Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Serbian Nationalist's Surprise Presidential Win Raises Uncertainty

Serbian President-elect Tomislav Nikolic (foreground) celebrates his election victory with supporters in Belgrade.
Serbian President-elect Tomislav Nikolic (foreground) celebrates his election victory with supporters in Belgrade.
By Claire Bigg and Dragan Stavljanin
Serbian political parties are expected to start tough negotiations on the formation of a new government following the surprise win of nationalist Tomislav Nikolic in a presidential election on May 20.

Nikolic narrowly beat the pro-Western Boris Tadic, breaking his almost 12-year hold on power. Most preelection polls had predicted a comfortable win for Tadic.

The 60-year-old Nikolic had lost to Tadic in two previous presidential elections. But this time, voters punished Tadic for the country's economic troubles, plummeting living standards and what many Serbs denounce as rampant corruption among the ruling elite.

Low turnout at the poll contributed to Nikolic's victory as nationalist voters tend to vote actively.

EU, OSCE reaction to Serbia's presidential election

The win by Nikolic, a former ultranationalist ally of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, throws Serbia into fresh political uncertainty.

"It's an open game," says German-based Balkans analyst Frantz-Lothar Altmann. "It will not be easy for Serbia in the coming months because Serbia is trying to begin [various] negotiations, it has to reenter talks with Kosovo. So it will be a very difficult time under extreme uncertainties."

Coalition Deal In Doubt

Nikolic may now seek to form a new government, casting doubt on an existing coalition deal clinched between Tadic's Democratic Party and the Socialist Party -- founded by Milosevic -- following May 6 parliamentary polls.

Under the Serbian Constitution, Nikolic has the right to task his Progressive Party, which won the most seats in the May 6 vote, with forming a new government.

But analysts believe he faces an uphill battle: "The probability that he succeeds in forming a government that is on his side is rather limited," says Altmann. "So what seems will come out of it is a cohabitation between a government with the [Democratic Party] and the Socialist Party [versus] Mr. Nikolic.

"And that could become difficult, because Nikolic has a rather strong party that will support him as opposition in parliament."

WATCH: Serbian election analysis by RFE/RL's Balkan Service Director Gordana Knezevic

Although the horse trading is only just beginning, the Socialist Party -- founded by Milosevic and led by his wartime spokesman Ivica Dacic -- said on May 20 that the coalition deal with the Democrats would stand regardless of Nikolic's win.

EU Setback?

The election result has also cast doubt on the Balkan nation's drive to join the European Union.

Nikolic pledged that Serbia would not "turn away from the European path," but critics say the president elect has a history of political U-turns and could easily shift back to being staunchly anti-EU.

Nikolic enjoys close ties with Russia and has suggested in the past that Serbia become a Russian province.

Despite his connection with Milosevic and his once fierce anti-Western rhetoric, analysts say European leaders are unlikely to snub Nikolic.

"Though it's true that Tadic was most welcome in Europe and had a good rapport with the Europeans, it's also true that he had failed to resolve the contradictions," says Daniel Serwer, a professor of conflict management at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in the United States. "I think Nikolic will be judged by what he does, not by what he says."

Kosovo will nonetheless remain a major stumbling block in Nikolic's dealings with the European Union.

The majority-Albanian territory declared independence in 2008, but Belgrade still effectively controls a small territory in the north.

Like Tadic, Nikolic has said he will never recognize Kosovo's independence. His predecessor, however, had been ready to negotiate on loosening control of Kosovo's north and improving relations with Pristina.

Written by Claire Bigg based on reporting by Dragan Stavljanin

Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


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Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
May 21, 2012 19:30
To me it looks like Nikolic will become a Serbian Yanoukovich: first the EU will cautiously welcome his election - not to scare him away. And he, in turn - just like Yanoukovich did two years ago - will not seek confrontation with the Germans (the only EU masters these days) for now. But as he'll be consolidating his power - and the same way as it happened to Yanoukovich - the confrontation with the Germans will become inevitable, and this is a confrontation that the Germans have never managed to win - neither in 1914, nor in 1941. And it will be difficult for them especially now that the NATO's Southern belt (Greece, Italy) is practically imploding.
At any rate, congratulations to the people of Serbia - their liberation from the pro-German/US criminal oligarchy has begun!

by: vn from: Belgrade
May 22, 2012 06:20
The question at hand is: Quo vadis Europe? Any idea?

The simplistic view of Tadic's Democratic Party with SPS being pro-European while Nikolic is not a pro-European is not the most unexpected outcome of RFL reporting. To clarify the EU political administration's view - judging them by present results they are not European but extremely retrograde and pro-Albanian supporting their territorial expension at the expense of the Serbs.

However, one must say that the most surprising and "shocking" news (as the NGOs would phrase it) in your reporting is altogether missing the point that Seselj's Radical Party - the ultranationalist one which was the ally of the SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia) hasn't even made it to the Parliament. A complete flunk. Wouldn't that tell you something about the course of Serbia? To give you a counter example: in Croatia, the aggressorlike ultranationalist NDH party is still the second largest and influential party in Croatia. The Independent State of Croatia Party is independent of what? Of the Serbs? And this is what the EU is supporting, without their settling the outstanding human rights and property issues of the Serbs? Such countries are recognizing Kosovo as the property of Albania and that's considered a pro-European democratic achivement?

In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
May 22, 2012 11:49
The answer друже vn is very very simple-Europe is going nowhere-or judging by the present `Euro`blind vision song contest it is going azeristan which is exactly the same way.A great russian 19th c. visionary has coined the term of `The Whore of Europe` and today its most valid than ever-this explains the `surprise` of the shamericans of the election results-they `ve spent billions on grabbing Yugoslavia from the russians and now comes their genuine `surprise,surprise`.Finally I think donkey trading is the more exact phrase,although donkeys are honorable animals compared to the unjust image humans tag them with.
In Response

by: Mark
May 23, 2012 01:13
to VN, a reality check:

* the HDZ is the second largest party in parliament and are basically a party of Croat-oriented ex-communists that have adopted a Christian Democrat model.

* the SDP is the largest party in parliament and are basically a party of Yugoslav oriented -ex-communists that have transformed into a social democratic party.

* the far-right parties, failed to win any seats in parliament.

* A break-away 'party of rights' party got one seat but it isn't nationalist but rather pro-EU and more concerned with corruption and fighting drug crime.
In Response

by: vn from: Belgrade
May 23, 2012 10:36
A surprised Croatian! Now, that's news.
No matter what you say, General Tudjman's HDZ (Croatian Democratic Community), which still has nothing to do with democracy or Christianity (they're the only ones in the Christian world to be blaspheming the same God and Christ with their Catholic ideology insisting on converting the Orthodox Christians into Catholic religion so that they could be good nationals of Croatia) is a clear continuation of NDH - a Croatian Nazi state and religion in the WWII - and mind you, Hitler was not a devout Catholic. He was a Jew on his mother's side. He was obsessed with chasing around the world the knife with which Jesus Christ was stabbed on the cross.

Also, having heard the comments on the elections in Serbia by citizens of Croatia on their HTV, I would say Croatia still has a long way to go to achieve both democracy and economic prosperity.

And finally, to contribute to your reality check: unlike your democratic Croatia, which refuses to accept any major company from Serbia, a large number of Croatian companies are thriving in Serbia - meaning they are making profits thanks to this country.

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