Today’s presidential poll in Serbia is being seen as a watershed election which will decide the country’s response to the expected breakaway of its Kosovo region.
The current president, Boris Tadic believes the way to handle the issue is through closer ties with the West. He is opposed to Kosovo independence but still favours the signing of a first level agreement with the EU even if the bloc takes over the supervision of the province prior to recognising the territory.
His rival, the ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolic who is narrowly leading the polls, leans more towards Russia. He has firmly stated that Serbia has its borders which must not be touched.
Kosovo’s vow to go it alone springs from the 1990’s Balkans war. It has been a United Nations protectorate since 1999, when NATO expelled Serb troops accused of atrocities against the majority ethnic Albanians.
If no clear winner emerges from today’s vote a second round is scheduled on the February 3.