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Ukraine, EU, energy… In Serbia, after Vucic’s victory, the difficult decisions of the re-elected president

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on April 3, 2022.

The victory is final, but the difficult decisions are perhaps to come for Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian president who, according to the first estimates, largely assured his re-election, Sunday April 3, by winning in the first round 59% of the votes . The official results were to be known on Monday evening.

His domination and that of his movement, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which has reigned over the political and public life of this country of 6.9 million inhabitants for ten years, were expected. But the scale of the victory validates the strategy of the incumbent president: while the electoral campaign of recent weeks has been hit by the war in Ukraine, Mr. Vucic has skillfully played on his promises to “stability” and of ” peace ” to eclipse all the other topics of debate: corruption, the environment, social justice, taxation…

His personal result, higher than his 2017 score (55% of the vote), and a participation rate of nearly 60%, higher than that of previous elections (54%), confirm his strong base across the country, in particular consolidated by media mostly held by the power in place. Mr Vucic, for his part, welcomed “the democratic nature of Serbian society”.

Read also: In Serbia, outgoing President Aleksandar Vucic announces a landslide victory

The divided opposition, which hoped to impose a second round on the leader, missed its bet. His main opponent, the pro-European Zdravko Ponos, obtained 17%, barely more than the centrist opposition in 2017 (16%), far from a mobilization capable of weakening the outgoing president.

At the end of the legislative elections, which were also held on Sunday, the SNS obtained, according to estimates, 43% of the votes. He will have to ally himself with the Socialist Party of the former leader Slobodan Milosevic, pro-Russian, to establish the presidential majority in Parliament. At the same time, two years after the boycott of the 2020 elections, the pro-European opposition is regaining a foothold in political institutions, and the young Moramo movement (ecological left) will enter Parliament with around ten deputies out of 250.

Russian gas dependency

Externally, beyond this clear victory, a delicate period is beginning for the Serbian leader, a former nationalist who has become pro-European. Criticized by his opponents for his reluctance to quickly condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Vucic defended a form of neutrality in the conflict, at the risk of offending the members of the European Union. Serbia has certainly voted for the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia, but Mr. Vucic has refrained, for the time being, from applying economic sanctions against Moscow. In addition to Serbia’s historical and cultural ties with Russia, Belgrade fears the effects of possible Russian reprisals on the price of energy in the event of sanctions: the country is more than 90% dependent on Russian gas, which it buys from advantageous conditions, and the national hydrocarbon company, NIS, is majority-owned by Moscow.

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