Electoral Revolution: Yugoslavia and Mexico

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

In Sept. 2000, federal elections in Yugoslavia formally ended the autocratic rule of Slobodan Milosevic, who had entangled his country in almost continuous war, first with the breakaway republics of Croatia and Bosnia (1991?1995) and then in the Serbian province of Kosovo in 1998, which ended with the NATO bombing of 1999. Despite dragging Yugoslavia into economic collapse and relegating it to pariah status throughout much of the world, Milosevic had managed to hold fast to the presidency after the Kosovo debacle?opposition parties remained disorganized and mired in internecine squabbles, and public dissent was sporadic.

In the Sept. 24 elections, Vojislav Kostunica, a constitutional law professor and political outsider, won the presidency in spite of widespread reports of fraud and voter intimidation. When Milosevic refused to honor the results and demanded a runoff election, the country erupted in massive public demonstrations, ultimately forcing Milosevic to step down on Oct. 5. Milosevic's Socialist Party, with its monopoly on political clout, thereafter agreed to share power with the two opposition parties. New parliamentary elections were scheduled for Dec. 2000.

The U.S. and the European Union quickly lifted some economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, and the new government was recognized by Russia and China, both of whom had been strong allies of Milosevic's Socialist Party government. But Kostunica was quick to assert himself as a true-believing Serb nationalist with no plans for becoming the darling of the West. He faced a daunting task in revitalizing the nation's shattered economy and in rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed during the NATO bombing.

Mexico also launched a promising electoral revolution, on July 2, 2000, by electing reformer and businessman Vicente Fox Quesada of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) as president, thereby ending 71 years of one-party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Like his counterpart in Yugoslavia, Fox faced an overwhelming task in rectifying the sins of the former government, which in Mexico's case involved colossal corruption, economic incompetence, and a multi-party democracy in name only.

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