Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Serbia and Montenegro

Period of democratic transition: 2000
Pro-democracy civic movement: present

The six constituent republics in the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia were Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. After the collapse of communism, the republics began to break apart and claim independence, until only Serbia and Montenegro were left, and these formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992. Slobodan Milosevic, Serbian president since 1989, controlled the country's security forces as well as the state-owned media. Through his promotion of aggressive Serbian nationalism, he instigated territorial and ethnic wars with Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, which prompted NATO bombings and international isolation, all of which led to an erosion of popular support for Milosevic.

In January 2000, members of the divided Serbian opposition joined forces as the Democratic Opposition of Serbia in an effort to remove Milosevic from power. The pro-democracy student movement Otpor, founded at Belgrade University in 1998, was able to provide central support to the opposition parties with civilian membership that swelled into the tens of thousands. Milosevic called for Yugoslav presidential elections on September 24, 2000, but when he lost to Democratic Party of Serbia candidate Vojislav Kostunica, Milosevic refused to accept the results. In protest, Otpor, joined by approximately one million people including professionals and pensioners, took to the streets, a national strike was called, and gradually key Milosevic allies, including the Serbian Orthodox Church, withdrew support. Protesters invaded and set fire to both the Parliament and state TV station buildings. When Milosevic's security forces abandoned him after several days of unrest, he publicly conceded to Kostunica. Parliamentary elections in December solidified the transition to democracy.

Presidential elections in both parts of the country failed for the first few years, but finally in 2003 and 2004, each part elected its own president. Voter turnout was relatively low. In the summer of 2006, Montenegrins voted for independence from Serbia. The strength of democracy in the independent halves remains to be seen.

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