CEOL
Milosevic lags behind opposition candidate

BELGRADE, Aug 22, 2000 -- (Reuters) A new poll shows Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic lagging behind the joint candidate of 15 opposition parties for September's presidential elections, independent radio B2-92 said on Monday.

The survey said Vojislav Kostunica, candidate of the 15-party Democratic Opposition of Serbia bloc, would get 35 percent of the vote and Milosevic 23 percent.

The poll was conducted earlier this month by the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), which interviewed 1,700 respondents from Serbia, excluding Kosovo, after the names of the main presidential candidates were announced.

A separate survey by the Medium polling agency also put Kostunica in the lead but with Milosevic closer behind.

It put support for Kostunica at 30 percent against 25 percent for Milosevic, the Beta news agency quoted Medium director Srbobran Brankovic as saying.

Yugoslav presidential and federal elections, along with Serbian local elections, are scheduled for September 24.

The ISS survey showed that support for Kostunica had dropped seven percent since an ISS poll in July, when 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for him if the opposition united behind him.

Since then opposition parties have nominated two more candidates for the presidential election.

The ISS survey also showed that Milosevic's support had slipped by five percent from the 28 percent he polled in the first survey.

Two other presidential candidates - Vojislav Mihailovic, from the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), the largest single opposition party, and Tomislav Nikolic of the ultra-nationalist Radical party - would each get five percent of the votes, the ISS survey said.

RIVAL OPPOSITION CANDIDATES

Opposition parties are still urging the SPO to drop Mihailovic and join them in backing Kostunica, but the SPO, led by maverick politician Vuk Draskovic, insists that it is entitled to its own candidate.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Mihailovic said he believed he would make it into a second round but that the SPO would back Kostunica if he failed to do so "because the most important (thing) is to beat Milosevic".

The ISS survey also found that 40 percent of voters would cast their ballots for the democratic opposition bloc in the federal parliamentary elections, which the SPO initially said it would boycott but has since indicated it might contest after all.

Other opposition parties have said this will further split the opposition votes and reduce their chances in the race for federal parliament seats.

If the SPO does contest the federal elections, other opposition parties would garner 34 percent and the SPO six percent, the survey said.

Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia and his wife's neo-communist Yugoslav Left, which are contesting the elections on a joint list, would get 23 percent, while the ultra-nationalist Radical party, their coalition partner in the government, would get seven percent in the federal election.

The ruling parties in Montenegro, Serbia's reluctant partner in Yugoslavia, have said they will not take part in the elections, accusing Milosevic of creating a private state.



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