Serbia is in the throes of election fever as voters get ready to head to the polls Sunday (May 6th). The atmosphere of excitement, however, is spliced with that of uncertainty.
The only thing everyone is sure of is that the biggest battle will be waged between the coalition gathered around the Serbian Progressive Party and the coalition headed by the Democratic Party (DS).
Estimates say that the Progressives and Democrats will together win between 50 and 60% of the vote. It looks like the difference between the two parties will be just a few percentage points, and the latest surveys give the Progressive Party a slight advantage.
Analysts and pollsters say that a second round of the presidential election will most likely be held between Progressive leader Tomislav Nikolic and former Serbian President and DS leader Boris Tadic.
The coalition rallied around the reformed Socialist Party of Serbia -- formerly led by Slobodan Milosevic -- also has a fighting chance, according to polls. The party, currently led by Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, is expected to win around 12% of votes and be the key player in forming the new government.
It will be up to Dacic to decide whether to continue co-operating with current ruling coalition member DS, or to form a new coalition with the Progressives. Due to that position, Dacic is increasingly being mentioned as a candidate for prime minister.
"No one is brave enough to offer more precise forecasts of the final outcome of these elections, uncertainty is greater than ever. The Progressives and the Democrats stand out -- and the indication is that these parties could split half of the electorate," Marko Blagojevic, executive director of the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, told SETimes.
Blagojevic says that no one can say which of the total 18 election tickets will cross the 5% threshold and enter parliament. It is only certain that, apart from the Progressives and Democrats, Dacic's Socialists will also occupy seats.
"The Serbian Radical Party and the Democratic Party of Serbia stand a good chance of entering parliament, as do the United Regions of Serbia. Polls have also shown a rise in popularity of the new political party Dveri, but no one can definitely say whether it will pass the election threshold."
Blagojevic said that whoever ends up at the helm of the future government, the continuation of European integration is certain.
"European integration is a given and whether we will move at a faster or slower pace remains to be seen," said Blagojevic.
Ten candidates will take part in the presidential election, including Dacic.
Although the opinion polls show a large number of undecided citizens, about 60% of them will still go out to vote.
Pensioner Stanka Bilic, 72, is one of those who is disappointed in all politicians, both those in power and the opposition.
"I have no one to vote for. They've all let us down and no one is working for the people, only for themselves. However, I will still go out to vote, and since the country's future is at stake I will ask my 21-year-old granddaughter who to vote for, let it be her decision," she told SETimes.
Miroslav Prokopijevic, Belgrade economics professor and adviser at the Institute for European Studies, told SETimes he will not vote.
"There is not a single party that seriously wants to introduce the rule of law and a market economy, hence I have no one to vote for. Whoever comes to power will be faced with an even more difficult economic situation and an even greater loss of jobs," Prokopijevic told SETimes.
He noted that the economic situation is not great in the EU either, which is why the campaign talk of continuing European integration is no guarantee of a better standard of living.
"After these elections, only a heap of empty, unfulfilled promises by party candidates will remain," Prokopijevic said.
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