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Nationalists Lead, Moderates Make Some Gains in Balkan Elections - 2004-10-04

First official results from elections in three of the countries that once made up Yugoslavia show that nationalists retained their dominance in Bosnia, but moderates made some inroads there and in Serbia. In Slovenia, the liberal government was ousted in favor of a center-right party. After 12 years of nearly continuous control, Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop admitted his Liberal Democrats suffered a heavy loss to center-right parties in the tiny alpine state's first general elections since it became a member of the European Union in May.

Despite several disagreements with the embattled prime minister, the Slovenian Democratic Party of former Defense Minister Janez Jansa, which is expected to form a right-leaning coalition, has already said it will not change major policy decisions, such as Slovenia's intention to adopt the euro in 2007, and to move toward privatizing large state-owned companies in the telecommunications, insurance, banking and energy sectors. Sunday's election was the first since Slovenia joined the European Union and NATO earlier this year. In Serbia, initial results show that allies of ousted President Slobodan Milosevic won in several key regions, including the post of mayor in Novi Sad, the capital of the northern Vojvodina province. However, in the capital, Belgrade, a pro-Western reformer, won the mayoral race over his Serbian Radical Party opponent.

The Radical party has made significant gains in recent years, particularly in Vojvodina. As the largest single party in the Serbian parliament, it poses strong opposition to the centrist government.

In Bosnia Herzegovina, initial results revealed that the three main nationalist parties are leading in Saturday's first locally funded and locally organized municipal elections since the 1992-to-1995 war.

But the moderate Union of Independent Social Democrats appears to have gained ground in a number of city elections against the Serb Democratic Party, which was founded by fugitive war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.

Bosnia-Herzegovina has been made up of two entities, a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb republic, since the end of the war.

But more than half of the Bosnian voters stayed away from the polls, amid public disappointment in elected officials, who so far failed to live up to their promises of improving living standards and creating jobs in the impoverished, ethnically divided, Balkan nation.