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Institutional power and the rise of Milošević

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Widely accepted view that Slobodan Milošević (Milosevic) rose personally as the leader due to a broad appeal of his political programme is misleading. The change of political generations set the stage for leadership struggle in Serbia, the largest republic of socialist Yugoslavia. Minor disagreements over policy details towards Kosovo were exaggerated in the heat of the power struggle between factions based on personalist networks of Milošević and his rival, Ivan Stambolić. The appeal of Milošević to party officials was based on his personal qualities, while the outcome of the power struggle was largely decided by institutional power, on the model of the earlier ascent of Stambolić. The strategic position of President of the regional party Presidium, at the time not necessarily an office occupied by the most powerful regional politicians in socialist Yugoslavia, granted Milošević an opportunity to build up political support in high party organs and exploit the party’s organisational resources to challenge successfully his former political protector. The whole episode was a typical internal party affair that unfolded according to the rules of the game in socialist party-states, without much influence from society. This picture emerges from the examination of previously unavailable sources, including the personal accounts of participants in the power struggle, archival material and the local press. The case study demonstrates the central role of political institutions in determining political outcomes in socialist party-states as well as important differences between the Soviet and Yugoslav models. The rise of Milošević personally as the leader in 1986-1987 should be seen analytically as separate from the formation of new power structure in Serbia and the spread of nationalism, the processes that unfolded in response to the pressures from society in 1988-1989. - Nebojsa Vladisavljevic

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