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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    TUE, 16 DEC 1997 22:39:35 GMT

    SERBIA STILL WITHOUT A PRESIDENT

    Dead-Heat between the Left and the Right

    Not even after the second attempt to elect the president of Serbia were there any surprises, except that the figure on the number of voters who had voted for Milutinovic caused doubts. Representatives of the left coalition and of the Serb Radical Party qualified for the second round, as expected. Analysts predict that the second round will also be unsuccessful.

    AIM Belgrade, 10 December, 1997

    A day after the first round of presidential elections in Serbia, the Socialists were still recuperating from a hangover. Thrilled because of the unplanned success of their new candidate, they drowned their satisfaction in streams of whiskey and champagne. Milan Milutinovic, presidential candidate of the coalition Socialist Party of Serbia-Yugoslav United Left-New Democracy, qualified for the second round of the elections (with 1,665,822 votes) in which he will run against the leader of the Radicals Dr Vojislav Seselj (1,227,076 votes). Both candidates have won more votes than in the September elections, contrary to the head of the Serb Revival Movement, Vuk Draskovic, who ranked the third but with about 300 thousand less votes than before.

    There was practically no surprises in the second attempt to elect the president. Except doubts raised by the number of voters who had voted for Milutinovic, the representatives of the left coalition and of the Serb Radical Party have qualified for the second round of the elections as expected. Indeed, until the last moment, the "left" candidate was considered to be a weaker trump card than Zoran Lilic in the previous elections.

    According to the first interpretations, pre-election TV duel between Draskovic and Seselj was a direct hit, so that the votes which this time the leader of the SPO was deprived of went in favour of Milutinovic. Vuk Draskovic himself says that his sympathizers remained at home disappointed by misinformation equally carried by state and independent media. According to the view of Vojislav Seselj, on 7 December, Milutinovic brought out all the voters of the Socialists to the polls, so that he cannot expect more in the second round.

    Domestic analysts, Slobodan Vucetic, judge of the Constitutional Court of Serbia inclusive, forecast that the second round will not be successful either. The fact that hardly 53 per cent of the citizens voted in the elections speaks in favour of this view, since it is by 300 thousand less than in the September vote. It shows that the citizens of Serbia are less and less interested in the elections in general. Apart from that, the leader of the SPO appealed on his followers to boycott both the "red" and the "black", and other candidates, who had won on the total about 100 thousand votes, did the same.

    Judge Vucetic believes that for the next presidential elections the law on the election of president should be amended, so as to make the one who wins any majority the winner, under the condition which would remain - that half of the electorate come to the polls (at least 3,600,000). Besides, according to his opinion, a single-round system for the elections of president is also possible. The Radicals also demand that the election law be amended in case of failure of the December vote. Members of the left coalition are not inclined, at least for the time being, to support this proposal, while the SPO explicitly says that it is against changes of the rules of the game.

    OSCE observers have listed a series of complaints against the election procedure in their preliminary report. Mr. Gonzales' report was not taken into account, primarily in the sphere of the media. While state television openly gave preference to the candidate of the left, and even to the candidate of the SPO, the leader of the Radicals was presented on Radio-Television Serbia only in an unfavourable context. According to the words of the director of the OSCE Office for Democracy and Human Rights, the election administration in Kosovo had a number of deficiencies. Some polling stations were not even opened, others were closed too early, and representatives of certain parties were not allowed to participate in the work of the polling committee. The OSCE team in Pristina was not enabled to have an insight into voting by mail. Domestic observers were not permitted to monitor the elections, and there was a complaint against the Republican Election Committee in which the majority are state officials which directly affects their impartiality.

    The expert team of OSCE observers stressed that it expected revision of the election law and procedure, with the political consensus demanded by the Gonsales' report. If the intention is to create an environment in which all the citizens participate in democratic processes, all the political parties must be involved in the dialogue: "If Serbian authorities wish to overcome general lack of confidence in the system, they will take an active attitude towards recommendations of OSCE", director of the OSCE Office stressed.

    All forecasts point out that Serbia will not get the successor of Slobodan Milosevic at the post of the head of the Republic even after the second round. If it, nevertheless, happens, according to certain opinions, the conclusion may be that a political agreement has been achieved, primarily between the Radicals and the Socialists. It would mean that the president would be Milan Milutinovic. Several facts lead to such reflections. First, two months after the parliamentary elections and on the eve of elections for president, the ruling party all at once decided to convene the constituting session of the republican assembly. Dragan Tomic was re-elected chairman of the assembly very easily - with the help of the Radicals. In this way, the left ensured its acting president of the Republic in case of failure of the presidential elections. By doing it the ruling party avoided the open constitutional crisis which would have inevitably occurred by the end of the year, because there would have been no institution of power in Serbia - neither the president, nor the parliament, nor the government. Such a situation would have led to scheduling not only of new presidential, but also of new parliamentary elections, which at this moment is not convenient for any of the parties which won deputy seats in September.

    The achieved cooperation of the Radicals and the Socialists in the parliament, leads some parties to the conclusion that a similar agreement is possible between two rounds of presidential elections. Leading parties from Voivodina explicitly point out to that. The stake would be a government in which the leaders of the Radicals would get central ministerial posts.

    If the socialists and the Radicals fail to reach an agreement, there will be no arguments which would speak in favour of a possible success of presidential elections on 21 December. If forecasts that the December vote will be a failure come true, primarily because of insufficient response of the voters, it is almost certain that the citizens of Serbia will have to go to the polls again in the first days of spring: for the election of president, maybe the republican parliament, but also for the federal assembly, and even for the local administration.

    Vesna Vujic

    (AIM)