29/09/2002 - D-7 - 1st round
Eleven candidates are running for the presidential election in Serbia on 29th September next. They are:
Vojislav Seselj, president of the Radical Party (SRS), ultra-nationalist candidate supported by Slobodan Milosevic,
Borislav Pelevic, president of the Serb Unity Party (SSJ),
Miroljub Labus, deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, an independent candidate supported by Zoran Djindjic, (Prime Minister of Serbia)
Vuk Draskovic, president of the Serb Renewal Movement (SPO),
Vuk Obradovic, president of the Social Democrat Party (SD),
Nebojsa Pavkovic, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav army (dismissed on 24th June by President Kostunica), commander of the third Yugoslav army whose troops are accused by the International Criminal Court for Ex-Yugoslavia of crimes against the civil population of Kosovo between 1998-1999,
Vojislav Kostunica, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, president of the Democratic Party of Serbia(DSS),
Velimir Bata Zivojinovic, member of the Socialist Party (SPS), MP within the Serb Parliament and also famous actor,
Branislav Ivkovic, ex-member of the Socialist Party and independent candidate,
Tomislav Lalosevic and Dragan Radenovic, independent candidates.
Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party, the biggest political movement in Serbia over the last 10 years, is now experiencing major problems. The crisis really started within the party on 28th June 2001, when the ex-Yugoslav president was transferred to the International Criminal Court for Ex-Yugoslavia in The Hague where he is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as genocide. Two of the party's members (or ex-members) are running for Presidency: Branislav Ivkovic, who is presenting himself as an independent and Velimir Bata Zivojinovic, the party's official candidate, rejected by Slobodan Milosevic, who in spite of imprisonment is still the SPS's leader. At the end of August Slobodan Milosevic appointed Bogoljub Bjelica as the new interim leader of the Socialist Party, in replacement of Mirko Marjanovic, the ex-Serb Prime Minister. The new leader immediately called for the support of Vojislav Seselj, the ultra nationalist leader, and candidate appointed by the ex-President of Yugoslavia. During the electoral campaign, Vojislav Seselj published four volumes (3,400 pages published in a thousand copies) of excerpts from Milosevic's trial before the ICC. These books are supposed to prove to the Serbs and to the world that the ex-dictator's trial "is a general fabrication" and according to the candidate's own words, "Milosevic is quite likely to win and with that the Serb people also". Just as it is fighting for its existence, the Socialist Party, that once hoped to assert itself as a alternative in the fratricidal war between Vojislav Kostunica and Miroljub Labus, seems to be far from being able to mobilise a majority of Serbs in its name.
Three weeks ago the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia formally committed themselves to continuing the procedure to join the Council of Europe. Although some criteria (adoption and ratification of the Council's conventions, continuation of legislative reform and co-operation with the International Criminal Court for Ex-Yugoslavia etc ) are still being completed, there are other points of discord between the political leaders of the country's two entities. Indeed Serbia and Montenegro have still not come to an agreement on how to manage the new State. Although 19 of the 20 points have been completed, both Serbs and Montenegrins still disagree as to how the representatives of the two States should be elected within the Parliament of the future State. Montenegro would like to delegate its representatives to Parliament whilst Serbia would prefer them to be elected by direct universal suffrage. The establishment of the Constitutional Charter was one of the conditions stipulated by the Council of Europe for the future State's membership. On 6th September during his visit to Belgrade Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs expressed his regret at the delay incurred by the Yugoslav authorities. "I find it quite dramatic that we have not finished our work today. I do not think that Yugoslavia will be admitted to the Council of Europe and it might not be possible to start negotiating towards an agreement on stabilisation and association to the EU without the completion the Constitutional Charter" he declared. The session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is being held between 23rd –27th September in Strasbourg. Both parties must absolutely come to an agreement on constitutional reform or have made "decisive progress" according to Peter Schieder, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, if they want to avoid the discussions on the membership of the future State either being suspended or delayed to sometime in the future.
Just one week before the presidential elections the polls say that the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Vojislav Kostunica is ahead of the deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus by a hair's breadth. Until recently Vojislav Seselj was credited with around 5% of the vote but has witnessed an increase in his score in September to reach 10 to 15% of the intention to vote. According to the polls the abstention rate should range between 30% to 40%. In addition to this and just a few days before the vote more than one third of the voters still say they are undecided. We shall have to wait and see how the Serbs vote to discover which of the two main candidates, Vojislav Kostunica and Miroljub Labus, will be the country's next leader.