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    Seeking coalition, pro-West Serbs tipped to woo former foes

    12.05.2008 - 14:03 | Son Güncelleme:

    Serbia’s pro-Europeans face a tough task to mould an unlikely government with their former foes from the party of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, analysts said Monday.

    "We are the ones who expect to be called," said Ivica Dacic, the leader of the Socialists whose founder Milosevic was ousted from power by the democratic forces at the heart of the pro-European alliance which won Sunday’s elections.


    "We don’t want power at any cost. We want our principles to be respected, and these are to defend state and national interests and defending social justice," Dacic told AFP.


    In claiming victory on behalf of the pro-European camp led by his Democratic Party late on Sunday, President Boris Tadic said the Democrats would be "the key player in the future cabinet."


    "I warn everyone not to play with electoral will of citizens and try to take Serbia back to the isolation of 1990s," Tadic told a nationally televised press conference, referring to the Milosevic regime. "I warn them not even to try this, because we will prevent it with all democratic means."


    The pro-European alliance -- which estimates show won up to 39 percent of Sundays vote -- is a union of Tadic’s Democrats, the reformist G17-Plus and former foreign minister Vuk Draskovic’s Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO).


    According to Democrat sources, the coalition is likely to form a government with the Socialists. The same combination is being tipped by media pundits. "Victory for Tadic’s list, but government depends on Ivica (Dacic)," read the front-page headline in Politika, a newspaper close to caretaker Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS).


    Politika said it was "practically impossible" for Tadics party to form a government without the support of the Socialists.


    Vuk Jeremic, foreign minister and a top Democratic Party official, said the pro-European camp would "talk to everybody" in a bid to form a government that would move Serbia towards the EU. "Whoever wants to follow us on this great victorious path to the European future of Serbia, everybody is welcome," Jeremic told reporters late on Sunday.


    The pro-government daily Vecernje Novosti agreed, saying the SPS was the Democrats likely partner. It said other possible coalitions were one bringing together the ultra-nationalist Radical Party, the Socialists and the DSS, while another was the DS and DSS, which Kostunica ruled out overnight.


    On the eve of the polls, Bozidar Djelic, the deputy prime minister and senior DS official, had already moved to woo the Socialists by establishing workers rights as a policy on which the new government is to be formed.


    These included plans to reach a collective bargaining agreement between workers and employers, and to match salaries and pensions according to inflation.


    The Socialists negotiating position was "awkward because their voters are closer to DSS and SRS, but on the other hand they might have more to gain" by joining forces with the pro-European bloc, analyst Slobodan Antonic said.


    Marko Blagojevic of the non-governmental Centre for Free Elections and Democracy agreed the SPS would reach more in a coalition with pro-European forces, however weird that might seem. "In a coalition of nationalists, the Radicals would consume Socialist voters, as they could not compete with ultra-nationalists in the field of nationalism," Blagojevic said.


    "On the other hand, in a pro-European coalition, the Socialist Party could be reformed and become a real left-oriented force whose main program is social justice," he added.


    Although not openly, Socialist leader Dacic has for months been trying to shake off Milosevic’s tarnished legacy. He has insisted on the fight for better social conditions for the so-called losers of Serbia’s delayed transition from the troubled 1990s, rather than on nationalist issues.


    And Dacic’s coalition partner from central Serbia, former hard line nationalist Dragan Markovic, has vowed that the country’s future may only be in the European Union.

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