Milosevic facing election humiliation

 

The last bastions of parliamentary power held by former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist party are expected to fall to reformist candidates in Serbia's elections tomorrow.

Supporters of President Vojislav Kostunica are forecast to win a landslide victory and secure control of Serbia's government, the most important power centre in Yugoslavia. The election should give Serbia its first government for more than 50 years not led by the Socialists or their communist predecessors.

It will be a fresh humiliation for Mr Milosevic, who was removed from power following a popular uprising. He remains controversially protected by a special army unit and police guard in Beli Dvor - the so-called White Palace, once the home of Marshal Tito - in the Belgrade suburb of Dedinje.

The man who ought to live in the palace, the new federal President, Mr Kostunica, is busy travelling around the world reestablishing ties that Mr Milosevic severed.

In just two months since the October 5th uprising, Mr Kostunica has brought Yugoslavia back into the world community, rejoining the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and, yesterday, the International Monetary Fund. He has also strongly indicated Yugoslavia's long-term aim of joining the EU.

During this time his popularity has soared to an unprecedented 91 per cent approval rating. According to many opinion polls, members of the antiMilosevic coalition, DOS (the Democratic Opposition of Serbia), will gain more than 70 per cent of the vote.

The latest survey showed DOS with 63 per cent - which would translate into a larger majority in parliament, because some parties will not clear the five per cent threshold.

The Socialists, with a projected 13 per cent of the vote, look likely to win a few seats in parliament, but will not have any serious power. Two splinter parties will further divide the leftwing vote and the Yugoslav Left party of Mr Milosevic's wife, Ms Mira Markovic, is not expected even to gain a single seat.

Ms Rebeka Srbinovic, vice president of the DOS party New Democracy, said it was important that in the elections , DOS wins more than two thirds of the seats in parliament. This would give it the mandate to change the Serbian constitution and jettison the one that Mr Milosevic tailor-made for himself.

On Serbia's streets, many people see the elections as their chance to eradicate Mr Milosevic's power base. Mr Vladimir Dacevic (62), a car mechanic, said: "These elections are very important. We need to finish the changes that we started on October 5th and to get rid of the Reds [Socialists], to put normal, young people into jobs - and not old thieves."

The DOS coalition has already announced that the Democratic party leader, Mr Zoran Djindjic, will be prime minister and parties in DOS have agreed a share-out of seats in the parliament and how many seats each will have in the cabinet.

Mr Djindjic has named the key cabinet positions and the only top post still in question is that of minister for police. The new police chief will take over from the Milosevic ally, Mr Rade Markovic, whom Mr Kostunica controversially kept in power. The minister will be responsible for overseeing the secret police and so will control access to the files that Mr Milosevic's secret service gathered on his political enemies - many of whom are now DOS leaders.