Vucic wins Serbian presidency in first round
Sunday, 02 April 2017

Conservative Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won Serbia's presidential election on Sunday by a huge margin, confirming his domination of the Balkan country.

Vucic, 47, avoided a run-off by taking just over 55 percent of votes; his nearest rival, opposition candidate and former rights advocate Sasa Jankovic, trailed on 16.2 percent, according to a projection by the Ipsos polling group.

Vucic will take on the largely ceremonial post at the end of May, but is expected to retain de facto power through his control of Serbia's ruling Progressive Party.

The result marked a political humiliation for Serbia's beleaguered opposition parties, which say Vucic's rule is increasingly autocratic.

It is not expected to change the former Yugoslav republic's geopolitical balancing act between the European Union, which Vucic wants Serbia to join, and Russia, with which Serbs share their Orthodox Christian faith and Slavic heritage.

Despite economic growth and greater fiscal stability, Serbia remains mired in poverty and corruption. But to his supporters, Vucic is a firm hand in a troubled region.

"I voted for stability, we've had enough wars," said Bozica Ivanovic, a 65-year-old pensioner who voted for Vucic. "We need more jobs for younger people and if we can get higher pensions and salaries, even better."

Vucic's opponents, however, say he has an authoritarian streak that has led him to take control over the media in Serbia since his party rose to power in 2012 and he became prime minister three years ago.

As president, Vucic would have few formal powers, among them the right to send legislation back to parliament for reconsideration.

But he is widely expected to appoint a loyal ally as prime minister and try to keep a tight rein on policy, as former President Boris Tadic, then of the Democratic Party, did between 2004 and 2012.

Some analysts said that could yet prove difficult.

"Vucic will now be distanced from everyday policy-making and executive affairs and will have to rely on a proxy," Eurasia Group wrote in on March 30. "This will likely generate some tensions in the chain of command."


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