Clergy join crusade against Milosevic

More than 100,000 Serbs marched through Belgrade yesterday in a religious procession designed partly to sustain the 10-week protest movement against President Slobodan Milosevic. But a court decision appeared to reverse an earlier opposition victory.

Two dozen Orthodox priests led the procession, one of the largest church- sponsored events in Belgrade for 50 years. Patriarch Pavle, head of the Serbian Orthodox church, praised demonstrators who have staged peaceful protests in Belgrade and other towns every day since the Socialist (former Communist) authorities annulled opposition victories in local elections in November. "Today, eyes are watching us from the sky and ground and are telling us to endure on the holy and righteous road," he said.

In Belgrade, the city electoral commission which awarded victory to the Zajedno (Together) opposition alliance last week said yesterday its ruling had been quashed by the First Municipal Court.

The commission chairman, Radomir Lazarevic, was enraged by the ruling. "The decision is completely against the law," he told reporters. "Truth and justice are endangered. There is a legal right of the people to start a rebellion."

Opposition rallies have spread to about 50 Serbian towns, but in Belgrade in recent days the number of protesters has fallen from a peak of 100,000 to a hard core of 15,000 to 20,000. Yesterday's march was the largest daytime gathering in the city for more than a month, but it was at least as religious as political in nature, since it officially marked the holiday of St Sava, the 13th-century founder of the Serbian Orthodox church.

Patriarch Pavle has thrown the church's considerable authority as a symbol of the Serbian nation squarely behind the opposition. However, his motives are more complex than the desire for justice and democracy that has fuelled the protest movement.

During the early period of the 1991-95 wars in the former Yugoslavia, he was as much of a Serbian nationalist as Mr Milosevic. The rift that later opened between them owed much to his view that Mr Milosevic had betrayed ethnic Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia by standing aside as they lost their lands in a conflict inspired largely by the Serbian president.

Zajedno legislators yesterday took formal control of Nis, Serbia's second-largest city, where the Socialists conceded this month that they had lost the November elections.

Sixteen Socialist deputies boycotted the ceremony in Nis . Zoran Zivkovic, the likely new mayor, said that five decades of Communist and Socialist rule had left the city "totally ruined".

By mixing restraint with mild repression and by making concessions that seem genuine but eventually turn out to be trivial, Slobodan Milosevic appears to be calculating that he can wear out the opposition in a contest that could last months.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
election 2015
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal for Real Madrid against Juventus
football
Voices
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
voicesArmando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)
film
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds This i...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power