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news 02 Mar 17

Serbian Presidential Elections Set for April

Speaker confirms April 2 as polling day despite complaints from some opposition politicians who say a second round will then coincide with Easter – which could skew the outcome.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Belgrade
Maja Gojkovic, Serbian parliamentary speaker. Photo: Beta

Maja Gojkovic, speaker of Serbia’s parliament, has called presidential elections for April 2 despite concerns from the opposition and some experts that a potential second round will coincide with Orthodox Easter.

Gojkovic on Thursday confirmed April 2 as polling day and invited citizens to elect “the best candidate … who will seriously and responsibly cooperate with the government”.

Following criticism over her decision to suspend parliament until after the election, the speaker is also facing some resistance over the date of the election, however.

Opposition politicians and some experts have opposed an April 2 date, even before Gojkovic officially scheduled it, as the potential second round would then take place on Orthodox Easter, which most Serbs celebrate as a holiday - potentially affecting the outcome of the vote.

By law, the new president must win an absolute majority of votes of those who cast ballots.

If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, the two top candidates go into the second round that must be held within 15 days. In the second round, the candidate with the highest number of votes wins.

Opposition MPs and some experts fear many voters will either stay at home on Easter, or have already planned trips away, claiming also that it is against the law to hold elections on religious holidays.

“I do not think it is politically acceptable to hold elections on religious holidays, and there is also the question of legality,” Boban Stojanovic, from Belgrade University’s Faculty of Political Science, told BIRN.

About 6.7 million people are eligible to vote in the presidential elections. The president is elected directly with the mandate for five years.

Most of the candidates standing in the election are already known. The front-runner is Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who is backed by the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

Other candidates include former ombudsman Sasa Jankovic, who has the support of the opposition Democratic Party, Vuk Jeremic, a former foreign minister backed by the Social Democrats, and Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party.

The Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, has nominated Aleksandar Popovic, while its coalition partner, Dveri, has backed Dveri leader Bosko Obradovic.

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