- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2000

Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic has fled his home as hundreds of thousands of his countrymen stormed Belgrade yesterday, ousting the dictator of the last of the communist Eastern European nations to fall. Behind him he left the fruits of his 13-year rule: a parliament in flames, his own framed face splintered as his picture was thrown through windows, and thousands of poverty-stricken people chanting "Kill him! Kill him!" The Serbian people have spoken.
As opposition leaders broke through the glass on a balcony of the parliament and emerged waving flags to the cheers of thousands, it was clear Mr. Milosevic had sparred with democracy and lost. By claiming he would not give up his rule after his people told him to do otherwise, he wrote his own future. Police abandoned their uniforms and fled, and the opposition broke down the wall of the state-run television station with a bulldozer and took it over. Army troops joined demonstrators who hugged them, and protesters stormed Mr. Milosevic's Federal Election Commission which had declared that neither opposition leader Vojislav Konstunica or Mr. Milosevic won a majority in the presidential elections Sept. 24. There they found sacks full of ballot papers with Mr. Milosevic's name, which they promptly used as confetti. Over 100,000 people gathered to hear Mr. Konstunica who the people and the international community believe to have won address a "liberated Serbia."
How liberated it will be is up to Mr. Konstunica. The former law professor's last-minute nomination was a gift to the Serbian people, who needed a strong leader to rescue them from the economic ruin and political prison Mr. Milosevic had trapped them in.
"I pledge to change this state of ours for the better in accordance with the laws of God and humankind, whereas I shall never let power change me," Mr. Konstunica said earlier in his campaign. Democratic and human rights institutions should continue to work in tandem with Mr. Konstunica's people to make this happen.
After all, the founder of the opposition Democratic Party isn't everything the United States would want: He is anti-West and has promised he won't hand Mr. Milosevic over to the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. But he has said he would give all citizens, Serbs or otherwise, equal rights and will redefine relations with Yugoslav federation partner Montenegro more in line with the popular will there.
The fight for democracy is not over. As the protests died down last night, demonstrators with guns wandered the streets intoxicated. Mr. Konstunica and human rights institutions must work hard to control the energy that forced Mr. Milosevic to flee. But they have taken the first step.

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