Serbians Vote In Presidential Runoff

Posted May 20th, 2012 at 8:40 am (UTC-5)
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Serbians are voting in a presidential runoff election pitting pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic against nationalist Tomislav Nikolic for the right to lead a nation struggling to shed the legacy of the Balkan wars and the effects of 24-percent unemployment.

Mr. Tadic, who is seeking a third term, finished slightly ahead of Mr. Nikolic earlier this month in a first round election. But neither contender approached the majority needed to win the election, and Mr. Nikolic's populist Serbian Progressive Party later accused Tadic Democrats of widespread voter fraud. Those allegations were later rejected by Serbian election officials and foreign monitors.

On Sunday, the incumbent again sought to highlight his pro-Western political leanings.

“I am expecting that the elections are going to show once again that the orientation of Serbia toward the European Union is crystal clear.”

Mr. Nikolic stressed the need for change.

“I have said on many occasions that Serbia needs change in order to move forward. Everything else is in the hands of the Serbian citizens. I hope the elections will be fair and honest.”


Nearly 6.8-million people are eligible to cast ballots, but voter turnout Sunday was reported at less than 9 percent three hours after polls opened.

While incumbent Tadic has touted his pan-European views, his campaign has been hobbled by Europe's economic downturn and high unemployment, and by allegations of corruption within the country's ruling coalition.

Mr. Nikolic, who narrowly lost to Mr. Tadic in two earlier elections, claims to have moved away from his opposition to Serbia's planned EU entry, and now says he supports joining the 27-nation bloc. But he has said he would scrap efforts to join the union if entry requires Belgrade to give up its claims to Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared its independence in 2008.

A former member of the ultranationalist Radical Party, Mr. Nikolic once allied himself with the late President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial for war crimes allegedly perpetrated during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. He has argued for closer ties with Russia.