[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
Russian
Polish
Albanian
Greek
Serbian
Turkish
More
Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 22:38 GMT
Serb press warns of rising right
Serbian Radical Party presidential candidate Tomislav Nikolic
The Radical Party's strong showing surprised many

Serbian newspapers warn that the country's democratic transition could be under threat after Serbs failed to elect a president last weekend - for the third time in just over a year.

The press blame the now defunct Democratic Opposition of Serbia (Dos) for the low turnout that invalidated the poll.

Participation in the vote fell far short of the 50% requirement to make it legally valid.

The largest number of votes went to the candidate of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party.

Dos announced its dissolution late on Tuesday.

Right-wing threat?

The independent daily Danas says the right-wing threat should not be ignored.

"The first place taken by Radical candidate Tomislav Nikolic is a serious signal that Serbia is not that far from a return to the bad old days," the paper warns.

The regime of Slobodan Milosevic managed to stay in power even when it lost popular support precisely because of infighting within the democratic opposition
Danas

The fact that more than a million people oppose Serbia's integration into Europe and the normalisation of relations with its neighbours, it says, is "a reality which must be taken into account".

"A negative scenario is not impossible," it continues. "The black wing of the former red-black coalition... has preserved its position and today presents an alternative to democratic forces."

And, it says, unless supporters of the democratic parties take the threat seriously in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 28 December "it may be that Serbia will be prevented from proceeding along a democratic and pro-European road for a long time".

Internal feuds

Danas lays most of the blame for voter apathy on the "fierce party and leadership struggle" waged within the democratic bloc.

And it draws a parallel between the current situation and the Milosevic era.

What people feel much more deeply than these endless political games are poverty and the feeling of hopelessness caused by partially implemented economic reforms
Politika

"The regime of Slobodan Milosevic managed to stay in power even when it lost popular support precisely because of infighting within the democratic opposition," it recalls.

It criticizes the democratic forces for abandoning the winning formula of unity after toppling Mr Milosevic on 5 October 2000.

"After three years of such rule, the percentage of 'abstainers' has topped 60%, thus leaving enviable room for manoeuvre for the nondemocratic opposition."

The pro-government daily Politika strikes a similarly gloomy note.

What is significant, it says, is not that the Radical Party candidate won the largest number of votes but that his democratic opponent Dragoljub Micunovic lost.

"The fact that [Vojislav] Seselj's heir was supported by supporters of Milosevic's political parties and, if the truth be told, by some supporters of [Vojislav] Kostunica's DSS [Democratic Party of Serbia], is not as frightening as the real danger of the continued general disintegration within the so-called post-Milosevic democratic corps and the lack of will to talk and to compromise."

This, it warns, "could push Serbia again onto the path of extremism, nationalism and xenophobia".

Politika views the low turnout as "a form of punishment" for Dos which it says underestimated the voters' maturity, did not take their mood seriously and falsely believed that "by winning plebiscitary support after 5 October they also gained a blank cheque for the remainder of the period".

Economic woes

Politika also sees economic reasons for people's disillusionment.

"What people feel much more deeply than these endless political games are poverty and the feeling of hopelessness caused by partially implemented economic reforms," the paper says.

It adds that the fight against the grey economy has affected tens of thousands of small stallholders, who have not been given alternative employment.

"The feeling of bitterness is certainly caused by their belief, justified or not, that the fight against corruption, crime and embezzlement ends with the removal of street stalls and the arrests of petty offenders," it concludes.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Serbia bloc folds after key role
19 Nov 03  |  Europe
Serb turnout worst in past year
18 Nov 03  |  Europe
Uncertain times ahead for Serbia
17 Nov 03  |  Europe


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific