Serbia: Voters turn page on pro-European Tadić
21 May 2012
Danas, Politika, Blic & 2 others
In an unexpected result, nationalist Tomislav Nikolić has defeated the outgoing Boris Tadić to become the new president of Serbia. At a time when the country is a candidate to join the EU, his election will likely have an impact on relations between Belgrade and Brussels.
Elected with 49.5% of the vote, Nikolić’s win will put an end to decades of reformist rule. The onetime associate of ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj, who is currently before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, has nevertheless been careful to reassure voters about his commitment to Europe.
“Nikolić has won” reads the sober headline in Danas on the day after the vote. Still coming to terms with its surprise at the result, the Belgrade daily focuses on Nikolić’s first public statement:
My election is proof of divine justice.
Leading with another sober headline – ”Tomislav Nikolić is president” – Politika takes note of the high abstention rate (close to 50% of the electorate failed to vote) as well as the number of spoiled votes (3%). The Belgrade newspaper argues that:
The election results show that the Serbs voted against Tadić rather than for Nikolić, and imply that the new president will probably have to contend with a hostile parliamentary majority, which will make it more difficult to form a new government.
Blić which ironically headlines “Graduate president” – a reference to the economics degree that the new president obtained from a private university in dubious circumstances – quotes an opinion expressed by the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, Ivica Dacić. Tipped to become the next prime minister in the wake of the inconclusive general elections on 6 May, Dacić announced that –
Nikolić’s election would be a game changer in Serbian politics.
For its part, news website e-novine argues that Nikolić’s victory is a healthy slap in the face for Serbian society, and insists that the absence of concrete results after four years of government was the main reason for Tadić’s defeat. For e-novine –
… Tadić’s arrogance, the concentration of power, and the obsequious media (Blić, Kurir, B92), meant that his bid to obtain a third presidential mandate, which went against the rules of democracy and the constitution, ultimately backfired.
In neighbouring Croatia, the press does not mince its words. Jutarnji List headlines “Earthquake in Serbian politics, former radical elected President”. The Zagreb daily remarks –
… the Serbs have opted for change which, if Nikolić’s initial statements are to be believed, will not affect the country’s pro-European line. However, doubts remain in view of his contradictory declarations and the volatility of his political convictions.
With regard to regional policy, Jutarnji List argues that Nikolić’s arrival in office will not necessarily lead to a deterioration of relations with Croatia, because –
... he has given up on the idea of a Greater Serbia, which was one of the tenets of his credo when he was a close associate of Seselj.