News for December 20th, 1996

Over a hundred thousand "Zajedno" supporters attended today's 31st rally in Belgrade, protesting the alleged electoral fraud by Serbia's ruling party and its electoral and judicial institutions. The leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition - Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic - led the procession as usual. Addressing the demonstrators, Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party (DS), said that the investigative team sent by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is likely to state what everyone already knows - that electoral fraud was indeed committed. Vesna Pesic, leader of the Civil Alliance of Serbia (GSS), stressed that there can be no bargaining with the electoral will of the people and the real electoral results. She added that a multi-party panel can be organized only after the facts have been established, and these, she said, are of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), accused Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic of actively preparing to provoke a civil war in Serbia so that he can stay in power. The 'counter-rallies' by Milosevic's supporters are a part of this scenario, said Draskovic. Protest meetings by the coalition "Zajedno" are to continue tomorrow.

Felipe Gonzalez, former prime minister of Spain, arrived tonight in Belgrade as head of the OSCE delegation which is to review the legality of government actions regarding the second round of municipal elections in Serbia. Gonzalez was greeted by Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Milan Milutinovic. In his short statement, Gonzalez said that he came as the head of the delegation which is to join him in Belgrade within the next 48 hours. Among other things, Gonzalez said: "We are here to see the situation and that is all that I can say right now. We have to speak with the authorities, the opposition and the various institutions in the country."

The tasks of the OSCE delegation, say diplomatic circles in Brussels, will be not only to investigate what happened with the November 17th election results, but also to recommend to Serbian authorities what can be done in the immediate future to ensure a democratic way out of the present crisis. The same diplomats think that Milosevic will have no other choice but to carry out the recommendations of the EU investigative team.

Before leaving for Belgrade, Felipe Gonzalez today met Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, to confer with him on the OSCE delegation's mandate in Serbia. Cotti said that the delegation must have access to all relevant people, documents, institutions and all the Electoral Commissions. "Perhaps we are on a mission impossible, but we must not jump to conclusions," said Gonzalez.

The Information Center of the nongovernmental organizations reported today that the criminal charge of manslaughter was brought on Judge Radoslav Coguric, a member of the council of the Supreme Court of Serbia who legalized the annulment of electoral results, in 1993. Although the Court Law predicts an unconditional suspension in such cases, Judge Coguric had not been under suspension for one single day.

Momir Bulatovic, President of Montenegro, has stated that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic confessed to him on 21st November that the opposition had won at local elections in Belgrade and Nis. In his interview for today's "Le Figaro", Bulatovic pointed out that "stealing of votes cannot be pulled without consequences" and that "it is normal that electoral fraud should lead to demonstrations".

The first meeting of the OSCE delegation, headed by Felipe Gonzalez, with the leaders of the coalition "Zajedno" is planned for 7:30 p.m. tonight. The meeting is to be held at the Belgrade "Hyatt" hotel. Another meeting between "Zajedno" leaders and the OSCE team is scheduled for tomorrow.

The leaders of the oppositional "Zajedno" coalition said this evening at the protest rally in Belgrade that there will be no negotiations with the authorities until the victory of the opposition at the local elections has been recognized. They also said that they will inform the delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of this decision at this evening's meeting.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic received this evening Felipe Gonzalez, former Prime Minister of Spain who is the head of the OSCE delegation assigned to enquire into the dispute over the local elections in Serbia. According to Belgrade media, both parties expressed their expectations that the delegation of the OSCE would have an opportunity to find out all the relevant facts.

Felipe Gonzalez, former Prime Minister of Spain, the Head of the OSCE delegation which arrived in Belgrade today, met with the representatives of the "Zajedno" coalition after the talk with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Vuk Draskovic, president of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said after the conversation that the representatives of the "Zajedno" coalition had given the documents proving the electoral theft to the members of the OSCE delegation. More documents will be given to the OSCE delegation tomorrow morning. Vuk Draskovic informed Felipe Gonzalez that the dialogue about the media and about other issues will be possible only after the electoral results of November 17th have been recognized. According to the schedule, Felipe Gonzalez should leave Belgrade tomorrow evening after the talks with the representatives of the opposition and the representatives of the authorities.

The municipal court in the city of Nis has adopted the appeal of the coalition "Zajedno" and reversed the decision to annul the election results of December 17th.

The representatives of the "Zajedno" coalition in Nis stated today that they received a decision of the Municipal Court which "partially sustains the objections of the "Zajedno" coalition concerning the so-called third ballot of local elections".

Belgrade student protesters, who announced yesterday their intention to block bridges connecting Belgrade to New Belgrade, were stopped by police cordons earlier this afternoon. The Steering Board of Student Protest '96 held a press conference right on the spot and used the occasion to underline the students' contention that Belgrade police have been violating one of their fundamental civil rights: the right to the freedom of movement. The Steering Board thanked the police for blocking the bridge and so doing the work the students had set out to accomplish by themselves.

A group of students left Subotica today at 13:00 on bicycles and headed towards Belgrade as an act of solidarity with their colleagues from Belgrade, who have been protesting for 27 days because of disrespect for the electoral will of the people. Ten students started a 180 km ride escorted by a bus carrying 30 more of their colleagues who are going to replace them in shifts during their journey. The students were seen off from the main square in Subotica, and their bicycles were decorated with flags of Serbia and Yugoslavia. They are due to arrive in Novi Sad around 18:00 today where they will spend the night and then continue their journey. Upon their arrival in Belgrade they will address the students at Plato in front of the School of Philosophy.

A few thousands of students and citizens of Novi Sad welcomed this evening the group of 35 students from Subotica who came to Novi Sad by bicycles. The students from Subotica came this way in order to express their solidarity with the students from Novi Sad, Belgrade and other cities, who demand the democratization of Serbia.

The protest of the students of Kragujevac University continued today. The contest for the best banner was announced at today's rally. A great number of the citizens waved to the students from their windows and balconies. Tomorrow's protest rally will start at 19:00; the motto will be "dispelling the darkness".

Representatives of newly-formed Independent Student Movement distanced their organization today from the Belgrade Student Association and asked the media to differentiate between these two. At a press conference held today, they announced that the Independent Student Movement has some 2,000 members, mostly students who say they want to go back to their classes. The organization has sent letters to the Deans of Belgrade University, demanding that regular lectures be reinstituted and made available to students as soon as possible. They also read out the response they have received from the Dean of the School of Technology, asking the Independent Student Movement to explain, among other things, how they managed to obtain premises in one of the most expansive buildings in Belgrade.

Some 1,000 citizens of Timisoara (Romania) gathered today in their hometown's Victory Square in a show of support for the residents of Serbian cities and towns who are protesting against the nullification of municipal electoral results. The first president of Timisoaran city government, Pompiliu Alamurean, the publicist Doru Braju and the Romanian Army Officer Nicolas Durak, who refused to open fire at Romanian demonstrators in 1989, all spoke at the meeting. After the rally, Timisoarans marched by the Yugoslav Consulate building.

The Associations of Lawyers of Serbia and of Montenegro adopted today the report of the Commission of the Serbian Association of Lawyers, according to which the boards of judges of the First District Court in Belgrade and of the Supreme Court of Serbia had badly violated the proceedings over the local elections in Serbia. "The Court annulled the electoral results and scheduled new elections without any legal foundation," reads the report of the Commission.

The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) stated today that the arbitration of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in connection with the local electoral results in Serbia means rough interference in the internal affairs of our country. "SRS demands that a discussion about the elections should be held in Serbian Parliament, without the participation or interference of the OSCE or any of its boards or delegations," reads the statement of SRS led by Vojislav Seselj. It is also mentioned in the statement that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been suspended from the OSCE.

Felipe Gonzalez former Spanish Prime Minister and president of the Commission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stated this evening, at Surcin Airport, that he came to Yugoslavia to establish the facts, and not to arbitrate the dispute.

The syndicate of the "Magnohrom" factory in Kraljevo dissociated itself today from the telegram of support which was sent to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by Mihajlo Kosovac, the manager of the factory, two days ago.

Borisav Jovic, the former president of SFRJ who used to hold one of the highest functions of SPS, stated in an interview for "NIN" that the annulment of the electoral results of the second ballot of local elections cannot be justified - generally speaking. "The fact that they lost the elections in major cities, especially in Belgrade, seems to have surprised or irritated the Socialist Party, and lead it to dangerous act of annulment of electoral results," stated Jovic.

The Democratic Party expects the mission of the OSCE, which is due to arrive in Belgrade today, to speak in favor of the acknowledgement of results of the second round of local elections in Serbia.

The board of SPS for the city of Novi Sad accused today the "Zajedno" coalition, especially Mihajlo Svilar, the Mayor of Novi Sad, for supporting the student demonstrations. The socialist leaders in Novi Sad appealed to the new city authorities to stop further demonstrations in the city.

The Democratic Party has stated that the delegates of the "Zajedno" coalition prevented today the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) to constitute the Town Assembly of Kraljevo. Although law prescribes that invitations for the constitutive session must be sent with a seven days' notice, the SPS sent them during the night between Thursday and Friday, in order to pull a fast one on the "Zajedno" coalition, informs the "Zajedno" coalition. All the delegates of the coalition entered the building of the Town Assembly, except the three of them who were stopped by the police. The delegates of the "Zajedno" coalition prevented the illegitimate delegates of the SPS to constitute the Assembly, states the Democratic Party.

Cedomir Jovanovic, the vice-president of the Zajecar board of the Democratic Party, and Dragan Milicevic, a member of that party, were confined today in the police station, said Momcilo Radenkovic, the representative of the "Zajedno" coalition in Zajecar. He said that they were confined because they allegedly made too much noise while appealing (through the loudspeaker system in their car) to the citizens to come to this evening's rally of the "Zajedno" coalition. Radenkovic added that Milicevic was released immediately, whereas Jovanovic, who is the head of the "Zajedno" delegation in the Zajecar Assembly, was detained at the police station. The supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition will enter the building of the police unless Jovanovic is released until 18:00, said Radenkovic.

Around 10,000 citizens of Sabac protested today against the annulment of the local electoral results. A new protest rally is scheduled for 15:00 tomorrow.

Around 1,000 high-school students protested today in Sabac against the irregularities in the second round of local elections. The Initiative Board of the seniors of the Sabac High-School stated that the students and most of their teachers support the protest gatherings in the cities of Serbia.

56 supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition from Lazarevac, mostly of younger age, started this evening for Belgrade on foot. They are expected to arrive in Belgrade around noon tomorrow, in time to join the protest rally of the "Zajedno" coalition. These citizens of Lazarevac will cover 62 kilometers on foot. Their motto is "Lazarevac is Belgrade too".

Around 6,000 citizens of Bor protested today against the annulment of the second round of local elections in Serbia. Todays rally was the most numerous one since the beginning of the protest in Bor 11 days ago.

Protest rallies against the annulment of the second round of local elections continued in Jagodina today. A few hundred citizens of Jagodina went to Cuprija and Paracin, in order to participate in the rallies in these towns, expressing in this way their gratitude to the citizens of Cuprija and Paracin for their participation in the rallies in Jagodina.

After a two-day rest, due to St. Nikola's feast, the protest rallies against the annulment of the second round of local elections, were continued in Leskovac today. The protest rally, organized be the "Zajedno" coalition, was attended by around 3,000 citizens, who peacefully protested in the streets of Leskovac between 18:00 and 20:00, expressing at the same time their support for the students and citizens rallying in other cities of Serbia. The organizers announced a new rally for 18.00 tomorrow.

The board of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) in Gnjilane organized today a rally in support of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The rally was attended by a few hundreds of citizens. The gathering was addressed by worker, a student and a pensioner. A telegram for Slobodan Milosevic was read, in which the citizens of Gnjilane stated that he is the guarantee that the genocide (against) Serbs on Kosovo will not happen again and that children and youth of Kosovo will live in peace.

Around 2,000 citizens of Zajecar gathered today at the rally organized in support of the political attitude of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Dusan Pejcic, the newly elected Mayor of Zajecar, read the telegram of support for Sloboda Milosevic and said that all means available would be used in Zajecar in order to prevent nondemocratic gatherings.

Borivoje Radic, a delegate of the Democratic party in Serbian Parliament, appealed today to the citizens of Kragujevac to allow the supporters of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) to organize a rally tomorrow. In this way, the citizens would "pass the democracy exam". "We shall show tomorrow that we are responsible and we shall protest against the stealing of votes peacefully as usual. They are our opposition and we must make it possible for them to rally. The only problem is that it would suit them if a conflict broke out, whereas we shall do everything to prevent a conflict," said Radic at the protest rally in the center of Kragujevac.

The RTS (State-owned Radio-Television Network) reported this evening that rallies in support of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his "politics of peace" were held today in Pozarevac, Zajecar, Vrbas, Aleksandrovac, Gnjilane and Kosjeric.

A series of counter-rallies of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), which have started three days ago in Majdanpek, will end the spectacular rally at Usce, reports the "Dnevni Telegraf", relying on well-informed sources close to the headquarters of SPS.

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