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Bated Breath in Belgrade

Serbia's new governing coalition hinges on the support of Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party. On Tuesday, parliament votes on new election legislation, in time for elections that may be just around the corner.


Former President Vojislav Kostunica is expected to be Serbia's new prime minister.

Three of Serbia's democratic parties joined forces to form a government and, at the same time, accepted the support of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) to keep the coalition afloat. Serbian Renewal Movement members, such as party leader Vuk Draskovic, protested against working with the Socialists led by ousted strongman Milosevic, but they lost overwhelmingly in an internal party vote earlier in the month.

The new government, however, will not contain SPS members. But in exchange for their votes in parliament, the Socialists expect high level positions in state-owned companies and financial and legal aid for their party chief, former President Milosevic, who is currently on trial at a U.N. court in The Hague for war crimes.

Since general elections in December, Serbia has only had a transitional government. Although the far right-wing Radical Party garnered the most votes, it was unable to create a governing coalition.

The Serbian media has speculated that the coalition finally came together as a result of pressure applied by the United States, which sent Alan Larson, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economics, Business and Agricultural Affairs, to Belgrade on Friday. Larson met with all of the democratic party chiefs during his one-day visit.

EU concerned

Slobodan Milosevic vor dem Kriegsverbrechertribunal

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic smiles as he appears before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague

The EU has responded to the cooperation with the Socialists with worry. "We are very concerned. We're going to follow that in a very close, close manner," EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana told reporters Monday. "We don't think that this decision goes in the right direction. And I don't think it's going to help very much the political and economic relationship with the international community."

Vojislav Kostunica, who led a bloc of parties that ousted Milosevic in 2000 and now heads the Democratic Party of Serbia, is expected to be appointed prime minister. His new government could have a shaky hold on power.

"I think no one in Serbia believes that this government will survive for more than a year," political scientist Vladan Marjanovic told Deutsche Welle. "This only shows how skeptical the Serbian public is about the democratic parties ability to agree on any important decision -- let alone on the key issues, such as, the new constitution or the future of Kosovo."

Whether or not new elections are on the horizon, parliament will vote on new legislation to regulate them Tuesday. If the law passes, parties representing ethnic minorities will be guaranteed seats in parliament, and voter participation in presidential elections will be lowered. After 13 months without a president due to low voter turnout in three elections, the country might manage to elect a new one when the bill becomes law.

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