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Analysts say Serbia Could be Headed for Another General Election - 2004-01-05

More than a week after an indecisive parliamentary election (December 28) in which reformists lost ground, Serbia is still without a government and some analysts say there may have to be another general election.

The radical party that used to be aligned with Slobodan Milosevic got over 25 percent of the vote and was the big winner in the election. Political analyst Daniel Sunter in Belgrade says the radicals won votes by focusing on the economic distress of ordinary people. "The pre-election campaign of the radical party in Serbia was more focused on social issues rather than political issues. Because they are aware of the intensive social problems in Serbia and the poverty problem in Serbia," he says.

By some measures, 70 percent of the Serbian population lives at or below the poverty line. The average wage is under $170 per month.

Obrad Kesic, a Serb who is an economic consultant in Washington, says voters turned away from the reformists who had governed Serbia for three years because of perceived corruption and hardships associated with economic reform. "As people were left without jobs. And while the economy improved, it has not yet changed in a major way the way people live on a day to day basis," he says.

Mr. Sunter in Belgrade is not pessimistic about the future of reform. He stresses that, taken together, the four reformist parties got twice as many votes as the radicals. "There is no doubt that people in Serbia are still supporting democratic forces here. But the problem is that the democratic forces at this moment are divided," he says.

Vojislav Kostunica, a key figure in the successful uprising against Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, is being mentioned as a likely prime minister. Analysts say the shape of a future government should become clearer in a week's time. However, Mr. Kesic in Washington, doubts that the reformist parties can put aside their differences. "Having these four groupings [of reformers] in one government is a possibility. But, unfortunately, I think the likely scenario is that they are not going to come to an agreement and form a new government. So we'll probably see new elections in Serbia within two months or so," he says.

At the moment Serbia has neither a government nor a president as previous attempts to elect a president failed because of a low voter turnout.