Ruling party claims Serbian election win

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has claimed victory in the country's parliamentary election.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has claimed victory in the country's parliamentary election.

Serbia's president has declared a landslide victory for his right-wing party in a parliamentary vote held amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus and a boycott of much of the opposition.

Aleksandar Vucic told jubilant supporters that his Serbian Progressive Party won over 60 per cent of the vote, or some 190 seats in the 250-seat Serbian parliament.

The initial unofficial results indicate that Serbia will have a unique assembly, with virtually no opposition and only three or four parties out of the 21 which were running. Vucic's allied Socialists are slated to get 10 per cent for the second place in the vote.

"I have been long in politics, but I never experienced such a moment," Vucic said. "I'm talking about a historic moment in which one party can find itself. We have won everywhere, where we have never been winning in the past."

Sunday's vote was the first national election in Europe to take place during the virus pandemic.

The voting - initially planned for April but postponed because of the pandemic - comes as Serbia is still reporting dozens of new cases daily after completely relaxing its strict lockdown rules.

The turnout among the nearly 6.6 million voters who were eligible to cast ballots for Serbia's 250-member parliament and local offices was lower than in previous elections.

While Serbian voters were not choosing a president Sunday, Vucic has dominated the campaign through the mainstream media which he controls, denouncing and ridiculing his critics.

He has refuted allegations of abusing his formal ceremonial powers as president by taking a leading role in the campaign.

Citing the lack of free and fair voting conditions and a danger to public health, several main opposition groups boycotted the vote. But a number of smaller parties decided to run, saying the boycott would only sideline an already marginalised opposition.

Health authorities provided face masks, gloves and sanitisers at the polling stations. In Belgrade, people could be seen largely respecting social distancing rules, and many wore masks. Authorities have said that voting was no more risky than going to a shop or any other closed space.

Serbia reported 91 new virus cases and one more death on Sunday, bringing the country's pandemic death toll to 261.

A former extreme nationalist, Vucic briefly served as information minister in the government of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic during the 1990s wars in the Balkans.

Australian Associated Press