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Serbian Pre-Election Survey Indicates Democrats Gaining on Radicals


Serbia's parliamentary election campaign is nearing its end with latest opinion surveys indicating that reformist Democratic Party has taken a lead over the nationalist Radical Party. VOA's Barry Wood is in Belgrade and filed this report.

This was the final Belgrade rally for the Radical Party that is still nominally led by Vojislav Seselj, who is in detention in the Hague and facing trial for war crimes.

The city's new basketball arena was filled to capacity Tuesday with flag-waving supporters.

Speakers denounced Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, accusing him of failing to fight corruption and not doing enough to assure that the disputed ethnic-Albanian majority province of Kosovo remains part of Serbia.

Until recently the Radicals were ahead, with surveys suggesting they may get from 25 to 32 percent of the vote. But a survey released this week by the Center for Free Elections and Democracy shows that support for the Radicals is steady at 26 percent, while the opposition pro-European Democratic Party has risen to 29percent.

Prime Minister Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia comes third with 19 percent.

Marko Blagojevic of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy says economic issues have dominated the two-month campaign.

[The issues have been] "Better living standards, more jobs, better social welfare, rule of law," he said.

Kosovo has not been a dominant issue except for the Radicals.

Analysts say the outcome of Sunday's election is likely to determine the shape of Serbia's relations with the west for the next several years. Democratic Party leader Boris Tadic promises to speed Serbia's integration into European structures. He promises full cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.

No single party is likely to obtain a majority in parliament, in which case there would likely be weeks of negotiations before a government is formed. Prime Minister Kostunica, who has led a minority government for three years, is keeping his options open and has not ruled out a post-election coalition that would include the Radicals.