Opposition candidate could defeat Milosevic

BELGRADE, Jul 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic could be defeated by a leading opposition member in the Autumn elections, an opinion poll published on Friday said.

The poll said Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, would get 42 percent of the votes if he was backed by a united opposition against 28 percent for Milosevic.

"In other words, the opposition is not in a hopeless situation as regards its candidate for (Yugoslav) president," Belgrade's Institute for Social Sciences said in concluding remarks in daily newspaper Danas.

The survey was carried out by the institute between July 11 and 15 among 1,328 respondents and published by non-government media one day after the Yugoslav leadership set presidential, parliamentary and local elections for September 24 in an apparent bid by Milosevic to prolong his rule.

The poll said pro-Western Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic would run neck and neck in a contest with Milosevic, who has been indicted by a UN court for war crimes allegedly committed by his forces in Kosovo last year.

It said Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), which has threatened to boycott any federal elections, stood the least chance of defeating the Serbian strong man for the presidential post.

But SPO's Draskovic said his party would not run in the federal elections without the participation of Montenegro, Serbia's reluctant partner in Yugoslavia.

The ruling Montenegrin parties have said they would boycott any elections, accusing Milosevic of creating a private state.

Kostunica said he hoped the SPO and the Montenegrins would change their minds. Montenegro's ruling parties and Serb opposition leaders are expected to meet next week.

But other Serbian opposition parties have said they would run in the polls, arguing they represented the only way to beat Milosevic in a democratic way. The fragmented opposition blames Milosevic for Serbia's international isolation following a decade of Balkan wars.

They accuse Milosevic of introducing constitutional changes to help him stay in power before calling the vote. The amendments adopted by parliament on July 6 allow Milosevic to win a new period in office through direct elections.

Previously, Milosevic was elected by parliament and could not run twice. He was president of Serbia from 1989 and became Yugoslav president in 1997.

In contrast to Friday's opinion poll, an internal European Union analysis obtained by Reuters in Brussels earlier in July said Milosevic remained the most trusted leader in Serbia and would most likely succeed in winning re-election.

One opposition leader, Goran Svilanovic of the Civic Alliance of Serbia, said Milosevic could be defeated, telling Reuters on Friday that a majority of voters believed he had done a "bad job" while in power.

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