Victory - but for whom?

Two days ago a friend of mine asked me what did I really expect would happen in Serbia. I said: Kostunica would get more votes, but both him and Milosevic would claim victory, and Milosevic would remain president. At least, the elections did develop along that highly predictable pattern.

The numbers reported by various sources are all different and they differ so much that makes reporting them useless and irrelevant. The total voter turn-out reports vary from 58% (SPS site) to 78% (DOS and New York Times site). Serbian opposition claimed sweeping victory of Kostunica over Milosevic even in his hometown of Pozarevac. The regime at one point (around 3 am) conceded to losing elections on its web page - but that report was promptly removed and an older one reflecting Milosevic's winning (that includes reports only from Kosovo and Montenegro polling sites) was put back up.

The numbers would then look like this:
At 3.55% of counted votes Milosevic leads 42:41(as reported by the official SPS election site - that is mostly Kosovo vote - ironically but fully expected the biggest support Milosevic won was in NATO controlled Kosovo; this number also includes 92% who voted for him of 5% total voters in Montenegro - where the total reported turn-out vary between 20-25%).
At 12.69% of counted votes Kostunica leads 44:41 (that report was posted and then removed from the official SPS election site). At 37% of counted votes Milosevic is in the lead 45:42. At 60% of counted votes Kostunica leads 54:34 (the latest report on the Serbian opposition web site).
At this point, without disclosing the percentage of counted votes on which that number is based, the regime is content with reporting a victory over Kostunica 44:41, hinting that Milosevic may be willing to accept the second round of elections on October 8, something the regime previously thought unthinkable.

It is indicative that the only places where everybody agrees that the opposition lost are Kosovo - with NATO in charge, and Montenegro - where the Djukanovic's pro-western government boycotted elections.

It is also indicative that while 'local independent observers' cry foul, the foreign observers (from 52 countries, including NATO countries) claim that elections were carried in dignified, democratic and fair fashion. Some critics in the West point out that 'local independent observers' are not really independent, since they are financed indirectly by the Western governments (as it was admitted recently in the New York Times article), which are partisan in wanting to oust Milosevic. On the other hand the observers from 52 countries admitted to Belgrade are generally those who belong to marginal leftist organizations or rogue states that for various reasons support Milosevic's regime.

Essentially, the elections passed without violence so far, which is a good sign. The attempts of Milosevic's regime to manipulate the results are obvious and expected. There is also a hope on the part of regime that people are going to get exhausted and tired by the second round and its aftermath, which may be a bad bet. There is a hope on the part of opposition that a lot of Milosevic sycophants are going to get wary and scared of following their beloved leader in more dire straits, and that they are going to turn their backs on him next month - that wager might be a good one, but it remains to be seen if it was.

Reports: SPS & DOS

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