Serbian voters will head to the polls on Sunday for a presidential election that will shape the country for the next four years.
Nearly seven million voters will choose the new president from a total of 11 candidates, according to the State Election Commission.
What Vucic says
Serbia’s current prime minister, Aleksander Vucic, is set to renounce his position as prime minister less than a year since he began his second term.
He promises to balance Serbia on its political tightrope. Belgrade balances between its aspirations to join the EU and to maintain traditionally close ties with its fellow Orthodox ally, Russia.
Vucic has not clarified why he wants to move from the prime minister’s office – which has institutional authority – to one holding more ceremonial powers.
In Serbia, the office of prime minister carries far more real power than that of the president, as is the case in countries like Germany and Austria.
However in countries including the US, Russia and France, the president dominates.
What do political analsysts say?
That Vucic decided to stand because he feared his ally, Serbia’s incumbent president Tomislav Nikolic, would struggle to get a second term. The position of president would be lost to the oppposition.
They say if Vucic wins, he can hand the reins of government to a loyalist but continue to wield power through his influence on the governing party and his personal popularity.
What do the challengers say?
They are hoping to defy forecasts by forcing a second round.
A run-off could possibly give the opposition a chance to regroup and mount a stronger challenge.
- Sasa Jankovic – Serbia’s former ombudsman
- Vuk Jeremic – diplomat, former UNGA president
- Vojislav Seselj – ultra-nationalist leader and estranged political patron of Vucic
- Ljubisa Preletacevic Beli – alias Luka Maksimovic (Preletacevic means “defector”)
What do the polls say?
Virtually all opinion surveys published in the last week give Vucic a big lead.
However, with nearly one-fifth of voters saying they are undecided, swings are still possible.
The polls suggest turnout will be higher than in the general election in 2016.
The polls suggest Vucic will win the election in the first
round with more than 50% of the vote.
Jankovic is his closest rival with an estimated 12% support.
The youngest candidate – Luka Maksimovic – is in third place. He has based his campaign on criticism of the current political system.
What they are saying
“On the other side to the EU and Washington, I always say that Serbia wants to maintain good relations with the Russian Federation,” – Aleksander Vucic
“I see Serbia as a strong state, with institutiions, leading an independent foreign policy,” – Sasa Jankovic
“I think we need to be very smart in these times of great turmoil in the world. Understanding and following these global movements may mean the difference between collapse and prosperity,” – Vuk Jeremic stresses the importance of the international community in Serbia’s future.
“This, buddy, is serious jestering. That is how I define it. Whoever gets it, good for him. Just running for elections is not a joke. Even if it was, now it has become a serious joke,” – Ljubisa Preletacevic Beli – alias Luka Maksimovic