International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Vol. 17, No.

1, Fall 2003 ( C 2003)

The Serbian Opposition and Civil Society: Roots of the Delayed Transition in Serbia
Florian Bieber

The article discusses the reasons for the ten-year delay in the democratic transition in Serbia, focusing in particular on opposition parties and civil society. It argues that the policy of opposition parties was partly responsible for the failure of an earlier fall of the Miloˇ evic regime. While civil society s has been similarly weak and divided, the article details how a number of NGOs proved to be crucial in the coordinated campaign which lead to the overthrow of the Miloˇ evic regime in October 2000. s
KEY WORDS: Serbia; party system; nationalism; civil society; NGOs; democratization; transition.

The ten-year rule of Slobodan Miloˇ evi´ ’s regime created a veritable s c wasteland in Serbia. The country is biologically, materially, and morally ruined. All the institutions required for society to function democratically have been degraded and destroyed.1 Ten years after the other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Serbia was the last to see a peaceful and democratic change of regime in October 2000.2 A specific type of a semiauthoritarian regime, coupled with a high level of nationalism and a fragmented opposition, led to this delay in beginning the transition process. This article will seek to explain why a democratic change of power did not take place in the 1990s and then turn to explore what had changed by September 2000 to allow for the collapse of the rule of Slobodan Miloˇ evi´ . While one might choose s c numerous perspectives in highlighting this development,3 we shall focus particularly on the role the alternatives to the regime—opposition parties and civil society—played in first extending the rule of the regime and finally bringing it to an end, as well as the domestic reasons for this development.4
Senior Non-Resident Research Associate, European Centre for Minority Issues, Belgrade; Recurrent Visiting Professor, Central European University (Budapest). E-mail: 73

2003 Human Sciences Press, Inc.



THE OPPOSITION WITHIN THE SERBIAN PARTY SYSTEM Serbia during the Miloˇ evi´ era was marked by multiparty elections s c that were neither free nor fair. In fact, the political system of the Miloˇ evi´ s c period could be characterized as a hybrid regime, which, while maintaining a democratic fa¸ ade, was essentially authoritarian.5 Despite the governmenc tal control of the media, public administration, and economic and security resources, political opposition did exist and opponents could participate in elections. The long delay of the democratic transition process alone can thus not be explained solely by the autocratic nature of the regime. Instead some aspects of the delay (and later success) of the transition to democracy have to be located within the opposition parties. In the party system, neither the conventional categorization into a leftright ideological framework nor other aspects of established party systems seem to adequately grasp the party landscape of Serbia. If we take (a) the identity and nature of the party; (b) its relationship to other parties; and (c) the relationship between government and opposition as the key measures for party systems, Serbia during the 1990s was far removed from established systems in Western Europe and consolidating systems in Central and Eastern Europe.6 As we will see in the subsequent discussion, the difficulties the opposition had in challenging the regime emerged from all three aspects of the Serbian party system. From the first half of the 1990s until the first partial electoral victory of the opposition in 1996, the most appropriate category was the position of the parties toward nationalism, the war in neighboring Bosnia and Croatia, and the support for reform. Between 1997 and 2000, with the hardening of the regime’s authoritarian tendencies, the relationship between opposition and the regime moved to the foreground.

THE SERBIAN OPPOSITION IN THE EARLY 1990S Although Serbian voters were able to vote in fourteen parliamentary and presidential elections between 1990 and 2000—caused by early elections and elections for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia—the opposition did not succeed in attaining any political power before the fall of 2000, with the exception of a number of cities and communes in the local elections in November 1996. Unlike other transitional countries, which usually saw a broad anti-Communist coalition in the first free election, the opposition, with an extreme nationalist and a liberal wing, could not mount a unified challenge to Miloˇ evi´ in the first elections,7 which confirmed the dominance s c of the Socialist Party and extended the fragmentation of the opposition.8 Despite numerous attempts throughout the 1990s to create a broad antiregime

The Serbian Opposition and Civil Society


coalition, these alliances were usually of short duration, broke up before the elections, lacked a clear program, and, most important, never included all major opposition forces.9 The opposition in the mid-1990s could be grouped into three different streams: the extreme-nationalist, democratic national, and reformoriented.10 Some parties switched among the different streams, due to the changing position of each on the war in Croatia and Bosnia and because of erratic party leadership. In the first years of the multiparty system in Serbia, the Serbian Renewal Movement (Srpski pokret obnove, SPO) led by Vuk Draˇ kovi´ and the Serbian Radical Party (Srspka radikalna stranka, SRS) of s c ˇ s Vojislav Seˇ elj belonged to the extreme nationalist opposition.11 The Democratic Party of Serbia (Demokratska stranka Srbije, DSS), which emerged from a split with the Democratic Party (Demokratska stranka, DS) under the leadership of Vojislav Koˇ tunica in 1992, oscillated between the nations alist and democratic opposition. Other smaller nationalist opposition parties emerged before the first multiparty elections in 1990, but failed to emerge as important factors in Serbian politics.12 Parties in this grouping gave absolute priority to the “solution” of the national question, including the use of force, and placed less emphasis on the democratization of Serbia. This neglect of democracy only left such groupings the options of joining the regime (implicitly or explicitly) or being marginalized. As a result only the Radical Party continued as a representative of this political wing of the opposition (1993–1997) or as part of the regime (1992–93, 1998–2000).13 The second group combined the most important political forces through the 1990s and took a rather ambivalent position towards nationalism and in its relations to the regime. The most important party here is the Democratic Party and the parties that emerged from splits in it, such as the Democratic Party of Serbia, the Democratic Center (Demokratski centar, DC) and others. This group placed greater importance on the internal democratization of Serbia than on the national question. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party occasionally adopted a nationalist agenda, most notably in 1994–95 when it supported Radovan Karadˇ i´ after Slobodan Miloˇ evi´ broke off contacts zc s c with the political leadership of the Bosnian Serbs. The most powerful opposition party of the 1990s, the Serbian Renewal Movement, also belonged to this category after abandoning its radical nationalist position with the beginning of the war in Bosnia. While maintaining strong nationalist symbols, it actually advocated an end to Serbian involvement in the Bosnian war more actively than did the Democratic Party.14 The last stream emerged from the reform-oriented parties, which supported the pro-Yugoslav agenda of the last Yugoslav Prime Minister, Ante Markovi´ . These parties include the Civic Alliance of Serbia (Gradjanski c



savez Srbije, GSS), as well as the small Social Democratic Union and the Social Democratic League of Vojvodina. These parties—whose influence remained limited—were vocal critics of the predominant nationalist climate and consistently criticized the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo (see Table 1). THE OPPOSITION FROM 1997 TO 2000 Through the continuing fragmentation of the opposition over the course of the 1990s and the failure of the protests in the winter of 1996–97, a new structure of the opposition parties emerged. Still, in the absence of strong programmatic orientations, one cannot classify the parties along a traditional left-right scheme, despite their names. Instead, the parties can be best understood in their relationship to the regime. Between 1997 and the elections in September 2000, one can identify the following groupings in the opposition: radical opposition to the regime (rejecting the policies of and cooperation with the regime); moderate opposition (rejecting the policies, but accepting cooperation); moderate opposition (rejecting cooperation, but supporting similar policies).21 The breakup of the opposition coalition Zajedno in 1997 and the electoral boycott of numerous opposition parties led to the emergence of the radical opposition. The radical opposition rejected any cooperation with the regime and supported a fundamental change of the policies in Serbia. The national question did feature among the groups’ priorities, but they primarily focused on economic and social issues. For example, Vladan Bati´ , president of the c Christian Democratic Party and at the time coordinator of the prime representative of the radical opposition, the Alliance of Change, stated in an interview in late 1999 that the issue of Kosovo played only a marginal role on the political agenda, while poverty, corruption, democratization, and human rights, as well as the return of Serb refugees and the reintegration of Yugoslavia into international organizations all were more significant.22 The Democratic Party stood at the heart of the Alliance for Change, which also included the Civic Alliance, some smaller parties, and a number of personalities (such as the former Prime Minister, Milan Pani´ , and the former c Head of the Central Bank, Dragoslav Avramovi´ ). The Alliance, founded c in 1998, also represented the core of the Serbian opposition coalition, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). The second group within the opposition also maintained some policy differences with the regime, albeit not as strongly as the first group; it was,

Table 1. Results of the Serbian and Yugoslav Parliamentary Elections, % of Votes, % of Seats, 1990–2000 (Governing Parties Shaded)20 SPS 46.1%, 77.6% 43%, 69% 31.5%, 43.5% 28.8%, 40.4% 36.7%, 49.2% 45.41%, 59.26% 34.2%, 44% 32.2%, 40.7% 13.5%, 14.8% 30%, 28% 21.8%, 27.8% 22.6%, 29.2% 13.8%, 15.6% 18.78%, 14.81% 28.1%, 32.8% 8.6%, 5.6% 8.5%, 9.2% 15.8%, 7.6% SRS SPO DSS DS 7.4%, 2.8%

The Serbian Opposition and Civil Society

Serbian Elections, December 1990 Yugoslav Elections,15 May 1992 Yugoslav Elections, December 199216 Serbian Elections, December 1992 Serbian Elections, December 199317 Yugoslav Elections, November 199618 Serbian Elections, September 199719 Yugoslav Elections, September 2000 Serbia Elections, December 2000

17.2%, 18.5% (DEPOS) 6,0%, 4.6% 16.9%, 20.0% (DEPOS) 4.2%, 2.4% 16.6%, 18% 5.1%, 2.8% 11.6%, 11.6% 23,8%, 20.37% (Zajedno) 19.1%, 18% 4.7%, 0% 42.9%, 53.7% (DOS) 3.7%, 0% 64.4%, 70.4% (DOS)




however, ready to enter into direct cooperation with the regime. That part of the opposition was represented by the SPO and Vuk Draˇ kovi´ , which s c sought to enter a coalition with the regime in 1997 and eventually joined the Yugoslav government briefly in 1999. Despite harsh criticism of the Socialist Party and its neocommunist partner JUL, the party dropped its antiregime stance of the early 1990s for most of the period under consideration here. Only as a consequence of the two assassination attempts in September 1999 and June 2000 against Draˇ kovi´ did it return to its radical antiregime stance. s c It refused, however, any cooperation with the opposition parties.23 Similar to the first radical opposition, the third and last part of the opposition opposed cooperation with the regime, but they supported some of the regime’s more nationalist positions. The nationalist line, as represented by the Democratic Party of Serbia, led the party to support some of the s policies of the regime toward Kosovo.24 Throughout the 1990s Koˇ tunica and the DSS adopted a nationalist line, which included support for the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (Srspka demokratska stranka, SDS) in Bosnia.25 With the exception of the party’s participation in the DEPOS coalitions in the early 1990s, the DSS has been reluctant to join the opposition coalitions and frequently has criticized the policies of the other opposition parties. In January 2000, however, the DSS, somewhat reluctantly, joined together with the opposition parties in the establishment of DOS. DOS has essentially been a combination of the radical opposition with the second stream of the moderate opposition, explaining the internal divisions over the national question. During the electoral campaign, most parties of the radical opposition emphasized social and economic alternatives to the policies of the regime. The presidential candidate, Koˇ tunica, s on the other hand, placed more weight on the national question and criticized the Serbian opposition for their failings in defending Serbian national interests:
In Serbia . . . the national question will have a significant impact because of the situation Serbia is in because of the bombing, because of the propaganda of Miloˇ evi´ . s c One cannot put it aside. We must have an answer to that. A large part of the Serbian opposition is not aware of this fact. So it is underestimating the importance of the national issue. We have to try to find, and this is the position of the DSS, to find the possibility to compromise between the importance of the national issue and the importance of Serbia being a normal member of international organizations, the EU, etc. I think that part of the opposition underestimated this national issue of Kosovo.26

Despite his focus on “national” issues, Koˇ tunica placed great importance on s the normalization of the country and did not engage in the sort of projections of national grandeur that many nationalist politicians and intellectuals did throughout the 1990s. Indicative of this change of tone was his last campaign speech on September 2000 in Belgrade:

The Serbian Opposition and Civil Society I am an ordinary, average man. It has never occurred to me to see myself as some historic greatness. I have never dreamed about some global historic mission of mine. I only know that what you want, and what I want, of course, is to live in an ordinary, average European country . . . Some would say: averages are boring, there is nothing exciting about them, nothing vivid. Something is always going on here. Yes, indeed! Something has been going on for more than half a century, more intensively so over the last decade. These dramatic events of ours have made us all but unique in the world. . . . I am absolutely sure that we have tired of all those stormy and tempestuous events. . . . We need a kind of life in which excitements would be confined primarily to the personal plane—let the public, political life be monotonous, even boring if you like.27


The opposition—divided by many programmatic issues and personal animosities—was united solely by its rejection of any cooperation with the regime, symbolized by the choice of Koˇ tunica, who was the only major party s leader not tainted by previous episodes of cooperation with Miloˇ evi´ .28 s c The defeat of the Socialist Party and its coalition partners, as well as the SPO fundamentally transformed the party system in Serbia, which will lead to a new party landscape in the years to come. In essence, the opposition coalition provides for the core of future parties in Serbia. With the end of the rule of Miloˇ evi´ and complete victory over the ancien regime, the unifying s c factor disappeared and the former opposition coalition slowly disintegrated. The track record of the Serbian opposition before the summer of 2000 was dismal and the parties that make up the political opposition were widely identified as being responsible for standing in the way of achieving power. Some analysts described the opposition as the fourth pillar of power of the regime.29 Similarly, the Center for Policy Analysis came to the sober conclusion that
. . . the Serbian opposition consists of writers, philosophers, historians . . . A question, however, brings itself up there—isn’t it shameful to still be an amateur after ten years of exercise in changing the authorities? On the other hand, there is a considerable number of annalists who, although they are inclined against the regime, cannot help pointing out that the opposition as such simply does not want to take over the rule.30

We cannot be satisfied with this (however tempting) explanation, as we have to assume that parties are founded to enter government or at least influence the policy making process in the country.31 In the case of Serbia, the opposition accomplished neither before 2000. The failure of the opposition throughout the 1990s and its subsequent success in the Yugoslav and local elections in September 2000 can be attributed to five factors: 1. Fragmentation of the Opposition: The extreme fragmentation of the opposition into over twenty parties, most with no infrastructure and little membership, rendered any concerted effort against the regime more difficult. Although most parties had only a small following, they



were run by public figures that could command some attention, which gave them weight beyond their numbers. The majority of the party splits were the result of the personal differences of party figures, giving the opposition the appearance of being more concerned with personal power than with policy.32 The building of a broad coalition, initiated with the January 2000 agreement between all opposition parties, was a prerequisite not only in terms of combining the vote, but also in demonstrating unity. The bad performance of the Serbian Renewal Movement in the elections—down from a rather stable support of 15– 20 percent in the 1990s to less than 4 percent in 2000—can be partly attributed to its unwillingness to join the larger coalition in 2000. 2. Lack of Internal Democracy: Closely tied to the problem of fragmentation is the apparent lack of democracy within opposition parties throughout the 1990s. Those who opposed the party leader were left only two options: marginalization within the party or splitting to form a new one. The impact of this pattern on the Serbian opposition has been two-fold. Mostly the same party leaders dominated the opposition throughout the 1990s, although many have been associated with political defeats and could not offer much to reach new constituencies.33 Second, the parties’ internal authoritarianism, in fact replicating the regime’s lack of democracy, did not bode well for a fundamental shift in the political behavior of the opposition once in power. These fears were partly confirmed by the behavior of the SPO in administering Belgrade. However, the unwillingness of Zoran Djindji´ to run for the Yugoslav presidency, despite his being c the head of the dominant party in the DOS, symbolized a readiness to subordinate personal politics to the larger aim of bringing about a regime change. In addition, the exclusion of the SPO, more frequently than other opposition parties associated with the personal dominance of the party leader, Vuk Draˇ kovi´ , and with corruption s c has in some ways improved the democratic credentials of the DOS. 3. Lack of Distance from the Regime: The Serbian opposition was marred by frequent cooperation and co-optation by the regime in the 1990s. This was particularly significant because the Socialist Party could not rule without coalition partners after 1992. Formal and informal coalitions thus helped extend the rule of Miloˇ evi´ and blurred s c the distinction between opposition and regime. In 1993, for example, the New Democracy Party joined the government, together with some members of the Democratic Party; in 1997, discussions with the regime by some members of the Zajedno coalition led to its breakup, followed by the negotiations of the Serbian Renewal Movement with the regime in 1997–98, leading to its brief stint in the Yugoslav government in early 1999. The increasing repression of the

The Serbian Opposition and Civil Society


regime in the aftermath of the failed civic protests in 1996–97 helped deepen the divide between regime and opposition. In addition, the successful mobilization of Otpor (see below) put an end to most instances of cooperation with the regime and refocused the opposition on toppling Slobodan Miloˇ evi´ . s c 4. The “National Question”: Most opposition parties, rooted in either intellectual “dissident” circles or strong anticommunist ideas, struggled throughout the 1990s with the “national question.” Many parties frequently out-flanked the nationalist policies pursued by the regime, allowing the regime to present itself as a force for moderation. In addition, the opposition allowed the regime to play on the territorial insecurity that emerged from the open national question, which again helped to consolidate the rule of the regime as a force for stability and continuity. Finally, the national policies pursued by the political opposition at times alienated the national minorities in Serbia, which amount to over a third of the population. By defining themselves as parties of the Serbian nation, not of Serbian citizens, the opposition parties—with few exceptions—promoted the creation of minority parties or the electoral and institutional boycott of minorities altogether. This deprived the opposition of a significant share of the electorate, which had little sympathy for the repressive policies of the regime.34 Part of the success of the DOS has been the inclusion of regional and minority parties, most notably the Muslim/Boˇ niak s Sandˇ ak Coalition and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians. z 5. The Lack of Political Power: As the opposition failed to win any election before 1996, the parties of the opposition never held any political office, except when entering a coalition with the regime. Political power was necessary to counter the predominance of the regime structures on all levels. Thus, the victory of the opposition in 1996 in many cities and communes throughout Serbia was crucial in preparing the way for the victory in 2000. The opposition took control of many local media that are under the control of the local town councils, allowing for a more concerted challenge to the media dominance of the regime. Despite the extremely high degree of centralization of Serbia, a number of opposition coalitions throughout Serbia (where the coalition Zajedno frequently survived the break-up at the republican level) have been successful in running cities and towns. However, as the sociologist and opposition intellectual Nebojˇ a Popov has pointed out, the opposition parties in power s on the local level often exhausted their popularity through internal quarrels, offering few policies that could secure additional popular support.35 It has, nevertheless, been remarkable that the most significant protest against the regime emerged from the provinces and



ˇ c small towns administered by the opposition (such as Caˇ ak), articulating itself in citizen’s parliaments and other alternative forms of protest.36 The opposition managed to overcome some of the crucial problems that prevented it from performing successfully against the regime; however, the new governing parties remain weak and fragmented, as evidenced by the instability of the post-October 2002 ruling coalition. In fact, the internal conflict between the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities and the parties of the DOS after the change of power resemble the conflictual relations between the parties throughout most of the 1990s. Thus the cause for the parties’ success in temporarily overcoming their conflicts needs to be explained through other political actors and civil society. THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE PEACEFUL REVOLUTION IN SERBIA Civil society in Serbia has been much praised after the successful change of regime in October 2000. It appeared that mass mobilization, based on the support of strong civil-society organizations was a driving force behind the collapse of the Miloˇ evi´ regime. However, for much of the 1990s, actors s c of civil society concerned with democratization suffered from pronounced structural weaknesses. In fact, when discussing civil society in Serbia, we have to distinguish it from Serbia as a civil society. Civil society often has a strong (positive) normative dimension,37 including opposition to militarism, safeguarding tolerance and differences, secularization, and equality for all citizens irrespective of their background.38 If one is it to accept such an approach to civil society as a form of societal organization that is based on pluralism of power and diversity of opinion in a setting of voluntaristic organization, one has to note that civil society can exist in a system that may not be considered a civil society on the whole. In fact, Ernest Gellner distinguishes between a “civil society” and a society containing civil society.39 While such coexistence is difficult, it is not impossible: a case is the Serbian opposition, a democratic subsphere coexisting with a semiauthoritarian system. CIVIL SOCIETY—DRIVING FORCE OR MARGINAL FACTOR ˇ ´ IN MILOSEVIC’S SERBIA? The past two decades saw the emergence of numerous organizations, primarily in Belgrade, that sought to act in support of broad societal issues,

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such as human rights, democratization, women’s rights, and opposition to the wars. In the 1980s numerous human rights organizations sought to defend freedom of speech by demanding the release of prominent political prisoners. While some organizations remained loyal to their human rights agenda, some came to identify closely with the defendees, include such prominent ˇ s nationalists as Vojislav Seˇ elj. In addition, the plight of Serbs in Kosovo dominated the agenda for human rights organizations in Serbia, furthering a move from the defense of individual human rights to collective national rights, defending them not against the state, but against a different nation.40 The rise of Miloˇ evi´ and the emergence of nationalism as the dominant s c social and political features in Serbia in the late 1980s triggered the emergence of the “other Serbia.” This term has been used to describe a group of NGOs and intellectual circles that sought to formulate a nonnationalist alternative to the regime and courageously oppose the war. These organizations ranged from intellectual groups, such as the Belgrade Circle, to activists, such as Women in Black and the Center for Anti-War action. Although these organizations fulfilled an important symbolic function in challenging the seeming homogeneity in intellectual and popular support for extreme nationalist policies, their reach rarely extended beyond Belgrade (and some other urban centers).41 With the exception of some antiwar protests, most organizations of the “other Serbia” lacked the means to mobilize a number of citizens large enough to challenge the regime. Serbia throughout the 1990s did see, however, significant civil protests, which were mostly, one could argue, a more significant threat to the regime than opposition parties. There were seven waves of significant protest during the rule of Miloˇ evi´ and a multitude of s c smaller demonstrations and gatherings: antiregime protests, March 1991; student protests, June–July 1992; the opposition Vidovdan assembly, June 1992; protests against electoral fraud, November 1996–February 1997; student protests, November 1996–March 1997; antiregime protests, Fall 1999; protests against election fraud and for a change of power, September– October 2000.42 The protests, although essentially unsuccessful until Fall 2000,43 symbolized the continuation of civil opposition against the regime. Their failure mostly did not lie in the protests themselves (e.g., low turnout), but rather in the inability of the political opposition to successfully challenge the regime on the basis of these protests.



In this context the daily demonstrations in the winter of 1996–97 were of tremendous significance for the development of civil society and the interrelationship with political parties. The break-up of the opposition coalition Zajedno thoroughly disillusioned most politically active citizens and diminished the already feeble confidence in opposition parties. This effectively strengthened civil society, as citizens chose to be active in NGOs and other civil society movements, rather than in parties. The outcome of the protests also demonstrated that the protests in the form in which they took place in 1996–97 can be successful, setting off a search for alternative means of mobilizing citizens against the regime, eventually leading to the emergence of Otpor. Finally, the protests showed the significance of a well-defined event in triggering public dissatisfaction, leading to massive protests. Most opposition politicians were surprised by the turnout at the beginning of the protests in November 1996. The concrete event of election fraud turned out to be more effective than the more serious, but less tangible, devastation of the economy and society and the wars in Bosnia and Croatia.44 This has been visible in the failure of protests at other moments throughout the 1990s to mobilize, as they lacked a concrete event against which to rally citizens. However, the failure of the protests also lay in the fact that the opposition’s demands never went beyond the correction of the electoral fraud, which eventually enabled the regime to fulfill the demands without having to surrender broad political powers. THE ROLE OF NGOS IN THE CHANGE OF REGIME A number of organizations emerged from the experience of the 1996– 97 protests, which eventually helped bring about the change of regime in October 2000. Otpor was one of the movements, which were very much a product of the failed protests.45 It emerged in 1998 in response to the university law, which in effect abolished the autonomy of the universities.46 Students, frustrated with the opposition’s infighting in 1997 and the failure of the student protests, adopted a different strategy, not seeking large street protests, but mocking the regime through small, well-planned performances.47 These acts revealed some of the fundamental weaknesses of the regime and authoritarian regimes in general.48 By not possessing a hierarchical organizational structure, Otpor evaded both repression by the regime and co-optation by the opposition, rendering it the force most harshly suppressed by the regime throughout its rule. Frequent arrests of members and those who simply wore Otpor T-shirts in early 2000 helped the movement reach wider segments of the population throughout Serbia. By July 2000, it could count on some 30,00–40,000 activists, 120 local branches, and seven regional centers.49 Through its work, Otpor has consistently tried to not only

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to place the regime on the defensive, but also to force the opposition parties to reject any cooperation with the regime.50 Next to Otpor, the Center for Free Elections and Democracy came into being as a response to the election fraud and the subsequent protests. The center took upon itself the task of observing elections and monitoring election irregularities. In addition, the organization proposed alternative election laws and produced the most detailed analyses of elections in Serbia.51 Most important, the organization raised awareness of the importance of elections and trained a large number of Serbs to monitor elections. Based on the assumption that earlier elections had, in part, brought the regime to power as a result of fraud, minimizing electoral fraud through monitoring was considered an important tool. Furthermore, uncovering any fraud had also been demonstrated to be a key mobilizing factor for protests. Thus, a credible organization was required to monitor elections, report fraud, and thus help energize opposition protests. Another nongovernmental organization resulting from the crucial 1996–97 period is G17, which brought together leading opposition economists in a think tank. The group sought to formulate an economic program for Zajedno. After the disintegration of the coalition, it worked on economic reform programs for Montenegro and the Republika Srpska.52 After the Kosovo war, G17 expanded its activities, opening branches throughout Serbia and creating G17Plus to include social scientists and intellectuals more broadly in its work. Instead of limiting its work to advising the opposition, the group sought to mobilize popular support for social and economic reforms. Shortly after the Kosovo war, G17 proposed a “Stability Pact for Serbia” with the aim of creating a government of experts to bring about an economic recovery and increase opposition influence. More important, the group carried out a number of projects in 1999 and 2000 that sought to alleviate the consequence of the war, sanctions, and the economic decline, such as “energy for democracy,” “asphalt for democracy,” and “schools for democracy.” These projects, mostly financed by the European Union and Norway, provided concrete assistance to opposition-run towns and cities across Serbia.53 These organizations, as well as a host of spontaneous groupings and other NGOs, provided the network through which the united opposition could win the elections in September 2000.54 We can identify at least four aspects in which the role of the aforementioned organizations has been instrumental: 1. Mobilizing Citizens: Otpor and many other organizations played a key role both in encouraging voter participation and increasing people’s willingness to protest against the regime.55 Part of the campaign



was negative, continuing the previous strategy of Otpor by highlighting the authoritarian character of the regime. A different stream of the campaign was distinctly positive, encouraging the participation of young first-time voters through rock concerts and a poster campaigns.56 2. Gathering Information: In the past the opposition, in addition to being fragmented, lacked information about popular opinion and preferences. The electoral campaign in 2000 saw a shift in the strategy of the opposition on the basis of increased information. The choice of Vojislav Koˇ tunica, for example, was very much based on opins ion polls, which demonstrated wider support for him than for other opposition politicians.57 Organizations such as the Center for Policy Analysis and other pollsters provided the opposition with the information necessary to mount a successful campaign. 3. Formulating Alternatives: Throughout the 1990s the opposition suffered from serious programmatic weaknesses. The party programs were largely general in content and gave more attention to the “national question” than to concrete economic and social issues.58 Coalition agreements throughout the decade contained very little substance and mostly reflected the minimal consensus among the parties engaging in the coalition, rather than a viable alternative to the regime.59 In the summer of 2000 G17Plus helped the opposition formulate a program. This program contained a concrete economic and social agenda, as well as a timetable for the implementation of new laws.60 4. Uniting the Opposition: As outlined above, the opposition did not suffer only from consecutive splits. Internal divisions frequently proved to be greater even than the parties’ hostility to the regime. In-fighting led to the breakup of previous coalitions and increased the fragmentation of the opposition. The unification of the opposition, first in January 2000 and later in the form of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, was largely the result of intensive pressure by Otpor.61 Otpor insisted on the unity of the opposition, threatening to shame any party breaking from the united front. The poor showing of the Serbian Renewal Movement in September 2000 was not only due to the increasingly erratic behavior of Vuk Draˇ kovi´ , but was s c also a result of its unwillingness to join opposition ranks, for which it was severely criticized by Otpor. Civil society emerged as a formidable force through the electoral process in 2000. In particular, some actors managed to mobilize successfully, learning from the experience of other countries, most notably Slovakia and Croatia, where get-out-the-vote and election

The Serbian Opposition and Civil Society


monitoring organizations have been similarly instrumental in ousting authoritarian rule. At the same time, the reach of most actors in Serbian civil society remains limited in the post-Miloˇ evi´ era, as the s c mass mobilization in the fall of 2000 was centered on one goal—the ouster of Slobodan Miloˇ evi´ —and then subsided. With the begins c ning of the democratization process, space for civil society increased. At the same time, the organizations that helped to articulate societal issues have faced three obstacles: First, they continue to be dependent on external funding. Second, many have lost their raison d’ˆ tre e with the fall of the Miloˇ evi´ regime. Finally, many activists from s c the civil society sector have been absorbed by the new state structure, weakening some organizations in the short and medium run or transforming them into political organizations.62 CONCLUSIONS Both the political opposition and some new actors of Serbian civil society managed to overcome some of the crucial hurdles in 2000 that had earlier effectively prevented the democratization of Serbia. As has been shown, this change was not a sudden development, but rather was the result of an often painful learning process; in particular, the experience of the civic protest in 1996–97 played a significant role in strengthening non-party opposition. Underlying the developments is a slow change in public opinion, caused by the continuing decline of the quality of life, the increasing repression the regime, and the failure of extreme nationalism, which saw protracted territos c rial insecurity.63 The Miloˇ evi´ regime, together with the previous communist heritage, has had a profoundly negative impact on the political and public sphere of Serbia, which could not be reversed by elections in themselves, but only a by a long-term process of democratization. With the elections in the fall and winter of 2000, this process merely began. The difficulties in the post-Miloˇ evi´ democratization process have been reminiscent of the s c aforementioned obstacles to the cohesion of the opposition under Miloˇ evi´ . s c Thus, not only the legacy of the regime shapes post-authoritarian politics, but the legacy of opposition and civil society in such a system also have a far-reaching impact on the nature of the democratization process. ENDNOTES
1. Joint Statement of the Serbian Opposition, January 2000, Betaweek, January 13, 2000. 2. Montenegro has not seen a change of government in the sense that the successor party to the League of Communists, the Democratic Party of Socialists, maintained power. The party did, however, transform itself and fragmented in 1997.



3. Additional factors to be taken into account, beyond the discussion here, are the weakness of the Miloˇ evi´ regime by late 2000 and the degree of negotiation between elements of s c the regime and the opposition before 5 October 2000. See Slobodan Antoni´ , “5. Oktoba c i izgladi za demokratizaciju Srbije,” Posebno izdanje, Srbija posle Miloˇevi´ , Nova Srpska s c Politiˇ ka Misao No. 1 (2001):9–25; Zoran Avramovi´ , “Zaˇ to je DOS uspeo da pobedi c c s 24.9.2000,” ibid., 29–32. 4. External factors have been instrumental, but will not be discussed here. The opposition and civil society organizations received considerable material and logistical support, as well as training from Western donors. See Vladimir Goati, “The Nature of the Order and the October Overthrow in Serbia,” in R/Evolution and Order. Serbia After October 2000, ed. Ivana Spasi´ and Milan Suboti´ (Belgrade: Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, c c 2001), 54. 5. On hybrid authoritarian regimes, see Larry Diamond, “Thinking about Hybrid Regimes,” Journal of Democracy 13 (April 2002): 21–36. 6. On this, see Nick Sitter, “When is a Party System? A Systems Perspective on the Development of Competitive Party Systems,” Central European Political Science Review 3, 1 (2002):75–97. 7. Furthermore, Miloˇ evi´ had a considerably greater degree of legitimacy through the nas c tionalist mobilization of the late 1980s than most other Communist leaders in Yugoslavia or Central and Eastern Europe. Slobodan Antoni´ , “Vlada Slobodana Miloˇ evi´ a: Pokuˇ aj c s c s tipoloˇ kog odredjenja,” Srpksa politiˇ ka misao, No. 1 (1995):92–97. s c 8. Zoran Slavujevi´ , “Borba za vlastu u Srbiji kroz prizmu izbornih kampanja,” in Izborne c borbe u Jugoslaviji (1990–1992), ed. Vladimir Goati, Zoran Dj. Slavujevi´ , and Ognjen c Pribi´ evi´ (Belgrade: Radniˇ ka Stampa & Institut Druˇ tvenih Nauka, 1993), 84–89. c c c ˇ s 9. Milan Miloˇ evi´ , Politiˇ ki Vodiˇ kroz Srbiju 2000 (Belgrade: Medija Centar, 2000), 165–67. s c c c 10. Dijana Vukomanovi´ , “Nastanak politiˇ kih partija,” in Partijski mozaik Srbije, 1990–1996, c c ed. Vladimir Goati (Belgrade: Beogradski Krug & AKAPIT, 1997), 29–39. 11. The Radical Party never was a full-fledged opposition party. In 1991–92 it was built up with the help of the regime through positive media reporting and possibly through financial support. In 1992–93 the SRS supported a socialist minority government and between 1998 and 2000 it joined first the Serbian and later the Yugoslav government and thus became a regime party. 12. Robert Thomas, The Politics of Serbia in the 1990s (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 52–59. 13. Ognjen Pribi´ evi´ , Vlast i opozicjia u Srbiji (Belgrade: B92, 1997). c c 14. Ibid., 54–59. 15. Results shown only for the Serbian members of the House of Citizens, the lower chamber of the parliament. 16. In 1992 SPO and DSS both participated together the with Civic Alliance in DEPOS. 17. In 1993 SPO, Civic Alliance, and New Democracy formed as the coalition DEPOS. 18. In 1996, DS, DSS, SPO, and Civic Alliance formed Zajedno. 1996 SPS ran in coalition with JUL and New Democracy 19. SPS ran in coalition with JUL and New Democracy in the 1997 elections. Both the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Serbia boycotted the elections. 20. Vladimir Goati, Izbori u SRJ od 1990. do 1998. Volja Gradjana ili Izborna Manipulacija (Belgrade: CeSID, 1999), 285–99; idem, Elections in FRY from 1990 to 1998. Addendum Elections 2000 (Belgrade: CeSID, 2001), 269–71. 21. The terms moderate and radical opposition are used in the surveys of the Center for Policy Alternatives in order to differentiate between the DS and the other parties grouped around the Alliance for Change on one side and the SPO and DSS on the other. Sre´ ko Mihailovi´ , c c “Politiˇ ka i stranaˇ ka identifikacija,” in Javno mnenje Srbije. Izmedu razoˇ arenja I nade, c c c ed. Sre´ ko Mihailovi´ (Belgrade: CPA, 2000), 47. c c 22. Vreme, Nov. 13, 1999. 23. Zoran Kusovac, “Serbia’s Inadequate Opposition,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, July 27, 2000.

The Serbian Opposition and Civil Society


24. The extensive criticism of NATO air strikes by Koˇ tunica, for example, brought him more s attention in the regime media in 1999. This rendered any attacks against him during the presidential campaign by the regime more difficult, as his nationalist credentials were beyond doubt. As a result the regime media engaged in personal attacks. Politika, Sept. 17–18, 2000. ˇ 25. Zeljko Cvijanovi´ , “Kostunica’s ‘Middle Way,’” IPWR Balkan Report, August 8, 2000; c Democratic Party of Serbia, “Why does our party exist? What are our aims? How do we plan to achieve them? Excerpts from the program of the Democratic Party of Serbia” (Belgrade, n.d.), 40–41. 26. Interview with Vojislav Koˇ tunica, July 20, 2000. s 27. Speech by Vojislav Koˇ tunica at the last DOS pre-election convention, DSS Press Service, s Sept. 20, 2000. 28. Political Team 2000, Newsletter 13 (2000). 29. Duˇ an Pavlovi´ , “Svuda lako, u Srbiji nikako,” Reporter, March 1, 2000. s c 30. CPA Weekly Analysis, May 28, 2000. In early 2000, the prominent Center for European Policy Studies was more optimistic: see Nicholas Whyte “Is the End Nigh? Change is Possible in Serbia,” CEPS Commentary, Feb. 25, 2000. Also the International Crisis Group was somewhat more optimistic and put some the opposition weaknesses in perspective. See International Crisis Group, “Serbia’s Embattled Opposition,” May 30, 2000. 31. See Giovanni Satori, Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976). 32. The disunity of the opposition as a major hurdle in Serbia has been more frequently conceded by the opposition leaders themselves. See, for example, the statement of the president of Socialdemocracy, Vuk Obradovi´ , in Danas, June 28, 2000. c 33. Only Vesna Peˇ i´ of the Civic Alliance resigned voluntarily from her position as party pressc ident in 1999. Djindji´ ’s takeover of the Democratic Party in 1993 was just one successful c “coup” within a party, of which there were many throughout the 1990s. 34. This issue is more complex in the case of Kosovo Albanians, whose political system is completely separate from the Serb party system, with no co-operation. In addition, the exclusion from Serbian institutions by the regime, in combination with tolerating the Albanian parallel state structures, created an situation where both the political elite of Kosovo Albanians and the Serbian regime supported the status quo. See Shkelzen Maliqi, “The Albanian Movement in Kosova,” in Yugoslavia and After. A Study in Fragmentation, Despair and Rebirth, ed. David D. Dyker & Ivan Vejvoda (London & New York: Longman, 1996), 147. 35. Blic, Feb. 7, 2000. 36. Milan Miloˇ evi´ , Politiˇ ki Vodiˇ kroz Srbiju 2000 (Belgrade: Medija Centar, 2000), 62–64; s c c c International Crisis Group, “Serbia’s Embattled Opposition,” May 30, 2000. 37. I have argued elsewhere that there is a need to strive for a broader and less normative definition of civil society. See Florian Bieber, “The Other Civil Society in Serbia: Non-Governmental Nationalism. The Case of the Serbian Resistance Movement,” in Uncivil Society? Contentious Politics in Post-Communist Europe, ed. Petr Kopecky and Cas Mudde (London: Routledge, 2003). 38. Stejpan Gredelj, “The (Im)possibility of Establishing Civil Society in Serbia,” in Serbia between Past and Future, ed. Duˇ an Janji´ (Belgrade: Institute of Social Sciences & Forum s c for Ethnic Relations, 1995), 415. 39. Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty. Civil Society and its Rivals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 193. 40. See Florian Bieber, Serbischer Nationalismus vom Tode Titos zum Sturz Miloˇevi´ s (Vienna: s c Peter Lang, forthcoming, 2003). 41. See Obrad Savi´ , “Die Parallele Welt. Die Belgrader NGO-Szene,” in Verschwiegenes c ˇ ¨ Serbien. Stimmen fur die Zukunft, ed. Irin Slosar (Klagenfurt: Wieser, 1997), 41–42. A number of articles by and on the “other Serbia” have been published in “Une Autre Serbie,” Les Temps Modernes 49, no. 570–571 (1994).



42. Some additional protests could be mentioned: for example a number of rallies and protests took place between the end of the Kosovo war and the fall of Miloˇ evi´ , such as the protests s c in response to the closing of Studio B and B292. Milan Miloˇ evi´ , Politiˇ ki vodiˇ kroz Srbiju s c c c 2000 (Belgrade: Medija Centar, 2000), 58–59. 43. Although the protests in 1996–97 achieved the immediate goal, the recognition of the electoral success by the regime, the change of the regime failed and the opposition coalition dissolved. It would be thus misleading to label them successful. 44. On the protests, See Mladen Lazi´ , ed., Protest in Belgrade (Budapest: CEU Press, 1999). c 45. For a general study of Otpor, see Vladimir Illi´ , Otpor. In or Beyond Politics (Belgrade: c Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, 2001). 46. The university law, in return, was a response of the regime to the student protests in 1996–97. See Sreten Vujovi´ , “The Society, State and University in Crisis,” Sociologija 60 c (October-December 1997):481–507. 47. Otpor for example distributed “medals” to Belgrade citizens after the regime began to honor “heroes” of the Kosovo war. For further examples see; 48. The usage of the clenched fist as a symbol consciously evokes fascist/communist symbology, reminiscent of the Slovene band Laibach and the “Neue Slowenische Kunst” (New Slovene Art) movement, which used similar techniques in the early 1980s in Slovenia. See Mark Thompson, A Paper House. The Ending of Yugoslavia (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), 43–44. 49. Interviews with the Otpor activists Slobodan Homen (July 21, 2000) and Milja Jovanovi´ c (July 25, 2000). 50. Otpor, “Declaration on the future of Serbia,” August 25, 1999; “Kongres Studentskog Pokreta Otpor: Ostao je bljutav ukus,” Republika, March 5, 2000, 36. 51. See 52. Miˇ a Brki´ ,“Some Other Serbia: Group G 17 Plus,” AIM Podgorica, June 28, 2000. s c 53. Glas Nedelje, October 19, 1999; Blic, July 19, 2000; Danas, April 15–16, 2000. 54. For a list of all the NGOs active in the campaign, see Izlaz 2000. Nevladine organizacije za demokratske i fer izbori (Belgrade: Fond Centar za demokratiju & Centar za razvoj neprofitni sektora & Gradjanske inicijative, 2001), 30–52. 55. This has been a particular challenge. While in other countries that saw the end of a semiauthoritarian regime, such as Slovakia and Croatia, voter participation in itself proved to be sufficient, Serbian experience with the electoral fraud in 1996 demonstrated the need for protests and other civil action to supplement the simple process of voting for the opposition. 56. This campaign was called “Vreme je” (It’s time). See 57. Beta, July 28, 2000. In addition, Koˇ tunica also attracted less hostile responses than many s other opposition figures, such as Zoran Djindji´ . See interview with Djindji´ in Danas, c c August 26–27, 2000. 58. For a detailed analysis, see Dejan Guzina, Nationalism in the Context of an Illiberal Multination State: the Case of Serbia, Ph.D. diss, Carleton University, Ottawa, January 2000. 59. The opposition agreement concluded in January 2000 was still a reflection of this. Betaweek, January 13, 2000. 60. G17plus, “Program Demokratske Opozicije Srbije za Demokratsku Srbiju” (Belgrade, 2000). 61. Additionally, Western donors and governments also have been instrumental in forging a united opposition. 62. One member of G17, Miroljub Labus, for example, became deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia, while the former executive director of the organization heads the Central Bank. 63. See for example NDI, Serbia Issue Poll, October 24, 1999.

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