Update No: 116 - (25/01/07)
Radicals take victory in Serbia's elections
The party that won the most votes in Serbia's elections is staunchly
anti-Western, has counted Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein among its
allies, and wants to go to war over the breakaway province of Kosovo.
Many in the West had feared the ultranationalist Radicals would come out on top
in the parliamentary vote, but their stronger-than-expected performance shows
how Serbia is having trouble moving beyond the bloody legacy of its late
The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party was backed by the largest share of
the electorate at general elections on January 21st, 28.7%. According to the
results issued by the NGO Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID), the
Serbian Radical Party won 81 seats, followed by President Tadic's Democratic
Party (64), PM Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (47), G-17 Plus (19), SPS
(16) and LDP (15).
Complex negotiations ahead
There is no big surprise that the ultra-nationalists did well; they were
expected to do even better. Dragoljub Zarkovic, commentator for the influential
daily Politika, said it might take months of political wrangling before a new
governing coalition is formed.
No party has a majority to form the next government alone, but any may try to
woo Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica into coalition - perhaps by offering him
The pro-Western Democrats, who were second in the polls and won 64 seats, would
also need the support of Kostunica and his third-place Populist Coalition to
form a government, but don't want him to retain the top job. They are hoping
Kostunica can be convinced that joining their camp is the only way to prevent
Serbia from plunging back into international isolation.
Kostunica, long known as a masterful political operator, who defeated Milosevic
in October 2000, appears to be relishing his role as kingmaker and throughout
the campaign kept open the possibility of aligning himself with either side.
Tadic's democrats and Kostunica's DSS are archrivals in the so-called
"democratic bloc" and there are strong animosities towards each other
in both parties' ranks. The Radicals, whose leader Vojislav Seselj is standing
trial before the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for Former
Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been for years the strongest single party, but are
unlikely to come to power because no parties of the "democratic bloc"
want to enter a coalition with them.
Deputy President of the Serbian Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolic standing in for
Seselj, admitted that, although the Radicals had won the elections by garnering
most votes and seats, his party would not be able to form the new government.
Democratic Party leader Boris Tadic said his party would enter negotiations with
potential coalition partners for the new government with a request to be
allotted the Prime Minister's office. Tadic added the negotiations were going to
be very difficult.
The incumbent PM Kostunica announced that his DSS would come out with a platform
for negotiations over the new government after consultations are held within the
party. He refused to answer whether his party is prepared to form a coalition
with the Radicals, in which case those two parties would hold 126 out of 250
Pursuant to the regulations, the State Election Commission came up with the
final results on January 25th, marking the start of a one-month deadline for
constitution of the new parliament's composition and a three-month deadline for
forming the Cabinet.
CeSID executive director Zoran Lucic said the Radicals and Socialists squeezed
out the maximum number of votes out of their electorate. "The numbers tells
us that nothing has changed in Serbia since 2003," he added.
Pitch of the Radicals
The Radicals, who ruled Serbia together with Milosevic and were his iron
fist during his Bosnian, Croatian and Kosovo war campaigns in the 1990s, refuse
to go away with their 81 seats in Serbia's 250-seat parliament.
The deputy Radical leader, Tomislav Nikolic, said Serbian President Boris Tadic,
also the president of the Democrats, should offer "our strongest
party" a mandate to form a government. "But, I know he won't do
it," Nikolic said, predicting new elections by the end of the year because
"the so-called Democrats cannot agree on anything, let alone the new
"And, after the new vote we'll be even stronger," Nikolic said,
appealing to Radical supporters to "have patience because we'll soon be
The Radicals' pre-election platform was drafted by their leader Seselj, even
while he is awaiting a trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague,
It called for using force to block Kosovo from becoming independent under a
U.N.-backed plan, giving up attempts to join the European Union, establishing
"brotherly" ties with Russia, and keeping alive Milosevic's dream of
uniting all Serbs in the Balkans into a single country.
In the vote, the Radicals won the most votes in almost all Serbian
constituencies, including the capital Belgrade, which had been a traditional
pro-Democratic Party stronghold.
The Radicals' supporters were active in paramilitary units in Croatia, Bosnia
and Kosovo, and are widely blamed for launching campaigns that wiped out
non-Serbs near the border regions. Seselj rallied volunteers for an armed
rebellion by Serbs against Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia and threatened to
scoop out the eyes of Croats with a rusty spoon. He later claimed the remark was
During their alliance with Milosevic, the Radicals constantly attacked the
United States and "internal enemies" - such as opposition officials -
who allegedly supported U.S. policies.
After Milosevic's ouster in October 2000 by united pro-democracy forces, the
Radicals slowly sneaked back into the public eye, winning airtime with bombastic
remarks in parliamentary sessions. They protested Milosevic's extradition to the
U.N. war crimes tribunal in 2001 - support that later prompted Milosevic to urge
his supporters to vote for the ultranationalists, rather than his own Socialist
Party, in elections.
Radical leaders often visited Saddam during his reign, publicly praising the
Iraqi leader for his bravery and defiance of the United States. In return,
Saddam's Baath party financed the Radicals' election campaigns. They are also
known for maintaining ties to ultranationalists like France's Jean-Marie Le Pen
and Russia's Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Greek PM backs Belgrade, wary on Kosovo
Athens supports a settlement for the status of Kosovo that is
"acceptable to all sides" and promotes the Balkan province's
multinational character, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during a visit to
Belgrade on the last leg of a tour of the Western Balkans in mid-January.
Karamanlis, whose trip came ahead of Serbian elections on January 21st, also
reassured his counterpart Vojislav Kostunica of Greece's backing for Belgrade's
European Union and NATO accession bids.
Asked by reporters whether Kosovo should be granted independence, Karamanlis
appeared reluctant to strike a clear stance until United Nations special envoy
for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari has submitted his proposals for the province's final
status, expected on January 26. Kostunica said he had forgotten what Ahtisaari
looks like because the envoy has not visited Belgrade for six months.
Serbian President Boris Tadic was more tactful, but clear on Serbia's stance on
Kosovo. "We defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity and we
exercise this right in a European, diplomatic way," he said. Serbia cannot
agree to redraw its borders "as this would destabilize the whole
region," he said. But he added, "We do not want war or violence."
Karamanlis said all sides should avoid unilateral actions and allow the current
process to take its course. But he stressed that any solution "must
guarantee the rights of the (Serbian) minority in Kosovo and protect the Serbian
Serbia's first biodiesel plant in Spring
Serbia's first biodiesel plant will open this spring, its developer said
recently, Reuters News Agency reported.
The move will respond to growing environmental awareness in a country striving
to bring pollution standards more in line with those of the European Union.
Financially supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD),
the Mladost refinery plans to start producing biodiesel from rapeseed, sunflower
and soybean oils, its general manager Borivoj Jovicic said.
"If the weather is nice, the plant will start producing on April 1st. If
not, we will start in May," Jovicic said. "The plant will have a
(designed) capacity of 100,000 tons of biodiesel and 35,000 tons of cooking
oil," Jovicic said of a unit, located in Šid, a few kilometres away from
the border with Croatia.
Serbian exports increase to US$150 million
In the first 10 months of last year, Serbia's exports to Austria have increased
by 59 per cent to US$150 million, according to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce,
website derstandard.at said.
The main exporters were the Smederevo-based US Steel Srbija, the methanol and
vinegar factory from Kikinda and the Impol Seval aluminium factory from Sevojno,
it was reported.
It is estimated that the total exchange between the two countries in 2006 will
reach US$400 million. In January to October, Serbia imported US$184 million
worth of goods from Austria, and the exchange of goods between the two countries
in 2005 was worth US$550 million or twice as much as in 2000, the website
reported. However, according to the estimates of the Serbian Chamber of
Commerce, the volume of trade is not in accordance with the needs and
possibilities. Total Austrian investments in Serbia since 2000, have reached 1.4
billion Euro and the number of Austrian companies operating in Serbia has
increased from 40 to 260, data from the Austrian Embassy in Serbia said.
Telekom Serbia selects Gilat's SkyEdge
Regulus Group Secures DataGilat Satellite Networks Ltd. recently announced that
Telekom Serbia, the incumbent telecom carrier in Serbia, will deploy Gilat's
SkyEdge broadband satellite hub and several hundred VSATs to serve its
residential and corporate customers.
To meet its Universal Service Obligation (USO) requirements, Telekom Serbia will
deploy SkyEdge VSATs at remote community centres throughout Serbia to provide
citizens with reliable telephony, fax and broadband Internet access. Telekom
Serbia will also use the VSATs to serve its customers in the television
re-broadcasting and enterprise networking sectors.
Shimon Teller, Gilat's director of global accounts, said, "Together with
Telekom Serbia, we expect to capitalize on many diverse business opportunities
throughout the region. With the new services provided by SkyEdge, we are able to
help improve the quality of life for citizens in Serbia's rural areas."
Gilat's SkyEdge is a satellite communications platform that delivers high
quality voice, broadband data and video services over a powerful unified system.
The platform represents Gilat's deep knowledge base and field-proven product
offering, acquired through nearly two decades of experience. SkyEdge's flexible
architecture and efficient space segment utilization make it an ideal platform
for operators and service providers - Gilat.