Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic has called regular presidential elections for April 2, according to the government’s March 2 statement.
Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is widely expected to win the election, as his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has won the last three general elections and remains strong in the polls. Meanwhile, the opposition remains fragmented, with the vote expected to be split among several fairly strong candidates, which will favour the SNS.
Campaigning has been ongoing for the last few months, although the official campaign period started on March 2 when the date for the first round of the election was announced.
Vucic’s SNS decided in February to make him its candidate, after leaving the public guessing for several months as to whether it would choose Vucic or incumbent President Tomislav Nikolic.
Vucic says he agreed to run for president because he wants to “play it safe” even though polls show only 3%-4% more people would vote for him than for Nikolic. Vucic’s candidacy is supported by all the SNS’s coalition partners and its partners in the government, including the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), which for the first time will not have its own candidate.
Vucic’s toughest competitors are former ombudsman Sasa Jankovic and Vuk Jeremic, a former minister of foreign affairs and former president of the UN General Assembly.
Despite calls for either Jankovic or Jeremic to give up and support the other, both are already campaigning, and neither seems to be planning to withdraw from the race. Both are seen as having the potential to get through to the second round of the election against Vucic.
Jankovic announced his plans to run on February 7, after standing down as ombudsman to avoid any suspicion that he abused his position in his election campaign. Hundreds of public figures and ordinary citizens appealed to Jankovic to stand as a non-party candidate in November. He already has the support of most of Serbia’s pro-EU parties and the parties that identify as democratic because of the democratic values and principles he has been promoting for years.
Jeremic has started his campaign on January 15 in Belgrade’s design centre Mixer House. His campaign is quite aggressive and mainly based on criticism of Vucic and the SNS’s work. Jeremic is supported by people who do not support Vucic and believe that Serbia should not be oriented either towards Russia or the west.
Three far-right parliamentary parties - the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and Dveri movement - have also selected their candidates.
The SRS as usual nominated its president and founder Vojislav Seselj, while Dveri’s candidate is its president Bosko Obradovic. Both candidates promote conservative values, have a pro-Russian stance and are against further EU negotiations. Aleksandar Popovic, a high-ranking party official for decades, is the DSS’s candidate.
According to Gojkovic’s March 2 announcement, candidates can be proposed by registered political parties, coalitions and groups of citizens provided a candidate is backed by certified signatures of at least 10,000 electors. The deadline to register is 20 days before the day of the election.
A second round run-off will take place within 15 days of the first round if no candidate takes more than 50% of the vote.
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