Overthrow of Slobodan Milošević

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Overthrow of Slobodan Milošević
Date 5 October 2000
Location Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia[1]
Causes
Goals Removal of Slobodan Milošević
Methods Demonstrations, riot, civil disobedience, civil resistance
Result
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Number
Hundreds of thousands[5]
Unknown number of police
Casualties
Death(s) 2 (non-violent)[5]
Injuries 65[5]

The overthrow of Slobodan Milošević occurred on 5 October 2000, in Belgrade, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the presidential election on 24 September and culminating in the downfall of Slobodan Milošević's government on 5 October 2000. It is sometimes referred to as the 5 October Overthrow and sometimes colloquially called the Bager revolucija, translated into English as Bulldozer Revolution, after one of the most memorable episodes from the day long protest in which an engineering vehicle operator Ljubisav Đokić fired up his engine (which was actually neither bulldozer nor bager (excavator), but a wheel loader), and used it to charge the RTS building, which was considered a symbol of regime propaganda of Slobodan Milosevic and his ruling party, who controlled and censored outflow of information for the public.

Events preceding the elections[edit]

Milošević's overthrow was reported as a spontaneous revolution. However, there had been a year-long battle involving thousands of Serbs in a strategy to strip the leader of his legitimacy, turn his security forces against him, and force him to call for elections, the result of which he would now acknowledge.[6]

In 1998, a dozen students met to form Otpor! (Serbian for "resistance"). Analysing the mistakes of 1996–97 protests, they realised they needed a more effective organisation (strategy, planning, recruiting) and all else necessary for a sustained fight. Galvanised by outrage over new laws that imposed political control of their universities and harassment of independent media, the Otpor students called for the removal of Milošević and the establishment of democracy and the rule of law.[6]

A column of student protesters, carrying a "Belgrade is the world" banner

Prior to this, Milošević was cracking down on opposition, non-government organisations and independent media. From 1991 onwards there were campaigns of civil resistance against his administration that were to culminate in the largely non-violent revolution of October 2000.[7] As the end of his first term in office of the president of Yugoslavia approached (he had previously been elected president of Serbia in two terms, from 1990 to 1997), on 6 July 2000, the rules of the election of the president were changed. Whilst the president of Yugoslavia had previously been chosen for one term only by the legislature, in the Yugoslav parliament, it was now to be directly elected via the two-round voting system of presidential elections with a maximum of two terms. Many onlookers believed that Milošević's intentions for supporting such reforms had more to do with holding power than with improving democracy.[8] On 27 July 2000, the authorities announced that the early elections were to be held 24 September 2000, although Milošević's term wouldn't expire until June 2001. The elections for the upper house of the federal parliament, Council of Citizens (Veće građana), as well as the local elections were also scheduled to be held on the same date.

Soon after the announcement, the anti-government youth movement Otpor! led the campaign to topple the administration and introduce a transparent democracy. To unify opposition, eighteen parties in Serbia formed the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, with Vojislav Koštunica as the candidate to confront Milošević. Apart from this, two major opposition parties, Serbian Radical Party and Serbian Renewal Movement also had candidates (Tomislav Nikolić and Vojislav Mihailović, respectively), but the main battle of the elections was the one between Milošević and Koštunica. The election campaign lasted for about two months and was extremely tense, with numerous incidents, accusations of treason, independent media shutdowns and even murders. On 25 August 2000, one month before elections, Ivan Stambolić, former president of the Presidency of Serbia, and Milošević associate turned DOS supporter, was kidnapped and murdered by Special Operations Unit officers. In 2005, the court found that the order for Stambolić's assassination came from Milošević.[9]

Elections[edit]

The vote took place on 24 September 2000. The DOS coalition reported that Vojislav Koštunica won over half of the votes. The government-controlled Federal Electoral Committee claimed that no candidate won over 50% of the votes and that a second round between Koštunica and Milošević would take place. The vote was largely boycotted in Montenegro and by Kosovo Albanians. Yet, Milošević officially won by large margin in these parts of the country. These unexpected results provoked stronger accusations of election fraud and led DOS to call for peaceful protest to topple the government.

Some obvious irregularities could be found in the Federal Electoral Committee official results. For example, the sum of the numbers of valid and invalid votes was not equal to the number of voters; the sum of the numbers of the voters voting at the polling stations and the voters voting at home exceeded the total number of voters; the sum of the numbers of the used and the unused ballot papers was short by 117,244 in comparison to the number of eligible voters, the number of eligible voters was different from the one announced before the elections and has differed in the presidential, federal and local elections results, etc.[10] All of these discrepancies provoked massive outrage. The results were declared false immediately after Milošević was removed and the new official results were declared shortly afterwards. The new results were practically the same, except for the number of total votes and the votes for Milošević, both of which were lower by 125,000–130,000 votes, thus making Koštunica an absolute first-round election winner.

Differences between the official results proclaimed by Federal Electoral Committee before and after 5 October
Official results (28 September 2000)[11] Official results (10 October 2000)[12]
Candidate Nominator Votes % Votes %
Vojislav Koštunica Democratic Opposition of Serbia 2,474,392 48.96 2,470,304 50.24
Slobodan Milošević Socialist Party of Serbia 1,951,761 38.62 1,826,799 37.15
Tomislav Nikolić Serbian Radical Party 292,759 5.79 289,013 5.88
Vojislav Mihailović Serbian Renewal Movement 146,585 2.90 145,019 2.95
Miodrag Vidojković Affirmative Party 46,421 0.92 45,964 0.93
Total valid votes (Percentage of total votes) 4,911,918 97.20 4,778,929 97.19
Invalid votes (Percentage of total votes) 135,371 2.68 137,991 2.81
Total votes (Turnout) 5,053,428 69.70 4,916,920 71.55
Eligible voters 7,249,831 / 6,871,595 /

Protests and the overthrow[edit]

Map of significant buildings during the protests

The protest initially started with strikers at the Kolubara mines, which produce most of Serbia's electricity needs. The protest reached its height on 5 October 2000. Several hundred thousand protesters from all over Serbia arrived in Belgrade to protest, chanting "He's finished! He's finished!" Unlike previous protests, there was no large scale police crackdown. The parliament was partially burned during the protests.

The protest is frequently named the "Bulldozer Revolution" after one of the most memorable episodes from the day long protest in which an engineering vehicle operator Ljubisav Đokić nicknamed Joe fired up his engine (actually neither an excavator nor bulldozer but a wheel loader, the event name is inaccurate out of convenience) and used it to charge the RTS building. Its tenant, Serbian state television RTS, had for a decade been a symbol and bastion of Milošević's rule. When the RTS studios were taken over, the station was quickly renamed Novi RTS ("New RTS") as a sign that the regime had lost power.

Although the protest was mostly peaceful, without a larger escalation of violence, two people died. Jasmina Jovanović fell under a wheel loader[13] or, according to other sources, a truck,[5] and Momčilo Stakić succumbed to a fatal heart attack.[14] 65 persons were injured in the riots.[5]

In the time between elections and the protest, Milošević said that he would gladly resign but only when his term expired in June of the following year. Due to pressure caused by the protests, Milošević resigned on 7 October 2000.

Aftermath[edit]

A DOS victory was guaranteed in parliamentary elections in December, where they achieved a two-thirds majority. On 1 April 2001, Milošević was detained by Serbian police and later transferred to The Hague to be prosecuted by the ICTY. He died in his cell on 11 March 2006, a few months before the conclusion of his four-year trial.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Oct. 5, 2000: Revolution in Yugoslavia". ABC. 5 October 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Boško Nicović (4 October 2010). "Hronologija: Od kraja bombardovanja do 5. oktobra" (in Serbian). B92. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Jacky Rowland (18 March 2000). "Serbia clamps down on media". BBC News. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "Clashes after Serb media raid". BBC News. 17 May 2000. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Parties, citizens mark October 5". B92. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b [1]; "Bringing Down A Dictator", Steve York, PBS,April, 2003
  7. ^ Ivan Vejvoda, "Civil Society vs. Milošević: Serbia, 1991–2000", in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 295–316.[2]
  8. ^ "Milosevic: No signs of bowing out". BBC News. 6 July 2000. 
  9. ^ "Ulemeku 40 godina, Markoviću 15". B92 (in Serbian). 18 July 2005. 
  10. ^ "What Has Made The Federal Electoral Committee Change the Laws of Addition?" (in Serbian). CeSID. 2 October 2000. 
  11. ^ Federal Electoral Committee: Official results of the election (web site of the Government of Serbia, 28 September 2000) (Serbian)
  12. ^ ElectionGuide.org: Serbia and Montenegro
  13. ^ "Otkriven spomenik Jasmini Jovanović". B92. 5 October 2002.  (Serbian)
  14. ^ "Momčilo Stakić umro na ulicama Beograda". Glas javnosti. 6 October 2000.  (Serbian)

Further reading[edit]

  • Pavol Demes and Joerg Forbrig (eds.). Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe. German Marshall Fund, 2007.

External links[edit]