Serbia’s Aleksandar Vučić cruises to re-election

BELGRADE — Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić cruised to a second term in an election Sunday and will now face questions over whether he can continue his balancing act between Moscow and the West.

Vučić was projected to win almost 60 percent of the vote in the presidential poll — some 40 points ahead of his nearest challenger, according to pollster Ipsos and the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, a local NGO.

The president’s conservative Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) was the runaway winner in a parliamentary election held on the same day, with a projected 43 percent of the vote. Its junior coalition partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia, is projected to take 11.4 percent, giving the government a commanding majority.

The victories had been widely expected, not least because Vučić has been accused by his domestic opponents and democracy experts of increasingly autocratic rule. Vučić has dismissed the accusations, claiming the opposition is simply not good enough to challenge him.

Vučić will now come under renewed scrutiny over his equivocal stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. While Belgrade has said it supports Ukraine, it has refused to impose sanctions on Moscow, its longtime ally.

Serbia has been in accession talks with the EU for years and the bloc has made clear it expects would-be members to follow its line on foreign policy, and sanctions in particular.

Another big story of election night was the unexpected success of the Serbian far right. Two parties from that end of the spectrum, Dveri and the Serbian Oathkeepers, will both be represented in parliament after taking nearly 4 percent of the vote each.

The centrist United Serbia coalition and leftist-green upstarts Moramo! (“We Must!”) finished even further behind than pre-election polling predicted, taking around 13 percent and 5 percent respectively.

However, questions will linger over the integrity of the vote. CRTA, a Belgrade-based civil society NGO and official election observer, said voting irregularities were recorded at 12 percent of polling stations. Earlier in the day, prominent opposition candidate Pavle Grbović was assaulted outside his local polling station and left with a bloodied lip after being punched in the face several times.

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