Pro-Western forces in Serbia claimed victory on Monday after general elections gave them a mandate to strengthen ties with the European Union.
The majority of Serbians voted in favor of closer EU ties
Fears of a nationalist backlash over the newly independent province of Kosovo proved unfounded as Serbians went to the polls on the weekend, with tallies by the electoral commission showing the "For a European Serbia" alliance spearheaded by the Democratic Party (DS) set to secure up to 39 percent of the vote.
"The citizens of Serbia have undoubtedly confirmed a clear European path," President Boris Tadic, the flag-bearer of the pro-European forces, told jubilant supporters overnight.
"It is necessary to form a government as soon as possible," Tadic said in his DS campaign headquarters.
Serbians celebrate in the streets
The results sparked fireworks and celebrations on the streets of Belgrade, where cars draped in Serbian, DS and EU flags honked their horns as they drove around the city centre.
If confirmed, the election results will be seen as a breakthrough for Serbia, which has struggled for political unity on the goal of eventual EU membership since late dictator Slobodan Milosevic was ousted eight years ago.
"I think that the European future of Serbia is guaranteed," said Zoran Lucic of the non-governmental Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID), whose latest estimates gave the DS coalition 38.7 percent versus 29.1 percent for the Radicals.
EU presidency hails victory
The EU's Slovenian presidency hailed what it called "a clear victory" by pro-European forces, adding it hoped a new government would soon be formed "with a clear European agenda."
Tadic's Democrats will now need to form a coalition with at least one other party -- the Socialists, founded by Milosevic, or the Liberal Democrats, whose leader Cedomir Jovanovic negotiated the late dictator's arrest in 2001.
"The Democratic Party will be the key player in the future cabinet," said Tadic.
"The negotiations will not be easy (but) I warn everyone not to play with the electoral will of the citizens and try to take Serbia back to the isolation of the 1990s," he said in reference to the Milosevic regime.