In the middle of the night last night in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, the country’s Federal Election Commission announced what it called the final results of last weekend’s presidential election. The announcement confirmed yesterday’s indication that the commission intended to force a second round runoff between President Milosevic and opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica. The final tally according to the commission was 48 percent for Kostunica and 38 percent for Milosevic. Kostunica would have had to have won 50 percent of the vote to accomplish a first round victory. The announcement came just moments after the end of a massive opposition rally in Belgrade in which hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets to declare they would accept no second round. [includes rush transcript]
- Jeremy Scahill, reporting from Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
AMY GOODMAN: In the middle of the night last night in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, the country’s Federal Election Commission announced what it called the final results of last weekend’s presidential election. Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent, is in Belgrade.
Jeremy, what was announced?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, exactly what the Federal Election Commission announced was what they had preliminarily announced yesterday, and that is that Vojislav Kostunica did not win enough votes to declare a first round victory. The opposition is protesting this. They say that Kostunica had 48 percent to Milosevic’s 38 percent. No sooner did the rally, massive rally, end last night in Belgrade, hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, than the Federal Election Commission made this announcement. Thousands upon thousands of people poured into the streets of the capital city, into the Republic Square, shaking babies’ rattles, saying that Slobodan Milosevic had been broken like a baby’s rattle. The man at the center of this rally was Vojislav Kostunica. He says he’s the new president of Yugoslavia. He says there will be no second round. There is now talk of a general strike in Yugoslavia.
We go now to the speech of Vojislav Kostunica in Republic Square in Belgrade last night.
VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA: [translated] Dear brave fellow citizens, liberated people, we won. We won in spite of the lies and violence of Slobodan Milosevic. We won in spite of the economic sanctions we lived under for years. We won in spite of the NATO bombs that were falling on our country last year. We won in spite of certain Democrats in Serbia and Montenegro that turned their backs on us. We won. In that lies our strength, maybe our stubbornness. But Serbia, the real Serbia, is in that.
All of us together said on Sunday what kind of a state we wish to live in. And we not only said that, we showed by the number of votes that we stand behind that state. That is the large majority of Serbia. This government has dared once again to be stubborn against the will of the people. They tried once again to steal the election from us. They tried to bargain about the second round of the elections. And we, from here, all together, are sending them the message that there is no second round, no bargaining, no bargaining with them.
Why? We fight for democracy. Democracy rests in truth, not in lies. The truth is that we won these elections and that they lost these elections. If we would bargain with them, then we would accept lies instead of the truth, and democracy rests on truth. Besides that, democracy rests on the will of the people, on the will of the majority, and not on the will of one man. That is why there’s no bargaining with them, because if we would bargain, we would acknowledge that the will of one man, Slobodan Milosevic, is stronger than the will of the whole people. And there is no bargaining with them.
There is no bargaining with them. But who are they? How many of them are left? How many of them are still around Slobodan Milosevic? Very few. The majority of Socialist Party members do not want to take part in another fraud with him. They don’t want to share his destiny. They don’t want to go down with him.
At this moment, we are strong, because finally we have the support of the world. We have the support of the European Union. We have the support of Russia. That support is important, yet not decisive. Our strength, embodied in these elections, is decisive. Our strength, our will, our determination, to step on the neck of the whims of one man who thinks that he is untouchable, are decisive. There will not be untouchable individuals in this country anymore. Only democracy and your will will be untouchable, and untouchable will be the law that will rule this country instead of the arbitrariness of one individual.
My message to the Socialists is: we will not behave like your leadership. We will not persecute those who think differently. We will not take away the property of others. We will not jump into other people’s houses and apartments. We will not destroy state-run companies and then buy them cheaply ourselves. We will not take the people’s property out of this country. The people’s property will stay in this country. We will do everything so that order, freedom and peace start to rule this country.
My message to the army and police is: we are one. The army and police are here, being part of the people, to defend the state, and not one man and his family. The army and police behave like that so far, and they will behave like that in the future. Why would our army, that honorably fought against NATO last year, now be afraid of one man? Why would it tremble in front of him? Why would it be a puppet in the hands of a strongman? For Slobodan Milosevic is just that, a strongman who remains now without strength, and the only thing he can do now is to realize that. No matter how much he will need to realize that, if he didn’t realize that while he was in power, he will realize that when we separate him from power.
We were, dear friends, supposed to meet in a different place, in front of the federal parliament, our parliament. They disabled that. They dismantled our stage, because the Federal Election Commission, that has to fake the election results in peace, works there — the very same election commission that did that several years ago and that was forced later to acknowledge the real results. But this time, 88 days will not be necessary for them to acknowledge the truth. They have very little time, less than 24 hours, to come in front of the public with the real results of the elections.
We will do everything, but I repeat, once again, with nonviolence and not with violence, as they do, to make sure this truth is publicized. We will fight for every vote. We will fight for the preservation of this state. But we will do everything so that after Milosevic’s crimes, and after last year’s NATO bombardment, no drop of blood will fall again, and no stone will fly again. We have the strength for that. We will preserve the state. We will preserve ourselves. We are strong. We are strong because we liberated ourselves. The 24th of September is the confirmation of our great liberation, of the liberation of our great, beautiful Serbia and Yugoslavia. Let us live.
AMY GOODMAN: Opposition candidate, Vojislav Kostunica speaking last night at a rally attended by hundreds of thousands of people in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Joining us on the line, Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent, one of the few foreign reporters in Belgrade right now.
Jeremy, he has announced that they will not accept the runoff. What does it mean?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, opponents of Slobodan Milosevic have faced defeat after defeat after the last decade as they’ve tried to remove him from power. And what we’re seeing today in Yugoslavia is a different optimism in the streets, that this is the moment, that this is the time when the opponents of Milosevic are going to be victorious. So, it could be the last stand of a man who has defied mass protest and resistance his entire time in power, but time and time again, Slobodan Milosevic has shown an uncanny ability to hold on against all predictions and against all odds. It seems clear that he is going to go ahead with this second round.
Now one of the things that we need to pay attention to is that it’s very clear that the opposition is against Milosevic, but what has been less clear, certainly in the corporate media, is what they’re in favor of. As you know, the U.S. Congress this week approved a massive amount of aid, in excess of $100 million, to what it calls Democratic forces within Yugoslavia. This is on top of the $77 million it’s already pouring into the country to groups opposed to Slobodan Milosevic. This money pipeline has raised charges that what the United States is doing is what it’s done is so many countries, and that is to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. As you know, members of the opposition have met regularly with people like U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Richard Holbrooke. These were the key players in the NATO bombing, the people pressing for the bombardment, the 78-day bombardment of Yugoslavia.
The person from the opposition most frequently charged with being a servant of NATO is Zoran Dindic, who is actually Vojislav Kostunica’s campaign manager. He’s also head of the Democratic Party here in Yugoslavia. I had a chance yesterday to confront Zoran Dindic, one of the key members of the Democratic opposition of Serbia, about these meetings that he had with Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke and about this U.S. money pipeline flowing in to Yugoslavia.
JEREMY SCAHILL: The United States has pledged $77 million to groups opposed to Slobodan Milosevic, and you’ve been one of the main people that has been attacked as a NATO servant. How do you view all of this money that the U.S. is pledging? I mean, how can you respond to charges that you’re a NATO servant?
ZORAN DINDIC: We didn’t receive this money. We think that independent media and maybe NGOs, through different projects, received this money, but political parties, the parties, not. Not only from America, from other countries, too. And it is forbidden, prohibited in Yugoslavia. And in the case, to receive the money, Milosevic would, of course, know, and he would prohibit our parties. And it is very high risk for us to take the money, and this is also high risk for foreign governments. They — it is not allowed in this country, that governments to support parties in foreign countries. And I don’t understand this kind of statements, now, again, about $500 million and $50 million for opposition or some activities. If we add all these sums, we would receive millions and hundred millions from foreign countries. And I can, as a campaign manager, say to you, we spent less than $500,000 in our campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Zoran Dindic is the campaign manager for the opposition candidate, Vojislav Kostunica. We’re going to go back to that interview Jeremy Scahill did with him yesterday after the protest rally in Belgrade. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! First we have to break for 60 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! The Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. After the speech last night of the opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica, who said that the opposition will not accept the — what has been laid out by Slobodan Milosevic a runoff for the presidency of Yugoslavia. Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill spoke with Zoran Dindic, who is the campaign manager for Kostunica and had asked him, as we were listening before the break, about the tens of millions of dollars that has been pouring in from the United States. He was talking about — Zoran Dindic, when we broke — the amount of money that they have put into, that the opposition has put into, their campaign.
ZORAN DINDIC: This campaign did cost less than $500,000, about a million German marks. And with all this money, I don’t know what to do with $5 million as party in Serbia. He knows, but he’s not party.
JEREMY SCAHILL: But there are some, though, that say it was inappropriate for you to meet with Madeleine Albright, given that she was one of the leaders of the bombing of your country.
ZORAN DINDIC: This is the reality. I cannot choose who is Secretary of State in America. I appreciate America. It’s a very important country, and I think that without strategic partnership and friendship with America and Europe, we cannot be successful in this region. We want to have common interests, of course, to protect our interests, but to protect our interests through cooperation with important countries in the world, with Russia, America, Europe. And I don’t want to influence the personal politics in Washington. I cannot say of Madeleine Albright, it’s not OK, they should have other people, another person. We should accept reality, and reality is that the world politics is like climate. That is, you can try to live with it, or you are dead. And we — Milosevic is trying to change the international climate, to change American politics. That is stupid. We want to try to accept the reality and to maybe to create better future for our children in the real world, not in the, how to say, world imagined by us.
JEREMY SCAHILL: But there are some that say that it’s insensitive to the population of Yugoslavia to meet with someone like Madeleine Albright, who was so vehemently in favor of bombing Yugoslavia. I’m not talking about how it plays globally. I’m talking about to the population here that suffered immensely from that bombing.
ZORAN DINDIC: Yes, but that’s an investment in the future. You should —- I think politicians should do unpopular things, if they are useful for their country. And I think it will be very dangerous just to try to be popular in the country and not to do right things. I have my opinion about Madeleine Albright, about NATO, about the kind of politics -—
JEREMY SCAHILL: What is your opinion?
ZORAN DINDIC: It’s not very, very high opinion. I think NATO — NATO did huge mistakes, and I don’t think that the people are very able by analyzing situation and acting appropriately. I don’t think that they do right things. But that is reality, and I think I choose this way to maybe to be not very popular in Serbia, but to be bridge between Serbia and Europe, first of all Europe, and then America. And I think someone should do this. And Mr. Kostunica should do other things. And all together, we have — we cover national politics and mood of the people in Serbia, but also international politics. And we are a small country, and we are a small nation, and we should try to use all opportunities in the country and in the world to bring better future for our people. And I do this with plan. I know what the costs are very, very well. But I think the benefits in the future are huge, and not for me personally, but for this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Zoran Dindic is the opposition campaign manager for Vojislav Kostunica, speaking to Jeremy Scahill last night in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Jeremy, as we wrap up, the latest news from Belgrade?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, just one comment on the interview with Zoran Dindic. One of the statements that he made, I think, a lot of people I’ve talked to here find it shocking that he referred to his meetings with Madeleine Albright as an investment in the future, given the fact that she was so key to the massive bombardment of this country.
We’ve just gotten word in the last few moments on a different subject, that the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, very important figure here, has recognized the election victory of Vojislav Kostunica and appealed to him to come to power in a peaceful manner. This is very significant because this is a largely Orthodox country. People do rely on the word of the patriarch. Once again, he has confirmed from his office that they believe that Vojislav Kostunica is the new president of Yugoslavia.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, thank you very much for being with us. Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. We’ll be continuing to bring you his reports.