13/06/2004 - D-7
Twenty people are officially candidates in the presidential election in Serbia, the first round of which will take place on 13th June.
The four main candidates are:
Tomislav Nikolic, interim president of Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party (SRS), the latter having been accused of war crimes against the non-Serb populations of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Voïvodina by the International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia in The Hague, and who was deputy Prime Minister under Slobodan Milosevic ;
Boris Tadic, 46 years old, leader of the Democratic Party, that is in the opposition camp at present;
Ivica Dacic, candidate for Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS);
Dragan Marsicanin, 54 years old, an economist and vice president of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) led by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica; he was one of the founder members of this party and is the present Economy Minister.
On 14th May last Princess Jelisvata Karadjordjevic of Yugoslavia announced her candidature by making a full page announcement in almost all of the country's daily newspapers. "I have decided to prove that there is a better Serbia. (...) I have decided to speak on behalf of all of those who believe that a new start is possible", declared the princess whose main priority is to re-establish the State of Law. Jelisvata Karadjordjevic fled Belgrade in 1941 with all the members of her family. The Princess, who returned to her native country in 1989 after the collapse of communism, has a difficult relationship with her cousin the Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia. For example she contests his right to stay in the White Palace that belonged to her father previously and where she was born.
The presidential election on 13th June has attracted a tide of strange candidates. Such as for example the café waiter Radivoje Milutinovic who is campaigning for the second time "to replace the dinar with the euro, to legalise prostitution in order to drive towards a sexual revolution". Vladan Batic, leader of the Christian Democrat Party of Serbia (DHSS) is standing "in order to get rid of Montenegrins once and for all", Marjan Risticevic wants to "kill all homosexuals", Jezdimir Vasiljevic also maintains his desire to see Montenegrin men present in Serbia leave but hopes however that their wives remain in the country.
These candidatures, where some are even more eccentric than the others, have been a problem and some non-governmental organisations recently suggested an increase in the number of signatures necessary to be able to submit an application in order to oust the most sensational characters. The high number of people standing in the presidential election is a usual phenomena in Serbia. According to political analysts, in the first "free" election in 1990 Slobodan Milosevic encouraged the number of candidatures in order to discredit the election and to make him appear to be the only serious candidate.
In addition to this we should point out that the law on the financing of political parties offers each candidate 4.5 million dinars (65,000 euros), a significant amount and that is extremely attractive in a country where the average salary only amounts to 200 euros.
Serbia is now in the last days of the electoral campaign. Dragan Marsicanin (DSS), the government coalition candidate - that rallies Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), Deputy Prime Minister, Miroljub Labus's G17 Plus and author, Vuk Draskovic's Movement for Serb Renewal-New Serbia (SPO-NS) - is warning the population of the danger that lies in a victory by its rivals. "The policy of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia in 2000 had serious effects, it did not solve problems that it was possible to solve. This is why we are still at the starting block. Thanks to the work we have achieved and that we are undertaking today and that we guarantee not to change I am asking you as candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, for the mandate to continue the work we have started," he declared in Prijepolje, in the South of the country.
For his part the main opposition candidate, Boris Tadic, successor as leader of Prime Minister Zoran Djindic's Democratic Party (DS) the latter having been assassinated on 12th March 2003, called on all of the country's democrats to unite in the drive to secure Serbia's place within the European Union. "In this election it will be a case of choosing between those who maintain that we lived well in Serbia between 1990 and 2000, those who think and work slowly and want to enter into Europe at a snail's pace and us, who say that we must enter Europe at full speed", he declared in Jagodina, a town that lies in the centre of Serbia.
Tomislav Nikolic is the favourite in all the opinion polls. According to a survey undertaken by Marten Board International, that appeared on 19th May in the newspaper B 92, the Radical Party candidate (SRS) will win 30.8% of the vote. He is followed by Boris Tadic who would win 20% of the vote and Dragan Marsicanin, 18.6%. Millionaire Bogoljub Karic would win 11.2% of the vote. Around 13% of people say that they still have not decided. If Tomislav Nikolic did win in the first round on 13th June the multitude of candidates makes it impossible to avoid a second round. In the case of a final duel between the Radical Party and Democratic Party candidates, the Marten Board International forecasts Tomislav Nikolic as the victor with 37.2% of the vote, versus 35.6% for Boris Tadic. The result would be even closer if the Radical Party candidate were to confront the government coalition. In this case Tomislav Nikolic would win 36%, versus 35.9% for Dragan Marsicanin.
We should remember that Serbia has been without a President since December 2002 when Milan Milutinovic's mandate came to an end. The latter is being held by the International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia in The Hague.