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Yugoslavia: Serbian Socialists Leading, Radicals Close Second

Belgrade, 22 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists appear headed for victory in yesterday's parliamentary and presidential elections in Serbia, followed closely by ultranationalist Radicals.

With two thirds of the ballots counted, the Socialists' presidential candidate, Zoran Lilic, is leading the presidential race. But he is expected to fall short of a majority and will face a runoff on October 5 with Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj.

The Socialists and Radicals are also in the lead for gaining the largest shares of mandates in Serbia's 250-seat parliament.

Some opposition leaders called for a boycott of the elections, hoping to invalidate them with a turnout below 50 percent. But voter turnout according to the Serbian electoral commission was 62 percent.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the vote, said today that "on the whole, the elections went well in a peaceful and orderly manner." But in a preliminary report, it added the process leading up to the elections was flawed, including the coverage of the state-run media in favor of the ruling party. The OSCE report said a new electoral law is vague and open to abuse.

This is the first time the Socialists face runoff presidential elections. Milosevic won two previous elections in Serbia in the first round, in 1990 and 1992.

Ethnic Albanians in the southern province of Kosovo also boycotted the vote.