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Protests in Serbia Archive
Nation is reborn, says Serbia's protest leader

January 17, 1997

Steve Crawshaw

Zoran Djindjic, one of the leaders of Serbia's Zajedno ("Together") alliance, makes no secret of the extent to which Serbia's quiet revolution has taken him by surprise.

He told The Independent "I expected us to lose the elections. Really to lose. Then I planned that we would go to the trade unions and organise strikes in the spring and summer of 1997, as the economic crisis deepened."
Mr Djindjic is at the heart of the storm. Of the three leaders of Zajedno, Mr Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, is seen by many as the most likely next president.

Interviewed at his office yesterday - a few crammed and bustling rooms on the fifth floor of an apartment block in central Belgrade - the dapper Mr Djindjic made it clear he does not believe Mr Milosevic has given up. Equally, he insisted that the President is doomed: "His power is in the last stages of decay. It's rotten to the core. Without these demonstrations, it would have taken much longer to show this."

Despite a ruling by the electoral commission in Belgrade this week acknowledging the opposition victory in the city in November, Mr Djindjic expects a challenge from the ruling party. He predicted that Mr Milosevic, a past master at divide-and-rule tactics, would then allow an "interim government" for the city, leaving the whole result in limbo.

Like many in the opposition, Mr Djindjic seems to have resigned himself to waiting until elections later this year for Mr Milosevic's departure. "The general conditions must be free elections and free media. If that is not met, we will boycott the elections. There will be a social rebellion."

He argued that even if the opposition wins the next elections, "That is not yet victory. Victory comes later. Wining the elections merely gives us the entry ticket."

Meanwhile, he insists that important victories have already been won. "We have changed Serbia's image in the world. We have removed the aura surrounding Milosevic, at home and abroad. At home, we have shown that he is weak. Abroad, we have shown that he is a risk factor, not a stability factor, just as he has been since 1990 [in the lead-up to the Yugoslav wars]... He was ready to start a war, not got Serbia, but to keep himself in power."

Despite his proclaimed disapproval of nationalism, Mr Djindjic is reluctant to distance himself from the Bosnian Serb leadership. In 1994, he famously showed solidarity with Radovan Karadzic in the Bosnian Serb capital, Pale. He still sees nothing wrong with this: "I don't regret showing solidarity - we had a national crisis."

Is that not akin to suggesting that it was every good German's duty to show solidarity with Hitler when the world was against him? "A better comparison: a Jew in America shows solidarity with Israel, even if it has dubious policies."

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