A Chronology of Events
On November 17, with a NATO force in Bosnia, elections are held for the Yugoslav National Parliament. The opposition coalition, Zajedno ("Together") wins in 32 municipalities, including Belgrade. On November 20 the Electoral Commission calls for a recount in most of the areas won by the opposition. On November 25 Milosevic annuls the election results, prompting massive demonstrations, mostly nonviolent. On November 27 Milosevic holds a new election, boycotted by the opposition. The protests grow in size.
As hundreds of thousands demonstrate, Milosevic invites international review of the election results. On December 27, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe tells Serbia to reinstate the winners of the original elections or face international isolation.
Beleaguered by unremitting opposition in the streets, Milosevic concedes defeat in the city of Nis, but opposition leaders vow to continue demonstrations until all election results are honored. On January 14, electoral commissions in Belgrade and elsewhere call for further seating of elected representatives.
On February 4, Milosevic announces he will restore the opposition's victories in the November 17 elections. Demonstrations continue, with protestors demanding election reform and freedom for the media.
Constitutionally barred from serving another term as president of Serbia, Milosevic is elected president of Yugoslavia.
In a contested election, Milosevic ally Milan Milutinovic is declared the winner of a five-year term as president of Serbia.
After months of fighting, Milosevic's troops defeat the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has been trying to win Kosovo's independence. International attention has been focused on the rebellion.
A Kosovo cease-fire is signed. The United Nations Security Council threatens air strikes if Milosevic does not withdraw his troops. Once the threat passes, Yugoslav troops reenter Kosovo. The violence resumes. In early October in Belgrade, some dozen university students form a new organization called Otpor ("resistance"). Initially they work for repeal of laws putting the University under Socialist political control and imposing restrictions on the media. Toward the end of the month four Otpor members are arrested for spray-painting their symbol, a clenched fist, on walls in Belgrade.
After diplomatic efforts fail, NATO launches a series of attacks against military and industrial targets in Serbia and Kosovo. Milosevic refuses to yield.
On May 24 the UN War Crimes Tribunal indicts Milosevic on charges of crimes against humanity.
Under an agreement brokered by Russia, Serbia withdraws troops from Kosovo in return for an end to NATO bombing. Anti-government protests resume.
Following months of protest demonstrations, Otpor holds a "birthday party" for Milosevic in Nis, accepting such gifts as prison coveralls and a one-way ticket to The Hague.
Protests continue as the Serbian economy deteriorates further and in spite of a government propaganda initiative to rebuild Serbia. September 21 sees the beginning of rallies in 20 cities urging Milosevic to resign. At the same time, the opposition begins to fragment, and the number of demonstrators dwindles. On September 29 and 30, the police and army use force to break up separate demonstrations.
On October 2, police block some 7,000 demonstrators marching to a city hospital to see those who were wounded in previous demonstrations. An opposition leader, Zoran Djindjic, vows rallies will continue through mid-October. On October 3, Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic is injured in an automobile accident that kills his brother. He blames the incident on Milosevic's security forces. On October 14 the fractious opposition unites to demand early elections.
Milosevic allies pass a law curbing authority of opposition municipal governments in areas where demonstrations have taken place. On November 22, Otpor holds a rock concert followed by speeches.
Otpor organizes an enormous rally on Orthodox New Year's Eve (January 13) highlighting Serbian misery under a decade of Milosevic. Opposition politicians speak. All call for early elections.
On January 21 Milosevic moves against the independent press, fining the Belgrade newspaper Danas 310,000 dinars.
Press and media oppression continue; newspapers are fined 202 million dinars, and a television station in Belgrade is temporarily pulled off the air and then harassed with lawsuits. Otpor activists in 20 towns are arrested and interrogated, and sometimes beaten. Nonetheless, 60,000 anti-Milosevic posters are put up in 67 towns and cities.
Media outlets are levied increasingly heavy fines, and one of the infractions is coverage of Otpor activity. 100,000 people mass in Belgrade to demand early elections to depose Milosevic, and the two primary opposition leaders appear together for the first time since 1997.
With the government on the offensive, 18 Serb political parties unite to form a coalition, the "Democratic Opposition of Serbia," or DOS. Tensions mount with the assassination of a Milosevic ally on May 13. The government blames the killing on the opposition and Otpor. That same day Otpor organizes a "surrender action," turning their membership lists over to police throughout the country. The government accelerates its repression, arresting activists and taking off the air two independent television and radio stations. 20,000 people demonstrate for days. Otpor attempts to register as a political organization, citing opposition incompetence; the application is rejected. On May 27 the opposition parties come together for a rally, and on May 29 the government issues a statement blaming all unrest on pressures from international media outlets under NATO control and the activities of an internal fifth column. ("Internal fifth column" was an expression often used by Milosevic and his propaganda apparatus, which characterized his enemies as traitors, NATO traitors, enemies of the state paid by NATO, etc.)
On July 17 Otpor members hold a demonstration to dramatize high food prices and enact a parody of official government news. Milosevic, having pushed through Parliament a constitutional amendment that will allow him two more terms as president, announces early elections scheduled for September 24.
As elections approach, Otpor launches an anti-Milosevic campaign with the slogan, "He's Finished!" It appears everywhere. On August 8, Milosevic's birthday, Otpor displays giant satirical birthday cards in town squares throughout Serbia.
Otpor headquarters are raided and materials seized. In an atmosphere of state-ordered vilification of the opposition, the elections are held on September 24. More than 30,000 volunteers monitor some 10,000 polling places to prevent fraud. By the close of the day the monitors announce that Milosevic has been defeated by a substantial margin. The new president is the DOS candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, a scholar and lawyer untainted by Serbian political corruption. Milosevic, claiming that neither he nor Kostunica received a majority of the votes, calls for a run-off election. The opposition calls for a general strike to force Milosevic to honor the popular vote.
Beginning with a coal miners' strike, sector after sector of the country grinds to a halt. Protestors block streets with barricades and their bodies. When Milosevic sends soldiers to break the strike tens of thousands of citizens turn out. By October 5 the country has come to a virtual standstill. Hundreds of thousands of protestors pour peacefully into Belgrade. The police, with a few exceptions, acknowledge their orders but refuse to obey them. By the end of the day the protestors control the parliament building and the state-run television and radio stations. European leaders call for Milosevic to step down. On October 6, Milosevic acknowledges defeat, and the head of the Army congratulates Kostunica on his victory.
On April 1, Slobodan Milosevic is arrested by Serbian police for crimes in office, the first step of the process that eventually takes him before the World Court in The Hague.
On June 28, Milosevic is extradited to The Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity.