Over 1.5 mln sign Milosevic candidacy

BELGRADE, Sep 4, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia's ruling parties submitted on Sunday more than 1,500,000 signatures backing President Slobodan Milosevic in this month's presidential election, which they said was enough for him to win easily.

Gorica Gajevic, secretary general of Milosevic's Socialist party (SPS), told a news conference held by leaders from the three-party coalition that 1,593,825 people had signed to back Milosevic's candidacy.

"It is obvious that on September 24 the general demand and general will of the people that Slobodan Milosevic is the president of Yugoslavia will be confirmed decisively," she said.

Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who heads the pro-Belgrade Montenegrin Socialist People's Party (SNP), told reporters that 181,629 of the signatures backing Milosevic had come from Montenegro.

Pro-Western authorities in Montenegro, Serbia's reluctant partner in the Yugoslav federation, said they would boycott all elections.

Yugoslav parliamentary and Serbian local polls are also set for September 24.

Ljubisa Ristic, president of Yugoslav Left (JUL), the party of Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, said Milosevic got "15 times more than one candidate, 20 times more than another and 40 times more than a third one".

That showed "an obvious Milosevic's victory in the first leg and indicates the final victory in other polls too". he said.

Milosevic's rivals include Vojislav Kostunica of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), Vojislav Mihailovic of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement and Tomislav Nikolic of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party.

A DOS official told Reuters that the bloc submitted 220,000 signatures for Kostunica. "We did not submit more since we believe manipulation with signatures was likely in the Milosevic-controlled electoral commission," the official said.

An opinion poll published on Saturday by the Institute for Social Sciences (ISS), the third in a row to show Milosevic trailing Kostunica, gave the latter a lead of 52 percent to 31 percent.

Ristic dismissed such polls, saying the number of signatures for Milosevic was "a kind of a plebiscite, while in those polls we don't even know what a sample was".

The ISS polls, with 1,700 respondents, have proved the closest to the actual election results in earlier ballots.

Original article