Documents on Democracy

Issue Date January 2001
Volume 12
Issue 1
Page Numbers 185-88
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Following September 24 presidential elections, incumbent Yugoslav president and Socialist Party leader Slobodan Milosevic claimed that opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica had won a plurality but failed to gain a majority, and thus would have to participate in a runoff election against Milosevic. On September 27, Kostunica made the following statement to a gathering of some 200,000 people in Belgrade:

Dear, brave fellow citizens, free people, we have won! We have won in spite of lies and Slobodan Milosevic’s violence. We have won despite the sanctions we have lived under for years, despite the NATO bombs which fell last year, despite some democrats in Serbia and Montenegro who have turned their backs on us. There lies our strength, and perhaps out stubbornness, but this is the real Serbia. All of us on Sunday said what kind of Serbia we want to live in. They [the regime] have once more tried to sneer at the will of the people, they have tried again to steal the elections; they have tried to bargain on the second round, but we are saying to them: There will be no second round, there is no bargaining. We are fighting for democracy and democracy is based on truth, not on lies. The truth is that we have won this election. If we were to bargain with them we would be recognizing lies instead of the truth. In any case, democracy is based on the will of the people, on the will of the majority. Who are they? How many of them are left? They are a minority, a minority of those around him [Milosevic]. The majority of the Socialists don’t want to take part in the fraud. They don’t want to be destroyed with him.

We are strong at this moment because we have the support of the world. Of Russia, of the European Union. This support is important but it is not decisive. What is decisive is our strength, our will, our determination to stop the whims of one man. There will be no sacred individuals in this country; only the will of the people and the law will [End Page 185] be sacred. My message to the Socialists is that we will not act as your leaders did; we will not hound people who have opposing opinions; we will not burst into other people’s houses; we will not buy ruined companies; we will not remove the property of the people from the country.

My message to the army and the police is that we are one: The army and the police are part of the people, the part which defends the country, and which should not defend only one man and his family.

Slobodan Milosevic is a tyrant who has lost his strength, and the only thing left for him is to grasp that one simple fact. If he did not understand it while he was in power, then he will understand it when we divorce him from power. We will defend the country, we will defend ourselves, because we have freed ourselves. September 24 was the confirmation of our deliverance.


On December 1, the winner of Mexico’s July 2 presidential election, Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, took office, ending 71 years of one-party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party. The following are excerpts from President Fox’s inaugural address before the Congress:

In the recent elections, the men and women of Mexico demonstrated our will and determination to use democratic principles as the basis for establishing a new foundation for the nation in the 21st century. This democratic change–which entered its decisive phase on July 2nd–is the result of a long-held aspiration of society. It took shape during several decades through the sacrifice and efforts of many exceptional Mexican men and women who fought on various fronts to make what we now have possible.

I mention with reverence Francisco I. Madero. His sacrifice in pursuit of democracy was not in vain. Today, at the close of one stage of our history marked by authoritarianism, his presence is again felt as a signpost that marks the path from which we must never stray. I pay homage to the men and women who founded our political parties and organizations, to those who . . . believed and taught others to believe in the triumph of a democratic Mexico; to those who spoke out on every street corner until they won this victory for democracy. . . .

In this new era of democratic practice, the president proposes and the Congress disposes. That is the new reality for the executive branch in Mexico. For many years our traditional “presidentialism” imposed its monologue. Today more than ever before, governing means dialogue; the nation’s strength can no longer come from a single point of view, a single party, or a single philosophy. [End Page 186]

Today more than ever before, understanding, agreement and convergence among the various political, economic and social participants, among the various legitimate interests and diverse ideological visions, are necessary.

I call on all political parties to build, without prejudice, a dignified and transparent relationship without any subservience; I call them to a frank and spontaneous exchange of arguments and purposes with the new administration, so that together we can make progress in creating a legal framework for the process of change. For my part, I will encourage a relationship based on ongoing negotiation with the parliamentary groups that participate here, so that in the process of working out areas of agreement and disagreement, we arrive at reforms that enhance the legitimacy of our public institutions and the decisions they make. In this Inaugural Session, I affirm my administration’s commitment to render accounts to this national body of representatives in as broad a scope and as frequently as is necessary. . . .

Citizens demand better administration of justice. The executive branch I head will be a strong ally of those who favor consolidating the autonomy of the federal judicial branch and the independence of those who serve in it. . . .

The great challenge involved in the reform of the state lies in inaugurating a new political future after 71 years. We must therefore be bold in order to break free of old paradigms, inertia, and the recurrence of a political culture that viewed agreement as an act of capitulation and similar political viewpoints as full proof that someone had been co-opted. Only by clearing the way for an era of far-reaching democratization of our national life can the reform of the state meet society’s expectations for change. . . .

The cause of many of our problems lies in the excessive concentration of power. The reform of the state must assure that the exercise of power in an ever more balanced and democratic manner is reinforced. It must also assure Mexico’s political modernization by means of ensuring the fully effective rule of law, equity in the distribution of wealth, rationality in the government’s administrative structure, full institutionalization of the exercise of public power, broad social participation in its decision making, and preparation for confronting the challenges of globalization.

Alternating parties in power will not in and of itself complete the transition process. I invite all of you who have duties related to directing the reform of the state to work together with us so that we can propose to the nation the initiatives needed to effect substantive change in our political system. Let us proceed sensibly, with the courage to destroy all vestiges of authoritarianism and to build a genuine democracy. . . .

Strict respect for the freedom of expression is an indispensable guarantee of democratic development; its preservation is the responsibility, first, of any democratic state. I firmly believe that the communications [End Page 187] media arise from this freedom and that they can only fulfill their ethical responsibility to inform society if this freedom exists. My administration will show absolute respect for that fundamental freedom to inform and dissent. We will listen and respond to citizens’ scrutiny expressed in public opinion. . . .

Mexico will no longer be held up as a bad example in matters of human rights. We will protect human rights as never before, respecting them as never before and seeking a culture that repudiates any violation and punishes the guilty.

Corruption has left the government’s credibility with society at a very low ebb. Arrogance and arbitrary behavior make up the remainder of its image. . . .

I will combat these ills with all the rigor and authority of the law, with all the power of the president of the republic, but also with the simple and powerful force of example. . . .

It is not enough to vote and then abandon political participation. Nobody is excluded from this responsibility. On the contrary, true, profound, and radical change will come from all of us or it will not come at all.


On September 27, Al-Hayat, a London-based daily, published a petition signed by 99 Syrian intellectuals calling for political reform in their country. The declaration, directed at President Bashar Al-Assad, who succeeded his father as president on July 17, is excerpted below:

We call upon the Syrian authorities to cancel the state of emergency and the military rule that has prevailed in Syria since 1963, to pardon all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and to allow the return of all political exiles to Syria. We call upon the Syrian authorities to establish a rule of law that will grant general freedoms, will respect political and ideological pluralism, will allow freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and expression, and will remove all restrictions and censorship.

This will enable the citizens [of Syria] to express their different interests within a social consensus, competition, and friendship, [and will allow] the establishment of [a society] in which everyone will be able to participate in the country’s progress and prosperity.

Syria is entering the 21st century and needs the efforts of all its sons [to counter] the peace challenges, and also needs openness towards the world. Any reform, whether economic, administrative, or constitutional, will not bring harmony and stability to the country unless it is accompanied by political reform. This reform is the only reform that can guarantee that our society reaches a safe haven.