Sidelining Slobodan: Getting rid of Europe's last dictator
Sidelining Slobodan: Getting rid of Europe's last dictator
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Report / Europe & Central Asia 2 minutes

Sidelining Slobodan: Getting rid of Europe's last dictator

With just over two years to run before the end of his term as Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic remains entrenched in power in Belgrade.

Executive Summary

With just over two years to run before the end of his term as Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic remains entrenched in power in Belgrade. The Yugoslav constitution currently prevents the President from running for re-election in 2001, but while Milosevic may leave the presidency he shows no sign of forfeiting control and is in the process of purging both the army and secret police of all opposition. He also retains some residual influence over such cultural institutions as the Orthodox Church. Individuals who oppose his views and who are potential political opponents are invariably intimidated, often through brute force. Political party rivals are both attacked in the state and pro-regime press and also courted with the prospect of sharing power. The latest to succumb to that temptation has been Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO).

Milosevic is giving every indication that he intends to stay in power well beyond 2001 as an elder statesman, and to govern by controlling the instruments of force. His intention appears to be that he will preside over a military dictatorship bereft of all opposition; he may even be willing to sacrifice territory, content to rule over the Pasalik (from Ottoman or Turkish administration, meaning a small administrative district or region) of Belgrade.[fn] See Vreme (front cover), 2 January 1999.Hide Footnote  Any comprehensive analysis of opposition to the Milosevic regime must address his dealings not just with political parties but also with institutions and key individuals.

In the past, opposition parties have attempted to form electoral coalitions to challenge Milosevic. For a number of reasons, including infighting and the ability of the authorities to co-opt some key players, these efforts have floundered. Some of the factors that have plagued previous coalition attempts may be current at this time, but the most recent, Alliance for Changes (Savez za Promene, or SZP), along with Montenegrin allies For a Better Life, appears to be more stable and has the advantage of having national, as opposed to merely Serbia-wide, appeal.

If the international community is serious about bringing an end to the Milosevic regime then the most promising means of doing so is through sustained international support for this Alliance coalition. Milosevic's ability to establish his iron grip over various institutions such as the military should be counteracted by offering support to key figures such as former army head Momcilo Perisic. Milosevic is in a position to generate considerable regional instability, largely by whipping up conflict in areas such as Montenegro, and even regions such as Sandzak and Vojvodina. If these areas are drawn into conflict, then neighbouring countries may rightly fear for their internal stability. Given that Milosevic can still play these destructive cards, the international community needs to develop a plan for regional Balkan stability, and to stop viewing the current crisis in Kosovo in isolation.

In order to govern unhindered, Milosevic will have to curb the influence that his own Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and his wife's, Mira Markovic's Yugoslav United Left (JUL), can bring to bear on the domestic political scene. This dynamic between the ruling couple and the ruling parties will be the topic of another, forthcoming, ICG analysis.

15 March 1999

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.