Serbia grabs European future with both hands

By bne IntelliNews May 12, 2008

Dominic Swire in Belgrade -

Serbia's pro-European Democratic Party (DS) has claimed victory in the country's general elections paving the way for a speedy entry to the EU. However, despite a surprisingly large win the party will need to rely on coalition partners in order to form a government.

"The people of Serbia have undoubtedly confirmed that Serbia is clearly on a European path," President Boris Tadic and head of DS told reporters shortly after projected results showed a clear victory for his party.

According to preliminary results from the Centre for Free Election and Democracy (CeSID), the pro-European coalition "For a European Serbia" won 38.3% of the votes compared with 29.1% for the nationalist Radical Party. The figures translate to 106 and 77 parliamentary seats, respectively, both short of the magic 126 that is needed to form a government.

This means both sides will be required to enter into negotiations to form coalitions with smaller parties, the three key players being the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS)/New Serbia (NS) coalition led by caretaker Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica with 11% or 29 seats; the Socialist Party (SPS) with 8% or 20 seats; and Liberal Democrat Party with 5.4% or 14 seats.

Analysts say that the most likely outcome is for the DS coalition to team up with the LDP, thus forming around 117 seats; and for SRS and DSS to join, collectively reaching approximately 106 seats. The resulting situation would leave both coalitions fighting for the support of the Socialist Party as kingmaker. Ironic, considering this party was originally formed in 1989 by the late tyrant Slobodan Milosevic, a man many blame for the mess that Serbia is in today.

Should the pro-European coalition successfully form their government, this will mean a speedy entry to the EU, according to Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Delic, who reckons the country can join within six years. "There are two important issues to fulfill - the first being cooperation with the Hague, and of course we want to come to a compromise over Kosovo. As long as those two things are dealt with, we can join by 2014 no problem," Bozidar said.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic underlined the point. "From now on, the future of full EU integration is a technical matter. We will form a coalition with forces sympathetic to a European future of Serbs. We want to close the chapter of turbulent Balkan history and reconcile the nation," he told bne as trumpets and cheering could be heard outside.

Moments later a jubilant Boris Tadic stepped out of the building, hands in the air like a pop star, to greet the hordes of supporters before being shoved through the cluster of press photographers and gypsy brass band into a shiny black car. "We're very happy with the result - we didn't expect such high number of people would want to go to Europe," piped electrical engineer Daniella from across the street. "We want a life like all other European people. We were in Bosnia during the war so we know how important this is."

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