Newspaper article International New York Times

Ruling Party in Serbia Is Victorious in Early Election ; Support for Premier Hints at Continued Desire for Membership in the E.U

Newspaper article International New York Times

Ruling Party in Serbia Is Victorious in Early Election ; Support for Premier Hints at Continued Desire for Membership in the E.U

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has said he plans to use a victory to push through reforms needed for the country to join the European Union.

The pro-European party that has led Serbia since 2012 secured a big victory in a snap election over the weekend, even as right-wing nationalists made gains.

In the election, Serbia's third in four years, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party had secured 48 percent of the vote with 96 percent of the ballots counted, according to results released by the state electoral commission on Monday, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Vucic's coalition partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia, won 11 percent of the vote, according to the electoral commission.

A pro-Russian party led by Vojislav Seselj, who was acquitted at The Hague last month of war crimes and crimes against humanity over his role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, won 8 percent of the vote, enough to secure representation in Parliament. Four other parties or coalitions of parties also won enough votes to gain seats in Parliament.

Voter turnout on Sunday was about 55 percent, but some members of the opposition raised concerns about voting irregularities.

President Tomislav Nikolic called the early elections after Mr. Vucic, who has been prime minister since 2014, said he needed a new mandate to pursue an economic agenda that would lead to Serbia becoming a member of the European Union.

Mr. Seselj, however, has called for "integration with Russia" and declared that "all Serbia's traditional enemies" are in the European Union. Many Serbs consider Russia, a fellow Orthodox Slavic country, to be Serbia's most reliable ally.

Mr. Seselj's surprise acquittal on March 31 after a lengthy trial that included years in detention bolstered his party, the Serbian Radical Party, which traditionally espoused a "Greater Serbia" including territory in neighboring countries, like Bosnia and Croatia.

As a young man, Mr. Vucic himself was an ardent nationalist and a minister in the government of the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who faced war crimes charges at the time of his death in 2006. Mr. Vucic has since assumed the mantle of a pro-European reformer. …

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