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Serbia's Vucic set to win presidential vote

April 3, 2022

Aleksandar Vucic is set to win a second term as president, projections show. His ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) was seen as picking up the most parliamentary seats.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic casts his ballot
Vucic claimed a landslide victory in general elections Sunday Image: Antonio Bronic/REUTERS

Serbia's incumbent President Aleksandar Vucic is set to win the country's presidential vote, according to a projection by pollsters Ipsos and CeSID published on Sunday night.

Based on a sample of the partial polling station count, Vucic is expected to receive 59.8% of the vote.

The opposition candidate Zdravko Ponos is set to take 17.1%.

Vucic claimed victory late on Sunday saying he was proud to win the second outright mandate without going into a runoff.

"I huge thank you to the citizens of Serbia," he said, quoting similar results. "I'm endlessly proud and endlessly happy.''

Official results were set to be announced late Monday.

Voters picked president, parliament and local lawmakers

Sunday's elections saw the populist Vucic of the right-wing Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) seek a second five-year term.

Some 6.5 million voters also decided on the make-up of the next parliament as well as local representatives in the capital, Belgrade, and some dozen other towns and municipalities.

Opinion polls heading into election day showed that Vucic was highly likely to be reelected and that his party would again dominate the 250-member assembly.

Opposition candidates were seen as having a chance of winning a majority in Belgrade, which would be a major setback for the populists.

Aleksandar Vucic speaking to reporters after voting in Belgrade
Vucic cast his vote at a voting station in BelgradeImage: Elvis Barukcic/AFP/Getty Images

Amid high tensions in Europe caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Vucic campaigned on ensuring peace and stability for the country.

Belgrade has joined in the UN resolution condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine but refused to impose sanctions against Moscow.

Vucic has in the past boasted of having close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has also backed Serbia's claims on Kosovo, a former province that declared independence in 2008 with widespread Western support.

Promises of stability

Vucic, who was the minister of information in the government of former strongman Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, accused of grave war crimes in former Yugoslavia, has recast himself as a pro-European politician ever since his party came to power in 2012.

He has served as defense minister, prime minister and president in the past 10 years.

Vucic has also used the coronavirus pandemic to his advantage and assured people of economic stability and higher living standards.

"These crises have shaken much stronger economies than ours, but we are completely stable. We are successfully facing these challenges," Vucic recently wrote in a widely circulated op-ed piece.

After voting in Belgrade, Vucic said he expected Serbia to continue on the path of "stability, tranquility and peace.''

"I believe in a significant and convincing victory, and I believe everyone will get what they deserve, according to how much they worked and, understandably, in accordance with the expectations of the citizens for the future,'' he said.

Accusations of corruption

Vucic's opponents have criticized him for capitalizing on people's fear when it came to the war in Ukraine, while rights groups have accused him of corruption, clamping down on political opponents and exercising too much control over the media.

Among the several candidates vying to be president, Zdravko Ponos is Vucic's main opponent, according to the latest opinion polls.

Ponos, a retired chief of staff of the Serbian armed forces, heads the United Serbia coalition, a broad alliance of pro-European and centrist parties. He had hoped to push Vucic to a second round.

A green-left coalition, Moramo, or "We Must," also ran in the election for the first time. Thousands of people have joined the protests it has called against lithium mining in Serbia and demanding cleaner air, rivers and land.

 Zdravko Ponos
Zdravko Ponos was seen as the most dangerous rival to VucicImage: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images

Historical mistrust

The opposition largely stayed away from attacking Vucic's position on the war in Ukraine, fearing doing so could upset Serbs.

Memories of a series of wars in the 1990s and a NATO bombing in 1999 are still very much present in people's minds and have led to much mistrust of the West, even though the country is seeking EU membership.

Opposition lawmakers largely boycotted the 2020 parliamentary election, saying it was neither free nor fair, and have also raised concerns about Vucic's hold over mainstream media this time around.

mm, rm, tj/jrs (Reuters, AP, AFP)