Sunday 19 November 2017

Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic elected president

Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a press conference after claiming victory in the presidential election, in Belgrade, Serbia (Darko Vojinovic/AP)
Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a press conference after claiming victory in the presidential election, in Belgrade, Serbia (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic has won by a landslide in the first round of voting in the country's presidential election, a near-complete official vote count confirmed.

The vote further strengthens Mr Vucic's authoritarian rule in the Balkan country.

The State Election Commission said that after counting 91% of ballots, Mr Vucic had won 55% of votes, followed by liberal candidate Sasa Jankovic with 16% and Luka Maksimovic, a parody politician, with 9%.

The triumph in Sunday's balloting is a major boost for Mr Vucic, who is now expected to further tighten his already firm grip on power in Serbia.

Mr Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party also dominates the parliament.

A former extreme nationalist who has rebranded himself as a pro-European Union reformer, Mr Vucic has said he wants to lead the Balkan country into the EU, while also pushing for deeper ties to longtime ally Russia.

Mr Vucic's candidacy was endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin amid fears from some of Moscow's expanding influence in the tense Balkan region.

Opposition candidates have accused Mr Vucic of control over the media, mudslinging and intimidation of voters.

Critics say Mr Vucic's full control deals a blow to Serbia's fragile democracy.

"No run-off means our society is politically immature," analyst Jovo Bakic said. "Where else is there no run-off? Only in North Korea!"

Mr Vucic has been prime minister since 2014.

He is expected to appoint a figurehead successor as prime minister and transform the presidency from a ceremonial office into a more powerful post.

AP

Press Association

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