- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BELGRADE — Pro-Western reformer Boris Tadic won yesterday’s presidential election in Serbia, defeating hard-line nationalist Tomislav Nikolic, according to a projection based on a partial count of the vote.

Mr. Tadic of the center-left Democratic Party won about 53.5 percent of the vote against 45.1 percent for Mr. Nikolic of the ultranationalist Radical Party, the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (known by its Serbian acronym CESID) said.

“We can definitely say that Boris Tadic has won and becomes the new president of Serbia,” said CESID official Zoran Lucic.

The projection from the usually reliable agency, broadcast live on Serbian television, was based on votes cast at a representative sample of 590 polling stations, out of a total of nearly 8,600. Official election results were expected later yesterday.

The outcome will come as a major relief for Western powers who had feared Mr. Nikolic as president would turn back the clock on political and economic reform launched after Slobodan Milosevic was ousted four years ago.

They had clearly favored Mr. Tadic in what was seen as Serbia’s most decisive election since Mr. Milosevic fell, hoping he would help end feuding among its pro-democracy politicians and speed up stalled reform in one of Europe’s poorest countries.

“Tonight, we are closer to the European Union than we were this morning,” said political analyst Vladimir Goati.

Late yesterday, Mr. Nikolic conceded the election.

“If the situation remains the same, Boris Tadic will become the new president of Serbia, and I hereby want to congratulate him,” Mr. Nikolic told reporters.

European Commissioner Chris Patten last week described the vote as a choice between “joining the European family or Belarus,” whose president, Alexander Lukashenko, has been criticized for driving his country into isolation.

“I am convinced that Serbia will once more confirm it is going towards the European Union,” Mr. Tadic, 46, said earlier as he cast his ballot in Belgrade.

Mr. Nikolic had predicted a close race, saying Serbia with him as president would win back “its honor and dignity.”

His party is headed by Vojislav Seselj, an old Milosevic ally who, like the former Serbian strongman, is detained by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague on charges of war crimes against Muslims and Croats.

Mr. Nikolic, 52, and Mr. Tadic, 46, advanced from a field of 15 in a first round of voting two weeks ago, with Mr. Nikolic polling 30.4 percent and Mr. Tadic 27.6 percent.

Mr. Tadic had since boosted his chances by securing the support of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, a conservative whose own candidate finished fourth, and of the third-place finisher, business tycoon Bogoljub Karic.

Opinion polls last week gave Mr. Tadic a clear lead, but analysts had cautioned that low turnout could have derailed his presidency bid as Mr. Nikolic’s voters were seen as more disciplined.

Turnout reached about 48.5 percent of the electorate of 6.5 million, CESID said.

The election was the fourth since 2002 to pick a new president after three previous attempts failed because of low turnout. The turnout threshold requirement has since been scrapped.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide