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The BBC's Fiona Werge
"A man who likes to keep to the letter of the law"
 real 28k

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Belgrade
"The changes considerably increase the president's chances of staying in power"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Power boost for Milosevic
President Milosevic
Milosevic could become constitutional dictator, say critics
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is a step closer towards a second term in office after his country's parliament cleared the way for him to stand for re-election.

Both houses of parliament overwhelmingly approved changes to the constitution put forward by the ruling coalition, which will allow the Yugoslav leader to run for office again when his term expires next year.


This is what we call the legalisation of tyranny

Opposition politician Tomislav Jeremic

His supporters have hailed the vote as a step towards greater democracy, but opponents say it could turn him into a constitutional dictator.

The move is also provoking anger and talk of independence in Montenegro, the last state to remain alongside Serbia in the Yugoslav alliance.

The Montenegrins object to the changes, claiming the move amounts to a constitutional coup which leaves their own power and rights in tatters.

Deputies applauding in parliament
Deputies applaud the constitutional changes

The BBC's Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe says the changes increase the likelihood that Montenegro will try to sever its remaining links with Serbia.

The Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic, is a pro-western leader who has already tried to distance himself from Belgrade.

An emergency session of the republic's own parliament, due to take place on Friday, is expected to hear calls for independence, and may reject the new constitution.


Yugoslavia was erased today and such a move can cost all of us dearly

Montenegro's Predrag Popovic

"Since this amounts to the constitution of a new country, Montenegro is now forced into making inevitable moves," said Miodrag Vukovic, a leading adviser to the Montenegrin Government.

Another senior figure, speaker of parliament Predrag Popovic, also attacked the changes.

"Montenegro has to defend itself from such an attack," he said.

"Yugoslavia was erased today and such a move can cost all of us dearly."

Ballot box

Under the changes, agreed by the Yugoslav parliaments, the president may stand for re-election through the ballot box rather than an electoral college of deputies.

The Yugoslav president is currently elected by parliament and cannot run twice.

Mr Milosevic, indicted by a UN court as a war criminal, has been Yugoslav president since 1997 and Serbian president since 1989.

Milo Djukanovic
Montenegro's Milo Djukanovic has tough choices ahead

Montenegro currently controls half the seats in Yugoslavia's upper house. The proposed constitution would bypass the Montenegrin parliament.

Opposition deputies in Belgrade also condemned the changes.

"This is what we call the legalisation of tyranny," said Tomislav Jeremic of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement.



The greatest possible form of democracy

Milosevic supporter

The Serbian Renewal Movement, one of the three main opposition groupings led by Vuk Draskovic, boycotted the debate in the lower house.

The fragmented Serbian opposition is united only in wanting to see Mr Milosevic ousted.

A deputy from Mr Milosevic's ruling party told parliament the changes were "the greatest possible form of democracy".

"This is in the interest of the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro and our joint state," Milutin Stojkovic said.

The presidential elections are now expected to be held in the autumn, at the same time as the federal and local elections.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Europe
Clashes after Serb media raid
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Milosevic blamed for shooting
24 Mar 00 | Europe
Milosevic still standing strong
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