Tomislav Nikolic, a leader of the Serbian Radical Party, was elected to the highly influential position -- second in line behind the president -- early today thanks to the votes of the conservative party of outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
Russia Quick With Congratulations
Only 10 hours after voting, Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Aleksandr Alekseyev visited the parliament and was the first foreign diplomat to congratulate Nikolic.
"I expect the best possible cooperation between Russia and the Serbian parliament in the future," Alekseyev said.
He described the decision by Serbian Parliament as "democratic." One-third of Serbian voters gave their support to Nikolic's party during elections in January.
The head of Nikolic's Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, is an indicted war criminal facing the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. He has endorsed using force to reestablish Serbian control over the breakaway province of Kosovo.
Political observers today expressed their concern that Nikolic may try to lead Serbia away from further European integration and give more weight to nationalist views.
Asked about the current discussions within the UN Security Council related to the future of Kosovo, Russian Ambassador Alekseyev told RFE/RL that Russia has no new resolution to replace the plan for "supervised independence" proposed by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari.
But he said Russia is seeking a compromise that will satisfy both Belgrade and Pristina.