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The BBC's Nick Thorpe
"Laws are often changed to suit Milosevic's wishes"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Milosevic: No signs of bowing out
Solobodan Milosevic addresses the nation
Mr Milosevic could expect to do well in an election
By South-East Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

The move to change the way the Yugoslav president is elected has been mooted for years - certainly since Slobodan Milosevic assumed the office three years ago as his second and final term as President of Serbia was about to run out.

His safest guarantee against extradition to the Hague is if he remains in office

Now that his single, non-renewable term as federal head of state is due to expire in a year's time, he is looking round for ways in which he can prolong his rule.

Mr Milosevic has been at the top for 13 years; and he is showing no signs of any desire to retire from the duties of state.

Apart from the power - many of his critics say he is addicted to it - there is another, and equally important, reason for his determination to stay on.

Following his indictment by the international war crimes tribunal last year, his safest guarantee against extradition to the Hague is if he remains in office.

Popular choice?

Mr Milosevic could have, of course, arranged for the constitution simply to be amended so that the ban on a second presidential term is removed. But that might appear too obvious a way of helping him out of a constitutional difficulty.

Political rallies have called for Mr Milosevic to resign
Instead, the amendment now calls for the electoral process to be altered; in place of the ballot by deputies in the Yugoslav parliament, the president is to be elected in a direct vote by the electorate.

But it is virtually being taken for granted that the new electoral mechanism will also allow Mr Milosevic at least another term in the presidency.

With an opposition largely divided, and no other individual matching Mr Milosevic's authority, on current form the incumbent president could certainly expect to be re-elected in a popular ballot.

Besides, a direct election would boost the president's constitutionally very limited powers.

True, the fact that on paper, at least, the president enjoys little authority has not prevented Mr Milosevic from running the country - or at least Serbia, now that Montenegro has become independent in all but name, and Kosovo is a virtual United Nations protectorate.

A direct election would also reduce Montenegro's influence. Even ignoring Kosovo, whose ethnic Albanians do not normally vote in Yugoslav elections, Montenegro's electorate is only about one-twelfth the size of Serbia's.

Crunch time

Montenegro's supposed equality within the federation would be further diluted by the other constitutional amendments that envisage the election of all deputies in the federal parliament by a direct ballot.

The incumbent president could certainly expect to be re-elected in a popular ballot

At present the upper chamber - the House of Republics - has 20 members representing each federal entity and nominated by each government. That gives tiny Montenegro a theoretical opportunity to block legislation it considers harmful to its interests.

In practice, Mr Milosevic has ignored the pro-western Montenegrin administration under President Milo Djukanovic - which, in turn, has been boycotting federal institutions, including the parliament.

That boycott has made it easier for Mr Milosevic to pass legislation, including constitutional amendments, that Montenegro's government opposes and will not recognise. This could push Montenegro in the direction of outright independence.

The crunch could come when federal elections - due by November - are held, particularly now that they are likely to be combined with a presidential ballot.

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17 May 00 | Europe
Clashes after Serb media raid
16 Jun 00 | Europe
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Milosevic still standing strong
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