By Bojana Barlovac
The second round of presidential elections in Serbia has started a day after Democrat leader Boris Tadic won the largest percentage of votes in the first round, on 26.7 per cent, closely followed by the Progressives’ Tomislav Nikolic who won 25.5 per cent.
Tadic and Nikolic therefore will go into the second round of presidential elections on May 20.
According to the law on the financing of political activities, each participant in the second round is entitled to 445 million dinars [about 3.9 million euro] from the national budget.
It will be a tight race between the two rivals and both candidates have expressed confidence in their own victory.
Tadic has promised to get Serbia into the EU if he is elected president and to improve relations with Serbia’s neighbours.
“I am sure I will get the support of people in the second round because my policy is best for Serbia,” Tadic told reporters.
But Nikolic, the leader of the more nationalist Progressives, also expressed confidence.
“I have been first in the first round before three times now, but I was never convinced that I would win in the end. I am now convinced I will,” he said.
In the presidential races in 2004 and 2008, Nikolic led in the first rounds but Tadic still claimed victory in the second rounds.
Who becomes next President of Serbia will largely depend of the Socialist Party, the party of former Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
In the biggest surprise of the general election the party came in third place with 16.6 per cent of the votes while its leader, Ivica Dacic, won 15.3 per cent of the vote in the presidential poll.
The Socialists were a key coalition ally of Democrats in the last Democrat-led government but they have distanced themselves from their partners in the past few months, with Dacic ordering controversial arrests of Kosovo Albanians.
Dacic on Monday said that giving support to Tadic would be “a logical continuation” of his former policy of cooperation but insisted that talks on a new government would have to start first.
Tadic has been President of Serbia since 2004. After months of weighing the risks of calling early presidential polls, on April 4 he resigned as President to enable early presidential elections to be held together with general and local elections.
The mandate of the head of state lasts five years and the same person cannot be elected more than twice under the constitution.
But Tadic could be elected for a third time because his first mandate does not count, as Serbia’s new constitution was only adopted in 2006.