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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 December, 2003, 13:30 GMT
Ghosts haunt Serbian poll

By Matthew Price
BBC, Belgrade

Could the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic be on the verge of a political comeback?

It may sound unlikely, considering the fact that he is currently languishing in a prison cell in The Hague charged with war crimes, among them genocide.

Supporters of Slobodan Milosevic

But it is more than a slim possibility. Mr Milosevic headed his party's voter list in Sunday's general election in Serbia.

With him in The Hague is Vojislav Seselj, head of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party. He also ran in the election at the top of his party's list.

"He'll have a seat waiting for him if he returns," says Mr Seselj's deputy Tomislav Nikolic.

"By putting him on the top of the list we show we support his decision to go and defend himself.

It is also a good vote winner for a party whose supporters are overwhelmingly hard-line nationalists.


It's a tactic the party of Slobodan Milosevic is also using.

Ljiljana Smajlovic, a Belgrade journalist who has been covering the trial of Slobodan Milosevic since it began, describes the war crimes tribunal as "a good platform" for Mr Milosevic.

I think it is about time to turn the page of history to look forward not to look back into the past
Maurizio Massari, OSCE
"The Hague has worked to his advantage in this election campaign. It is very important for the Socialist Party to have Milosevic at the head of the list because the Socialist party would probably not get into parliament without Milosevic's endorsement," she says.

So could Milosevic take up his seat in parliament?

Well, not in person.

But since he is innocent until proven guilty, he is legally allowed to.


So it's possible there will be an empty seat with his name on it in the next Serbian parliament.

Supporter of Vojislav Sesel
Vojislav Sesel's Serbian Radical Party is tipped to do well
The ambassador to Belgrade for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Maurizio Massari, says this is "unhelpful".

"It sends the wrong signal to the region and the international community but also... it does not help the Serbs themselves.

"I think it is about time to turn the page of history to look forward not to look back into the past - and to try to rescue to try to re-legitimise some figures that belong to some unfortunate past really does not help."

But there are those who fear the ghosts of that past will continue to spread a chill in Serbian politics.

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