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South Slavic: October 19, 2000

19 October 2000, Volume 2, Number 38

The End Of Milosevic

This is an Interview with Zarko Korac of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia by RFE/RL's Sabina Cabaravdic. He was one of two special envoys sent recently by the opposition to hold talks with Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan and other top officials in Zagreb. Many observers feel that he will be the next foreign minister.

Sabina Cabaravdic: Professor Zarko Korac is one of the leaders of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, which won an overwhelming victory over Milosevic's Socialists on 24 September. One of the slogans launched by "Otpor" was "He is finished." Is he really finished, Professor Korac?

Zarko Korac: In political terms, he has experienced the biggest defeat in his career, but he is tenaciously fighting to hold onto the power that he has lost. The regime has begun to look around, trying to figure out what happened.

Sabina Cabaravdic: During the last ten years, people in Serbia have been demonstrating with [less than rousing] success. It seemed that fear and the absence of hope were dominant feelings. You are a psychologist, so what do you think was the reason for the loss of fear this time?

Zarko Korac: That is hard to say. Obviously, these people had two sets of emotions, and that is something that I have said many times before. One of them is a fear of Milosevic, the other is a desire for change. When an opportunity for a better life presented itself, it won out over the fear of Slobodan Milosevic. That became obvious during the last two months, when a dramatic change took place in Serbia and when apathy turned into optimism.

Serbia did not change thanks to the elections. Instead, it changed first and then these election results followed. What I am trying to say is that there is no more fear or apathy, but people are still aware of Slobodan Milosevic's readiness to use brute force in order to remain in power if only he gets a chance to do so.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets are supposed to be there to prevent him from using force. It is not easy to start firing at some 100,000 people on the streets--and just because of lost elections. That is the crucial fact.

Sabina Cabaravdic: Things are changing among the army and the police as well. Do you share the impression that even that part of Milosevic's government apparatus is no longer on his side?

Zarko Korac: It is hard to determine. From a moral point of view, it is quite logical that members of the army and the police voted just like the rest of the citizens of Serbia. Therefore, he has certainly lost them. However, what we are talking about here is his praetorian guard. Who makes up that guard, what they are willing to do, how many of them there are--these are the things that he is currently evaluating.

The most important thing is that once he is gone, it will mark the symbolic end of a catastrophic political program, which, unfortunately, enjoyed huge support [among Serbs]. It brought great misfortune to the peoples of former Yugoslavia, and, eventually, to the Serbs. This is why Slobodan Milosevic is history now and why I suppose that at one point he will have to face the institutions that will determine his responsibility and guilt for what has happened. What we all are doing now is searching for the way to make this transition as peacefully as possible.

Sabina Cabaravdic: There is an interesting thing about the DOS: in spite of the fact that some members of the coalition have quite different programs and orientations, you are still working together. A good example is what Nenad Canak has said: "Close your nose and vote for the DOS." Your activities over the past ten years cannot be compared with what other opposition leaders have been doing. Where does this bond come from?

Zarko Korac: We have come together this time in order to bring about these changes because otherwise we could not have done so. I hope that well-meaning people listening to us will understand that we could not have done otherwise. As soon as the changes are implemented, I can assure you that natural differences among us will re-appear.

Sabina Cabaravdic: This program is being made by Radio Free Europe together with 39 radio stations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I think that it would be nice to say something about the way Serbia deals with the Bosnian war. Once again I am asking you more as a psychologist than as a politically active man, since Bosnia-Herzegovina supports these changes in Serbia.

At the beginning of the war, one could hear in Sarajevo that "Belgrade has betrayed us." Later, as the war intensified in Bosnia, the dominant view was that people in Serbia either supported the Serbian Democratic Party as the leading belligerent party, or they remained silent.

Zarko Korac: There is no possibility whatsoever at this moment for a discussion about what was happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina and about Serbian policy over the last nine or ten years. Therefore, you should understand that everybody is preoccupied now with the changes.

It is all so dramatic. Although from the outside it might look calm, even cheerful, we are very aware of a huge potential danger. I am certain that, once the media become free, the time will come for different opinions to be heard, for different sorts of documents to be made public. People from Bosnia-Herzegovina will then have an opportunity to say something as witnesses to what happened.

How long it will take for these things to happen depends on how long it will take for Slobodan Milosevic to leave [the political scene]. I can assure you that there are public figures and politicians in Serbia who will keep these issues open, since they are the very essence of further democratic changes in Serbia. Democratization cannot be successful with this burden of war crimes. Trust me, today it might be only a small number of politicians and public figures, but still they are very determined to keep these issues open for the sake of Serbia's future.

Sabina Cabaravdic: Let us assume that power is going to be transferred peacefully. The winner's task is not going to be an easy one. Milosevic has debased all the institutions of governing--such as the parliament, the government, the army, and the police. How can one get things back to normal?

Zarko Korac: The most appalling fact is that the system is based on one man. This is one-man rule. His political demise would destroy that one-man rule, and a process of change would start.

That process would have to be a very far-reaching one and, of course, confidence in the institutions of the system would have to be restored. However, that is not all. Elections are needed for the parliament of Serbia as well. These elections are essential, and only then would the formal change of power be complete. We have to take many steps, but we have to start with this big one.

Sabina Cabaravdic: When I asked you about relations with the neighboring countries--i.e. the states created in the region of the former Yugoslavia--you told me that there will be enough time to talk about that later. However, is there something that you, as one of the DOS leaders, would like to say as a message to the neighbors? Is there something they could do to help change in Serbia?

Zarko Korac: To be frank, no. All you can do is to be on our side. Democratic Serbia will be good for the entire region. Be on the side of change. Believe in change. Croatia has changed, everything is changing around us. Serbia will change as well, and then we will [come to live] as all civilized people live--as friends and neighbors, cooperating, and not with concentration camps, killings, and vicious hatred propagated by the media.

Serbia is the last one to undergo these changes. At this very moment, the last ten years of European history are coming to an end in Belgrade. If these changes take place--and I firmly believe they will--one could say that a cycle of the history of Europe has finally been completed. The last European dictatorship is disappearing.

Sabina Cabaravdic: How do you think these elections and the victory of the DOS could influence the November general elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and more precisely, in the Republika Srpska?

Zarko Korac: That will be very interesting to observe. As you know, Slobodan Milosevic had a very strong influence on political parties in the Republika Srpska. [He] will probably lose that stronghold.

The least I can say is that there will be a big regrouping on the political stage of the Republika Srpska, but we have to wait to see how extensive it will be. I would not like to underestimate the fact that Milosevic's original [nationalist] program is perhaps more alive in the Republika Srpska than it is in Serbia. But the fact is that in Serbia, he is becoming history--and that will certainly influence the electorate of the Republika Srpska.