Belgrade, 25 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The ruling coalition in Serbia's parliament has announced it is expelling 50 of its parliamentary deputies, almost half of whom are from the party of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. The move follows increasing tension after many members failed to turn up for parliamentary debates. Relations began to deteriorate further after a recent brawl in parliament in which a member of the ultranationalist Serb Radical Party physically attacked Natasa Micic, Serbia's parliament's speaker and a member of the ruling Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition.
When Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) failed to condemn the attack -- and even signaled its tacit approval -- other members of the DOS were galvanized into action. "The incident was the last straw," said Vladan Batic, the head of the Christian Democrats and Serbia's justice minister.
The coalition as a whole won 176 seats in the 250-member parliament. The leaders of the coalition can decide to replace and reshuffle the seats if a majority of the parties forming the coalition agree on the changes. The deputies will be replaced by others furtherdown on the coalition lists, but as a whole the DSS lost 23 seats and gained only 13.
The lawmakers come from a variety of political parties and were all voted into power as part of the DOS. The leaders of the coalition met late yesterday, and made the announcement at a news conference afterwards.
The 50 lawmakers have come under increasing criticism recently for obstructing the work of the Serbian parliament. By failing to turn up for sessions, they had all but stopped parliamentary business.