Sun, May 11, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Analysts predict no decisive win in Serb polls today

AFP , BELGRADE

Serbia’s general elections today give two parties that are poles apart — the Socialists of late president Slobodan Milosevic and the Liberals whose leader negotiated his arrest — a likely key role in forming the next government.

While the bulk of the votes will be split between pro-European forces of Serbian President Boris Tadic and the pro-Russian Radical Party, surveys show neither will be able to assemble a government without the support of at least one smaller party.

Analysts have been busy predicting possible coalitions, mostly coupling the Radicals with outgoing Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s nationalists, or Tadic’s Democratic Party with those representing minorities.

The combinations, however, would force them to seek unlikely partners, like the Socialist Party of Serbia led by Milosevic during the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

“The Socialists, with an estimated seven percent support, could be the kingmaker of a future coalition,” analyst Vladimir Pavic said.

Ivica Dacic, who has led the Socialists since Milosevic went on trial before the UN war crimes tribunal in 2002, said the party refrained from talking to any potential partners ahead of the elections today.

“We have our principles that these talks should be based on: protecting the national and state interests and the principle of social justice,” Dacic said.

Although not openly, Dacic has for months been trying to shake off Milosevic’s tarnished legacy.

His plans are to revamp the Socialists as a modern leftist party that fights to protect the rights of workers, pensioners and all those he described as “victims of transition.” He did not rule out a possible coalition with Kostunica or the Radicals, but also stopped short of rejecting a deal with Tadic.

Dacic insisted his party also supported Serbia’s membership in the EU, an unlikely message from a political grouping notorious for its anti-Western policies of the past.

Analysts believe the Socialists could have the final say in negotiations for a future coalition, either by joining it or supporting a minority government in the parliament.

“It will all depend on the number of votes they win. Only then will they decide which side suits their future better,” political scientist Marjan Mladenovic said.

Diametrically opposed to the Socialists, the Liberal Democratic Party of Cedomir Jovanovic — the newest political force in Serbia grouping mostly pro-Western professionals unhappy with the slow pace of reforms — can count on the support of up to 10 percent of the electorate.

Once a member of Tadic’s Democratic Party, Jovanovic came under the spotlight in March 2001 when he persuaded Milosevic to surrender to Serbia’s reformist authorities, leading to his handover to the war crimes court in The Hague.

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