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In the 2000s, Vojislav Kostunica was president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and then PM of Serbia as an independent state.
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President of Yugoslavia, constitutional lawyer. Born March 24, 1944, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Kostunica graduated from Belgrade University Law School in 1966. He later worked as a lecturer at the same law school, but was fired in 1974 for defending another professor's criticism of changes to the Yugoslavian Constitution made by the country's then-leader, Josep Broz Tito. (When Tito's successor, the Serbian nationalist Slobodan Milosevic, offered to rehire those intellectuals fired for such offenses under Tito, Kostunica was reportedly the only individual who refused.)
A liberal scholar and constitutional lawyer born into a tradition of opposing Communist rule, Kostunica was a member of a committee to defend free speech in the early 1980s. In 1989, he helped found the country??s Democratic Party with Zoran Djindjic, another leader of the opposition. That party split in 1992 and Kostunica formed his own Democratic Party of Serbia. During the bitter conflict that raged throughout the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, Kostunica condemned the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Milosevic, who was later indicted for war crimes in Bosnia.
In the summer of 2000, Milosevic unwittingly set in motion the chain of events that would lead to his downfall - and Kostunica's rise to power - by calling for a presidential election six months from the end of his term in hopes of appearing like a more democratic leader. The democratic opposition to the tyrannical Milosevic was a loose coalition of 18 parties, including Kostunica's own Democratic Party of Serbia. After they asked Kostunica to be their candidate, he overcame early skepticism and began an active campaign, traveling all over Serbia (the indisputable seat of power in Yugoslavia) to shake hands and introduce himself to the country.
Milosevic's strategy backfired, as he lost the election to Kostunica by a reputed margin of 52.4 percent to 38 percent. Even as leaders of democratic nations around the world rejoiced, Milosevic would not accept the results as declared by the opposition, and called for a runoff election. The determined Kostunica refused to participate, instead urging his supporters to engage in national civil disobedience, beginning with strikes among factory and farm workers and culminating on October 5 in Belgrade, when hundreds of thousands of Serbs stormed the national parliamentary building and demanded that Milosevic step aside for their new Serbian leader, Vogislav Kostunica.
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