Serbians will vote in presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, pitting incumbent President Aleksandar Vucic and his Progressive Party (SNS) against an opposition promising to tackle corruption and defend the environment.
Vucic is vying for re-election on a platform of peace and stability at a time when Russia is invading Ukraine, putting Serbia under pressure from the West to choose between old ties with Moscow and aspirations to join the European Union (EU).

Serbia’s estimated 6.5 million electorate will vote starting at 0500 GMT and ending at 1800 GMT.

According to polls, Vucic, a conservative, is on track to win the first round, beating off Zdravko Ponos, a retired army general running for the pro-European and centrist Alliance for Victory coalition.

The SNS received 53.6 percent of the vote in a poll conducted by Faktor Plus and published in the Blic daily on Wednesday. With 13.7 percent, the Alliance for Victory came in second, and Vucic’s coalition partner, the Socialists, came in third with 10.2 percent. According to the poll, a group of environmentalists would receive 4.7 percent of the vote, exceeding the 3 percent barrier required to obtain seats in parliament.

Last year’s legislative election was mainly boycotted by the opposition, allowing SNS and its allies to obtain 188 seats in the 250-seat parliament.
WAR’S SHADOW
The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has had a significant impact on Serbian campaigning, which is still recuperating from the Balkan wars and isolation of the 1990s.

Serbia is nearly completely reliant on Russian gas, and its army maintains close links with Russian forces.
Belgrade’s resistance to Kosovo’s independence, Serbia’s mostly Albanian former southern province, is also supported by the Kremlin.

Despite voting in favor of two UN resolutions denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Serbia declined to impose sanctions on Moscow.

The battle, according to Bojan Klacar, head of the CeSID pollster, necessitated a shift away from the core campaign themes of corruption, the environment, and the rule of law.

Klacar told Reuters earlier this week that “the electorate is now seeking answers to its worries about economic stability, living standards, and political stability.”

Vucic had converted from a nationalist firebrand to a proponent of EU membership, as well as military neutrality and links with Russia and China, after serving as information minister under former strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 1998.

Vucic has been accused by Ponos of exploiting people’s worries by utilizing the war in Ukraine in his campaign.
Vucic and his associates are also accused by the opposition and human rights groups of having an autocratic style of governance, corruption, nepotism, media domination, attacks on political opponents, and ties to organized crime. Vucic and his associates have refuted this on several occasions.

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