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Parliament to vote on new Serbian government as deadline approaches

Parliament to vote on new Serbian government as deadline approaches

Serbia's parliament is to vote Tuesday on whether to approve a new pro-democracy government amid a challenge by ultranationalists and a deadline that threatens its inauguration.
If the Cabinet is not endorsed by midnight Tuesday (2200 GMT), the country's constitution stipulates there must be new elections, expected to benefit the Radicals who are already the biggest group in parliament.
But, the hardliners, who ruled with late President Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s, have been stalling the approval the new Cabinet with lengthy debates and other forms of obstruction in the assembly in the hope of breaking the deadline.
"We will wait for the prime minister designate to deliver his government program, and then a tough battle will start to prove that the election of his Cabinet would not be good for Serbia," said Tomislav Nikolic, a Serbian Radical Party leader.
Following nearly four months of bickering after the inconclusive Jan. 21 elections, Serbia's three pro-democratic parties last week forged a last-minute power-sharing deal amid fears that the ultranationalists might come back to power in the troubled Balkan country.
The lawmakers are now under the deadline pressure to vote on the new coalition Cabinet made up of President Boris Tadic's pro-Western Democrats, the center-right conservatives of Vojislav Kostunica _ the prime minister since 2004 who will keep his job under the coalition deal _ and small reformist G-17 party.
Political maneuvering and negotiations climaxed last week when the two rival leaders were still unable to agree a pact, and Kostunica suddenly endorsed ultranationalist Nikolic as the speaker of the parliament _ the No. 2 position in the country.
That triggered alarm among Western officials and Serbia's neighbors who feared renewed tensions in the Balkans which went through four bloody wars during the Milosevic era. With the agreement between the pro-democracy groups, Nikolic was forced to resign Sunday after only five days in the job.
The new government, if formed by the deadline, will face its first major test in a few weeks when the U.N. Security Council votes on a Western-backed plan to give independence to the southern Serbian province of Kosovo.
Kostunica has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with all states that recognize Kosovo's split from Serbia, while Tadic has advocated a moderate approach to the potential crisis.
Nikolic has predicted that the government would fall over Kosovo's possible independence. He has also threatened to lead an uprising against the government "if it peacefully watches Kosovo's independence."
Western nations support independence for Kosovo, rejecting Serbia's offer of broad autonomy for the ethnic-Albanian-dominated region. Russia has sided with Serbia, leading to fears of a standoff in the Security Council.


Updated : 2021-10-20 22:35 GMT+08:00