20/01/2008 - D-7 - 2nd round
On 3rd February next Serb voters will return to the ballot box to appoint their President. In the first round on 20th February Tomislav Nikolic (Radical Party-SRS) came out ahead with 39.4% of the vote beating the outgoing president Boris Tadic (Democratic Party-DS) who won 35.4% of the vote. The only surprise was the participation rate. It rose to 61% (63% in Vojvodina, 62% in Central Serbia, but 57.6% in Belgrade and 49.9% in Kosovo).
"I want to unite Serbia which I would like to lead onto a better path," maintains Tomislav Nikolic, who in fact is facing a country which is more divided now than ever before. "We want to join Europe with our capabilities, our scientists and our sportspeople. I will not allow Vojislav Seselj to become Prime Minister of Serbia nor shall I allow pessimism and terror to dominate our country. I shall enable the return of optimism," says outgoing President Boris Tadic. "Every political party and every citizen is facing a clear alternative: do we or do we not want to move towards Europe? We all know that Tomislav Nikolic does not want to lead Serbia into Europe," he adds.
On 28th January Vojislav Kostunica's government (Democratic Party of Serbia-DSS) and the representatives of the European Union are due to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement together. This is however under condition that the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) does not oppose this, due to the lack of co-operation on the part of the Serb authorities, notably with regard to the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, accused of genocide and war crimes and Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The two men, who are opposites in every sense of the term, do agree however on the rejection of Kosovo's independence but differ on the means to employ. Tomislav Nikolic threatens the economic boycott of and breaking off diplomatic relations with the countries who acknowledge the province's independence. However Boris Tadic plans to use legal means and does not want to work outside the framework of international rules. The radical leader believes that Serbia must give up its European Union aspirations if Brussels acknowledges Kosovo's independence. "If we, the radicals win, we shall ask Parliament to block all economic exchange with Kosovo, we shall not acknowledge Kosovo passports, and we shall prohibit the transit of merchandise via Serbia towards Kosovo," he maintained in the newspaper, Le Monde on 19th January last. "By promising to defend Kosovo at all costs and by turning its back on the European Union if Kosovo becomes independent, Tomislav Nikolic is announcing a return to the policy and values adopted by Slobodan Milosevic," stresses Misa Brkic.
Everyone is expecting the province to declare its independence shortly after the second round of the presidential election since the European Union and the USA purposely asked the Kosovar authorities to delay their announcement and not to compromise Boris Tadic's chances of winning the election. Pristina is certain in fact of the USA's support along with a great majority of the countries of the European Union.
Those who voted for Cedomir Jovanovic, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the first round should logically vote for outgoing President Boris Tadic, whilst Tomislav Nikolic may very well win the votes of Milutin Mrkonjic (chairman of the Socialist Party SPS) supporters. It is not so easy to see however which of the two candidates will find the support of those who voted for Velimir Ilic (New Serbia-NS). Although the latter received the support of his coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Serbia led by Vojislav Kostunica on 20th January some think that the Prime Minister will try to negotiate the support of Boris Tadic in the second round. "Vojislav Kostunica will choose the new president," or so it says in the press.
"I think that the Prime Minister will support Boris Tadic in the second round and this support will make the difference," maintains former Foreign Minister, Goran Svilanovic confidently. "Prime Minister Kostunica supports the signature of the Stabilisation and Association agreement and his pro-European leanings are clear," says Dragan Dilas, leader of the Democratic Party of Belgrade. For the time being Vojislav Kostunica is saying nothing and has not called for the support of any particular candidate on 3rd February next.
The outgoing president is supported by his government coalition partner, G17, led by Economy Minister Mladan Dinkic who stressed that "this presidential election is a referendum on the European Union. Votes in favour of Boris Tadic are votes for Europe whilst those who vote for Tomislav Nikolic can only bring insecurity and recession to Serbia." Boris Tadic can also count on the support of Itsvan Pastor, the candidate of the Hungarian minority in the first round.
"After all of these years we are still in the starting blocks: how do we rid ourselves of Slobodan Milosevic's legacy," asks political analyst Bratislav Grubacic in the daily Corriere della Serra. "We have inherited so many terrible things – corruption, economic decline, international isolation – that no government has succeeded in undertaking a real transition. The radicals are against the system, they are eurosceptics and extreme. This is a phenomenon of protest common to many countries in Eastern Europe. All of this is the result of the Balkan Wars. It has not always been easy to understand who won and who list. No one has explained to the Serbs that they have lost the war in Kosovo," he adds.
Tamara Djermanovic, a lecturer at the University of Barcelona is confident: "The international community could play an important role in the next few days by showing its confidence in Serbia and by treating it as an equal in order to counter the ideas of victimisation put forward by the radical nationalists who continue to use alleged Western antipathy towards Serbia in their arguments." On 18th January, just three days before the first round, the European Security and Justice Commissioner, Franco Frattini announced the launch of negotiations with Serbia to do away with visas for Serbs who want to travel in the European Union.
"The second round will demand total mobilisation for both candidates. We can expect to see a closely run race and a victory at the post;" maintains political analyst Zoran Stojiljkovic in the daily Danas. "One thing is certain: it will be the closest presidential election ever run in Serbia and we shall not know who the winner is until the last minute," declares Marko Blagojevic, researcher at the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CESID). For the time being the polls declare Boris Tadic and Tomislav Nikolic running equal on 3rd February. The closeness of the two men in the polls makes it impossible to define a winner even though the outgoing Head of State Boris Tadic does however have a slight advantage over his rival according to some observers of the political scene.
Reminder of the 1st round of the presidential election on 20th January in Serbia
Turn out: 61%