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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Serbia's power struggle nears final round
Vojislav Kostunica
Kostunica: Confident to win a term as Serbian president
Serbians go to the polls on Sunday for a presidential election that is likely to give a new lease of political life to Vojislav Kostunica - Slobodan Milosevic's successor as president of the federal republic of Yugoslavia.

With the Yugoslav Federation set to be replaced on the map of Europe by a looser union, known simply as Serbia and Montenegro, Mr Kostunica has decided that contesting the post of Serbian president is his best chance of holding on to political influence.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic
Djindjic: Kostunica's long standing political rival

The election is a continuation of his longstanding power struggle with Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic. His main election rival is a close Djindjic ally, Miroljub Labus, and correspondents believe a Kostunica victory would usher in a new tussle for the reins of power, this time between the Serbian president and the Serbian prime minister.

The election will mark the end of the political career of current President Milan Milutinovic, who has been indicted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and who could be at risk of extradition once out of office.

The latest polls have shown Mr Labus fractionally ahead of Mr Kostunica, but almost certainly the election will go to a second round run-off between the two men, two weeks after the first round, which Mr Kostunica is expected to win.

Current Serbian President Milan Milutinovic
Milutinovic: End of political career?

If he does, he may succeed in splitting the government - some of whose members are supporting his campaign for the presidency - and engineering early parliamentary elections. Mr Labus, currently a Yugoslav deputy prime minister, is a pro-Western economist, who advocates rapid economic reforms in order to bring Yugoslavia into line with the rest of Europe as quickly as possible.

Mr Kostunica is a moderate nationalist, who says reforms should have been carried out more carefully.

Popular names

There are a total of 11 candidates, including some famous names from Yugoslavia's past:

Vojislav Seselj
Seselj: Ultra-nationalist backed by Milosevic

  • Vojislav Seselj leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, who is currently third in the polls, and has the backing of Slobodan Milosevic. Mr Seselj, whose wartime role in Bosnia and Croatia is being investigated by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, enjoyed a surge in popularity over the summer, and has an outside chance of getting through to the second round.
  • Vuk Draskovic Yugoslavia's foremost opposition leader in the 1990s saw his popularity plummet when he briefly joined the Milosevic government during the Nato air bombardment in 1999. His party was crushed in the 2000 elections propelling Mr Kostunica into power. He is now trying to make a political comeback after an attempt on his life - which killed his brother-in-law and three bodyguards - led him to temporarily withdraw from politics.
  • Nebojsa Pavkovic a former Yugoslav Army chief of staff under Slobodan Milosevic.
  • Velimir Zivojinovic one of Yugoslavia's best-known actors, who is the candidate of Mr Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), but does not have Mr Milosevic's personal backing.
  • Other candidates include Borislav Pelevic, who took over from the assassinated paramilitary leader Arkan as head of the Party of Serbian Unity, and who holds a PhD in physical education, and another candidate from a splinter group of the SPS, Branislav Ivkovic.
  • See also:

    09 Aug 02 | Europe
    18 Jul 02 | Europe
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