Voter apathy makes Serbian presidential poll invalid

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Election results from the presidential elections in Serbia on Sunday confirmed yesterday that Vojislav Seselj, a far-right nationalist, came out ahead of his pro-government opponent, Zoran Lilic. But the fat lady has not yet sung. A combination of apathy and resentment of the two candidates meant fewer than 50 per cent voted. The election is invalid, and the presidential elections will have to be held again from scratch - possibly with different candidates.

All the margins were narrow. Mr Seselj gained 49.1 per cent of the vote, just ahead of Mr Lilic's 47.9 per cent. The turnout was 48.97 per cent, just short of the crucial halfway mark.

The future looks messy and confused. Zoran Djindjic, a democratic opposition leader who boycotted the parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential elections, has hinted that he might throw his hat back into the ring when the presidential elections are repeated. But Mr Djindjic, the first non-socialist mayor of Belgrade since 1945, is now at war with one of his former allies, Vuk Draskovic.

Mr Draskovic last week engineered Mr Djindjic's removal as the first non-socialist mayor of Belgrade since the Second World War. Mr Djindjic claimed this week that now is the time for the democratic opposition to consolidate and organise. He claimed: "Our offensive will follow."

In neighbouring Montenegro, early results had suggested that the reformist prime minister Milo Djukanovic would defeat his opponent, who is supported by the Yugoslav president and master-manipulator, Slobodan Milo- sevic. But final results showed that Mr Djukanovic came second, by a tiny margin. Neither candidate gained 50 per cent of the vote, so that Montenegro, too, will need a run-off elections between the two front-runners in 10 days' time.

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