On February 3, Serbs turned out in record numbers to elect a president in one of the most closely contested races between reform-oriented and radical candidates since the 2000 elections that ended the rule of President Slobodan Milosevic. Confirming a desire for continued democratic reform and European integration, Serbs re-elected incumbent President and leader of the Democratic Party Boris Tadic with 50.7 percent of the vote, while Serbian Radical Party (SRS) candidate Tomislav Nikolic received 47.7 percent of the vote. The vote also re-emphasized the deep divisions in Serbia’s electorate.
The close margin of the vote and the high turnout of more than 67 percent, or 4.5 million voters, demonstrated how critical voters believed the outcome of the election to be in determining the future of Serbia in the next five years. While both candidates opposed the independence of Kosovo, Tadic campaigned on a continued commitment to economic reforms and European integration. Nikolic, who served as Deputy Prime Minister in Slobodan Milosevic’s government during Serbia’s war in Kosovo, pledged to end any cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugolsavia (ICTY) and to make SRS party president Vojislav Seselj, currently on trial at the ICTY for war crimes, his Prime Minister.
Tadic and Nikolic were the top two winners in the first round of the presidential election held on January 21. During the entire presidential election cycle, the International Republican Institute (IRI) worked with major reform oriented political parties to develop their electoral capacities. Using a robust public opinion research program, IRI helped the reform-oriented candidates understand the issues of most importance to the electorate and to effectively communicate their reform policies and agendas. Currently, assistance to the SRS and the Socialist Party of Serbia is prohibited by the U.S. Embassy due to their ties to indicted war criminals and their anti-reform stances.
IRI also coordinated with local nongovernmental organizations to facilitate a large scale nonpartisan get-out-the-vote campaign, including the distribution of more than 1.25 million direct mail pieces to voters and voter mobilization events across Serbia.
IRI lauds the overwhelming voter participation rates in Serbia’s democratic process and the commitment of a campaign dialogue centered on the issues of most importance to the electorate, such as jobs, the economy and a higher standard of living.Top