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Vucic Cruises to Win in Serbian Presidential Vote

Country’s most powerful politician of recent years says he will respect his constitutional role as a largely ceremonial head of state.

3 April 2017

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (pictured) was elected president in a landslide win yesterday, hammering his closest challenger by almost 40 percentage points.

 

Vucic easily exceeded the threshold needed to be elected in the first round, receiving 55 percent of the vote, the state electoral commission RIK announced today.

 

Former Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic was a distant second on 16 percent.

 

Turnout was reported at 54.63 percent of registered voters.

 

Although the presidency is primarily a ceremonial post, Vucic said his victory showed “the direction Serbia wants to go.”

 

In a speech last night when his victory became clear, Vucic said the outcome proved that  “a huge majority in Serbia” favors his policies of reforms to prepare the country for European integration while “maintaining traditional friendships with Russia and China,” B92 reports.

 

“This victory is clean as a whistle and nobody can interpret it [otherwise]. I received 12 percent more than all the other candidates combined," he added.

 

In the days before the election, however, Jankovic and another candidate, former Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, said the campaign was one of the dirtiest they had seen.

 

"We've seen difficult times in this country and we have gone through a number of uneven elections, uneven in the sense of free and fair conditions for holding an election," Jeremic told The Associated Press last week.

 

"But I think that this beats all the votes that I've seen," he added.

 

Jeremic, who served as president of the UN General Assembly between 2012 and 2013, finished fourth in the balloting, winning just over 5 percent of the vote. According to the pollster BIRODI, during the campaign Vucic received 120 times as much news coverage as Jankovic and Jeremic combined, the AP says.

 

According to the news agency, mainstream media under Vucic’s control engaged in “demonizing” most of the opposition candidates and leaked details of their private lives apparently obtained from secret police files.

 

Vucic denied suggestions he would seek to raise the profile of the presidency. The BBC quotes him as saying, "They can say whatever they want. I will respect Serbia's constitution. That is my obligation and that is what I will do."

 

 

 

  • Human rights activist Jankovic was Serbia’s ombudsman from 2007 until February this year. In 2015 government officials and pro-government media attacked him over an incident at a Belgrade gay-pride parade, where Vucic’s brother and his escort of military police clashed with security guards. Tabloid media also accused him of responsibility for the suicide of a friend many years before, Osservatorio Balcani i Caucaso wrote.

 

 

  • Balloting was held at 90 polling stations in Kosovo, and at 53 stations in other foreign countries, Balkan Insight says.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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