Serbia Dissolves Parliament, Calls Vote

From Associated Press

Serbia dissolved its parliament and announced early elections Thursday, signaling the collapse of the government three years after the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic.

The pro-democracy coalition that came to power in 2000 has nearly unraveled, forcing Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic to agree -- under pressure from political defectors and Milosevic supporters -- to set a new parliamentary vote for Dec. 28, a year ahead of schedule.

The decision to move up elections was officially announced by parliamentary speaker and acting President Natasa Micic, who also dissolved the 250-seat Assembly.

Promises by the post-Milosevic leadership to usher in an economic recovery, increase living standards and root out corruption have been only partly fulfilled. Prices have soared and labor unrest has spread.

Zivkovic's Cabinet has struggled against dwindling support in parliament, where onetime allies have teamed up with ultranationalists, conservatives and Milosevic's Socialists in an effort to unseat the government.

The prime minister finally agreed to risk elections after his opponents threatened to hold a confidence vote. Over the past weeks of parliamentary debate, the opposition has accused the government of incompetence and rampant corruption.

Zivkovic conceded Thursday that his government had become paralyzed by the allegations and political fighting, leaving it unable to revive the economy.

The Cabinet was formed by Zoran Djindjic, Serbia's first democratic prime minister since World War II. He was assassinated March 12, allegedly by crime bosses and Milosevic-era paramilitary commanders.

Already this week, Serbia is holding presidential elections. It will be the third attempt in just over a year to fill the post vacant since a Milosevic ally stepped down and joined his former boss in The Hague to answer war crimes charges related to the Balkan wars.

Both previous presidential votes failed because of low turnout.

The coming balloting, on Sunday, pits Dragoljub Micunovic, a veteran politician with strong democratic credentials, against Tomislav Nikolic of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical party.

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