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Eastern Europe: Yesterday's Elections Rebuke Communists In Two Countries

Prague, 4 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Voters in Bulgaria and Romania yesterday delivered strong rebukes to their ruling former Communist leaders. But early results of a third East European election, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), showed ex-Communist Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic consolidating his long-held grip on power.


In Bulgaria this morning, the official electoral commission proclaimed anti-communist opposition leader Petar Stoyanov the winner of a run-off vote for the country's presidency. Stoyanov won decisively, with 60 percent of the votes cast inside Bulgaria, and his 20-point lead over his Socialist (ex-communist) opponent Ivan Marazov was considered likely to widen when votes cast by Bulgarians living abroad are tallied up tomorrow.

Stoyanov is deputy head of the chief opposition group, the Union of Democratic Forces, but he ran as the candidate of an alliance that included conservatives and representatives of the country's Moslem minority. His victory was seen by most analysts as a protest by voters after two years of increasing hardships and economic crisis under Socialist rule.

Inflation in the country is running at 150 percent since the start of the year, the national currency (the leva) was devalued last month, bread shortages are predicted for the winter and the International Monetary Fund has granted Sofia a $50 million loan to help purchase grain abroad to forestall a famine.

Interviewed by the Associated Press news agency last night, Stoyanov said that economic reform had stalled in Bulgaria because the Socialists "remained prisoners of a nostalgic and emotional electorate." Socialist leader and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said he would seek a vote of confidence from his own party's leadership in the next several days, and resign if he failed to get the support he seeks. At the very least, Videnov is expected to widen his government's base by taking in several members of minority parties


In Romania, which has been ruled by former communists since the overthrow of dictator Nicolae Ceasescu in 1989, parliamentary as well as the first round of presidential elections were held yesterday. In both cases, the electorate rebuffed the ruling Social Democratic Party led by President Ion Iliescu, whose reign has been marked by scandals and inadequate economic reform.

With about a fifth of the ballots officially counted, the former communists had won only 28 percent of the vote for both houses of parliament. The biggest winner in the parliamentary elections was the Democratic Convention, a Christian Democrat party led by Emil Constantinescu, with about 32 percent. Former Prime Minister Petre Roman's Social Democratic Union won more than 13 percent of the vote, which could make it a pivotal factor in any future coalition government.

In the presidential poll -- still judging by the early official count -- Iliescu received less than 32 percent of the vote, followed by Constantinescu with more than 28 percent and Roman with 21 percent. Iliescu and Constantinescu will face one another directly in a run-off vote in two weeks on November 17.

Analysts are divided over who is the favorite. Some say most of Roman's votes, and those of other candidates yesterday, will go to Constantinescu, making him president. Others say that Iliescu's strong constituency in the Romanian countryside will make him president for a third term. That, they add, would bring about an uneasy "cohabitation" between Iliescu and a Christian Democrat-led government.


In Yugoslavia, with half the votes counted in the Federal parliament election, Slobodan Milosevic's Leftist coalition had won about 50 percent of the votes and was proclaiming victory.

Analysts said that the vote was important because, even though Milosevic was not a candidate, he needed to retain a parliamentary majority to push through constitutional reforms. They say he will seek to strengthen the executive powers of the now largely ceremonial Yugoslav president and then pursue that office. They note that under the law he cannot seek a third term as Serbia's president.