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Serbia and Montenegro Remain Without a Leader - 2003-02-11


The new state of Serbia and Montenegro is only one week old, but because of failed elections Sunday in Montenegro, neither of the two former Yugoslav republics has an elected president.

Daniel Serwer of the U.S. Institute of Peace says the failure of the election in Montenegro is unfortunate, but not disastrous. In a repeat of an earlier election, and of two failed ballots in Serbia, turnout failed to reach the required 50 percent electoral threshold. Government institutions in both republics, says Mr. Serwer, are probably strong enough to deal with some temporary instability.

The new looser union of the two former Yugoslav republics is unpopular in both Serbia and Montenegro. It was imposed on reluctant politicians in Belgrade and Podgorica by the European Union, which wants to hold Serbia and Montenegro together.

"Serbia and Montenegro are like a couple that have lived apart for three years and are going to try reconciliation," he said. "Neither one is very satisfied with the precise conditions, but they are supposed to give it a try. And I think they will give it a try."

The mostly ceremonial president for the combined state will be chosen by the new parliament.

Formation of Serbia and Montenegro leaves Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica without a job. Mr. Serwer, just back from Belgrade, says Mr. Kostunica may be in danger of losing his electoral popularity. He says Mr. Kostunica's political rival, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, benefits from the formation of the new union.

"Djindjic has won a big battle. Until now, reform has been stalemated, mainly because of the distraction of the Kostunica-Djindjic fight," he said. "Now Zoran Djindjic is entirely responsible for carrying reform ahead. There is no longer the excuse of internecine squabbling."

Mr. Serwer says the most pressing needs are reform of the security services and the judiciary. The expectation, he says, is that reform will now move ahead quickly.

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