CEOL
YU parliament adopts new election rules

BELGRADE, Jul 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia's parliament passed new election laws on Monday which President Slobodan Milosevic's opponents say are designed to help keep him in power.

The new rules, intended to implement and flesh out controversial constitutional changes pushed through earlier this month, were overwhelmingly adopted by both houses of the Serbian-dominated federal assembly.

The extraordinary session of parliament took place amid opposition speculation that the ruling coalition may schedule elections for as early as September.

Leader of the Serbian Radical Party Vojislav Seselj said the elections would be held across Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, "even though that part of the country was under occupation". He said that ethnic Albanians were welcome to vote.

If the vote could not be organized in Kosovo, now under de facto international control, balloting would be held in the nearby municipalities of Vranje and Prokuplje, southern Serbia.

Parliamentary and local elections should be held by early November and some analysts believe Milosevic may go for an early presidential vote at the same time.

Independent analysts say the ruling coalition of socialists, neo-communists and ultra-nationalists is in a hurry to have all elections soon because of financial problems.

"They cannot afford another bout of hyper-inflation, but they cannot keep on controlling finances for much longer," said an independent economist, who asked not to be named.

OPPOSITION FACES HARD CHOICE

European leaders at the Group of Eight summit in Japan said on Saturday the international community should not recognize any election results based on the new laws.

Some Serbian opposition leaders and ruling parties in Montenegro understood the message as a boycott call.

Recent opinion polls in Serbia and Montenegro suggested that Milosevic remained the most trusted politician in the country but that a united opposition would defeat his ruling coalition.

Montenegrin Justice Minister Dragan Soc said the republic, Serbia's smaller partner, would not accept any laws resulting from recently adopted amendments to the Yugoslav constitution.

In Serbia, opposition parties said they were facing a hard choice - to take part and give legitimacy to Milosevic, who is indicted by the Hague war crimes tribunal, or boycott and let the Serbian strongman rule for eight more years.

Some argue that a boycott would only hand Milosevic an easy victory. "If the Serbian opposition wins a majority and loses out because of a Montenegrin boycott, the whole world would see them as Milosevic's saviors," Democratic Party head Zoran Djindjic told the independent daily Blic.

The ruling parties said the opposition planned to boycott the ballot because they were afraid to face the nation. But the opposition said the socialists were planning an election fraud by manipulating the numbers of votes from Kosovo.



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