Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic declared victory in Sunday’s presidential election, after polls by Ipsos and CeSID predicted that the incumbent leader would win 59.8% of the vote. votes.
Zdravko Ponos, a retired army general representing the pro-European coalition and center for Victory, is predicted to come in second with 17.1% of the vote.
In a victory speech, Vucic said he was proud to have won the second mission entirely without qualifying.
“Thank you very much to the citizens of Serbia,” he said. “I am extremely proud and extremely happy.”
Polls also predict that Vucic’s Serbian Radical Party (SNS) will win the most votes in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, with around 43 percent, followed by opposition group United for Victory of Serbia with about 13%.
The Socialist Party of Serbia, a longtime SNS ally, came in third with 11.6% of the vote.
The right-wing coalition of Nada (Hope) and Moramo (We Must), a coalition of green movements and parties, obtained about 5.4% and 4.3% of the vote, respectively.
As the SNS likely won’t secure enough of the 250-seat parliament to govern alone, it will have to look for coalition partners.
According to preliminary data from the State Election Commission, voter turnout stood at 58.54%. The commission said it would not make any formal announcements about the vote counting before Monday.
Vucic ran for a second five-year term with the promise of peace and stability as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, which brought Serbia under pressure from the West to choose between a traditional relationship with Moscow and aspiration to join the European Union (EU).
Vucic acknowledged the conflict in Ukraine had affected the election campaign and said Serbia had no plans to deviate from the balance game between its EU membership bid and close ties with Russia and China, an investor. big quarter.
“The impact of the Ukraine crisis on the election results is huge,” the president said.
“We will maintain the policy that is important to the Europeans, the Russians and the Americans, and that is… military neutrality,” he said, adding: “Serbia will try to maintain relations. friendship and partnership in various fields with the Russian Federation.”
Serbia is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, while its military maintains ties with the Russian military.
The Kremlin also supported Belgrade’s opposition to Kosovo’s independence by blocking its membership of the United Nations.
Although Serbia supports two UN resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it refuses to impose sanctions on Moscow.
Ahead of Sunday’s election, mainly accused opposition groups have not allowed openly backing a tougher line towards Moscow, fearing any calls for harsher measures against Moscow. Russia will backfire at the ballot box.
Analysts say opposition groups still have a chance of winning in Belgrade, which would deal a major blow to Vucic’s rule. The ruling party is less popular in the capital in part because a number of construction projects have been plagued by corruption that has ravaged Belgrade’s urban center.
Ponos, the president’s main opponent in Sunday’s vote, said: “These elections are the beginning of the end for Aleksandar Vucic. “These elections have triggered hope and we cannot betray that hope.”
Ponos has previously accused Vucic of using the war in Ukraine during his campaign to take advantage of people’s fears.
Opposition groups said many irregularities were detected in the vote. Opposition election controllers have reported widespread ghost voting – voting in the names of dead or nonexistent people – as well as ruling party activists offering money in exchange. get votes.
An opposition leader was attacked outside Vucic’s party office on the outskirts of Belgrade, wounding his face. A ruling party official was attacked in the central town of Nis.
CeSID and CRTA pollsters also reported some anomalies, including taking pictures of the ballots.
Opposition and human rights watchdogs also accuse Vucic and his allies of an autocratic, corrupt, tyrannical style of rule, controlling the media, attacking political opponents and having political connections. associated with organized crime.
Vucic and his allies have repeatedly denied all of those allegations.