Milosevic loyalists could return to power in Serbia

.BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Two years after Slobodan Milosevic died in prison while on trial for genocide, his Serbian loyalists may score a parliamentary election victory May 11 that would return them to power and dramatically worsen the West’s troubles in the Balkans.

The outcome will determine whether Serbia moves toward the European Union and the U.S., or seeks closer ties with Russia.

Outrage over Western support for independent Kosovo is driving many of the 6.7 million voters into the arms of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, which used to rule together with Milosevic. Polls suggest the Radicals have a lead of 100,000 votes over the opposition, a coalition whose Western yearnings are embodied in its name, “For a European Serbia.”

“It’s a stark choice – back to isolation and instability, or closer to the European Union and economic recovery,” says Boris Tadic, the Serbian president who heads the pro-Western bloc but is not up for election Sunday.

A nationalist victory also would mean non-cooperation in the hunt for the remaining war crimes fugitives, in a Balkan region still suffering from the aftershocks of the ethnic conflicts in the 1990s.

Tadic narrowly defeated an ultranationalist challenger in a presidential race in January, but then Kosovo, the province Serbians regard as the cradle of their nationhood, declared independence and has won immediate recognition from Washington and its key EU allies, while Moscow backs Serbia’s claim on the territory.

It was the third geographical calamity to befall Serbia after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the secession of Montenegro in 2006.