But it could lack Assembly majority it sought. RESULTS DEFY POLLS
President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia declared yesterday a ``great victory'' in snap elections for the 250-seat republic assembly, saying that unofficial returns showed it regaining the absolute majority it lost last year.
If confirmed, the result would greatly strengthen Milosevic in dealing with Serbia's economic calamity, caused by war and UN sanctions, and strengthen Belgrade's position in international negotiations on resolving the Yugoslav crisis, including the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
``It looks like he can batten down the hatches and navigate through the uncertain period ahead,'' says one Western diplomat here, assessing the results from Sunday's ballot.
The first official returns announced by the Republic Election Commission and based on 20 percent of the total electorate, gave the Socialist Party 95 seats, followed by the main opposition alliance, the Democratic Coalition of Serbia (DEPOS) with 46 seats, the Serbian Radical Party (39 seats), and the Democratic Party (33 seats). (Serbs in Croatia rebuff Milosevic, Page 7.)
The commission was not expected to publish until tomorrow the final official results from Serbia's third Assembly poll in as many years. But because the commission is run by the Milosevic-controlled communist-style bureaucracy, there was little reason to doubt that the official results would vary widely from those of the Socialist Party.
``The Socialist Party of Serbia has won the elections and can expect between 124 and 128 seats in the legislature,'' Ivica Dacic, the party's chief spokesman, told a news conference. ``It is a great victory for the Socialist Party.''
Opposition leaders, however, refused to accept the Socialists' victory claim, saying it was premature and that they had received widespread complaints of fraud and irregularities. They further insisted that the semi-complete results reported to them from their vote-counting center observers showed the Socialists failing to reach the 126-seat absolute majority of the 250 seats.
But DEPOS, led by opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, said that its reports showed the Socialists winning 101 seats. DEPOS claimed it would take 51, the radicals 40, the Democratic Party 31, and the Democratic Party of Serbia eight. The rest would be scattered among minor parties, DEPOS announced.
Serbia uses a proportional electoral system under which a party must win at least 5 percent of the vote in each of the nine electoral districts order to win a seat.