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Yugoslav election commission sets second round, says opposition

From staff and wire reports

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Yugoslavia's electoral commission decided early on Thursday that President Slobodan Milosevic and his main opposition challenger Vojislav Kostunica must undergo a second round of voting, opposition leaders said.

Officials of the democratic opposition bloc said that, according to figures from the state-dominated commission, Kostunica took 48.96 percent of the vote in Sunday's election -- falling short of the 50 percent needed to win outright -- while Milosevic had 38.62 percent.

"The number of voters registered was reduced by some 500,000 people (without explanation)...Kostunica won 2,474,392 votes or 48.96 percent and Milosevic 1,951,761 million or 38.62," said Nenad Milic of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS).


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He was quoting information provided by DOS members of the electoral commission, which is required to announce the final results of the September 24 election on Thursday.

Kostunica reiterated before 200,000 supporters massed in central Belgrade on Wednesday night that the opposition would refuse a second round because its own vote count showed it had won outright in the first. Opposition parties have accused Milosevic's government of serious vote fraud.

Backers of Kostunica gathered in a square in front of the parliament building. Earlier, they had torn down a stage erected after being given an oral order by local authorities to dismantle it.

The main thoroughfare leading to the square was jammed with people for several hundred yards.

The demonstrators said the rally was not against the government but in support of Kostunica.

Kostunica's supporters say election totals show that he clearly defeated Milosevic in the elections.

The opposition has said emphatically they would not participate in a runoff election. "There is no possibility we will participate," said opposition leader Zoran Djindjic, "because our candidate won a majority in the first round."

The Milosevic camp called for a runoff, claiming Kostunica did not win by an absolute majority of over 50 percent of the vote.

Kostunica's forces claim he won a victory margin of 54.66 percent to 35.01 percent for Milosevic, a majority that would stand without a runoff.

Activists from the student protest movement Otpor earlier warned that it had received word that government provocateurs might try to cause trouble at Wednesday's gathering.

But the atmosphere as people gathered was festive, with some carrying football rattles and cards saying "He's Finished!"

"I will wait here until Milosevic packs his bags and goes," said 28-year-old Milanka. "I was here in 1992, 1996-97 and now," she said, referring to the series of demonstrations that have marked Milosevic's 13 years in power.

"I hope I shall never have to again. Now it is all clear. Can't he see that he is gone?"

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Yugoslav State-run TV announces opposition lead
September 26, 2000
Clinton: Election shows Milosevic must go
September 26, 2000
Chronology of Milosevic rule in Yugoslavia
September 25, 2000
After the poll: Milosevic's options
September 25, 2000
European press raises question mark over Yugoslav elections
September 25, 2000
Milosevic declared winner in Montenegro
September 26, 2000
EU offers carrot to Yugoslavian voters
September 19, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Democratic Party of Yugoslavia
Socialist Party


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