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Yugoslavia: Serbian Parliament To Formalize Early Elections

Belgrade, 10 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Serbia's parliament today is expected to formalize a key decision to hold early elections by the end of the year.

Party leaders yesterday agreed in principle to hold an early vote and to form a transitional government until elections can be held. The vote is tentatively set for December 17.

Supporters of new federal Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica are hoping the vote will substantially reduce the power of backers of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Kostunica was swept to power last week in a popular uprising after winning the presidential vote in September but being denied outright victory by Milosevic.

Kostunica requires the support of both the Serbian parliament and the republic's president to introduce economic and political reforms needed to bring Yugoslavia back into the family of nations. The Serbian president is not directly elected by the people but is voted on by parliament.

The Serbian parliament in the past has been dominated by pro-Milosevic parties, including the Socialists, Milosevic's Socialist People's Party, his wife Mirjana Markovic's communist Yugoslav Left Party, and the Serbian Radical Party led by ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj.

Seselj broke coalition ranks before the September 24 vote, saying that if Milosevic didn't win in the first round he would not back him in a second round. After the election, Seselj quickly recognized Kostunica as the victor. However, Seselj's continuing support is uncertain. Yesterday, he labeled as "a coup" rapid efforts by Kostunica supporters to change the composition of the government.

The Serbian parliamentary election will be a further test of the opposition's recent unity in backing Kostunica. Before the campaign leading up to Kostunica's win, the opposition had been riven by personality conflicts.

The Democratic Opposition of Serbia, a coalition of 18 opposition groups, eventually united behind Kostunica in the presidential race. But another prominent opposition figure, Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement, refused to join. He instead backed his own candidate, who failed to win significant support.

Also today, negotiations are expected to continue on the make-up of a transitional federal government after yesterday's resignation by federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, a key Milosevic supporter. The federal government is responsible for relations between Serbia and its partner in federal Yugoslavia, Montenegro.

Bulatovic leads Montenegro's Socialist People's Party, which was the only major party in the smaller republic to participate in the September elections.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, a fierce opponent of Milosevic, boycotted the vote, calling it illegal and unconstitutional. He says that Montenegro and Serbia must be equals in any Yugoslav federation or else his republic may opt for independence.

Kostunica had criticized Djukanovic for not participating in the elections. But so far, the two presidents have not met.