Serbia to hold parliamentary, local elections on Sunday

Other News Materials 11 May 2008 05:08 (UTC +04:00)
Serbia to hold parliamentary, local elections on Sunday

Serbians will go to the polls on Sunday in crucial parliamentary and local elections which are portrayed as a referendum on the country's integration into the European Union. Following are the basic facts and general information about the upcoming elections, the Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the final count by the Republic Electoral Commission (RIK), there is a total of 6,749,688 registered voters who will cast their ballots in 8,682 polling stations. They will choose from 22 party and coalition lists with 3137 candidates.

Polls open at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) and close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). The final results will be released at 8 p.m. on May 15, but preliminary results are expected within two hours.

Sunday's vote is seen as a showdown between nationalist and pro-Western forces over what course Serbia should take in the future, continuing with EU integration or pursuing closer ties with Russia.

The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), the largest single party in the outgoing parliament, wants closer ties with Russia and strongly opposes the secession of Kosovo. It says not to object to Serbia's EU membership if western nations retract their recognition of the breakaway province.

The party's president is Vojislav Seselj who is on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Its deputy leader Tomislav Nikolic, under the campaign slogan "Forward, Serbia," has put forward an economic program that is poor-oriented, thus garnered support from the ordinary who have suffered in the social transition.

The pro-western bloc, the coalition "For a European Serbia" is comprised of Democratic Party (DS), G17-Plus, Sandzak Democratic Party (SDP), Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and League of Vojvodina Social-Democrats (LSV).

The alliance led by Serbian President and Democratic Party leader Boris Tadic favors speedy integration with the EU, which was manifested by the signing of the pre-membership Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU on April 29.

Equally opposed to the independence of Kosovo, it believes EU membership would strengthen Serbia in the fight to keep Kosovo.

The coalition propounds a foreign-investment-based economic norm, thus had support from the young and pro-western voters.

The coalition of Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and New Serbia (NS), gathered around caretaker Prime Minister and DSS leader Vojislav Kostunica favors close political and economic ties with Russia.

Under the campaign slogan of "Uphold Serbia," it strongly opposes Serbia's further integration into the EU because of the West backing of Kosovo's independence.

Kostunica, a nationalist who has turned increasingly hardline in the past years termed the signing of the SAA as an act of "treason" because it indirectly recognizes Kosovo's independence.

DSS together with SRS have vowed to annul the SAA as soon as the new parliament convenes.