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As Tadic seeks coalition, new hope for Serbia

The victory of his pro-EU party Sunday defied the Western view of Serbs as unwilling to let go of historical grievances. Now, a peaceful future seems possible.

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Two months ago, mobs in Belgrade attacked the US embassy after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.

Then came last Sunday's improbable, unbelievable, and completely unforeseen vote: Serbs defied all expectations and polls to cast ballots decisively for the pro-Europe party of Boris Tadic, the main democratic voice in Serbia – and against the Radical Party, whose nationalist ranks indulged in 15 years of war in the Balkans.

In Europe and the US, the surprise question this week is whether there is hope for a peaceful future for Serbia after all, and whether history in the former Yugoslavia must always hew to the tragic.

To be sure, Mr. Tadic must within 90 days find a coalition partner to form a government; the nationalist parties together scored nearly the same number of seats in the Serb parliament. But the elections indicate a side to the Serbs that defies their profile as fatalistic victims unwilling to let go of ancient myths, say a number of diplomats and analysts.

"Serbia has been the most regressive and eastward-looking place in the Balkans," says Marshall Freeman Harris, a former State Department Balkan expert. "But this election may show things aren't as black as they seem. The US and Europe will recognize there is still hope."

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