Still reeling from the surprise win of Tomislav Nikolic in the presidential election Sunday, Serbia expects a period of political uncertainty.
The ultranationalist Nikolic only recently converted to a pro-European outlook. In Belgrade, the reactions are equally mixed on Serbia’s EU ambitions. Milic Rajkovic a resident of Belgrade felt the pressing priorities for the incoming president to included EU membership.
“First of all, the problem of corruption has to be dealt with and brought to an acceptable level. We need to look towards Europe and we must not change that course because there is no alternative,” he said.
Another Belgrade resident, Milic Dragoljub, favours a move towards Russia, saying: “The election has shown that change was imminent, we need a better life, more jobs, we need to look towards the EU but Russia as well.”
Nikolic’s name is strongly associated with the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia. He was in power when Serb forces expelled almost a million ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Around the capital of Pristina, Kosovars like Hashim Sadiku appear wary of his election.
“It is bad for Serbia which is in decline. The main figure of Serbian radicalism and chauvinism is Nikolic,” he said.
Nikolic refuses to recognise Kosovo’s independence, a position which is at odds with joining the EU. The former president and EU favourite Boris Tadic had begun the process of joining the club in March. Despite his loss, Tadic’s pro-EU party have announced they will form a coalition with the Socialists in the wake of separate parliamentary polls. This could effectively leave Nikolic as a figurehead president without any real power.