Near-final results confirm populist victory in Serbia while the opposition claims fraud

AP , Monday 18 Dec 2023

An early official vote count of Serbia's weekend election on Monday confirmed victory for the ruling populist party in a parliamentary vote in the Balkan country, but political tensions rose over reported irregularities in the capital, Belgrade.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (C) casts his ballot at a polling station during parliamentary an
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (C) casts his ballot at a polling station during parliamentary and local elections in Serbia in Belgrade. AFP


An opposition group said it was robbed of victory in the local election in Belgrade, would not recognize the results and would demand a rerun of the ballot.

Sunday's parliamentary and local election in the Balkan country pitted populist President Aleksandar Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party against the Serbia Against Violence opposition alliance.

Vucic's SNS party won some 47% of the ballots in the parliamentary vote, followed by Serbia Against Violence with 23%, according to a near-complete preliminary tally by the state election commission.

Several other smaller parties also competed in the election, which was held only 18 months after the previous presidential and parliamentary vote.

If confirmed in the final vote count, the result means that the SNS party will have an absolute majority in the 250-member parliament and will form the next government on its own.

Officials results for the city hall in Belgrade are yet to be announced, but projections by polling agencies IPSOS and CESID said SNS won 38% of the ballots in Belgrade while Serbia Against Violence garnered 35%. However, Serbia Against Violence claimed fraud, citing numerous reports of irregularities both during the campaign and on voting day.

Irregularities also were reported by election monitors and independent media. One claimed ethnic Serbs from neighboring Bosnia were bused in en masse to vote in Belgrade. Serbia Against Violence charged that 40,000 identity documents were issued for people who do not live in the capital city.

Another report said a monitoring team was assaulted and their car was attacked with baseball bats in a town in northern Serbia. Allegations have also emerged of voters being paid or pressured to vote for the ruling party.

“Problems that marked the election day on Dec. 17 were particularly serious in Belgrade, primarily caused by the intent to influence citizens’ electoral will,” said the independent Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability group which monitors elections in Serbia.

Vucic and his party have denied the allegations.

The opposition said it would lodge official complaints and called a street protest later on Monday.

“Hyperproduction of voters who do not live in Serbia, let alone in Belgrade, is a flagrant abuse of law," opposition politician Marinika Tepic said early on Monday. "We will use all legal means at our disposal to democratically defend the voting will of people.”

The election didn’t include the presidency, but governing authorities backed by the dominant pro-government media ran the campaign as a referendum on Vucic.

Serbia Against Violence, a pro-European Union bloc, includes parties that were behind months of street protests this year triggered by two back-to-back mass shootings in May.

Serbia, a Balkan country that has maintained warm relations with Russia and President Vladimir Putin, has been a candidate for European Union membership since 2014, but has faced allegations of steadily eroding democratic freedoms over the past years.

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