Serbs hope for new deal in elections for president

By Vesna Peric Zimonjic
Sunday 26 January 2014 02:11

Serbia will hold its first presidential elections without the shadow of Slobodan Milosevic on Sunday. The 6.5 million voters will have a choice of 11 candidates, but opinion polls show the battle will be between the Yugoslav President, Vojislav Kostunica, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Yugoslav government, Miroljub Labus.

The polls are predicting a tight race, with less than a 2 per cent lead for either Mr Kostunica, 58, or Mr Labus, 55. They have practically traded places as favourites in the opinion polls since July, when the election date was set.

Analysts agree that the elections will be a referendum on the economy and the reforms introduced in the two years since Mr Milosevic fell from power, clearing the way for the elected Mr Kostunica to succeed him.

They were painful years for many Serbs, who have had to cope with huge price hikes, massive job losses, bankruptcies of major state-owned firms and rapid privatisation as they faced the consequences of the 10-year destructive rule of Mr Milosevic, whose war drive ruined the economy.

Many Serbs blame the shock reforms on the Serbian government, headed by the pro-Western Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who backs Mr Labus.

Mr Kostunica, a law professor, is promising slower reforms and a "legal framework" to solve Serbia's problems. Many Serbs believe this means a less painful transition to a market economy.

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