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Indicted War Crimes Suspects May Win Seats in Serbia Vote


Voters are going to the polls in Serbia to elect a new parliament. Indications are that ousted president Slobodan Milosevic and other indicted war crimes suspects could win seats in the 250-member chamber.

Voting began amid warnings from pollsters that the far-right Serbian Radical Party could score sizable gains in the balloting, which is being held a year early, after the pro-western ruling coalition collapsed.

The Serbian Radical Party has pledged to continue to fight for a Greater Serbia, which includes parts of Bosnia and Croatia, control over Kosovo province, and to stop cooperating with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The brand of nationalism of the Radicals, who considered now-deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as their chief ally, appeared to have some appeal in Belgrade ahead of the elections.

Several supporters were seen showing pictures of indicted war crimes suspects during election rallies, and some polls predicted that one in four Serbian voters would cast their ballots for the Radicals.

Its main leader, Vojislav Seselj, has managed to campaign from his prison cell in The Hague. Ousted president Milosevic, who is held in the same detention center, also campaigned for his less popular Socialist Party of Serbia.

Analysts say the other three leading pro-democracy parties could theoretically form a new government if they manage to win just half of the total vote.

But that prospect seems less than likely because of constant political infighting, which intensified after the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic earlier this year.

European Union and American diplomats have warned Serbia that any return of Mr. Milosevic's allies to power could destabilize the region and put the republic's prospects of European Union entry and membership in NATO on hold.

Serbia needs western support as nearly one in every three people of working age is without a job and poverty is rampant, following a decade of Balkan conflicts under the Milosevic regime.

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