In the midst of the Ukraine war, Serbs go to the polls to elect a president and parliament

Belgrade, April 3 (Reuters) – Serbians are set to vote in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections against incumbent President Alexander Vucci and his Progressive Party (SNS), which has vowed to fight corruption and improve environmental protection.

Vusic is vying for a second five-year term on the promise of peace and stability during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has put Serbia under pressure from the West to choose its traditional relations with Moscow and its aspirations to join the European Union. (EU).

Polling stations for Serbia’s estimated 6.5 million voters will open at 0500 GMT and close at 1800 GMT.

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Polls suggest Vucic, more conservative than retired Army General Zdravko Ponos, will win the first round as a candidate for a successful coalition of European support and the centrist coalition.

“I expect Wozniacki to win. He has proven capable of running the country,” Zorika Jovonovic told Reuters after the vote. “We would not have had enough COVID-19 vaccines without him.”

The SNS won with 53.6% of the vote in a Faktor Plus poll released Wednesday in the Blic newspaper. The Coalition for Success came in second with 13.7% and the Socialists, Vucic’s ally, came in third with 10.2%. The panel of ecologists will receive 4.7% of the vote, which is above the 3% limit required for seats in parliament, according to opinion polls.

The opposition largely boycotted a parliamentary election in 2020, allowing the SNS and its allies to win 188 seats in the 250-seat parliament.

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“There is always hope that elections will bring a change,” Ferrick, who declined to give his last name, said after the morning vote.

The shadow of war

Russia’s February 24 occupation of Ukraine has had a major impact on the campaign in Serbia, which is still recovering from the Balkan wars and isolation in the 1990s.

Serbia is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, while its military maintains relations with Russia’s military.

The Kremlin also supports Belgrade’s opposition to the independence of Kosovo, the former southern province of Albania, which has a majority of Serbia.

Although Serbia supported two UN resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it refused to impose sanctions on Moscow.

Bojan Clarke, head of the CeSID poll, said the war had forced a swing from key campaign topics such as corruption, the environment and the rule of law.

“Voters are now looking for answers to their concerns about economic stability, living standards and political stability,” Clarke told Reuters earlier this week.

Vusic, a senior politician who served as information minister in 1998 under the former strong man Slobodan Milosevic, switched from a nationalist firebrand brand to a supporter of EU membership, but also to military neutrality and relations with Russia and China.

Ponos has accused Ukraine of using the war in its campaign to exploit popular fears.

Opposition and rights watchdog groups have accused Vucic and his associates of authoritarian rule, corruption, nepotism, media control, attacks on political opponents and links to organized crime. Vucic and his associates have repeatedly denied it.

Report by Alexander Vasovic; Editing by Alex Richardson and Jacqueline Wong

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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