BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Slobodan Milosevic's opponents threatened Thursday to call a general strike, shutting down schools, offices and other public institutions until the president recognizes their election victory and steps aside.
Discussions about calling such a strike come amid efforts to ratchet up the pressure on the Yugoslav leader, who is trying to survive after finishing second to opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica in Sunday's election.
Kostunica earned 48.96 percent of the vote to 38.62 percent for Milosevic, the State Election Commission said late Wednesday. That would require a runoff Oct. 8. The opposition, however, using figures from its poll watchers, claims Kostunica won 52.54 percent to Milosevic's 32.01 percent -- which would mean he won outright.
Kostunica's campaign manager called the government tally "a bad joke." Zoran Djindjic vowed to take the opposition beyond street protests -- which have been unsuccessful -- by calling "a total blockade of the system and institutions."
"We will call a general strike," Djindjic said. "We shall seek to paralyze all institutions, schools, theaters, cinemas, offices ... call everyone onto the streets and stay on the streets until he who wants to be president by force gives up his post."
The influential Serbian Orthodox Church also appealed for peace, recognizing Kostunica's election victory and addressing him as "president-elect." The church holds no direct political power in Yugoslavia, but its dictates hold great moral sway in a population that recognizes it as a pillar of rectitude in a corrupt society.
The statements came the morning after more than 200,000 joyful Milosevic opponents swarmed the capital's downtown district, waving banners and chanting, "He's finished."
The biggest demonstration ever against Milosevic completely blocked Belgrade's main streets around Republic Square. Much of the downtown area teemed with people.
"Milosevic cannot resort to violence ... look how many people took to the streets -- no one in this country has the power nor dares give orders against these people," Milan Protic of the opposition said. "I believe no one in the police or army is prepared to give his life for a man who lost the elections."
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