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Tudjman lays claim to Croatian poll victory

Zagreb (AP) - President Franjo Tudjman's ruling nationalist party said yesterday that it expects to rule the capital following the weekend elections.

Minority Serbs in UN-administered eastern Slavonia voted for a third day in an election that was designed to nudge them back into Croatia.

"The election results are proof of our might," Ivic Pasalic, leader of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), proclaimed yesterday.

Despite rising popular dissatisfaction with the ruling elite's wealth, the HDZ posted a convincing victory in Sunday's elections for municipal governments and the Chamber of Counties, the upper house.

The HDZ's standing in Zagreb has improved and it may even gain control, after refusing for 18 months to accept the opposition victory in the last elections in October 1995.

Winning 35 per cent of the city council vote, the HDZ took 24 seats - the biggest fraction in the 50-seat local legislature. The Social Democrats, former communists, took 24 per cent, and the centrist Social Liberals 12.57 per cent.

In Split, Croatia's second-biggest city, the results gave the opposition a chance to dump the HDZ mayor by forming a post-election alliance.

But the HDZ claimed victory in parliamentary voting in 19 out of 21 counties. Preliminary results gave the party 41 of 68 seats in the upper house - four more than in the 1993 elections.