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A series of events occurred in 2000 in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, following the presidential elections and culminating in the downfall of Slobodan Milošević's regime on 5 October 2000. It is sometimes referred to as the '5th October Overthrow' and sometimes colloquially called the 'Bager revolucija', translated into English as Bulldozer Revolution.

Contents

Events preceding the elections

Prior to this, Milošević was cracking down on opposition, non-government organizations and independent media. As the end of his first term in office of the president of Yugoslavia approached (he had previously been elected president of Serbia in two terms, from 1990 to 1997), on 6 July 2000, the rules of the election of the president were changed. Whilst the president of Yugoslavia had previously been chosen for one term only by the legislature, in the Yugoslav parliament, it was now to be directly elected via the two-round voting system of presidential elections with a maximum of two terms. Many onlookers believed that Milošević's intentions for supporting such reforms had more to do with keeping his own power than with improved democracy.[1] On 27 July 2000, the authorities announced that the early elections were to be held 24 September 2000, although Milošević's term wouldn't expire until June 2001. The elections for the upper house of the federal parliament (Veće građana), as well as the local elections were also scheduled to be held on the same date.

Soon after the announcement, the anti-regime youth movement Otpor led the campaign to topple the regime and bring in a more democratic one. To have a unified opposition, eighteen opposition parties in Serbia formed the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, with Vojislav Koštunica as the candidate to confront Milošević. Apart from this, two major opposition parties, Serbian Radical Party and Serbian Renewal Movement also had their candidates (Tomislav Nikolić and Vojislav Mihailović, respectively), but the main battle of the elections was the one between Milošević and Koštunica. The election campaign lasted for about two months, and was extremely tense, with numerous incidents, accusations of treason, independent media shutdowns and even murders. On August 25, 2000, one month before elections, Ivan Stambolić, former president of the Presidency of Serbia, and Milošević associate turned DOS supporter, was kidnapped and murdered by Special Operations Unit officers. In 2005, the court found that the order for Stambolić's assassination came from Milošević.[2]

Elections

The vote took place on 24 September 2000. The DOS coalition reported that Vojislav Koštunica won over half of the votes. The regime-controlled Federal Electoral Committee claimed that no candidate won over 50% of the votes and that a second round between Koštunica and Milošević would take place. The vote was largely boycotted in Montenegro and by Kosovo Albanians. Yet, Milošević officially won by large margin in these parts of the country. This obvious discrepancy and numerous irregularities made the accusations of a systematic election fraud stronger and have led DOS to call for peaceful protest to topple the regime.

Some obvious irregularities could be found in the Federal Electoral Committee official results. For example, the sum of the numbers of valid and invalid votes wasn't equal to the number of voters; the sum of the numbers of the voters voting at the polling stations and the voters voting at home exceeded the total number of voters; the sum of the numbers of the used and the unused ballot papers was short by 117,244 in comparison to the number of eligible voters, the number of eligible voters was different from the one announced before the elections and has differed in the presidential, federal and local elections results, etc.[3] All of these discrepancies provoked massive outrage. The results were declared false immediately after the 5 October overthrow and the new official results were declared shortly afterwards.

Differences between the official results proclaimed by Federal Electoral Committee before and after 5th October
Official results (28 September 2000)[4] Official results (10 October 2000)[5]
Candidate Nominator Votes % Votes %
Vojislav Koštunica Democratic Opposition of Serbia 2,474,392 48.96 2,470,304 50.24
Slobodan Milošević Socialist Party of Serbia 1,951,761 38.62 1,826,799 37.15
Tomislav Nikolić Serbian Radical Party 292,759 5.79 289,013 5.88
Vojislav Mihailović Serbian Renewal Movement 146,585 2.90 145,019 2.95
Miodrag Vidojković Affirmative Party 46,421 0.92 45,964 0.93
Total valid votes (Percentage of total votes) 4,911,918 97.20 4,778,929 97.19
Invalid votes (Percentage of total votes) 135,371 2.68 137,991 2.81
Total votes (Turnout) 5,053,428 69.70 4,916,920 71.55
Eligible voters 7,249,831 / 6,871,595 /

Protests and the overthrow

Map of significant buildings during the protests

The protest initially started with strikers at the Kolubara mines, which produce most of Serbia's electricity needs. The protest reached its height on 5 October 2000. Several hundred thousand protesters from all over Serbia arrived in Belgrade to protest. Unlike previous protests, there was no large scale police crackdown. The parliament was partially burned during the protests.

The protest is frequently named the "Bulldozer Revolution" after one of the most memorable episodes from the day long protest in which an engineering vehicle operator Ljubisav Đokić nicknamed Joe fired up his engine (actually neither an excavator nor bulldozer but a wheel loader, the event name is inaccurate out of convenience) and used it to charge the RTS building. Its tenant, Serbian state television RTS, had for a decade been a symbol and bastion of Milošević's rule. When the RTS studios were taken over, the station was quickly renamed "Novi RTS" ("New RTS") as a sign that the regime had lost power.

Although the protest was mostly peaceful, without a larger escalation of violence, two people died. Jasmina Jovanović fell under a truck, and Momčilo Stakić succumbed to a fatal heart attack. 65 persons were injured in the riots.[6]

In the time between elections and the protest, Milošević said that he would gladly resign but only when his term expired in June of next year. Due to pressure caused by the protests, Milošević resigned on 7 October 2000. In the end even his ally Russia did not recognize his government.

Aftermath

A DOS victory was guaranteed in parliamentary elections in December, where they achieved a two-thirds majority.

On 1 April 2001, Milošević was arrested by Serbian police, and on 28 June 2001, he was transferred to The Hague to be prosecuted by ICTY. He was found dead in his cell on 11 March 2006 few months before his trial's conclusion.

Further reading

  • Pavol Demes and Joerg Forbrig (eds.). Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe. German Marshall Fund, 2007.

See also

External links

References

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