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Serbia: Text Of Yugoslav Minister's OSCE Letter About Elections

Prague, 3 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The following is the complete text of a letter, dated today, from Rump Yugoslavia's Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic to Danish Foreign Minister Niels Petersen, the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The letter appears to accept at least part of the opposition election victories.

Text Of Letter From Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic

Dear Mr Minister,

We have been acquainted with the Report of Mr Felipe Gonzalez, Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office and the head of the delegation of the OSCE who visited the Federal Republic (FR) of Yugoslavia on 21 December 1996.

As it has been pointed out both in the Report and in the letter of Mr. Gonzalez, this visit took place at the invitation of the Federal Government that a high ranking delegation of the OSCE should visit the FR of Yugoslavia in order to be directly and truthfully informed about all facts related to the elections for the organs of local self-government in Serbia and that a completely erroneous picture created by a part of international public about these elections be removed.

We are glad that Mr. Gonzalez has noted both in his Report and in his personal letter to the OSCE Chairman-in-Office of 27 December that the delegation of the OSCE, during its short visit, met without any obstacles and discussed in a frank and open manner with the representatives of political parties, institutions and of the judiciary of the Republic of Serbia and the Government of the FR of Yugoslavia.

The clear position of Mr. Gonzalez that he was not an arbiter and that he did not want to arbitrate emphasized both during his visit to Belgrade and at the presentation of his Report in Geneva is particularly appreciated. As a sovereign State which autonomously solves its internal questions, we could not understand any different position.

We consider that it is of substantial importance that the delegation of the OSCE has established in its Report that the elections for the organs of local self-government, "considered in their entirety, reflected the will of the majority of the citizens of the FRY." The delegation has also noted that "the candidates of the coalition SPS, JUL and ND, won the majority of the popular votes in the elections held in Serbia, reflecting the free will of its citizens." Thus, the allegations of some opposition parties, as well as of a part of international public and media, that the elections for the organs of local self-government in Serbia were annulled because allegedly, these opposition parties won the elections have been denied.

We consider that the free multi-party elections in Serbia confirm most comprehensively the strong democratic tradition and long experience in developing stable democratic institutions in Serbia. All these democratic institutions have proved their vitality and the ability to ensure to all citizens to enjoy and protect their inalienable rights and freedoms even in the most difficult conditions such as the change of the political system, breaking-up of the former common State of the SFRY, war conflicts in the neighborhood of the FR of Yugoslavia, provision of shelter and assistance to almost a million of refugees, embargo against the FR of Yugoslavia and its isolation. This confirms that universal values are affirmed in Serbia, including those of the Paris Charter.

According to our assessment, the approach of Mr. Gonzalez deserves to be supported first of all because it calls upon, in a constructive manner, all factors to tolerant dialogue, transparent discussion and to the solution of the problems in a democratic way, i.e. that the problems be solved within the institutions of the system through implementation of "the adequate procedures and in a spirt of dialogue and cooperation," which de facto means within the multi-party Parliament.

The fact that certain opposition parties won the majority in assemblies of a number of municipalities in Serbia is nothing new for any citizen of Serbia. It was not a novelty even when they won the majority in a much greater number of municipalities at the elections for the organs of local self-government held four years ago than at the present local elections.

In respect of the municipalities mentioned under para 7 of the Report of Mr Felipe Gonzalez, we would like to inform you that according to the data at our disposal, the situation is as follows:

1. With respect to 13 municipalities mentioned in the report:

a) The coalition "Zajedno" won and already constituted the local organs in the municipalities of Uzice, Kragujevac and Zrenjanin;

b) In the municipalities of Pirot, Pancevo, Jagodina no party won the majority, and the assemblies have not been constituted yet;

c) in the municipalities of Kraljevo, Smederevska Palanka, Vrsac, Soko Banja, Lapovo and Sabac, SPS and JUL won the majority;

d) In the municipality of Nis the situation is being thoroughly studied. When competent authorities establish the facts, the results of the elections will be known, i.e. the measures which will be undertaken in accordance with the results of the current procedure and under the regulations in force.

2. With respect to 9 municipalities in Belgrade:

The coalition "Zajedno" won the majority in 9 municipalities in Belgrade.

As it could seen from this short list, compared to the list of the municipalities mentioned under para 7b of the Report of Mr Gonzalez, the data concerning the six municipalities mentioned above are significantly different from the data used by the delegation of Mr. Gonzalez. For the purpose of verification, comparison and complete clarification it would be very useful if you could provide to our authorities the data you have at your disposal for the municipalities of Kraaljevo, Smedervska Palanka, Vrsac, Soko Banja, Lapovo and Sabac. You can be certain that each detail will be studied with full responsibility by the competent authorities.

The call expressed in the Report that the will of the citizens be respected is substantially our basic position we are committed to. However, it is obvious that all this should be established within the legal institutions, on the basis of law and regulations of the Republic of Serbia.

Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that the very nature of the elections for the organs of local self-government in the Republic of Serbia implies, according to our system, that local elections are started and finished at the local level, and that the authorities of the State according to our legal system neither have the right to influence these elections, nor do they exert such influence. The only organs, i.e. institutions, authorized to solve the problems which may occur during the election procedure, are the regular courts. These institutions are obliged to carefully study each new fact or shortcoming which is established and to make a decision thereof.

There is no doubt that these institutions will act accordingly with respect to the municipalities concerned, the number of which is quite small compared to the total number of 189 municipalities in Serbia.

In the letter of Mr. Gonzalez sent to Minister Cotti it has been mentioned that the elections in some municipalities were repeated for reasons "which are not in a whole of serious nature." We do not deny the fact that the experience of the latest, as well as of the previous elections have proved that it is necessary to amend some regulations thereof. This is definitely one of the questions to be discussed at the proposed multi-party panel discussion. However, as long as these regulations are in force, and they were in force at the past local elections, there is no dilemma that they must be respected. We agree with the position of Mr. Gonzalez that these problems should be solved through implementation of the adequate procedures and in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation." We wish to point out that the Parliament of Serbia has established a panel where the representatives of the parliamentary parties will have an opportunity to discuss exactly in the spirit of "dialogue and cooperation" all questions concerning the elections, the role of media and other questions, in front of the public and with live TV broadcasting and to submit appropriate proposals to the Parliament of Serbia.