Belgrade: Former ultranationalist allies of Slobodan Milosevic may return to power in Serbia, 12 years after the late Balkan strongman was ousted by pro-Western forces seeking European Union membership.
The first-round vote tomorrow for president and votes for a 250-seat national assembly and local councils pit pro-EU democrats against nationalists who have gained in popularity with the EU`s own economic troubles, which have dimmed the bloc`s allure for many Serbs.
The two leading contenders are the Democratic Party of Boris Tadic who had been president until he resigned so the triple vote could be held together and Milosevic`s former ally Tomislav Nikolic, whose right-wing populist Serbian Progressive Party has Russia`s support, though he has lately claimed a shift toward the EU.
The eventual outcome could determine whether Serbia abides by EU-demanded economic and social reforms after being an isolated pariah nation under Milosevic in the 1990s because of his warmongering or turns to its traditional Slavic ally Russia instead.
It also will show whether Serbia continues to reconcile with its neighbours and wartime foes of the Balkan conflicts, including the former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.
Recent polls have suggested that the pro-EU camp slightly trails the nationalist bloc in the parliamentary race, but with the democrats having better chances of persuading smaller parties to form the next coalition government just as they did after the previous elections four years ago.
A presidential runoff is expected on May 20, as both Tadic and Nikolic are unlikely to get more than 50 percent of the first round vote that includes 12 candidates.