Daily Telegraph
Milosevic takes measures to rig election victory

Lutz Kleveman

Wednesday 13 September 2000

President Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Yugoslavia is placing restrictions on independent election monitors, heightening concern that he plans to rig next week's presidential elections.

Police last week raided the offices of a Belgrade-based organisation which recruits volunteers to ensure fair polls. The uniformed men searched files and confiscated all computers. Slobodanka Nedovic, director of the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID), said: "We are becoming the target of state repression. Obviously the regime does not want anyone to control these elections."

Opposition parties have become increasing fearful that Mr Milosevic is planning to rig the elections on Sept 24 to ensure victory. With recent polls showing Mr Milosevic trailing his democratic challenger, Vojislav Kostunica, by 10 percentage points, the socialist regime may resort to using as many as one million "ghost votes" to maintain its 10-year rule.

Miladin Kovacevic, an opposition leader of the Serbian Renewal Party, said: "The government stole votes many times before and now they need to cheat more than ever." He anticipates various methods of electoral fraud, including fabricated "ghost votes" from Montenegro and United Nations-controlled Kosovo, forged ballot forms, multiple voting and intimidation of state employees.

Mr Milosevicis thought to be determined to avoid at all costs a second round of voting, necessary if no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of all votes cast. With the government keeping Western election monitors out of the country, the opposition is taking the job into its own hands. Every party is training members to check if the rules are kept in the polling stations.

Marko Blagojevic, the spokesman for CeSID, said: "So far we have recruited some 5,000 unpaid volunteers all over the country who will just watch and be vigilant." She added, however, that state authorities had not allowed CeSID activists to enter voting stations.

The monitors' greatest concern is fictitious voting. Dragor Hiber of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), said: "What is most difficult to control is what is going to happen in Kosovo and Montenegro."

Government officials have accused the opposition of looking for false excuses for impending defeat.

Original article