Foreign Agencies on February 6th, 1997

Christian Science Monitor
Thursday February 6, 1997 Edition
With Jokes, Serb Protesters Prevailing in 'Ironic Revolution'
Paul Wood, Special to The Christian Science Monitor


She was bold as well as beautiful: Belgrade's Miss Student Protest '97 had to strut her stuff not on the catwalk, but between ranks of baton-wielding police in full riot gear. The antigovernment beauty pageant was held during one particularly tense confrontation between police and protesters. After 11 weeks, the demonstrators forced recognition of opposition victories in the local elections not just by outlasting the authorities - but also by outwitting them.

Led by student demonstrators, the protesters seemed to come up with a new gimmick every day to keep their spirits up and people on the streets. In the face of this, the government of President Slobodan Milosevic vacillated between hints of compromise and shrill denunciation, backed up with the use of force by the police.

Face-to-face with the cordon of riot squads, some women students took to kissing policemen. They voted for the most handsome officer. These tactics caught police off guard and made the use of force more difficult.

Students hurled disinfectant at the Serbian parliament when the official explanation for its closure was an infestation of mosquitoes - in the depths of winter. They brought Dostoyevsky to read to police. "This is the whole spirit of our protest," says the student spokesman Dusn Vasiljevic. "We have to do this to prevent violence, because if there is violence, we don't stand a chance."

This was the "ironic revolution," and the protesters' favorite weapons were not rocks or barricades, but jokes.

One protest joke has Mr. Milosevic, US President Clinton, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin trapped on a plane that's about to crash. There is one parachute. The three of them vote for who gets it, and Milosevic wins, jumping to safety. "I wouldn't mind," Mr. Clinton says as the plane goes down, "but where did he get the other 99 votes?" Protesters also tell how the national soccer team lost 2-0 to Spain - but the result was reversed by the Serbian Supreme Court.
Some want the protests to continue, especially until the virtual media monopoly enjoyed by the Socialists is broken. "It's good that we are winning," says one of the demonstrators, summing up the mood. "But I will miss all this. I will remember this energy and beauty all my life."

(c) Copyright 1997 The Christian Science Publishing Society.

Serbian Opposition to Give Dialogue a Chance

(17:22 02/06/97) BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (Reuter) - Demonstrators kept up pressure on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic Thursday, and opposition leaders promised to stop the street protests once parliament restores their municipal election victories.

About 15,000 students paraded through Belgrade for the 79th day, pressing Milosevic to deliver on his promise to recognize the results of November's municipal elections in Belgrade and 13 other Serbian towns.

(c) 1997 Reuters Limited.

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