Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Nationalist faces reformist in Serbian poll

AP , BELGRADE, SERBIA-MONTENEGRO

A right-wing nationalist supporter of ousted President Slobodan Milosevic failed to win a majority Sunday in Serbia's presidential elections, forcing a runoff vote against a pro-Western reformist candidate in two weeks.

Tomislav Nikolic of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party garnered 31.62 percent of the votes cast, finishing ahead of Boris Tadic of the pro-Western Democratic Party with 27.93 percent, according to official results from Serbia's State Election Commission.

None of the contenders got more than the 50 percent of votes cast needed for immediate victory, the commission said after processing data from what it called a "reliable sample" of 10 percent of all ballots.

Nikolic, who has pledged to block further extradition of Serbs to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, was confident he would win the runoff.

"I am going to win," Nikolic proclaimed. "Tadic can't possibly garner any more votes and I will be the president."

The runoff will be held June 27 and may bring a victory to Tadic if at least some of the remaining contenders -- 15 took part in Sunday's race -- endorse him and help Serbia-Montenegro in its proclaimed aim of joining the EU. Serbia-Montenegro is the two-republic union that succeeded Yugoslavia.

"These are crucial times for Serbia," said Tadic. He urged "all pro-democracy groups" to support him in the runoff.

Sunday's balloting was Serbia's fourth attempt to elect a head of state since 2002. Previous elections failed because less than half of those eligible cast ballots. That requirement has been dropped. The election commission estimated Sunday's turnout at 46 percent.

"All pro-democracy parties should come to their senses now and all together support Tadic," reformist politician Dragoljub Micunovic said.

Tadic's Democratic Party had spearheaded democratic and economic reforms following Milosevic's ouster in 2000, but its former leader and Serbia's first non-communist prime minister since World War II, Zoran Djindjic, was assassinated in March last year.

Last December, the Democrats lost parliamentary elections as well as the government leadership, but Tadic's results indicated a possible comeback for the reformist group.

"The results are encouraging," said analyst Jelena Minic. "They showed that more than 50 percent of Serbia's voters are pro-European."

Nikolic has vowed that, if elected, he would press for early general elections -- in an attempt to help his right-wing Radicals gain control of the parliament and government.

The Radicals once ruled alongside Milosevic and supported his belligerent policies. Nikolic's victory could push Serbia into renewed isolation and block financial and political support for the cash-strapped republic from the US, the EU and major international organizations.

The UN tribunal in The Hague is trying Milosevic and the Radical Party's founder, Vojislav Seselj. Cooperation with The Hague court is the key condition for international aid for Serbia.

The telegenic, soft-spoken Tadic insisted he was the best choice to secure EU membership and fully patch up Serbia's ties with Western governments that had been severed under Milosevic.

Serbia's wealthiest entrepreneur, millionaire Bogoljub Karic, finished third with 16.74 percent of the votes, ahead of the candidate of the ruling conservative coalition, Dragan Marsicanin, who garnered only 12.69 percent.

This story has been viewed 7301 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top