Yugoslav Opposition Celebrates but Still no Election Result

Published September 26th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The anxious wait for official results from the Yugoslavian elections continued Tuesday, with opposition supporters and Western leaders increasingly convinced that President Slobodan Milosevic has lost the vote, but unsure what he would do about it, reported AFP Tuesday. 

More than 40,000 Yugoslav opposition supporters packed central Belgrade for the second night running Monday to celebrate "victory" over Milosevic in the absence of any official results, said the agency. 

The electoral commission contented itself with declaring Sunday's presidential and legislative elections free, democratic and fair, in its first official statement on the poll. 

The commission's chairman made no comment, however, on the turnout for the polls, nor any indication of early results based on the ballot count so far. 

According to the electoral laws, the commission is due to produce the final results by Thursday, experts said. 

However, CNN reported that an opposition representative on the Federal Election Commission said it was likely to issue the first official preliminary results on Tuesday afternoon. 

Supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his opponents have both claimed victory for their respective candidates, creating confusion and uncertainty across Yugoslavia, said AFP. 

The opposition, backing presidential Kostunica, claimed late Monday that he was leading Milosevic by 55.3 percent of the votes with 65 percent of the ballots counted, while Milosevic had obtained 34.3 percent. 

But Gorica Gajevic, a top official of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), maintained earlier in the day that the incumbent president was leading Kostunica by 45 percent to 40 percent. 

His spokesman, Nikola Sainovic, told reporters early Monday he doubted there would even be a need for a runoff vote -- required if no candidate gets more than 50 percent -- because "our candidate is leading,” according to the CNN.com report. 

Gajevic conceded, however, that the ruling party had lost in the local elections in Serbia, which took place Sunday alongside the presidential vote, said AFP. 

If neither Milosevic nor his rival, Vojislav Kostunica, win an outright majority in the vote tally, a second round between them has to be held no later than October 8. 

Western leaders were in no doubt that Yugoslavs, weary of 13 years of Milosevic's rule and three wars, had backed 56-year-old Kostunica and warned that Milosevic would try to rig the results. 

The United States said the opposition was well on its way to victory despite what it called massive attempts at fraud by Milosevic's regime. 

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that "we agreed ... that it looks as if Serbia and Yugoslavia have decided in favor of democratic change." 

However speculation was growing about how Milosevic, who kept a low profile Monday, will handle the situation if he has indeed lost at the polls. 

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said: "We know he is preparing to rig the result, but the scale of this defeat is too great for even him to fix it." 

The celebrating locals also voiced their anxiety. 

"Why has the electoral commission not given any official numbers? What do they have to hide?" asked Slavica, 29, a nurse. 

Others shouted "We want victory, not the rounds," alluding to a possible second round run-off for the presidential race. 

A member of the commission's information service told AFP that staff were told to go home and a planned press conference would not be taking place. 

Kostunica himself said earlier he believed he had won, but that Milosevic would force the presidential vote into a second round. 

"Our data positively show a victory in the first round of elections," said the 56-year-old challenger, a lawyer and a moderate nationalist. 

The Brussels-based think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG) was quoted by AFP Monday as saying that Milosevic could engineer a crisis in the coming days that would enable him to hang onto power. 

The tiny Yugoslav republic of Montenegro was calm despite the divisions raised by the elections, which pro-Western President Milo Djukanovic and his government boycotted, added the agency -- (Several Sources) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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