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Kostunica favourite in all polls

Most opinion polls in Serbia suggest that Kostunica has a substantive lead over Milosevic.

According to a reliable poll by the Institute of Social Sciences, Kostunica will get 35 percent of the votes in Serbia, while Milosevic can count on 23 percent of the votes. Most opinion polls have produced similar results.

Some sources in the SPS say that a poll taken by the SPS in Belgrade on a sample of 1,500 citizens suggests that Kostunica will win about 60 percent of the votes.

Interestingly enough, according to a poll conducted by the Institute of Social Sciences, 46 percent of the respondents said they expected Milosevic to remain in power after the elections.

This contradiction suggests that most ordinary Serbs expect Kostunica to win the majority of the votes but that they do not expect Milosevic to hand over power. They expect Milosevic to resort to electoral fraud in order to stay in power. This poll result suggests that the strategic goal of the opposition in the election campaign should be to convince the citizens that their votes can oust the regime.

These public opinion poll results raise an issue central to the September 24 elections -- election control by the opposition at the polls stations. All observers believe that Milosevic and his flunkies will try to pull of a major election fraud scheme in order to ensure Milosevic's victory in the first round of voting. According to one source close to Milosevic, the Yugoslav president will regard any result other than his victory in the first round of voting as his defeat.

It remains to be seen whether the DOS leaders will be able to mobilize about 30,000 controllers who should ensure that the elections are free and fair.

"We will be stealing in the elections, and the opposition should show that it is organized enough to prevent us from doing that. We believe that the opposition does not have enough people and stamina to endure these elections, " says a member of the SPS election centre.

The ruling coalition is ready for everything. There are reports that it will try to buy opposition controllers at some of the 9,000 polling stations with DM2,000-5,000, depending on the importance of the polling station in question. In addition, the ruling coalition believes it can control the elections in the rural electoral districts.

DS leader Zoran Djindjic claims that the DOS is organized enough to prevent electoral fraud and that the elections will prove that to be true. One of the main tasks of the opposition controllers will be to collect enough evidence of electoral fraud so that they can prove the invalidity of the elections. Electoral fraud can trigger riots similar to those in 1996, when citizens protested the annulment of opposition victories in local elections and marched through the streets of Serbian cities and towns for three months until their demands were met.

This time around, the situation is different because Milosevic, who is an indicted war criminal, feels no need to make concessions under pressure from the international community.

Source: B92

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