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Yugoslavia: Election Results Still Not Known

Two days after Yugoslav federal presidential and parliamentary elections, there are still no official results. Tabulation of the votes by the federal electoral commission was suspended by force Sunday evening, and the full commission has yet to resume its work. RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele reports.

Prague, 26 September 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is facing the most serious challenge to his power in 13 years.

The Serbian opposition says its presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica won 55 percent of the vote and Milosevic 35 percent. But the ruling coalition claims Milosevic has won 45 percent and Kostunica 40 percent.

Official tallies are not yet available. By law, they are required to be issued within 72 hours after polls close -- that is, by tomorrow (Wednesday) evening.

Opposition spokesman Cedomir Jovanovic says that if the government fails to come up with final figures, the opposition will proclaim Kostunica the winner against Milosevic. He called on the federal electoral commission to convene. He calls the commission's silence since Sunday evening "unprecedented."

But the pro-Milosevic chairman of the election commission, Borivoje Vukicevic, insists the commission will release the results on time by Thursday. He says the commission is working "efficiently and in accordance with the law" -- perhaps an indication that only pro-regime and not opposition members are able to participate in the tallying.

The commission convened in the federal parliament building in Belgrade Sunday evening to tabulate votes coming in from local electoral commissions. But soon after it began its work, the chairman announced he was tired and proposed suspending the tabulation until the following day. According to Dragan Todorovic -- a member of the electoral commission representing the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party -- when he and the representatives of the democratic opposition objected to the suspension, security guards ordered everyone to leave the building.

Meanwhile, the opposition continues to celebrate its apparent victory. Last night, tens of thousands of regime opponents turned out for the second time in 24 hours in Belgrade and other cities to demand Milosevic's resignation.

"Kill Yourself, Slobodan, and Save Serbia!"

Milosevic appears to have no intention of stepping down and his premier, Momir Bulatovic, has dismissed reports he has resigned. But Milosevic has not made any public comment since he cast his ballot in Belgrade Sunday. At that time, he told reporters he expected the vote would "clarify the political scene [and] bring good things to the state and the nation."

As for Kostunica, he is already behaving like a president-elect. He told Montenegrin Radio last night that he intends to open discussions with Montenegro very soon on Serbia's relations with its small sister republic in the Yugoslav federation.

But Serbian Renewal Party leader Vuk Draskovic, ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj and his party's presidential candidate -- Tomislav Nikolic -- have all announced their intention to give up their party functions. Nikolic reportedly won less than 6 percent of the presidential vote. Draskovic has congratulated Kostunica on his victory and has called on Milosevic to "accept the will of the people and hand over his post to the new president in a peaceful and civilized manner."

Meanwhile, former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic (eds: a woman) said today Milosevic "had better not try for a second round." She said this would be "a real adventure" and that she was sure Milosevic would not win even 10 percent of the vote.

Milosevic is reported to have met in the early hours of Monday morning with his army chief of staff, Nebojsa Pavkovic, his Socialist party's deputy chairman, Nikola Sainovic, and the head of the pro-regime daily Politika, Hadzi Dragan Antic.

British historian and Balkan expert Noel Malcolm tells RFE/RL Milosevic will do anything to stay in power.

"One thing is clear -- the thing he cares most about is his own power. He cares about power more than he cares about Serbian nationalism, more than he cares about territory, more than he cares about ideology. And his own power is now severely challenged and we have to assume he will do anything to preserve it."

Malcolm predicts Milosevic will falsify the election results. He says that if Milosevic has no choice but to concede to Kostunica, he and his supporters will claim that the constitution still gives 10 months until the expiration of his term -- although Kostunica yesterday explicitly ruled out any such interpretation. Malcolm says that staying on in office would allow Milosevic to manufacture a crisis to take action against his political opponents in Montenegro and Serbia. And Malcolm warns that if Kostunica ever succeeds in taking office, he too will be a hard-liner on the fate of Kosovo, despite his earlier offer for talks with Kosovar Albanian leaders. "The basic point of Kostunica's own policy position on Kosovo is that he represents a firm Serbian national position. He absolutely rejects the idea of independence for Kosovo, and since the Albanian population of Kosovo absolutely rejects the idea of remaining a part of Yugoslavia, there is a complete gulf between these two positions."

Meanwhile, the chief coordinator of the European Union-backed Balkan Stability Pact, Bodo Hombach, told RFE/RL today he has invited Kostunica to fill Yugoslavia's vacant seat at the pact's next working meeting in Sofia.

"In the same moment that this country [Yugoslavia] returns to the European family of nations, when it acts peacefully toward its neighbors, when it recognizes the principles of the Stability Pact -- at that very same moment we will extend our hand in full cooperation."

Hombach's remarks echoed the desire of much of the international community's desire to lift sanctions against Yugoslavia as soon as Milosevic has left office.