Milosevic Loses Yugo Poll But Sets Up Rematch : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Tuesday September 26 3:48 PM ET

Milosevic Loses Yugo Poll But Sets Up Rematch


By Fredrik Dahl

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (news - web sites) conceded defeat in crucial presidential elections on Tuesday and called a runoff vote, apparently hoping to win time to recover from the devastating blow.

But the opposition, which is claiming outright victory according to its figures, said it would not bargain with the veteran Yugoslav leader.

``We have no intention to bargain, we will respect the result that was registered on September 24 and that we have in our records,'' opposition leader Zoran Djindjic told a news conference after state television announced a runoff vote.

In a surprise announcement the state Election Commission said Milosevic had come second in Sunday's vote to his main rival, opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica.

The Commission said Kostunica had secured 48.22 percent of the vote -- just short of the 50 percent that would have ensured him outright victory -- against Milosevic's 40.23 percent in Sunday's Yugoslav presidential poll.

The result, the greatest setback Milosevic has faced in 13 years of power, was immediately denounced by independent Serb monitors as a fabrication.

Kostunica's backers, who say he won at least 54 percent of the poll, had feared Milosevic would seek a second round of voting after realizing he could not reverse the outcome of the first round.

``This is pure fabrication by the Federal Electoral Commission,'' said Marko Blagojevic, spokesman for the independent CESID monitoring service.

``I really can't tell which data the Electoral Commission has used. But it is evident they are trying to distort the will of the electorate,'' he added.

The United States said the government's failure to award victory to the opposition was ``highly suspect.''

``The failure to award a first-round victory for the opposition is highly suspect, given the other credible reports that came out of the polling,'' White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters.

He said the U.S. would take its cue from the Yugoslav opposition for a further response.

Djindjic said the government-run Commission had stolen 400,000 votes from Kostunica and given 200,000 votes to Milosevic.

``Tonight, we will request their voting records and compare them with ours, one by one if necessary,'' said Djindjic.

Run-Off Within 15 Days

Any run-off must be held within 15 days of the September 24 elections.

The announcement from the commission ended two days of speculation over how Milosevic would respond to growing evidence of his defeat, which appeared to have taken him by surprise.

Western pressure and the size of Kostunica's triumph seems to have dissuaded the government from taking the drastic measures, including violence, that many had feared.

Just minutes before the announcement on state television, opposition officials had rejected the idea of a second round.

Analysts said the recourse to a second round of voting was a typical Milosevic maneuver, buying time in which to try to reinforce his grip on power.

``He's a master of using time,'' said one Western diplomat in the region, speaking before the Tuesday evening announcement.

``It would give him at least another 10 to 12 days to figure out what to do and that could include all sorts of things like trying to drive wedges among the opposition, trying to bribe some of them off, whatever else.''

Milosevic may also try to provoke some crisis that would indefinitely postpone the second round of voting, he added.

Western Pressure

Western leaders have kept up the pressure on Milosevic to concede defeat ever since results started to come.

President Clinton on Tuesday said the Yugoslav leader, indicted for war crimes by a United Nations tribunal, appeared to have ``lost the last vestige of legitimacy'' and suggested sanctions could be lifted ``if the will of the people is respected.''

France, which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, has also said the opposition claim of victory opened the door to a lifting of sanctions.

Britain said Milosevic should be aware of the West's military might if he was thinking of using force to stay in power.

``I say to Milosevic. You lost. Go. Your country and the world has suffered enough from you,'' British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a speech to the ruling Labor Party in Brighton.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Milosevic not to use ``naked power'' to cling to office, reminding him that NATO had substantial forces on the borders of Yugoslavia and in the Kosovo province.

``We...need to make sure that Milosevic understands there is very substantial capacity in the region,'' he told Sky television. ``He should not be attempting any further military venture.''

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson postponed a trip to Azerbaijan and Armenia to return to Brussels amid concern post-election strife could ripple out of Yugoslavia.

But diplomats were skeptical there was real support for military action against Milosevic if he staged a violent clampdown. In Belgrade, opposition figures said Cook's words could play into the hands of the government.

During the election campaign, Milosevic branded the opposition as traitors and stooges of the West.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 26, 2000


...and after this runoff, if the figures don't change, will there be a second runoff? And a third? Face it: Slobbo isn't going anywhere until he's good and ready.

-- I'm Here, I'm There (I'm Everywhere@so.beware), September 26, 2000.

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