BELGRADE, Yugoslavia - A characteristically defiant Slobodan Milosevic staged his political comeback yesterday, winning re-election as leader of his Socialist Party of Serbia and denouncing as a coup the popular uprising that swept him from power last month.
In his first public appearance since he accepted his election defeat and resigned as the Yugoslav president on Oct. 6, a day after the uprising, Milosevic gave an aggressive opening speech to the Socialist Party congress.
"Everybody in this hall knows what kind of violence and lawlessness has taken place since the coup on Oct. 5," he said. "The situation is absurd.
"The biggest defender of the state and national interests is the Socialist Party of Serbia, and that's why the party is the main target of the attacks," he said to long applause.
The party congress was closed to the news media, but film and text of his speech were released to news agencies and foreign reporters outside the congress hall.
Milosevic, who exuded confidence as he re-emerged from self-imposed seclusion yesterday, won 87 percent of the votes cast by more than 2,000 delegates at the party congress, according to Zoran Nikolic, a co-justice minister in the transitional government of Serbia and a senior party member.
Yesterday's congress was called after the Socialists' resounding defeat in local elections and Milosevic's failure in the race for Yugoslav president on Sept. 24. It was only a month ahead of legislative elections Dec. 23 in Serbia, where real power lies in the Yugoslav federation.
Leading Socialists said some fierce internal criticism of Milosevic had arisen.
But the man who led Serbia into three lost wars and bequeathed his successors a ruined economy was the only candidate proposed to lead a political party that he built 10 years ago from the ruins of the League of Communists, which ran Yugoslavia for 45 years after World War II.