Demonstrations Not Yet a Threat to Milosevic

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Though thousands of Serbs clamored for Slobodan Milosevic’s resignation Tuesday, the extent of his power and a divided opposition mean he can simply keep his fingers in his ears -– for now. Ten thousand protesters braved police intimidation to attend an outdoor rally in the south Serbia town of Cacak, the first of what opposition politicians hope will be a rolling wave of anti-Milosevic demonstrations.

"Civil disobedience failed to overthrow Milosevic in the winter of 1996-97, even though there were hundreds of thousands on the streets of Belgrade," says TIME Central Europe reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "And today there are far more laws and restrictions against opposition activity." In addition, the opposition is bedeviled by the divisions in its ranks. Vuk Draskovic, the opposition leader of the 1996 protest movement who later went into Milosevic’s cabinet as deputy prime minister -- and was later fired for his dissenting views at the height of the Kosovo conflict -- dismissed Tuesday’s protest as the work of small parties of no influence. Such divisions may encourage Milosevic to pursue his trademark divide-and-rule politics. Then again, with the start of winter only a few months away, the citizens of a broken country may yet be galvanized into acting together against the leader that got them into this mess.