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Europe

Drawn-Out Coalition Talks Likely in Serbia

Serbia’s democratic parties will have to try and overcome serious differences to form a coalition government. The radicals won most votes in Sunday’s Serbian elections, but don’t have enough seats for a majority.

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The radicals are still celebrating but unlikely to govern.

Vojislav Seselj has won a seat in parliament, but no one expects the SRS leader to show up in the legislature any time soon: Seselj is currently on trial for war crimes in the Hague. His party members nonetheless celebrated their sound success in Sunday’s elections.

While final results are not expected until Wednesday, the SRS won 81 out of 250 parliamentary seats, making it by far the largest force in the chamber, according to the latest projections. The conservative Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica came in second with 53 seats, followed by the Democratic Party (DS) of assassinated Serbian Premier Zoran Djindjic with 37 seats.

Kriegsverbrechertribunal

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, center, with court security guards at left and right, before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The reform-oriented G17 Plus party will send 34 members to parliament, the monarchist Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) – New Serbia (NS) coalition got 23 mandates and the Socialist Party of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic reived 22 seats. Also on trial in the Hague, Milosevic (photo) will not be able to take up his work as a parliamentarian, either.

Coalition talks likely to stretch out

SRS officials announced they would try to find partners to form a coalition government despite assurances from all other parties except the Socialists to reject such plans. “Should the radicals lead Serbia, new elections won’t be necessary,” said Tomislav Nikolic, the party’s deputy leader.

Leaders across Europe expressed their concerns about the radicals’ triumph in the elections and called on other parties to work together and keep Serbia on a pro-Western reform path.

“The German government hopes that the democratic forces will be able to form a stable government that pushes ahead with reforms,” a spokesman for German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said.

New elections might become necessary, however, should the parties fail to reach a coalition agreement. Negotiations will be difficult as DSS, DS and G17 have very different views on a variety of issues, including relations to the West, Franz Lothar Altmann, who heads the Southeast Europe unit of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told Deutsche Welle.

Wahlen in Jugoslawien Kostunica

Vojislav Kostunica casts his ballot.

While Kostunica’s (photo) DSS has been less keen on pushing ahead with reforms, the other two parties want to continue a pro-Western course, Altmann said. DSS and G17 also recently left the governing coalition amid serious accusations of corruption and abuse of power aimed at DS members.

Serbia’s democratic reforms, which had been promoted by Djindjic before his assassination in March, were halted as a result. Lacking another choice, unsatisfied voters turned to the arms of nationalists.

“The people really are disappointed that after three years of reforms after Milosevic’s fall nothing has improved,” Altmann said, adding that the radicals had promised to raise wages and lower prices for food.

Monarchists as kingmakers?

Even if DSS, G17 Plus and DS manage to come together again, their combined 124 seats would fall short of a majority in parliament.

The monarchist SPO-NS group could therefore play kingmaker in Serbia’s scramble to form a government. SPO leader Vuk Drascovic, a prominent opposition leader during the 1990s, said his party was willing to cooperate.

“SPO will begin at once and without hesitation to work on the responsible task of forming a new parliament and a new government,” he said.

But DSS’s Kostunica hinted that the new government would not necessarily have a majority in parliament. “It can be a majority, but also a minority government,” he said.

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