May 12, 2008 in Nation/World

President’s party upsets Serbian radicals

William J. Kole Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbia’s pro-Western president declared victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections – a stunning upset over ultranationalists who tried to exploit anger over Kosovo’s independence and thwart the nation’s ambitions to join the European Union.

“This is a great day for Serbia,” Boris Tadic proclaimed after an independent monitoring group said his bloc won 39 percent – about 10 percent more than the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party.

“The citizens of Serbia have confirmed Serbia’s European path,” he said. “Serbia will be in the European Union. We have promised that, and we will fulfill that.”

But Tadic said he wasn’t celebrating because his nationalist rivals could still team up against his Coalition for a European Serbia and try to form Serbia’s next government.

“I’m sure that those who wanted to return Serbia to the 1990s will try to overturn the electoral will of the people, but I will not allow it,” he told supporters, adding that he would propose a new prime minister from his own bloc.

Tadic’s opponents said their own vote tabulations confirmed the pro-Western forces’ victory – an astonishing turnabout after weeks of speculation that the Radicals would sweep to power together with Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s conservative coalition.

Official results were not expected until today, but the state electoral commission issued partial results that corresponded to the projections of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy and the tabulations of the main parties.

The respected center, whose representatives observed vote tallying at polling stations across Serbia, said Tomislav Nikolic’s Radicals were running a distant second with 28.6 percent, and Kostunica’s bloc had about 11.6 percent. It said the Socialists had about 8.2 percent – their best result since Milosevic’s ouster in 2000.

Sunday’s elections were the first in Serbia since Kosovo declared independence in February.

Many had expected widespread anger to propel the Radicals to victory and warned that it could plunge the country into fresh isolation.

Officials said turnout was about 60 percent – lower than in January’s presidential elections, but strong for a parliamentary vote.

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