The American Interest

Serbia’s Presidential Election

The current president of the soon-to-be-defunct Yugoslav Federation, Vojislav Kostunica, has won the initial stage of Serbia’s presidential elections, the first held since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic almost exactly two years ago.  Kostunica garnered 31 percent of the vote, with Miroljub Labus—the “pro-Western, reformist” candidate supported by the “international community”—coming in second at 28 percent and the nationalist veteran Vojislav Seselj unexpectedly winning 22 percent.  Kostunica will face Labus in a runoff on October 13.

The turnout, estimated at 56 percent, was low, partly because of unseasonably miserable weather.  Since voter turnout in Serbia is traditionally lower by 10 to 15 percentage points in the second round, less than one half of all registered voters (the constitutional threshold for a valid election) will likely vote in the runoff.  If that happens, Serbia will be plunged into a constitutional crisis.  If the whole electoral cycle were to be repeated, it is uncertain that a greater number of Serbia’s impoverished and disillusioned voters could be induced to go to the polls.

This would be good news for Zoran Djinjic, Serbia’s kleptocratic prime minister and Labus’s mentor, who fears that Kostunica would call an early parliamentary election if elected, thus depriving Djinjic of the mandate that he won thanks to...

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