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Yugoslavia: Serb Opposition Claims Foul, Rejects Second Round

  • Jolyon Naegele

Results announced by the Yugoslav election commission last night saying a run-off is needed between opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica and incumbent President Slobodan Milosevic has both united the opposition and forced it into a difficult decision. The commission admitted Milosevic lost Sunday's presidential vote, but alleged Kostunica failed to surpass the 50 percent barrier, forcing the run-off. RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele reports that the opposition is crying foul and says it won't take part in the vote.

Prague, 27 September 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Never before has the Serbian opposition been so united in its refusal to submit to the wishes of President Slobodan Milosevic. The opposition is steadfast in rejecting the regime's version of the outcome of presidential elections Sunday.

The opposition insists its presidential candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, won a landslide victory, with nearly 55 percent of the vote, to Milosevic's 35 percent. It says the turnout was about 74 percent of voters, precluding the need for a second round.

Official results announced last night by Yugoslav federal electoral commission, though, give Kostunica 48 percent of the vote to Milosevic's 40 percent. The commission says turnout was 64 percent.

It's not clear where the electoral commission is getting its figures since it has not met in full since Sunday night, when opposition members say they were forcibly ejected from the vote-counting process.

Zoran Lucic, a mathematics professor and an election expert at the non-governmental Center for Free Democratic Elections (CESID), tells RFE/RL there is no way the outcome of Sunday's presidential elections could be what the Milosevic regime is claiming.

"There is no accounting. This is a sheer fabrication. It is absolutely impossible. All the data that did come into DOS (the Democratic Opposition of Serbia), into the Serbian Radical Party, the SPO (the Serbian Renewal Movement), that are in the hands of the parties' leaderships and CESID, show absolutely that Kostunica won the first round of the election. Whether he won by 55 to 37 or 64 to 36 (percent) is all the same."

Lucic also says the regime printed 600,000 ballots in Albanian for Kosovar Albanians who boycotted the vote. He says the fact that all Albanian ballots that were cast were cast for Milosevic and not a single one for Kostunica is further evidence of electoral fraud.

The UN said Monday that only 45,000 people had voted in Kosovo. It is unclear how many displaced Kosovars voted outside the province.

Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic says the official results give Kostunica 400,000 votes less and Milosevic 200,000 votes more than the opposition's tallies. He insists there is no chance Kostunica received fewer votes than the minimum 50 percent needed for victory in the first round.

Djindjic, today in a live discussion with RFE/RL's South Slavic Service, denied reports he had been offered the job of prime minister in a new Milosevic government. But he says the regime did make various offers that he turned down.

"There were some attempts (by the regime) to offer a compromise on condition there would not be a second round (of presidential elections) or else Milosevic would declare victory in the first round. I said this would be a criminal act as would every discussion about abusing or overriding the electoral will of the public. We do not wish to engage in criminal acts."

Miroljub Labus, the leader of a Belgrade-based NGO, G-17, says the opposition has learned its lesson from past experience and will not let Milosevic try to stall for time with a second round.

"There is no second round. There is no Milosevic Law. The last time we had a special law was [in 1996] when Milosevic did not want to recognize the results of local elections. This time there is no special law. I appeal to all political parties to be sober, and for the people in (Milosevic's) Socialist Party of Serbia [to allow] at this moment a peaceful transition of Yugoslav society."

Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) spokesman Cedomir Ivanovic explains why the federal electoral commission stopped tallying votes Sunday night.

"The counting of votes ceased at the moment when it became clear a large majority of servicemen of the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian MUP (Ministry of the Interior) had voted for the list of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia and its chairman (and presidential candidate) Vojislav Kostunica."

Retired Colonel Dragan Vukcic, Milosevic's military negotiator in the Dayton peace talks five years ago and now a member of the opposition, says Kostunica's victory took the regime by surprise:

"Milosevic and the people around him have experienced a surprise, a shock, which has brought them face to face with what the army thinks of him and his regime. If he asked at this moment what the army's [opinion of him is], 100,000 people, I cannot believe he would get more than 10 percent of them [to back him]."

Vukcic predicts Milosevic will carry on to the end and will soon be so isolated that it will make no difference what he wants.