Nationalist Nikolic Declares Victory In Serbian Presidential Vote; Tadic Concedes
May 20, 2012
Opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic has declared himself the winner in Serbia's runoff election for president in a vote that could boost fears of a renewed nationalism and deepen political divides.
His two-term presidential opponent, Boris Tadic, has conceded defeat.
Pollsters at the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CESID) were giving Nikolic 49.8 percent of the vote to Tadic's 47, according to RFE/RL's Balkan Service and other sources.
A victorious Nikolic, an ally of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic who says he's abandoned his opposition to European Union membership, vowed to supporters that Serbia "will not stray from its European path."
Tadic is regarded as a solidly pro-European politician whose Democratic Party is poised to lead the next government after parliamentary elections two weeks ago weakened it but left the party with a plurality.
Authorities had said preliminary results were likely to emerge on May 21 or 22.
Nikolic's Serbian Progressive Party had threatened to confiscate ballot boxes and close polling stations if they observed irregularities in the May 20 voting after alleging fraud in the voting two weeks ago.
Tadic's Democrats and Nikolic's Progressive Party finished neck-and-neck in the parliamentary voting that accompanied the first round of the presidential poll, at 24 and 22.3 percent, respectively.
Nikolic has said he would pursue EU membership but not at any cost -- suggesting that he could maintain Serbia's claim on the former UN-administered province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.
The European Union made Serbia, which has a population of more than 7 million, an official candidate for membership in March. The union has said that a date for talks could be set early next year if Belgrade takes steps to improve relations with Kosovo, which it does not recognize as an independent state.
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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