Extremists head for victory in Serbia poll

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The Independent Online

Extreme nationalists and allies of the former president Slobodan Milosevic are poised to return to power in today's parliamentary elections in Serbia.

In a poll that could affect the stability of the region, the extreme right-wing Radical Party - allied to the former dictator during his Balkan war campaigns - is expected to be the largest party. The main question is whether the party, which still seeks the expansion of Serbia's borders at the expense of its neighbours and considers Saddam Hussein its chief international ally, will win a clear majority in the 250-seat assembly, allowing it to form a government.

A good result for Mr Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, which is trailing far behind in opinion polls, would help the Radicals gain a majority. "Our maximum goal is to gain a majority in parliament," said Vojislav Seselj, the Radical Party leader, who is a candidate despite being held in The Hague on war crimes charges. "Our minimal goal is to become the largest party in parliament. True values must win."

Boris Tadic, Serbia's Defence Minister, acknowledged yesterday that his ruling Democratic Party might be in opposition after the election. Mr Tadic, who heads the party's list of candidates, said some voters had lost faith in it because of allegations of corruption linked to the governing coalition.

Victory for the pro-Milosevic parties over the democratic parties that toppled the former president in 2000 would plunge Serbia deeper into social and economic chaos and deal a blow to European and American hopes of fostering a pro-Western leadership in Serbia.