Serbian election results could delay Kosovo plan
BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbia’s ultra-nationalist Radicals won the most votes in the country’s parliamentary election, but several pro-democratic groups collected enough seats to form a new government if they can unite, according to official results released Monday.The mixed outcome could delay Serbian acceptance of a U.N. plan for Kosovo.The Serbian Radical Party, loyal to late ex-leader Slobodan Milosevic and staunchly opposed to Kosovo’s independence, won 28.3 percent of the vote. But that was not enough for the party to govern alone, the state electoral commission said.The Western-backed Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic was second with 22.6 percent, and the center-right Popular Coalition led by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had 16.3 percent, according to official results with about 70 percent of the vote counted.Sunday’s vote was the first since the breakup of Serbia’s union last year with Montenegro, its last partner from the former Yugoslavia that split up in wartime campaigns conducted under Milosevic in the 1990s.Shortly after the vote, a United Nations plan for the future of Serbia’s breakaway Kosovo province is expected to be published. The West had feared a crisis if the Radicals emerged as outright winners and if Kosovo, as expected, is given independence.Tadic and Kostunica have lobbied internationally to keep Kosovo within Serbia’s border, offering broad autonomy to its majority ethnic Albanians who are seeking nothing but full independence. Unlike the Radicals, the two have pledged to resolve the Kosovo crisis by peaceful means.The vote results indicate that any Serbian acceptance of a U.N. Kosovo plan will be difficult and will likely be delayed until a new government is formed.Kosovo has been an international protectorate since the 1998-99 war between Milosevic’s troops and separatist ethnic Albanians. U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari is expected to present a proposal for Kosovo’s future to diplomats on Friday, which many believe will include some sort of conditional independence.The results meant that Serbia’s bickering pro-democratic parties could form a new government if they agree on who will be the next prime minister.Current premier Kostunica, whose coalition was third in the polls, insists on retaining the post. President Tadic’s Democrats, who were second after the Radicals, want the post for themselves. Tadic described his party as “the new leader of the democracy bloc” in Serbia’s new parliament.Radical leader Tomislav Nikolic acknowledged that the ultra-nationalists will not be able to form the new Cabinet.”The Serbian Radical Party is the winner … but we will not have the opportunity to form the government,” he said.The Democrats were the biggest winners in the election, doubling the number of their seats in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament to 65 when compared with the previous vote in 2003. The Radicals will retain about the same number, 81 seats, while Kostunica’s ruling coalition will have 47 seats, about 10 fewer than in the previous parliament.A newly formed Liberal coalition, led by Cedomir Jovanovic, who negotiated Milosevic’s surrender and arrest in 2001, surprisingly entered the parliament, winning 14 seats, according to the official returns.Kostunica was noncommittal after the vote on whether he would step down and allow a Democratic prime minister to take his place.”The question who is going with whom is inappropriate at this moment,” Kostunica said. “The president will have to find a man who will be able to get a majority” in the parliament.Kostunica’s government has pursued Western-advised reforms and has sought closer relations with the European Union. But it has failed to arrest fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, sought by the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.Tadic has pledged that if his Democrats lead Serbia’s new government, it will work harder to arrest the Bosnian Serb wartime army commander, who has been indicted by the tribunal for a massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-95 war.In Brussels, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said Monday that he hoped Serbia’s elections would lead to the quick formation of a pro-Western government, despite gains by the ultranationalist Radical party.Javier Solana said it was too early to assess the impact of the election results on the future status of the breakaway Serb province of Kosovo.”I hope very much there will be a formation of a … government that will be in line with the European Union,” Solana told reporters, as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers, who are discussing the elections, Kosovo and EU relations with Serbia.
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