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Yugoslavia: Kostunica Rejects Runoff Election

Belgrade, 27 September 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslav opposition presidential candidate Vojislav Kostunica has rejected the Federal Electoral Commission's announcement that last Sunday's presidential race must go to a runoff vote. Last night, Kostunica said the call for the runoff is "political fraud and obvious stealing of votes." The opposition earlier had said Kostunica had won an outright victory with 54 percent against 35 percent for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The independent Beta news agency quoted an opposition representative on the electoral commission saying the preliminary results had yet to be unanimously approved by the commission's 18 members, including opposition officials.

The commission said Kostunica won 48 percent of the vote to Milosevic's 40 percent. A candidate requires more than 50 percent to be declared the outright winner and avoid a runoff.

Kostunica said Milosevic's regime is "trying to buy time" in a bid to cause confusion and provoke rifts among the opposition.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the government's decision to call a runoff vote is "highly suspect."

Zoran Djindjic, one of the leaders of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, says opposition rallies planned for tonight will go ahead. He said the rallies will either be a celebration or a protest "depending on the final ruling of the commission."

Some 5,000 opposition supporters rallied last night in Novi Sad after the commission said Kostunica had not won outright in the first round.