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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07BELGRADE1463 2007-10-26 14:16:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Belgrade
Cable title:  

SERBIA: ELECTION DAY SPRINT OR HURDLES

Tags:   PGOV KDEM KV SR 
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O 261416Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1673
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BELGRADE 001463 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
FOR EUR/SCE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KV SR
SUBJECT: SERBIA: ELECTION DAY SPRINT OR HURDLES


Summary
-------



1. (SBU) Serbian citizens may head to the polls on December 9 -- or
maybe they won't. The election date remains up in the air, as ruling
coalition partners jockey for control of the process and results.
President Boris Tadic, with the most to gain from elections prior to
the end of the Kosovo Status negotiation process, is looking for
assurance of a first-round victory before setting the date. With too
many potential candidates crowding the field, he doesn't have it.
His coalition partner Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica continues to
advocate for elections post KosQo status. Both leaders are in the
discussions with the Radicals, whose support (for the date, not the
candidate) may ultimately decide election timing. End Summary.



2. (SBU) Parliament Speaker Oliver Dulic will announce and establish
a schedule for Serbia's presidential and municipal elections, but, as
of October 26, Dulic was uncertain how he would proceed. The Speaker
told poloff that President Tadic had decided two or three weeks ago
to push for December 9 presidential elections, but was now waffling.
Tadic is angry, Dulic said, that Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
leader Cedomir (Ceda) Jovanovic had announced his own candidacy. No
longer assured of a first-round win, the President was reconsidering
his options. Reflecting the President's uncertainty, political
insider, FM Vuk Jeremic told Ambassador, October 24, that he was
99.9% sure the elections would go ahead in December, but was less
certain about when in December they would be held. Sulking over the
impasse, Dulic said he hoped that all parties would acknowledge the
democratic needs of the country and, he insinuated, but did not
articulate, that Ceda would withdraw from the race.

Democrats Divided


--------------------------





3. (SBU) For the moment, the Liberals show no sign of backing down.
In a September conversation with the Ambassador, Ceda had framed the
democratic imperative differently, describing his "democratic
responsibility" to run for president. An LDP member of parliament
told us that the LDP decided on October 24 to mount a campaign. MP
Ivan Andric told us that the LDP will push for parliamentary
elections, as well, out of concern for the government's lack of
direction.



4. (U) Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) has repeatedly
voiced opposition to holding elections while Kosovo status is
unresolved. Party whip Milos Aligrudic declined to discuss internal
coalition negotiations on October 26, but, presenting the legal
argument for delay, insisted that there would be sufficient time
between December 10 and 31 to enact constitutionally mandated
legislation and enable the Speaker to meet all legal requirements for
calling elections. DSS members have told the press that they would
boycott early (i.e. December) elections.

Radicals Ready to Go to the Polls


--------------------------





5. (U) Radical Party (SRS) leader Seslj announced, from the Hague,
the candidacy of his deputy Tomaslav Nikolic. Media contacts told
emboff that SRS leadership believes Nikolic could win on the first
round, even in early elections. Setting aside rumors that the
Radicals would boycott December elections, Nikolic said in an
interview publish October 25, that the SRS would not allow Tadic to
run and win unopposed.

The Law


--------------------------





6. (SBU) Parliamentary speaker Dulic insisted that he would hold
elections before the end of the year politics, not withstanding. The
Qeaker asserted that although constitutional law establishes a
timetable for elections that presumes passage of several laws,
including the law on the presidency, a superior constitutional
requirement that the Speaker call presidential elections prior to the
end of 2007 takes precedence. The government's failure to introduce
the necessary legislation, or parliament's failure to enact it before
the end of the year, would not obviate this responsibility, he said.
Former President of the Constitutional Court and former Justice
Minister Momcilo Grubac confirmed to us this interpretation of the
law. Dulic confided that the DSS current tactic, arguing that there
was time and will to meet all the legal requirements, particularly
was particularly worrisome because it was difficult to refute or
resist.



7. (U) Dulic confirmed that Serbian law stipulates a minimum 30-day
period between the proclamation of elections and Election Day. This
means, Dulic noted, that to proceed with the December 9 election, he
would need to announce no later than November 9. Dulic told poloff
that he expected Tadic to make a decision on October 28. Foreign
Minister Jeremic told the Ambassador to expect Tadic to decide by
October 31.


BELGRADE 00001463 002 OF 002


Comment


--------------------------





8. (AVU) If he gets a December 9 Election Day, Tadic avoids the
inevitable fallout from the Troika's report on Kosovo status
negotiations, due to the UNSYG the following day. The President's
advantage, however, expires if he doesn't win on the first round. In
the run-up to a run-off, Tadic believes he would need Kostunica's
support to counter SRS claims that Tadic had lost Kosovo -- and that
support would not come cheap. In courting SRS support for December
elections, Tadic is playing a high stakes game at which he may risk
the presidency itself (unlikely) and might have to forfeit election
wins in certain municipalities (more likely). It remains to be seen,
however, whether the President can trump Kostunica in his own game by
getting the Radicals to agree to Presidential elections over
Kostunica's protests. For now, the election date is not settled.
Defense Minister Sutanovac, a DS insider, said October 25 he didn't
know what would happen. DSS advisor Parivodic told us the same. We
expect this question -- with its significant impact on events in the
Kosovo endgame -- to be answered by the end of October.