Incumbent Nikolic threatens to run against Vucic for Serbian presidency

Incumbent Nikolic threatens to run against Vucic for Serbian presidency
By bne IntelliNews February 16, 2017

Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic is reportedly waiting to strike a deal with the country’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic before he makes a final decision on whether to run for a second mandate.

After months of speculation, the presidency of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) decided on February 14 that Vucic will be the party’s candidate in the April presidential elections. Nikolic was the party’s first leader, but as president he stepped down from the party and his political role has become more ceremonial, while Vucic has been in the ascendency. 

Vucic is also expected to do better in the vote, as polls show he has a lead of a few percentage points over Nikolic. 

However, since Nikolic is no longer an SNS member he is not bound to step aside in favour of Vucic, and both the local service of Russia’s Sputnik and regional broadcaster N1 reported on February 15 that Nikolic was planning to stand for re-election.  

It now seems that Nikolic would like to get the prime minister position in exchange for supporting to Vucic’s candidacy for president, daily Kurir reported on February 16 unnamed sources. 

According to Kurir, Nikolic has sent a letter to Vucic in which he asks Vucic to give him back the position of SNS president as well as the prime minister post. In return, Nikolic would support Vucic’s presidential candidacy.

Should Nikolic decide to stand, it is more likely that yet another round of early parliamentary elections will be held at the same time as the upcoming presidential election.

So far Nikolic has neither confirmed nor denied whether he will take part in the presidential race. 

“I'm still waiting to make a deal with Aleksandar Vucic. Prior to that, I will not make any decision,” Nikolic told Kurir on February 16.

Vucic has declined to comment on the situation, but his associates and coalition partners have been loudly criticising Nikolic. Minister of Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic has claimed that almost all local SNS boards, except maybe the one in Kragujevac (Nikolic’s birthplace), support Vucic.

“This is very irresponsible attitude which is not appropriate for Nikolic’s age or position,” Mihajlovic told Radio-televizija Srbije (RTS) evening news on February 16.

“We want victory in first round and it is possible only with Vucic,” she added.

Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who heads the SNS’s coalition partner the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), also supports Vucic, as do the SNS’s other coalition partners.