Regime repression intensifies

The Milošević régime intensified pressure against its domestic enemies, which contributed to the increasing criminalization of the state and public life. The harassment and attempts to control radio stations and media outlets like B92 increased. In April 1999, prominent opposition journalist and publisher Slavko Ćuruvija was murdered and an attempt was made on Vuk Drašković's life in October. Former allies of the regime were also killed, including the general secretary of JUL and the paramilitary leader Arkan in January 2000. Some of the killings served to eliminate potential witnesses to Milošević's past actions.

(The Serbian government initiated a journalist-governmental mixed commission in 2013  to assess the progress of investigations into the killings of Serbian journalists during the Milošević period.  Two former state security officials long suspected to have been involved in Ćuruvija's murder were arrested for the crime in Belgrade in January 2014. )

After the war

The Kosovo war ended with the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and paramilitaries from the province. Over two hundred thousand Serbian civilians also left their homes.

Serbia's pariah status continued while Milošević remained in power. International financial support for free media and the political opposition reached Serbia, along with promises of further aid for reconstruction on the condition that a democratic government would be elected.

October 2000 election for Federal Presidency

In the meantime, mafia-type killings and assassinations became almost commonplace. A new opposition coalition was formed, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, which this time was able to agree on a single candidate for the Federal Presidency. Milošević was seeking the same position for a second term.

Koštunica wins
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Vojislav Kostunica (Courtesy of the Democratic Party of Serbia)

 

Milošević's opponent was Vojislav Koštunica, a nationalist seen as free of corruption. Drawing on support from the coalition and OTPOR, an anti- Milošević student-led organization, Koštunica took a first round win in the October 2000 election. Milošević disputed the results, but opposition protests were well organized and widespread, and the security forces did not resort to force to quell them. Milošević conceded defeat.

Democratic Opposition of Serbia wins parliamentary elections

In Serbian parliamentary elections in December 2000 the DOS won 176 out of 250 seats, and Đinđić became Prime Minister of Serbia. The Socialist Party of Serbia kept 37 seats, Šešelj's SRS 23, and Arkan's old party, the Party of Serbian Unity, 14.

Milošević extradited to The Hague
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Former president of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević was extradited to stand trial at the Hague for war crimes in 2001, but died before a verdict could be reached. (Photo courtesy of The Hague Justice Portal)

On 28 June 2001, the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, Milošević was extradited to the Hague Tribunal to face trial. Immediately afterwards, an international donor's conference pledged over a billion dollars to Serbian reconstruction, and Yugoslavia was readmitted to international organizations. Subsequently, Serbian police filed charges against Milošević for involvement in the murder of his former mentor, Ivan Stambolić, in 2000. (Milošević died in The Hague in March 2006 during his drawn-out war crimes trial.)

Anti-Milošević coalition splinters

The decision to send Milošević to The Hague divided the Serbian public - and the government coalition. Infighting between Koštunica ’s and Đinđić’s parties worsened. In June 2002, Koštunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) withdrew from the Serbian government and parliament after the Đinđić-led Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) replaced 21 DSS members for boycotting assembly meetings.

Koštunica’s position was further weakened when Serbia-Montenegro’s new constitution eliminated his position. He sought election as President of Serbia in October 2002. Although he won a majority of the votes cast, a low turnout resulted in the election being declared invalid. The same non-result was reached in December 2002, and in March 2003 Koštunica stepped down from office and became a private citizen.

Zoran Đinđić assassinated
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The funeral of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić (Serbian government website)

That same month Đinđić was assassinated in Belgrade by a group led by Milorad “Legija” Ulemek the head of Serbian Security Service’s Special Operations Unit. Ulemek was captured in 2004 and convicted of the murders of former President Stambolic, activists from Vuk Drašković’s party, and the murder of Đinđić. A state of emergency was declared and security forces conducted widespread arrests of organized crime gang members, who were believed to have been involved in the assassination. Đinđić’s successor Zoran Živković vowed to continue his predecessor’s policy of pursuing integration with Europe.

After Đinđić's death, the Serbian government faced additional problems. Miroljub Labus, who had contested presidential elections against Koštunica and his G17 Plus party, left the DOS coalition in July 2003, accusing the government of playing politics in its removal of the G17 Plus Vice President Mladjan Dinkić from his post of Governor of the National Bank.