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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December, 2003, 15:08 GMT
Serbia vote: Parties and players

Serbia's voters have chosen a new 250-seat parliament, a year ahead of schedule.

BBC Monitoring profiles the five leading parties and the main personalities who fought the election.

Serbian Radical Party (SRS)

Tomislav Nikolic, deputy chairman of Serbian Radical Party
Tomislav Nikolic: "Long Live Great Serbia"

The ultra-nationalist SRS party leader, Vojislav Seselj, has surrendered to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, but still heads the party's list of candidates.

This means an empty seat will be reserved for him if he successfully defends himself against charges that he prompted Serbian paramilitaries to carry out brutal acts of ethnic cleansing by indoctrinating them with "extreme rhetoric".

The party's deputy chairman, Tomislav Nikolic, who came first in Serbia's latest abortive presidential election, presents a more moderate face.

He is seen as hard-working and loyal to his leader, but does not have the same stormy style.

Instead, he comes across as calm, efficient but extremely stubborn. His speeches always end with the motto "Long live Great Serbia."

Mr Nikolic tries is aware that the majority of Serbians want to join the European Union and dispense with the belligerent, anti-West nationalism of the Milosevic years.

He says his new approach is about "co-operation and not concessions" with the international community, with Serbia acting as a "link between the West and the East".

Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS)

Vojislav Kostunica, leader of Democratic Party of Serbia
Vojislav Kostunica: Last Yugoslav president

The DSS was part of Serbia's coalition government until 2001, when it split away amid bitter rivalry between its leader, Vojislav Kostunica - who was then Yugoslav president - and Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

Mr Kostunica believes in a free press, independent judiciary, and multi-party democracy, but is at the same time a Serb nationalist often critical of the West.

The last Serbian government had a deficit of responsibility and a surfeit of arrogance... The new upcoming government will be more responsible
Vojislav Kostunica
He supported efforts for Serbian self-determination in Bosnia, but condemned the paramilitary groups and ethnic cleansing.

He also opposed the Nato bombing of Serbia over Kosovo and the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian conflict.

All 18 opposition parties united to support him against Slobodan Milosevic in the Yugoslav presidential election in September 2000, which he won. He eventually took office after mass demonstrations forced Milosevic to concede that he had been defeated.

The DSS programme advocates thorough reforms of the judiciary and the police. It has a reputation for being less corrupt than some other political parties.

Democratic Party (DS)

Boris Tadic

The Democratic Party is the biggest party in the outgoing coalition government, and the party of the late prime minister Zoran Djindjic.

It was the first opposition party in Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, founded in 1989.

One of its key figures is the Minister of Defence for Serbia and Montenegro, Boris Tadic, who has been a party member since 1990 and has served in a number of top party posts.

In 2002 he also served as Minister of Telecommunications under Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic.

Mr Djindjic's murder in March dealt a powerful blow to the party.

It image has since been damaged by rumours of shady dealings.

G17 Plus

Miroljub Labus
Miroljub Labus: "Serbia is on its way to Europe"

G17 Plus began life as a non-governmental organisation lobbying for economic reforms, a better quality of life, and membership of the European Union.

It became a political party in December 2002.

Its leaders are economists and technocrats, including party chairman Miroljub Labus, a former Yugoslav minister for foreign economic relations, and deputy party chairman Mladjan Dinkic, a former head of the Yugoslav national bank.

Mr Labus argues that Serbia must complete its transition to a market economy, saying: "Serbia is on its way to Europe, the only question is how fast we will proceed".

He appeals to young, well-educated and urban voters, and has a reputation as a sober hard-worker, who rises above political squabbling.

He says UN resolutions on Kosovo must be observed, arguing that Serbia will have more clout in negotiations over the province's status if it becomes a strong and democratic player in the region.

The party's focus on living standards is expected to play well with a population weary of political infighting.

Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) - New Serbia (NS) coalition

This coalition is the only declared advocate of the monarchy.

The SPO was Serbia's leading opposition party when it was established in 1990.

The first opposition rally that caused Slobodan Milosevic to send tanks on to the streets of Belgrade, on 9 March 1990, was led by SPO chairman Vuk Draskovic.

Mr Draskovic became a marginal figure after deciding not to join the Democratic Party.

New Serbia is run by the mayor of Cacak, Velimir Velja Ilic.

He left the SPO after an argument with Mr Draskovic, and took some of its followers.

Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)

This is the party of Slobodan Milosevic, who heads its list of candidates.

It was formed in 1990 by the union of two communist-era predecessors.

In its heyday it had 600,000 members and a network of 5,000 local organisations.

In the second half of the 1990s it was forced to govern with coalition partners, including the Serbian Radical Party.

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.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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