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Yugoslavia: Votes Being Counted In Serbian Presidential Election

Belgrade, 29 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Polling stations closed in Serbia's presidential elections, with independent observers predicting turnout at up to 57 percent. The election looks to be a three-man race. The spokesman for the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CESID) said that one hour before the polls closed, 52.2 percent of the Yugoslav republic's 6.5 million voters had cast their ballot. Spokesman Marko Blagojevic said their were no major irregularities which might prejudice the outcome.

The polls are the fourth presidential elections in Serbia since the multiparty system was introduced in 1990 and the first since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power two years ago.

First official results are not expected until tomorrow and opinion polls have suggested the two leading candidates -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus -- will face each other again in a second-round runoff in two weeks time.Voters today are choosing among 11 candidates for the presidency of Serbia, the larger of the two republics in Yugoslavia.

Kostunica (pictured) expressed doubt that one candidate will win the required percentage and admitted that a runoff vote may be needed.

Kostunica is running for the post of Serbian president amid reforms in the Yugoslav federation that may eliminate his current post as Yugoslav president. Labus, a proponent of major economic reforms and integration with European institutions, had been running close to Kostunica in preelection polls.

An exit poll from the CESID showed a three-man race with Kostunica taking 31 percent of the vote, Labus some 27 percent, and ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj getting 23 percent. Milosevic has endorsed Seselj from his prison cell at The Hague.

Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, caused some minor chaos when casting her ballot in Belgrade. While voting, she suddenly screamed "I made a mistake! I made a mistake!" She then requested a new ballot, which was given to her by election officials.