By Snezana Stanojevic
Belgrade, Apr 4 (EFE).- Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic was re-elected in a landslide victory over the weekend but the populist leader must now strike a tricky balance between European Union aspirations and Kremlin bonhomie.
Vucic, a former ultra-nationalist turned pro-EU figure in Serbian politics, secured an 58.5% of the vote share in Sunday’s poll, an ample majority that nixed the need for a run-off, according to the electoral commission (RIK).
His conservative SNS party secured 119 seats in the 250-seat national assembly, which it dominates thanks to a broad coalition of allies.
The Balkan nation is a candidate for EU membership that simultaneously maintains deep-rooted ties with Russia.
Vucic has made no secret of his sympathies for Putin but endeavors to juggle both outlooks, a position which became more complicated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Serbian president has complained of the increasing pressure he faces from EU members to join sanctions against Russia but Belgrade remains one of the few European nations that has not applied them.
While the EU is the leading investor in Serbia’s economy, Russia provides almost all of its energy and defends it on the international stage.
The president is buoyed by an electorate who painfully recall Nato’s intervention in the Kosovo war in 1999, which paved the way for the Serbian-claimed territory to declare its independence, a move that has been recognized by over 100 nations, although not by Russia.
A recent survey found that 50% of Serbs believe their country should take a neutral stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Nikola Tomic, a political analyst, thinks Vucic will try to maintain his “politics of equidistance” between Russia and the EU as long as possible but acknowledged in comments to Efe that it would complicate his ability to govern.
“Whatever the decision, it could have drastic effects on the economy and, also, cause severe pressure on one side or the other.”EFE