Kostunica, Vojislav


Kostunica, Vojislav
▪ 2001

      When on Oct. 7, 2000, Vojislav Kostunica was sworn in as president of Yugoslavia, it was the culmination of two weeks of dramatic developments. Results from the elections held on September 24 showed that Kostunica, the candidate of the 18-member coalition known as the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, had defeated Pres. Slobodan Milosevic. The Milosevic government, however, was unwilling to accept defeat, claiming that Kostunica had not received a majority of the votes and that a runoff would thus be necessary. Citizens took to the streets; workers went on strike; and on October 5 protesters set fire to the parliament building in Belgrade. When it became clear that he was being abandoned by government agencies, including the police, Milosevic announced on October 6 that he would step down. Kostunica and his supporters then began to assume the control of key ministries and institutions and to undertake the governing of Yugoslavia.

      Kostunica was born on March 24, 1944, in Belgrade, Yugos. He graduated from the University of Belgrade Law School in 1966 and earned a master's degree in 1970. In 1974 he was fired as a lecturer at the university for supporting a colleague who had spoken out against a constitutional change instituted by Yugoslav Pres. Josip Broz Tito, and he refused an offer from Milosevic in 1989 to be rehired. In 1976 he earned a doctorate from an academic institute, and in 1981 he translated The Federalist papers into Serbo-Croatian. Throughout his career Kostunica was an advocate of free speech, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and he was committed to Serbian nationalism.

      With opposition leader Zoran Djindjic, Kostunica founded the Democratic Party in 1989. He split with Djindjic in 1992, however, to form the Democratic Party of Serbia. Kostunica was a member of the Serbian parliament from 1990 to 1997. Although he opposed the policies of Milosevic, Kostunica denounced NATO for its bombing of Serbia in 1999 and criticized the international tribunal at The Hague, which had indicted Milosevic and other Serbian leaders for war crimes, as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Upon taking office, he rejected vindictive moves against Milosevic and his supporters. On October 16 his government reached a power-sharing agreement with the Socialist Party of Serbia, the party of Milosevic, which would continue to control that republic's parliament until elections were held on December 23. Kostunica was less successful in his initial dealings with the republic of Montenegro, which had officially boycotted the September elections and which was demanding greater autonomy within the Yugoslav federation. Although the new government was faced with an economy in ruins and a society permeated by corruption, the election of Kostunica gave hope that Yugoslavia would be reintegrated into the community of European nations.

Robert Rauch

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Universalium. 2010.

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