Serbia’s Premier Claims Presidential Landslide

Aleksandar VucicAleksandar Vucic

Serbia’s powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic claimed victory on Sunday in the presidential election that was a test of his authoritarian rule, an outcome that could expand Russia’s influence in the Balkans.

Speaking to supporters at his rightwing party’s headquarters, Vucic said, “My victory is crystal clear. This is a very important day for us, showing which way Serbia should be heading,” AP reported.

“A huge majority of people in Serbia support continuation of the European path for Serbia, along with preserving our traditionally good ties with Russia and China,” Vucic said, while his backers chanted “Victory, victory!”

While Vucic has said he wants to lead Serbia into the European Union, he has been pushing for deeper ties with longtime ally Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed him.

Right before the election, Vucic visited Putin, who reportedly promised his signature on the delivery of fighter planes, battle tanks and armored vehicles to Serbia. The move triggered fears of an arms race in the western Balkans, which Russia considers its sphere of influence.

Vucic claimed victory after projections by different independent polling agencies had him receiving more than 55% of the votes cast during Sunday’s election.

Liberal challenger Sasa Jankovic placed second with 15% and Luka Maksimovic, a media student who ran as a parody politician, came in third with 9%, according to the pollsters.

The official report is not out yet.

Vucic has been prime minister since 2014. He is expected to use a win in the presidential race to appoint a figurehead successor as prime minister and to transform the presidency from a ceremonial office into a more powerful post from which he could rule unchallenged.

The opposition has accused Vucic of muzzling the media and intimidating voters ahead of the election. Vucic denied the allegations, saying only he can bring stability to a region scarred by the wars of the 1990s, which Vucic supported at the time.


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