Milosevic Robbed
George Szamuely
New York Press


The United States once again showed its contempt for elections by orchestrating last week’s coup d’etat in Belgrade. Had Washington been remotely interested in a democratic change of power in Yugoslavia, it would have urged Vojislav Kostunica to run in the second round of voting. For months the Clinton administration had dismissed the upcoming elections as meaningless, claiming – without much evidence – that Slobodan Milosevic intended to "steal" them. Overnight the U.S. line changed. It turned out that the Sept. 24 vote was definitive, and that Vojislav Kostunica had secured well over 50 percent of the vote. A runoff was out of the question. It was "time for Milosevic to go" as U.S. officials repeated robot-like.

The U.S. media presented the Yugoslav opposition as conquering heroes, trustees of a popular mandate. Few bothered to take a closer look at the figures. Kostunica’s supporters claimed, first, that their man had won 55 percent of the vote. What this estimate was based on remains a mystery. Then the day after the vote it was that Kostunica had won with 57 percent. Since then Kostunica has been forced daily to revise his estimated vote downward. Last week, he was down to 51.34 percent. And he only ekes out this number if the votes of the Montenegrins and the Kosovo Serbs – strongly pro-Milosevic – are discounted. Clearly then, Kostunica’s figures and those of the Yugoslav Electoral Commission (Kostunica has 48.96 percent to Milosevic’s 38.62 percent) were not that far apart.

Therefore, the insistence of the U.S. government and the opposition that there was to be no second round of voting was nothing more than cancellation of democracy. The ploy was particularly outrageous given that Milosevic’s coalition – and this is something no one denies – had won majorities in both chambers of the federal parliament. The government coalition now has 74 out of 137 seats in the lower chamber; and 26 out of 40 seats in the upper chamber.

The events that led to the trashing of the parliament and the seizure of power remain murky as I write this. What apparently acted as the trigger was the news that the Yugoslav Constitutional Court had ruled to annul the Sept. 24 vote. But the court had made no such ruling. Last Wednesday the court heard arguments from the Democratic opposition to have Kostunica declared the outright winner. A ruling was promised within 72 hours. Reuters ran a story saying that the head of the Yugoslav Constitutional Court, Milutin Srdic, had told the Bulgarian office of Radio Free Europe that the presidential election had to be held again after the end of Milosevic’s term of office. Radio Free Europe, as everyone knows, is a U.S. agency. Bulgarians at Radio Free Europe are presumably not the first on the list of people who need to be told of a Constitutional Court decision.

According to the L.A. Times, the "court had decided ‘to annul part of the electoral procedures’ for the disputed Sept. 24 presidential election. The statement did not specify which portion of the election had been voided or what action, if any, would be ordered." Yet Zoran Djindjic, Kostunica’s campaign manager and the most important figure in the Democratic opposition, was in no time claiming, "According to the information I have they annulled the first round." However, the Reuters report added, "He did not say where the information came from." Not surprisingly, Madeleine Albright was soon denouncing the court’s decision as an effort to "thwart the will of the people." The story of the court’s ruling clearly was a piece of disinformation to sow hatred of Milosevic.

The violation of Yugoslavia’s electoral process was the perfect culmination of a campaign that U.S. funds had disfigured to the point of absurdity. In August the U.S. opened an Office of Yugoslav Affairs in Budapest with a view to organizing the opposition’s campaign. Even The New York Times has written about the "suitcases of cash" coming in from Hungary. The U.S., with quasi-independent organizations that work in tandem with it like George Soros’ Open Society Institute, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to try to oust Milosevic. At least $77 million of U.S. taxpayer money has poured into the bank accounts of the opposition in the last year alone. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) channels money to Serb newspapers, tv and radio. Since 1999 the International Republican Institute, yet another conduit for U.S. money, has been bankrolling student organizations. The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) channels money to economists in Yugoslavia. In the words of NED Program Officer Paul McCarthy, CIPE along "with the G-17 group of independent economists, is conducting a research program to identify barriers to private sector development at the local and federal levels and to promote economic reform legislation."

The next finance minister of Yugoslavia is likely to be Mladjan Dinkic, director of G-17 Plus (same as G-17). It was G-17 Plus that crafted the Democratic opposition’s economics program. In a recent interview, he stated that the opposition had already drafted a letter of intent asking for Yugoslavia’s readmission to the IMF and the World Bank. He speaks with relish about free trade and privatization.

The Serbs will not enjoy what the IMF has in mind for them. They will like even less the plans of the U.S. government. Giving up independence has a price – a rather high one, as the Serbs are about to find out.

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Soros' World

The Good Lieberman

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Death of Innocents

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Proud To Be Un-American

All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press


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