In the Shadow of Miloševic

Two years ago the world cheered as Slobodan Miloševic's opponents united to overthrow his dictatorship. Opposition to Milosevic, however, appears to have been the sole glue holding them together. Those protest leaders, now in power, have been at each other's throats ever since.

Vojislav Koštunica, the current president of what remains of Yugoslavia and the `mildish' nationalist who out-polled Miloševic two years ago, holds a high-profile job with numerous ceremonial duties but little real power. So he decided to compete head-to-head in Serbia's presidential elections of September 29 with the reform candidate Miroljub Labus, a vice-premier in charge of finance. Because Koštunica did not win 50% plus one of the votes of all registered voters in the first round, he faces a run-off with Labus on October 13th.

Intelligent speeches, spirited debates and clever slogans were conspicuous by their absence in this election. Violence was also absent, but insults were not. For example, Zoran Djindjic, the hyper-pragmatic prime minister of Serbia who supports Labus, called Koštunica a lazy drone. Such language is lamentable, but it is still a big step forward from the Miloševic era, when both regime and opposition commonly dubbed their opponents as traitors, spies, or Western mercenaries.