Paul WoodEU pressure could help Milosevic
Tuesday, 19 September, 2000
The European Union's call to the people of Serbia to vote against President Milosevic in this weekend's elections will probably not worry the Yugoslav leader. In fact the declaration could not have been better designed to fit with Belgrade's propaganda.
Mr Milosevic's government has all along sought to portray him as the defender of Yugoslav interests against foreign conspirators with the help of "enemies within" - the opposition, the student resistance, disloyal journalists or spies.
That is why the authorities in Montenegro, Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, are so sensitive to charges that western governments have been helping them to train the special police units which would be used in a conflict with Belgrade.
Such stories, whether true or not, play right into the hands of Mr Milosevic, who likes to portray the Montenegrin government as a tool of the Nato "aggressor" states.
The Montenegrin government will allow voting to take place on its territory but will not recognise the result.
Opinion polls put Mr Milosevic substantially behind the opposition's main candidate in the presidential race - but no one expects him to just give up power.
Already there are accusations that a massive poll fraud is being prepared, using so-called "ghost" votes from Montenegro and Kosovo.
Mr Milosevic's Socialist Party, the SPS, claims to have collected more than a million and half signatures nominating him for the Presidency.
Opposition parties have demanded to see these signatures but have so far met with blank refusal from the SPS.
More than 186,000 signatures are said to have been collected in Montenegro.
That is more than half of the republic's electorate of around 350,000 but the main Montenegrin political party which supports Belgrade, the SNP, traditionally gets no more than one third of the vote.
Most people expect both President Milosevic and the opposition to claim victory after the voting on Sunday.
If there is credible evidence of fraud, there may well be an attempt by the opposition to bring people out on the streets in large numbers.
Mr Milosevic has other options - such as assuming the Serbian premiership, while keeping control of the police, security apparatus and even the Army through the power structure of his party, the SPS.