Outgoing Serbian president now frontrunner to be prime minister

Following Serbia’s May 20 presidential runoff, which saw longtime challenger Tomislav Nikolić defeat incumbent Boris Tadić, Tadić has emerged as the leading candidate to become prime minister of Serbia.

Nikolić — who was running for the fifth time — won Sunday’s runoff with 51.12% to just 48.88% for Tadić, who had served as president since 2004.  In the prior May 6 vote, Tadić had won 25.31% to just 25.05 for Nikolić.

Despite the fact that Nikolić’s party, the right-wing Serbian Progressive Party (Српска напредна странка / SNS), narrowly won the most seats in the simultaneous May 6 parliamentary elections, Tadić ‘s left-wing Democratic Party (Демократска странка / DS) has been in coalition talks with the third-place Socialist Party of Serbia (Социјалистичка партија Србије / SPS), which will continue notwithstanding Nikolić’s victory.

The result, however curious, would be to block the new president’s party from government, notwithstanding the fact that the SNS won the greatest number of votes on May 6 and Nikolić won a direct runoff against Tadić — who now seems likely to become prime minister.

In the event that Tadić had won the presidential runoff, it seemed likely that the SPS’s leader, Ivica Dačić, might become prime minister.

Although the SNS holds 73 seats in the 250-member parliament, the DS’s 67 seats and the SPS’s 44 seats bring them just 15 seats shy of a majority.  It is expected that the DS-SPS coalition talks will continue with smaller parties in the coming weeks to form a government — former prime minister Vojislav Koštunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia holds 21 seats, the “U-Turn” coalition of various parties, holds 19 seats, and the federalist United Regions of Serbia coalition won 16 seats.

The DS, in coalition with various partners, has essentially controlled Serbia’s government since the fall of Slobodan Milošević in 2000.  The prime minister has much more power than the president in setting domestic policy.  Although he is seen as more nationalist than Tadić, Nikolić pledged during the campaign that his presidency would mark continuity with Serbia’s integration into the European Union.

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