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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Milosevic's Opposition Loses Ground




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Workers were cleaning up a mess left by a pro-government gang that lobbed eggs, red paint and rocks at opposition Democratic Party headquarters last week.


They replaced broken windows, scraped off dried yolk and cleaned off the blood-red graffiti Friday. Soon, things will look as good as new.


But inside, a climate of fear reigned.


Just when Slobodan Milosevic's opponents thought things couldn't get worse, a United Nations war crimes tribunal indicted Milosevic. Now opposition leaders fear yet another crackdown f and even more erosion in their already-ebbing support.


Scattered anti-war protests in central and southern Serbia are no promise of a wider uprising, opposition leaders in the capital say.


They hurried to join Milosevic's allies Friday in condemning the tribunal for indicting Milosevic and four senior officials for war crimes in Kosovo. Several accused the tribunal of harboring a political agenda, and said the indictments would set the peace process back.


Things were grim for Serbia's opposition even before Thursday's indictments.


NATO bombings had given Milosevic's autocratic government an opportunity to curb the pro-democracy movement and independent media by imposing censorship and closing down the main independent radio station, B-92.


Few complained. Intent on survival, enveloped in a bunker mentality, Serbs rallied behind Milosevic, even if they didn't like him.


"Economic problems, war f all this made him stronger. During hard times, people don't think of politics," Vuksanovic said. "They think about food, about money, about finding diapers."


People also began to identify pro-Western, pro-democracy Serbs with the enemy: NATO.


"What NATO has destroyed is an option, a possibility f the democratic alternative, the pro-Western option in this country," journalist Stevan Niksic, editor of Nin magazine, said recently.


The official media have been relentless in attacking outspoken opposition leaders, branding them traitors.


The leader of the Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic, has fled to the neighboring pro-Western republic of Montenegro. The mayor of Cacak, Velimir Ilic, went into hiding after the army came looking for him this week.


Cacak, bombed repeatedly by NATO, was one of the few places where public discontent has bubbled up.


In Krusevac and Aleksandrovac, south of Belgrade, residents protested what they felt was a disproportionate call-up of local reservists.


The Yugoslav military appeared to be drawing most of its troops from the hinterlands, where soldiers coming home in coffins or anti-war protests would be less visible and less politically damaging than in Belgrade.


"I don't see similar things all over Serbia," said Goran Svilanovic, spokesman for the Civic Alliance. "I think it's limited."


"The same mothers in Krusevac, as soon as they have their sons back, they'll vote for Milosevic again," he said.


Vuksanovic, of the Democratic Party, agreed. The protests aren't anti-Milosevic f the demonstrators are "provoked by fear for their sons," he said.