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12/21/02 - SERBS FAIL TO ELECT PRESIDENT - 2002-12-23

This month, Serbs again failed to elect a president because of low voter turnout. Only forty-five percent of the electorate went to the polls -- below the legal minimum of fifty percent. Current Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica [kosh-TOON-eet-sah], a pro-democracy candidate, came out well ahead of two more hard-line candidates. One of them, Vojislav Seselj [sheh-shell], is being investigated by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in the Hague. Kostunica won approximately fifty-seven percent of the vote. Radical Party leader Seselj scored some thirty-six percent and Borislav Pelevic [PEH-leh-vitch] garnered about three percent.

The political stalemate in Serbia could jeopardize efforts to implement much needed political and economic reforms. Legislation dealing with bankruptcy and security transactions is waiting to be passed. Judicial reform and restructuring of state-owned enterprises have yet to be completed. None of this is likely to be enacted until a new president is elected.

But to get on with the business of governing, the Serbian parliament would have to consider changing the country’s election laws, which prevent eligible voters from taking part in elections. Those disadvantaged include voters outside the country and students. Presidential elections are far more likely to succeed if Mr. Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic put their power struggles aside. Such squabbles serve only to disillusion the Serbian people.