Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s Progressive Party, SNS, Sunday won a partially boycotted, pandemic-delayed parliamentary election by a huge margin, collecting nearly two-thirds of the votes, early results confirmed.
Claiming victory after an initial projection, Vucic said his triumph was “historic” because “out of 3.3 million votes, we won more than two million.”
“We received a huge vote of confidence, which is also a call for us to do even better,” he told supporters in the party headquarters on Sunday
According to a projection by the agency CESID based on a sample of polling stations, the SNS will have 63.4 per cent of the votes, on a turnout of around 48 per cent.
The junior partners in the governing coalition, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic’s Socialists, SPS, will have 10.3 per cent according to the projection.
The opposition SPAS (Rescue) of former water polo star and mayor of the New Belgrade borough Aleksandar Sapic, was projected to come in third with 3.9 per cent.
No other ticket cleared the three-per-cent hurdle to win some of the 250 legislative seats.
However, as the votes of parties that remained below the bar are redistributed proportionally top to bottom, another one or two parties hovering just below the threshold may still win seats.
Before the redistribution of non-qualifiers’ votes and the accounting of minority representatives who qualify under different rules, the SNS has 179 of the 250 seats, the SPS 30 and SPAS 10.
With added votes, those numbers will go up more or less significantly, depending on whether another ticket or two eventually clears the hurdle.
A part of the opposition boycotted the election, accusing Vucic of manipulating the media and the economy, tilting the playing field to his favour.
Vucic is known to govern in an autocratic manner and routinely steps out of the legal confines of his office.
It is not yet even clear who will head the next government, as the SNS ran the campaign under its leader’s name, who will also nominate and formally propose the prime minister
The boycott had been announced already last year, with opposition leaders saying they want to draw international attention to Vucic’s and Serbia’s democratic backsliding and increasing manipulation of the electoral framework to the ruling party’s favour.
“Serbia today unambiguously said no to Aleksandar Vucic’s regime, to the lunacy we have been exposed to for years. The boycott achieved our goal, and exposed the regime,” the most prominent of the boycotting leaders, former Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas said.
“Today everyone could see what Serbia really looks like,” he said, adding that observers documented incidents of threats against voters, vote-buying, organized shuttling of people to polling stations and repeat voting.
“All that has been reported at more than five per cent of polling stations,” Djilas said. “You can only imagine how much of that occurred today in areas less accessible to observers.”
He also accused the authorities of manipulation to dampen the effect of the boycott, insisting that the real turnout was 42 per cent at most.
“Over the final three hours, it was a robbery. We watched reports of the turnout accelerating to more than 5 per cent per hour on TV while standing in utterly deserted polling stations,” he said.”
The election was originally scheduled for April 26, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The vote in Serbia is the first in Europe since the crisis erupted.
Official results of the election are not expected before Monday, when ballots cast by Serbs in Kosovo are to be counted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.