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Nationalist Radical Party Wins Serbian Elections

Serbia's nationalist Radical Party has won the most votes in parliamentary election Sunday, but reformist democrats also registered increased support.The Radicals took 28 percent of the vote, beating the Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic with 23 percent. VOA's Barry Wood reports from Belgrade.

The Radical Party candidate for prime minister, Tomislav Nikolic, said the result is no surprise. He ran on a campaign critical of the United Nations administration in Kosovo and opposed closer cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.

Preliminary vote tallies were reported by Zoran Lucic of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy.

Lucic said the Radicals are likely to end up with 80 seats in the 250 seat parliament compared to 65 for the second place Democratic Party.

The Radicals increased their vote tally by one percent from Serbia's last election in 2003, while the Democrats' share of the vote nearly doubled. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia got about 17 percent, nearly the same as last time.

James Lyon of the International Crisis Group says the result makes it difficult to form a government within the required 90 day period. Mr. Kostunica has not ruled out a coalition with the Radicals, something the Democrats and other reformist parties have rejected. Experts say the most likely result is a combination of the president and prime minister's parties with support from smaller parties.

Sunday's election came at a time when Serbia appears likely to lose Kosovo, its historic heartland which has been administered by the United Nations since Serbian troops were driven out in 1999.

A U.N. envoy will unveil in the next few days his proposal for the status of the territory whose 90 percent ethnic Albanian population wants independence. Belgrade analyst Lyon says no one in Serbia wants to be prime minister at a time when Kosovo breaks away.

The European Union froze talks on closer ties with Serbia last May and recently warned Belgrade that it should refrain from nationalist policies if it hoped to become a member.