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Serbia faces dramatic runoff vote

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The Serbian Radical Party was formed in the early 1990s by Vojislav Seselj, whose notorious paramilitary groups fought in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Mr. Seselj was a close ally of Mr. Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial at the international tribunal at The Hague, where Seselj remains today, charged with ethnic cleansing, torture, and murder.

In the 2004 elections, as Seselj's protégé, Nikolic steadily invoked the names of Milosevic and Seselj in the national elections campaign, arguing that their trials were a farce.

"In 2004, Nikolic was only a front for Seselj, who was a party leader running the campaign from his cell," says Jacques Rupnik a Balkans specialist at Sciences Po in Paris. "Nikolic is no longer a front. He hardly talks about Seselj; he is running on his own steam; he has 'grown' as a politician.

"With Kosovo the main issue now, with all [Serb] politicians agreeing on this and just disagreeing on the levels of vehemence and nationalism," he adds, "the context favors nationalists like Nikolic. Emotion is the greatest element."

Former US diplomat James Hooper, managing director of the Public International Law and Policy Group, says that NATO member states have played a role in creating a nationalist, Kosovo-embittered context in Serbia through a lack of resolve after the NATO bombing campaign of 1999 that drove Serb forces out of the 90-percent ethnic Albanian province.

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