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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Serbian opposition unites in demand for early polls

BELGRADE, Wednesday (AFP-B2 92) -- The principal Serbian opposition parties look set to sign a joint declaration calling for elections "under free and democratic conditions" within three months, the leaders of one group said today. The Alliance for Change, the Serbian Renewal Movement and a number of small parties seeking to unseat Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic were expected to sign the document tomorrow, the Alliance's Vladan Batic said today. After two rounds of talks the opposition parties had finally agreed on the conditions they wanted for early elections, said Batic.

The president of the Democratic Centre, Dragoljub Micunovic, who organised the party talks told media today that after the agreement were signed twenty opposition representatives would demand an extraordinary session of the parliament at which they would demand early elections and discussions with the authorities on election conditions. If the authorities did not agree with opposition demands, the people of Serbia would express their dissatisfaction in other ways, said Micunovic.

Without the early elections, Milosevic's mandate would run until 2001. Zoran Djindjic, whose Democratic Party dominates the Alliance for Change, told AFP: "It is reasonable to give a deadline to Milosevic to see whether he wants a round table with the opposition or not." If the government failed to respond after 10 or 15 days, the Alliance would expect other opposition parties to join its street protests calling for early elections, he added. On September 21, the Alliance launched a nation-wide campaign to force Milosevic to step down but has so far failed to get significant numbers of people out on the streets. Another major opposition force, Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement has refused to take part in the protests, calling first for a common opposition platform, then mass demonstrations if their demands are not met. "I assume that (the regime) will not react at all, and this would be a signal for the Renewal Movement and other parties that nothing can be done in Serbia without street protests," said Djindjic. Among the main conditions set to be agreed on by the opposition are a reorganised election system including both local and foreign independent monitors. Milosevic's regime has been accused of electoral fraud since the advent of the multi-party system in Serbia in 1990.

The Alliance for Change's representative at the discussions, Dragor Hiber, told B2 92 today that the proposed election conditions included a smaller number of electoral units. Hiber said that if more than one unit remained, then the parties wanted a system in which each unit would be represented by a number of representatives proportional to the voter turnout in the elections. He emphasised that this would avoid the disproportionality which had resulted form small numbers of electors voting in Kosovo.

Deputy Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj announced last night in Nis that the ruling coalition had agreed to offer opposition parties a broad-ranging television discussion on the country's problems.

Source: B92

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