Even with the backing of the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church, which on Thursday declared Kostunica the winner and urged a peaceful transition, the opposition has a tough task ahead. Right now they're riding a wave of popular anger that will likely be sustained in the coming days as Milosevic blatantly tries to cheat Serb voters. But Milosevic may be calculating that if he manages to hold his regime together for a couple of weeks of street protest and conduct the runoff without Kostunica, the protests might eventually dissipate in disillusion. The challenge for the opposition, then, is to provoke a crisis in the regime in which Milosevic loses the support of the very security forces he's relying on to face down the demonstrators.
Western governments are trying to prod Milosevic into leaving, but after last year's bombings they don't exactly wield much influence in Belgrade. Their best bet for diplomatic leverage remains Moscow, which played the key role in persuading the Serb strongman to back down in Kosovo. Diplomatic efforts are reportedly afoot to coax Milosevic into leaving Serbia and seeking asylum either in Russia or Belarus to avoid prosecution in the Hague. But that may be overstating his immediate crisis after all, Kostunica has stated that he's not interested in sending Milosevic for trial as a war criminal (a demand that has little resonance in Serbia), and even if Milosevic concedes the presidency, his control of a parliamentary majority would leave him as still potentially the most powerful politician in the country. Still, he can't have failed to read the writing on the wall from these elections it's a slogan written in spray paint all over Serbia that says, simply, "He's Finished."