News for December 21st, 1996
The first round of today's talks between the Commission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the leader of the "Zajedno" coalition, concerning the annulment of local elections in Serbia, ended at 10:30 this morning. The Commission consists of representatives from the USA, Poland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Russia, Denmark, Italy and Switzerland; two experts, from Switzerland and Canada, are included in the Commission.
The visit of the delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is the beginning of enquiring into the details of the electoral fraud in Belgrade, reports the "Financial Times" today. According to the BBC radio program in Serbian, the London Weekly judges that the discord within the President Milosevic's ruling elite is intensifying. The "Financial Times" informs that Slobodan Milosevic invited the OSCE Commission in order to suppress the street protests which began more than a month ago and to lessen the West caused by the annulment of local elections of November 17th. Milosevic refrained from employing the police forces against the demonstrators, but he has intensified his propaganda Campaign through the stark media and organized counter-rallies in a number of Serbian towns.
The group of 35 students from Subotica arrived in Belgrade today. Their route was 180 kilometers long, and they came this way to show their solidarity with the students from Belgrade, Novi Sad and other cities, who demand the democratization of Serbia and the recognition of the will of the people.
Around 30 citizens of Lazarevac, supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition, who started for Belgrade on foot last evening expressing their protest against annulment of the results of the second round of local elections reached the center of Belgrade at 14:30 today. They joined the protest rally of the "Zajedno" coalition at 15:00
After this morning conversation with the Commission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Zoran Djindjic, the leader of the Democratic Party, stated that the opposition is prepared to discuss further political activities in Serbia only after the election results of november 17th have seen recognized. Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement said that the "Zajedno" coalition would not participate in the panel discussion suggested by the Serbian Socialists Party, and added that a round-table conference should be held and its conclusions observed by all parliamentary parties in Serbia.
Today "Liberasion" reports that the authorities in Serbia are tentatively beginning to show some consideration towards demands of the opposition. This daily newspaper adds, however, that the authorities have become more rigorous in their address to the opposition and that Milosevic's Socialists Party has organized counter-rallies which are not attended by many citizens, but can still cause conflicts.
The "Zajedno" coalition communicated today that the police in Vranje arrested and beat Goran Krstic, the activist of that coalition, on Thursday, December 19th, and he was given urgent medical help on Friday. Stojan Stojmenovic, the head of the police in Vranje informed the "Zajedno" coalition that the policemen will carry out their orders in case of any future disobedience, stated the "Zajedno" coalition.
A pro-Milosevic rally was held in Leskovac today. Around 3,000 citizens of Leskovac, Vlasotinac, Vucje, Grdelica, Bojnik and Medvedje. Dusan Jankovic, the president of the Municipal Board of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) said that the "Zajedno" coalition had won in a few Serbian cities, but he added that it is illogical that the Coalition should claim victory in the cities in which it had not won the elections.
A pro-Milosevic rally organized by the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) was held in the center of Kragujevac today. Around 3,000 citizens participated in the rally, the motto of which was: "Serbia will not be ruled by foreigners." A few thousand citizens of Kragujevac, supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition, gathered at the same time in the center of Kragujevac, but the police prevented the contact between the two groups.
The 27th protest gathering of "Zajedno" coalition, attended by around 50,000 citizens, was held in the center of Kragujevac today. 120 citizens of Belgrade came to Kragujevac on foot, expressing their gratitude for the support the citizens of Kragujevac give them. The protest of the "Zajedno" coalition will be continued on Monday.
Representatives of Italian nongovernmental organizations, led by Tom Bentollo, a Member of Parliament and president of a cultural and social organization, stated today that the return of Serbia and Yugoslavia into Europe would not be easy with the current regime ruling the country. The Italian guests joined today's rally of the opposition in Belgrade.
The "International Herald Tribune", a daily newspaper published in Paris, reports today that Felipe Gonzalez, former prime-minister of Spain and Head of the delegation of the Organization for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE), gave last evening a message to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, in which he demanded of him to acknowledge the election results. The "Herald Tribune" adds that Milosevic himself effected the 24-hour visit of the OSCE delegation, attempting to end the crisis and save his honor. "These demonstrations are the most serious challenge to his 9-year rule, points out the "Herald Tribune".
The Initiative Committee of the Student Protest '96 and the Initiative Committee for Defence of Democracy at the University submitted a joint demand to the deans, vice-deans, chancellors and vice-chancellors at the University who are members of political parties, to resign their posts. The letter addressed to Dragutin Velickovic, the Chancellor of Belgrade University, with more than 1,500 signatures of professors and teaching assistants, was sent to the RTS and the "Politika" (both state-controlled media companies). This gesture was intended as a proof that the professors do not hide behind their students and that they have their own attitude.
The first Congress of the Alliance of Free Cities and Municipalities of Serbia will be held in Belgrade tomorrow. The Alliance consists of all delegates of municipal and city assemblies who were legitimately elected on November 17th. The Congress will discuss the legal initiative for regulating local self-government according to the principles of European declaration of local self-government.
Around 100 pensioners from Pancevo, who started for Belgrade on foot this morning, reached the building of Serbian Presidency around 16:00 where they demanded to be received by President Slobodan Milosevic. The security guards informed them that President was not there. The pensioners had come 20 kilometers from Pancevo to Belgrade, which was a gesture of protest against the annulment of the second round of the local elections. They wanted to inform Milosevic that ballot papers of the municipal election of November 17th have not been counted yet and to give him the records from the voting units.
The members of the OSCE delegation which should establish the facts concerning the second round of the local elections talked today with Radomir Lazarevic, the president of the Belgrade City Electoral Committee. After the meeting in the building of the City Assembly, the representatives of the OSCE did not give any statement for the reporters. Radomir Lazarevic stated that the City Electoral Committee had done its duty strictly observing the law. He said that the delegation of OSCE was informed that the court has the jurisdiction over the decisions of the Electoral Committee.
Zoran Zivkovic, vice-president of the Democratic Party, said at the press conference of the "Zajedno" coalition in Nis that the coalition suspects that the City Electoral Committee in Nis have falsified all election documents (including voting papers and the records) again these days. The police in Nis informed the "Zajedno" coalition that the election documents were not under the control of the police between December 11th and December 16th. Zivkovic appealed to the City Electoral Committee in Nis not to continue falsifying the election documents, because it cannot pass either in Nis or with the OSCE delegation.
According to the AFP, Max Kapelman, the American member of the OSCE delegation, which is enquiring into the regularity of the local elections in Serbia, stated that the international team has not had a chance to estimate the accusations concerning the electoral fraud yet, but he pointed out that the proofs seem to be impressive.
The delegation of OSCE cannot do anything else but accept the public will expressed in the second round of local elections, stated Miodrag Perisic, the vice-president of the Democratic Party in Nis this evening. In front of more than 10,000 citizens protesting in Liberty Square for the 34th time, Perisic said that political protests of the citizens of Serbia have three political aims, the accomplishing of which will be the condition for the "Zajedno" coalition to participate in any of future elections. Perisic pointed out that, first of all it is important that the victory of the "Zajedno" coalition should be recognized in Belgrade, Nis, Kraljevo and Jagodina; it is also essential that the media should be freed and the liars chased out of the RTS and that the government of Serbia should be made to cooperate with the free cities and counties in which the opposition won.
Up to the middle of this month a number of 174 eminent University professors and teachers from several countries expressed their solidarity with the students and citizens of Serbia by e-mail. They demand that President Slobodan Milosevic and the Government of Serbia accept the results of local elections, respect human rights, including the right of expressing political attitudes, and agree to the demand that Serbia should become a part of the European democratic society.
A commemoration for the Serbs who lost their lives defending their country and as the victims of communist terror was held today in Kraljevo.
More than 7,000 citizens protested today against the annulment of the results of the second round of local elections in the Central Square in Sabac.
The democratization in close neighborhood is good for Bosnia and represents an important condition for its stabilization, but it is important to be careful when making judgements about these processes, it is said in today's "Oslobodjenje", a daily newspaper in Sarajevo.
At their meeting in Belgrade today, both the delegation of the OSCE and Gorica Gajevic, the general secretary of the Serbian Socialist Party, expressed their hope that the OSCE representatives would be able to inform themselves correctly about the facts concerning the local elections in Serbia. The OSCE delegation talked today with the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition too, as well as with the representatives of the City Electoral Committee and with the judges of the First District Court.
The Beta news agency got today a note from the cabinet of Momir Bulatovic, President of Montenegro, in which Momcilo Stojanovic, Bulatovic's spokesman and consultant, stated that Beta's interpretation of Bulatovic's interview for "Le Figaro" is contrary to the real character and substance of the attitude of President Bulatovic towards the current events in Serbia. The Beta agency was accused of an irresponsible and unprofessional act, by which it misinformed the public about vary important and delicate political questions.
The "Segodnya" (a Russian newspaper) reports today that the antidemocratic leader, which is the name given to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by his opponents, has, through Milan Milutinovic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed his readiness to repeat the local elections, should the OSCE delegation suggest it. The commercial TV-network reports that the supporters of the opposition are especially angry at the Moscow because it, as they see it, supports the rule of Slobodan Milosevic, "Itar TAS" expresses its confidence that both sides will accept the suggestions of the OSCE delegation, because any other solution could lead to a conflict.
The information center of the "Zajedno" coalition announced today that the final counter-rally organized by the Serbian Socialist Party is planned for Tuesday in Republic Square in Belgrade.
A few tens of thousands of citizens gathered this evening at the protest rally of the "Zajedno" coalition in Republic Square. Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said that the citizens are brought by force in buses to the pro-Milosevic rallies, and that the travel expenses and fuel are paid by the state.
Representatives of the Initiative Committee of the Student Protest '96 met today with the OSCE delegation, which is enquiring into the regularity of the local elections in Serbia. The students stresses the non-party character of their protest and stated their demands and their attitude towards the current situation in Serbia.
The delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met this evening with Dragoljub Jankovic, the president of the First District Court in Belgrade. Jankovic stated for the reporters that he informed the OSCE representatives about the current regulations and about the documentation.
The City Board of the Serbian Socialists Party (SPS) in Nis sent an open letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in which they expressed their approval of Milosevic's peaceful politics. They stated that Nis has always been the stronghold of his politics and the politics of the SPS.
Felipe Gonzalez gave a statement on the visit of the OSCE representatives to Belgrade. He said that the OSCE delegation is ready to examine all the information and documents, and that he will inform the OSCE Presiding Officer about all his relevant conclusions and suggestions. His duty is to, taking into consideration all the remarks of the members of the OSCE delegation, submit those reports to the OSCE Presiding Officer by the end of December.
The pro-Milosevic rallies were held today in Kragujevac, Apatin, Leskovac Kovin, Pirot and Prizren, reports the RTS in its prime time news-program.
The rallies of the "Zajedno" coalition were held today in Zajecar and Knjazevac as well. Both pro-Milosevic and the "Zajedno" coalition rallies were held in Bor today. There were no unwelcome incidents.