Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why didn't they shoot?

(this is the third part in the "What happened on October 5th" miniseries, with parts one and two posted earlier)

The strategy of the DOS coalition of opposition parties was in a nutshell to win the presidential election, expose the fraud if it happens and organize protests to counter it and to make sure these protests are not crushed by the armed forces loyal to Milosevic - the Army, the Police or the Special Forces.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What was the plan?

(this is the second part in the "What happened on October 5th" miniseries, part one can be found here)

In its Declaration on the Future of Serbia, adopted on July 30th 1999, Otpor advocated the strategy for transition of power through free and fair elections, with the idea of united front against Milosevic. Otpor also stressed the importance of mobilizing the population to vote, but also of promoting “individual resistance” i.e. nonviolent methods of civic disobedience in order to counter possible electoral fraud. This strategy was slowly embraced by the opposition parties in the months to come, but at the time nobody had taken it seriously.

The strategy was based on two assumptions:

  1. that the opposition had to be united, to have one presidential candidate in a run in order to get more votes than Milosevic
  2. that Milosevic would never accept the defeat at the elections (that he would falsify ballots and even use armed forces to defend his power)

The strategy was derived from a decision to use elections as a tool of change, since legitimacy of the opposition could only be established in the election process. Opposition needed to unite, to have one candidate in order to maximize its chances. Otpor and the resto of the civil society, on the other hand, would mobilize the population to “get out and vote” in order to raise voter turnout and opposition’s chances of victory.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What happened on October 5th?

I don't know exactly what happened in Belgrade on October 5th 2000, I wasn't there. I was drafted into the Army on September 9th, almost a month before the day Milosevic was brought down. On October 5th I was on top of some mountain in Montenegro with my unit, without much information about the protests taking place in the capital. I had a tiny radio but it was taken away from me by my commanding officer, concerned that we may get unconfirmed information from unofficial sources.

By the end of the day every officer in my unit disappeared and we were left alone. Soldiers were debating what to do: some said we should drop our weapons and go to Belgrade to join the protests, others said we should keep our weapons and join the protests (it would have taken us several days to reach Belgrade, but we weren’t bothered much with these “technical details”). In the morning on October 6th the officers announced that new government came to power and that the Army stayed and would continue to stay out of politics. Before this, one of the petty-officers approached me, shook my hand and said: “Congratulations, you won.” This is how I found out that Milosevic was finished.
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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Striking (in)significance of Otpor

Otpor played a marginal role on October 5th 2000, the day Milosevic fell, marching down Marshal Tito Street while the real action was in front of the Parliament building. And I played an even more marginal role in Otpor, because on that day I was on the opposite side, as a sailor drafted into the Yugoslav Navy few weeks before, I was defending Slobodan Milosevic, my commander-in-chief (and I failed him).

There is a bigger and bigger disconnect between what happened and what is being said about Otpor as the time passes. And I'm not talking just about conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones whose web site Infowars says that Otpor "was a key organization in the Serbian Wars in the 1990s and was also an influence in the Egypt uprisings." Serbian Wars!? Silly indeed, but this page is in the top five when you google Otpor.

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