'Nobody Knows Who's in Charge in Serbia Any More'

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Monday 10.30 a.m., EST

How was the response to the opposition's call for a general strike to unseat Milosevic?

The general strike called by the opposition to force Milosevic to concede on the election was more of a half strike than a general strike. Half the stores were closed and half were open; half the businesses were closed and half were open; half the roads were closed and half were open. The opposition has run into some inevitable organizational problems. They called the strike and a lot of people responded, but they failed to prepare organizationally for such a dramatic event — obviously, because time was short. But the determination is still there. So it looks like it's going to take many weeks of this kind of action before we see a breakthrough and Milosevic leaves.

But isn't there a pressing deadline with Milosevic planning to hold a runoff election next week?

Very few people here believe the runoff will actually go ahead. Milosevic may decide to claim victory by default because the opposition is boycotting, but this will be totally worthless from the point of view of legality and legitimacy. The opposition claims the Federal Electoral Commission broke the law in suppressing the results of the election, meaning that their decision carries no legal weight. A majority of Serbs now see [opposition leader Vojislav] Kostunica as their president.

So do we now have a classic revolutionary situation where there are two rival power centers competing for control?

Well, yes and no. Milosevic lost the election and right now looks too weak to maintain power. But at the same time, the opposition looks too weak to simply take over. So we have a sort of deadlock. Serbia is now a country where it's totally unclear who's in charge of anything. The competing power structures are both chaotic and disorganized. One is reluctant to let go of power; the other hasn't yet found the ability to claim it.

What about offers from Russian president Vladimir Putin to mediate?

Everyone here has been annoyed by the controversial statements coming from Russia. They say one thing, then deny it or say they were quoted out of context, and then say it again. They're sending very mixed signals that haven't helped things here. Nobody feels that Russia can bring democracy to Serbia or anywhere else. But it would help if Moscow declared a clear position on the situation, or at least opted to stay silent and neutral.