Hard-line Nationalist Tomislav Nikolic wins the First Round of the Serb Presidential Election


Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy


20 January 2008

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Deloy Corinne

Corinne Deloy

Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

Hard-line Nationalist Tomislav Nikolic wins the First Round of the Serb Presiden...

PDF | 145 koIn English

Tomislav Nikolic (Serb Radical Party, SRS) won the first round of the Serb presidential election that took place on 20th January. He won 39.6% of the vote and came out ahead of outgoing President of the Republic Boris Tadic (Democratic Party DS) who won 35.5% of the vote. Velimir Ilic, Infrastructure Minister and leader of New Serbia (NS) came third winning 7.6% of the vote. He may well play the referee in the second round which will bring Boris Tadic and Tomislav Nikolic face to face on 3rd February next.

Both men already fought it out in June 2004 during the previous presidential election. In the first round at that time Tomislav Nikolic, with 30.6% of the vote, ran ahead of his rival, Boris Tadic by 3.3 points before the latter finally won the second round with 53.7% of the vote.

Velimir Ilic ran ahead of the Socialist Party chairman (SPS) and Vice-President of Parliament, Milutin Mrkonjic who won 6% of the vote and Cedomir Jovanovic (Liberal Democratic Party LDP) the only candidate in favour of independence for Kosovo – he won 5.6% of the vote.

Turn out which is traditionally low in Serbia reached a higher level than forecast in the polls – 61% which is the highest rate since the October general elections in 2000 when Slobodan Milosevic's reign came to an end.

"The second round will be decisive and will provide the changes we are hoping for," maintains Tomislav Nikolic when the first results were announced. "This presidential election will decide the path Serbia will take and the future of the country and of our children. I am sure that Serbia will stay on the European path because this is the country's future and particularly that of the young generation," declared outgoing President Boris Tadic after voting and already planning for the second round. "I am very optimistic about the final result of this vote. Victory on 3rd February will be historic – we shall not give up our fight for Kosovo and we shall not abandon our European ideals," he indicated. However as Jacques Rupnik says "if when choosing between whether to be a member of the European Union and to keep Kosovo we choose to keep Kosovo, both options are lost."

The Presidential election is taking place as Serbia faces the imminent independence of Kosovo and due to this it has been transformed into a referendum about whether the country should draw closer to the European Union or not.

"We think Russia is closer. But if Europe wants to open its doors and not create any obstacles we shall be happy to accept. We do not want to fight with the European Union," maintains Tomislav Nikolic after placing his voting slip in the ballot box. "We need the European Union but not at any price," he stressed. "I have not said goodbye to the West. I said that we could join you and that we could sign whatever you like, but do not interfere with Serbia, Serbia has its borders," he declared just a few days before the first round of the election. Belgrade has received the support of Moscow in its opposition to Kosovo's independence, a province the Serbs see as the cradle of their history and their culture.

Boris Tadic, although against Kosovo's independence – as he again said the UN Security Council on 17th January – promised during his electoral campaign that Serbia would achieve official candidate status for accession to the European Union by 2008 and that he would fight for the swift signature of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement; this agreement is considered as the first step towards European integration.

Over the past few weeks Tomislav Nikolic has somewhat moderated his radical approach to address the more moderate amongst the population as well as those who are suffering after the post-Soviet transition. Boris Tadic presented a number of measures in answer to the Serbs' main concerns, i.e. wages, employment and living standards.

"People are aware that this is an extremely important election and that depending on who wins Serbia will decide its future direction, towards the European Union or towards Russia," analyses Djordje Vukovic, researcher at the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID). Western leaders have not hidden the fact that they would like to see the re-election of the outgoing President Boris Tadic who in their opinion is more apt to resist against nationalist reactions which inevitably will emerge when the Kosovars declare their independence.

Those voting for the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Cedomir Jovanovic are due to cast their votes for outgoing president Boris Tadic whilst Tomislav Nikolic may very well take the votes of supporters of the chairman of the Socialist Party, Milutin Mrkonjic. It is more difficult to see however which of the two candidates will be given support by the Serbs who voted for New Serbia leader, Velimir Ilic. The latter was supported by his coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) led by Vojislav Kostunica, but the Prime Minister might try to negotiate his support of Boris Tadic in the second round. "Once again, Vojislav Kostunica is in a position to decide the fate of the country," stresses political analyst Milan Nikolic.

"I am not ready to wager money on anyone for the time being," maintains researcher Marko Blagojevic from the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy when the first round results were announced. "I would think twice before saying who the favourite is. This result announces a very unpredictable duel in the second round," said political analyst Djordje Vukadinovic.

Results of the First Round of the Presidential Election in Serbia – 20th January 2007

Turn out: 61%

Source: Agence France-Presse

Hard-line Nationalist Tomislav Nikolic wins the First Round of the Serb Presiden...

PDF | 145 koIn English

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