Serbia’s Ruling SNS Party Wins Elections In capital Belgrade

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(Reuters) – Serbia’s ruling party defeated the opposition on Sunday in a vote for Belgrade city council and partial local elections across the country, marked by scuffles between opposition supporters and those of the populist President Aleksandar Vucic.

According to an unofficial vote count by the pollster CESID, the alliance led by Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) loyal to Vucic, won 52.9% of votes in the capital city.

The Kreni-Promeni (Move-Change) centre-right movement led by lawyer Savo Manojlovic came second with 17.2%. The leftist green Biram Beograd (I Choose Beograd) was third with 12.5%.

The rerun in Belgrade came after months of protests that followed Dec. 17 parliamentary and partial local elections which the opposition and international observers said were marred by irregularities, including media bias and vote-buying.

Around 20% of Serbia’s 6.7 million people live in Belgrade and the position of a mayor is seen as the fourth most important in the country, after president, prime minister and parliament speaker.

Partial local elections were also held in 88 of Serbia’s 145 municipalities.

Earlier in the day, opposition supporters clashed with SNS activists in Belgrade and in the northern city of Novi Sad.

Vucic declared victory and said his party would have a majority in the 110-seat Belgrade city hall. “This is …an incredible victory,” he said.

Manojlovic said his alliance would not recognise the results. “These were most irregular elections ever,” he told supporters.

Serbia’s opposition and rights watchdogs accuse Vucic and the SNS of stifling media freedoms, violence against opponents, corruption, and ties with organised crime. Vucic and his allies deny these allegations.

Serbia is a candidate for membership in the European Union, but before it joins the bloc, it must make rule of law and media freedom reforms, root out corruption and tackle organised crime.

It must also mend ties with Kosovo and align its foreign policies with those of the EU, including the introduction of sanctions against Russia, over its invasion of Ukraine.

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