By Snezana Stanojevic
Belgrade, Apr 3 (EFE).- Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic won reelection in the first electoral round on Sunday, garnering estimated support of 59.8 percent of the votes, according to early vote projections.
Vucic, who has been accused by critics of having authoritarian tendencies, appears to have handily defeated his main challenger, representing the opposition United for the Victory of Serbia coalition, retired Gen. Zdravko Ponos.
With 17 percent of the votes counted, the opposition standard-bearer is far from the threshold needed to ensure a runoff, according to estimates by the Serbian non-governmental election monitoring organization CeSID, which also said that Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which also won the most votes in the parliamentary elections, will continue to dominate in the 250-seat legislature.
The SNS won 43.5 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections and will hold 121 seats in Parliament, while its partner party, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), won 11.6 per cent, and will hold 32 seats, giving them together a majority.
“I’m happy that the citizens have confirmed the democratic nature of Serbian society,” Vucic declared, referring to the high voter turnout of about 60 percent, one of the largest in more than 10 years.
“The impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the results has been enormous, and Serbia has moved dramatically to the right,” acknowledged the president, referring to the entry into Parliament of two ultranationalist parties.
He announced that he will be speaking with all political sectors, including those most distant from him philosophically, to “analyze the situation of Serbia,” which he said “must decide how its future will be.”
Vucic said that his country will continue moving toward joining the European Union and establishing good relations in the Balkan region, but he added that “it will not destroy relations with its traditional friends,” specifically Russia and China.
The war in Ukraine changed the focus of the campaign and it focused on the country’s economic and political stability given the potential consequences of the fighting for Belgrade, a situation that was to Vucic and his government’s advantage, judging by the preliminary vote results.
Serbia’s position is delicate, given that it is a candidate for EU membership but simultaneously is the only country in Europe, apart from Belarus, that has not joined the Western sanctions against Moscow over its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Russia is a traditional friend and protector of Serbia in international forums insofar as it has not recognized the independence proclaimed by Serbia’s former province of Kosovo. Moscow also supplies petroleum and natural gas at good prices to Belgrade.
Public sentiment – which is more pro-Russian in Serbia due to the hard feelings the public harbors against NATO dating back to the alliance’s bombardment of Serbia in 1999 to put an end to its war over Kosovo – has favored the small rightist parties such that they were able to garner enough votes to enter Parliament for the first time.
The opposition coalition, which includes about a dozen pro-European parties and groupings and had a centrist orientation, will command 36 seats in Parliament, followed by the SPS with its 32 deputies.
The conservative and Euroskeptical NADA coalition will have 15 seats and the opposition ecological leftist Moramo alliance will have 12, the rightist pro-Russian Dveri and Zavetnici parties will have 11 each and national minorities will have five seats, in all.
The opposition decided to field candidates in the election after boycotting the 2020 elections in large part in protest against Vucic’s authoritarianism, and thus since then the Serbian Parliament has had few opposition deputies.
Some 6.5 million registered voters were eligible to cast ballots in the election for 19 parties and coalitions and eight presidential candidates.
There were also municipal elections held in Belgrade and 13 other cities around the country.