Serbian President Aleksandar Vusic declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential election, following the predictions of Polster Ipsos and CSID that the current leader would win 59.8 percent of the vote.

Jedravko Ponos, a retired army general who represents the pro-European and moderate coalition for the Victory Alliance, is expected to come in second with 17.1 percent of the vote.

In a winning speech, Vusik said he was proud to have won a second clear mandate without going to the runoff.

“Many thanks to the people of Serbia,” he said. “I am endlessly proud and endlessly happy.”

Pollsters also expect Vusik’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) to win the most votes in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, with about 43 percent, followed by the United for Victory of Serbia opposition party with about 13 percent.

The Serbian Socialist Party, a longtime ally of the SNS, came in third with 11.6 percent of the vote.

The Nada (Hope) right-wing coalition and Moramo (We Must), an alliance of the Green Movement and the parties, received about 5.4 percent and 4.3 percent of the vote, respectively.

Since the SNS is likely to fail to get enough 250-seat parliament to rule on its own, it will have to find coalition partners.

According to preliminary data from the State Election Commission, the turnout was 58.54 percent The commission said it would not make a formal announcement before Monday.

Crisis in Ukraine

Vusk ran for a second five-year term in a promise of peace and stability, similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, which forced the West to choose between Serbia and its traditional relationship with Moscow and its desire to join the European Union (EU). )

Vucic acknowledged that the dispute with Ukraine had affected the campaign and said that Serbia had no plans to deviate from its balanced game between EU membership bid and closer ties with Russia and China, a major investor.

“The crisis in Ukraine has had a profound effect on the outcome of the election,” he said.

“We will maintain a policy that is important to Europeans, Russians and Americans, and that is military neutrality,” he said. “Serbia will try to maintain friendship and partnership in many areas of the Russian Federation.”

Serbia is largely dependent on Russian gas, while its military maintains ties with the Russian military.

The Kremlin has also backed Belgrade’s opposition to Kosovo’s independence by blocking UN membership.

Although Serbia supported two UN resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, it refused to impose sanctions on Moscow.

United presidential candidate Jedravko Ponos, Belgrade, Serbia’s victory for the Serbian coalition was seen after the polls closed on April 3, 2022 [Zorana Jevtic / Reuters]

In the run-up to Sunday’s election, most of the limited opposition parties have publicly avoided speaking out in favor of a tougher line in Moscow, fearing that any call for tougher action against Russia would return to the ballot box.

Analysts say there is still a chance for opposition parties in Belgrade to win, which could seriously hurt Vusik’s leadership. The ruling party is less popular in the capital because of a number of corruption-ridden construction projects that have destroyed Belgrade’s urban center.

Ponos, the president’s main opponent in Sunday’s vote, said “this election is the beginning of the end for Alexander Vusk.” “These elections have brought hope and we cannot betray that hope.”

Ponos had earlier accused Vusik of using the Ukraine war as a pretext to intimidate people.

Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections. Opposition election regulators have reported widespread sporadic voting – voting for dead or missing persons – as well as ruling party workers paying for the vote.

An opposition leader was attacked outside Vusik’s party office in a suburb of Belgrade, with injuries to his face. An official from the ruling party was reportedly attacked in the central city of Nice.

CeSID and CRTA pollsters have also reported a number of irregularities, including ballot photography.

Opposition and rights groups have also accused Vusik and his associates of being involved in authoritarian leadership, corruption, nepotism, media control, attacks on political opponents, and involvement in organized crime.

Vucic and his associates have repeatedly denied the allegations.