Serbs heading to polls to elect new president

Young journalists club

News ID: 8608
Publish Date: 11:37 - 02 April 2017
Serbians are heading to the polls to elect a new president, with strongman Aleksandar Vucic hoping to tighten his grip on power amid opposition accusations that he is shifting the country to authoritarian rule.
Vucic, the 47-year-old current prime minister, is hoping to clinch more than 50 percent of the ballot in the Sunday election, and win a five-year mandate as president outright.

Most surveys tip Vucic for an easy victory in the face of a divided opposition. But if he fails to win a majority in the first round, a runoff vote will be held on April 16.

The post of president has largely been ceremonial in recent times, but analysts believe it would be a much more influential position if occupied by Vucic.

Vucic has touted economic success since becoming prime minister in 2014, achieving a growth of 2.8 percent last year and cleaning up public finances.

But the average Serbian earns a mere 330 euros (355 dollars) per month while unemployment is running above 15 percent.

The opposition has been unable to field a single candidate to run against him, so Vucic faces a wide range of challengers.

There are 10 opposition candidates bidding for the presidency, including former ombudsman Sasa Jankovic, ex-foreign minister Vuk Jeremic and ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj.

And shaking up the race is Luka Maksimovic.

Using the fictional name of Ljubisa Preletacevic — nicknamed "Beli” (White) — he could even come second in the race behind Vucic, some analysts say.

Opposition candidates have presented the vote as a referendum on Vucic, whom they accuse of trying to consolidate power for himself.
Seselj argues that, "All power should not be concentrated in the hands of a single man, Aleksandar Vucic.”

Vucic has run a typically aggressive campaign, with a video showing a plane marked "Serbia 2017” about to crash for a lack of leadership. He has accused opponents of receiving "millions of euros (from) certain foreign countries,” without offering specifics.

The opposition fears electoral fraud, particularly in Albanian-dominated Kosovo, where some 120,000 Serbs live.

Some 6.7 million eligible voters can cast their ballots from 7:00 (0500 GMT) to 20:00. The first results are expected before midnight.

Source: AFP
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