By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – Serbian voters head to the polls for the second time in the past two years on Sunday, in snap elections to designate a new government for the next four-year term.
According to the Serbian Electoral Commission (RIK), 20 political parties and alliances racing for 250 seats in the National Assembly – 126 seats are needed for a majority. Seven million people are eligible to vote.
Serbian voters living in Britain, Canada and the United States cast their votes on Saturday.
The election process is being monitored by 687,000 domestic and 196 foreign observers at 8,311 polling stations set across Serbia, 38 abroad and 29 in prisons.
The final results of the election must be announced by the RIK on April 28, according to the constitution.
However, the first unofficial results are expected around 22.00 local Serbian time (2000GMT).
The citizens are heading to the polls between 07.00 and 20.00 local time to cast their votes.
In addition to the parliamentary elections, the local elections are also being held on the same day.
Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced the snap elections in January.
The current prime minister Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) need to win a majority to have a choice whether to rule on their own or in a coalition as in the previous government.
One of Progressive’s possible coalition partners would be the current First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS).
Meanwhile, the far right nationalist, the Serbian Radical Party, led by Vojislav Seselj, who was recently acquitted of a series of charges at the International Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) seem to have seen an increase in the number of their supporters.
The opposition Democratic Party (DS) and its splinter groups the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDS) may struggle to reach the 5 percent parliamentary threshold as they failed to unite.
There are also two political parties from Serbia’s Sandzak region where Muslims constitute the majority of the population: the Bosniak Democratic Party of Sandzak led by Muamer Zukorlic and the Party of Democratic Action of Sandzak led by Sulejman Ugljanin.
Zukorlic is also the president and chief mufti of the Islamic Community in Serbia.
The Prime Minister Vucic was confident about calling the snap elections until the far-right nationalist Vojislav Seselj was acquitted by the UN court and regained the right to be involved in politics.
Vucic described his country as being at “a political, economic and moral crossroads” after a special government session to discuss the verdict against Seselj.
He said he opposed nationalists’ “Greater Serbia” ideology – Serbian nationalists, including Seselj’s Radical Party, continue to call for more Balkan territory to be absorbed into Serbia. He added that he would strongly oppose “Greater Serbia” policies, because they had pushed the country into isolation.
.Even though, no surprises are expected from the polls, an unexpected large numbers of votes for the nationalists could turn Serbia’s path from the EU to Russia.
While Vucic’s main focuses are the EU reforms and foreign investments, Seselj says that the EU and the rest of the Western countries, including the U.S. have never help Serbia, which should instead side with Russia.
Serbia is currently an EU candidate country but has opposed the implementation of sanctions against Russia.