sufficient unrest to warrant postponement of the second round of elections set for Dec. 23.

The Yugoslav defense minister, Gen. Veljko Kadijevic, said a week before the vote that the army preferred a Socialist leadership, which triggered fears of a military coup in the case of an opposition victory.

We expect calm in Serbia now, but I fear for Yugoslavia, said Alexander Ptic, a recent UC Berkeley graduate who returned to campaign for Draskovic and his anti-Communist movement.

Now that Socialist rule has been legitimized in Serbia, the northern republics will more easily win backing from the West for their secession efforts, since there is no hope of uniting democratic and Communist governments, he said.

[TRANSLATION: Milosevic's victory would now provide a convenient excuse for imperialism to hasten the breakup of Yugoslavia.] It's the worst thing that could have happened for Yugoslavia as a nation, he concluded. What can we say to the West now? Only that Serbs are still stupid.

Western diplomats agreed that the Socialist victory will accelerate the secession efforts but noted that the victors now have to prove they can correct colossal economic mistakes of their own making.

An official with Yugoslavia's largest bank, who did not want to be identified, said Serbia has recently run up debts in excess of $4 billion.

The Communists raised workers' salaries to create an atmosphere that everything was fine in the republic, said Dejan Lucic, Belgrade leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement. But the money is not there to cover those debts, and there's not going to be any help from the West for a Communist government.

[TRANSLATION: When workers salaries were raised, this must have steeled the resolve of western imperialism to drive ahead with its war aims in the Balkans. This war is about nothing except driving down wages and turning Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union into a vast maquiladora.] Several opposition figures said they hope that Serbia would be financially isolated by the West, to hasten what they expect to be broad disenchantment with the Milosevic leadership within the next few months.

There will have to be new elections soon, predicted Mihailo Mladenovic, president of the Serbian Royalist Bloc. Yugoslavia is bankrupt—Serbia as well—and we can't expect help from anyone because we have already squandered our credit.

Diplomats and opposition figures said they worry that Serbia, and Yugoslavia by extension, was headed for a Bulgaria scenario.

Disillusionment with the elected Socialists in Bulgaria mounted in the months after the June election there, eventually bringing down the government in late November.

Yugoslavia will face the additional pressure of its most prosperous republics trying to bolt from the federation, undermining any hope of economic recovery.

Slovenia plans a referendum on secession on Dec. 23, which is expected to gain at least 80% support and set the independence juggernaut in motion.

NEXT STEP Slovenia and Croatia, Yugoslavia's two most prosperous republics, have said they plan to secede unless they are granted economic and military autonomy.

Slovenia plans a referendum on secession on Dec. 23. It is expected to gain at least 80% support, which could start the wheels of the independence movement turning.