Serbians vote in tense run-off election

Pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic and rightist Tomislav Nikolic went head to head »»

Pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic and rightist Tomislav Nikolic went head to head on Sunday in a tense run-off election for Serbian president and the right to lead the struggling nation into talks on joining the European Union.

In a vote marred by opposition accusations of fraud, Tadic is tipped to defeat Nikolic for the third time since 2004 as Serbia slowly sheds the legacy of a decade of war and isolation under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic. A Tadic victory would keep power firmly in the hands of his Democratic Party, which is trying to form a new ruling coalition to tackle rising unemployment and economic stagnation in the former Yugoslav republic. But opposition allegations of fraud in parliamentary and first-round presidential elections two weeks ago could cause an upset, or cast a shadow over the result if Nikolic carries out a threat to call supporters into the streets. “This time we'll watch every single polling station,” Nikolic said after voting in the Socialist-era Novi Beograd [New Belgrade] municipality of the capital Belgrade. “Serbia does not deserve a president suspected of stealing.” Election authorities and foreign monitors found no evidence of the 500,000 votes Nikolic says were forged in the May 6 elections. The Democratic Party has accused him of trying to stir unrest. Nikolic is a former member of the ultranationalist Radical Party and was in government with Milosevic when Serbia was bombed by NATO in 1999, but since last losing to Tadic in 2008 he has tried to reinvent himself as a pro-European conservative.




Columnist: REUTERS