Friday, May 30, 2008

Serbia: Growing tension amid power struggle in Belgrade

Belgrade, 30 May (AKI) - There was growing tension in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on Friday as President Boris Tadic’s pro-European coalition delayed the transfer of power to a rival nationalist coalition.

Three Serbian nationalist parties on Wednesday signed an agreement to form a coalition to run Belgrade's local government, after gaining a 58-seat majority in the national assembly.

Although no one protested against the 11 May election results, Tadic’s Democratic Party, who won 45 seats, claim they have a mandate to rule Belgrade, though they can’t form a majority government.

According to election law, the constituent session of the new assembly should be held by 6 June, but Tadic’s party colleague acting Mayor Zoran Alimpic called the session for 14 July.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement on Friday that Alimpic’s unreasonable delay was “undermining democratic order in the country and threatened state institutions”.

Several hundred supporters of the nationalist coalition gathered in front of the town hall on Friday where nationalist leaders held an outdoor media conference, protesting against what they called a “violation of the voters' will”.

“Can anyone imagine that anywhere in Europe today an assembly session isn’t called just because someone doesn’t like the existing majority,” Kostunica said.

He said that Tadic’s manoeuvre and "usurpation of power" could push the country into a grave crisis."

"In most democratic countries the only democratic government is the one formed by a majority in parliament, everything else is a violation of the voters’ will and usurpation of power,” said Kostunica.

Nationalist leaders claim that Tadic, whose coalition won 102 deputies in the 250-seat Serbian Parliament was buying time to lure MP’s and councilmen from the nationalist coalition to form both a national and a city government in Belgrade.

Kostunica and Tadic split after Kosovo declared independence last February.

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