Serbia: elections, Sunday vote amongst crisis and EU future

Presidential, legislative and municipal.Tadic-Nikolic race

04 May, 14:55

(ANSA) - BELGRADE, MAY 4 - Serbs are to vote this Sunday for the presidential, parliamentary, municipal and for the Voivodina (north) regional elections, within a political panorama which appears to be strongly attached to two main coalitions, the reformers and supporters of the EU headed by President Boris Tadic, and the more nationalist conservative front guided by Tomislav Nikolic. The two leaders are also up for the presidential race, which will see a final ballot vote on May 20 should of course none of the two reach over 50% in the first round on Sunday. The electoral campaign closes at midnight and has been dominated by talks about the economy, social issues, all against the backdrop of the current crisis and prospect of Serbia joining the EU (last March Serbia made a great step by being acknowledged by Brussels as a candidate country for entry into the European Union).

The Kosovo situation seems to have taken a momentary place backstage, as it probably does not constitute the main issue at the moment for the population, more interested in the labour crisis, the improvement of the economy and standard of living as unemployment has shot up to 24%. Of the 12 candidates running in the presidential race, outgoing President Boris Tadic and opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic are by far the bigger favourites. The last surveys conducted give Tadic slightly ahead in the first round (36% against 35%), although it seems clear that none of the two will reach the 50% plus one vote necessary which means a ballot will be held a fortnight later on May 20.

Tadic and Nikolic are also the main protagonists in the vote for the parliament (18 parties running), with their main political formation - the Democratic Party (Ds) for the outgoing President and the Serb Progress Party (Sns) for the headof the opposition - which is largely ahead in the polls. Contrary to the presidential polls, Nikolic is ahead with his party in the vote for the parliament compared to the Ds and Tadic (33% against 28%).

It doesn't look like any of the two parties will however be able to govern alone, and both will most likely need to find allies to form a coalition government, as it happens to be with the current centre-left government guided by Ds. A determining factor in this could be presented by the Serb Socialist party headed by the Minister of the Interior, Ivica Dacic, one of the most respected and popular politicians in the country, who is also a candidate for the presidency. Observers say that it is Nikolic who faces the greatest problems in finding allies.

President Tadic resigned in advance in order to bring together all the elections into one, saving precious money in these times, and based his campaign on the continuation of the reform programme, vital to Serbia in their road towards entering the EU which would also mean greater investments and the creation of jobs. His main words were: conclude the work we have already begun, with an experienced and well-tempered team, looking to the EU as our future.

Nikolic on the other hand has instead tried to work on the general dissatisfaction generated by the crisis, casting doubts over the government's handling of the emergency and accusing them of being the main responsible cause for the country's difficult condition. The local vote renews the regional parliament of Voivodina (Novi Sad is the region's capital), considered as the richest and most advanced area in the north of the country, and includes the election for the mayors of the larger cities, starting from Belgrade. The 6,770,013 electors will be able to vote Sunday from 7 until 20 in over 8,500 polls, 38 of which are abroad. (ANSA).

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