The pro-European Boris Tadic has claimed victory after the second round of Presidential elections in Serbia. Tadic, who has held the post since 2004, congratulated his hardline nationalist opponent for recording so many votes. He said the election showed the world that Serbia is a great democracy, and he thanked what he called the great Serbian people for turning out in such force.
The vote was widely seen as a referendum on which way the country would turn after Kosovo’s imminent declaration of independence from Serbia. Tadic is opposed to the breakaway – which could be announced as soon as next weekend – but is nevertheless determined to steer a course towards EU membership, despite the bloc’s support for an independent Kosovo.
His Democratic Party supporters celebrated on the streets of Belgrade with as much a sense of relief as anything else – the result was very close. The nationalist challenger, Tomislav Nikolic, conceded defeat, also offering his congratulations to his adversary, and calling for everyone in Serbia to remain calm.
On Kosovo, he too is opposed to independence, but argued that Russia was a better partner for Serbia, saying Moscow supported Belgrade without imposing conditions. Analysts always said the vote was going to be close.
They said the nationalist candidate’s supporters would naturally vote in force, and for Tadic to have a chance, he would need a big turnout. And that is what he got, with voters at the polling stations in greater numbers than in the first round two weeks ago.
But with such a narrow margin, there are those who point out that the country is, in effect, split down the middle.