Even though the nationalist Radical Party got the most votes in Sunday's parliamentary election, analysts in Belgrade believe the vote will actually lead to closer Serbian links with western Europe. VOA's Barry Wood reports from Belgrade.
Zarko Korac, who has been re-elected to parliament from the small Social Democratic Party, says it would be a mistake to view the Serbian election result as a setback to reform and hopes that Serbia would move closer to Europe. He says the Radicals, who won 29 percent of the vote and oppose closer ties with Europe, will not be included in a future coalition and that what he calls the true democrats -- meaning the party of President Boris Tadic and his own democratic bloc -- have been strengthened.
A former foreign minister of Serbia-Montenegro, Goran Svilanovic, who now is with the Vienna-based Stability Pact (for the Balkans), agrees. He says twice as many people voted for democratic parties than for the radicals and socialists of former leader Slobodan Milosevic. Even so, Svilanovic says believes that Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is in a strong position to form a new government even though his Democratic Party of Serbia (17 percent) was outvoted by President Tadic's pro-European Democratic Party (23 percent).
"He (Kostunica), in my eyes, is in the driving seat," Svilanovic says. "This does not mean that he will necessarily end up as prime minister. But if he wants it, he can have it."
[White House spokesman Tony Snow congratulated the Serbian people on what he called a well-run election. He says Washington is hopeful because parties dedicated to democratic reform still outpolled the ultra-nationalists.
European Union leaders point out that pro-Western parties will still control a parliamentary majority and say Serbia's place is in Europe.]
Svilanovic is confident that a new government will be formed but that protracted negotiations could delay its formation until as late as March first. Concerning Kosovo's future status, Svilanovic predicts little change in Serbian policy with Belgrade striving to retain as much as it can while stopping short of outright confrontation.
"They may not welcome every statement coming from your (U.S.) or other (Kosovo) contact group countries," Svilanovic says. "But I believe they will be party to the process-together with Pristina and other EU countries, and Russia, etc. This is what I have in mind in saying (they will pursue a policy of) constructive disagreement."
The southern Serbian province of Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing forced Serbian troops out of the territory. The Serb forces were fighting an ethnic-Albanian insurgency
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who is the U.N. envoy on the future status of Kosovo, could unveil his plan for Kosovo's future as early as this week. The territory's 90 percent Albanian population wants independence, an outcome opposed by Serbia.