March 5, 2018 / 1:29 PM / 3 months ago

Serbia's ruling Progressive party wins resounding victory in Belgrade election

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia’s governing party firmly defeated the opposition in the high-profile election for Belgrade city council on Sunday in a show of strength for President Aleksandar Vucic, a pollster said late on Sunday.

According to an unofficial vote count by the pollster Ipsos, Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party won 46.2 percent of votes, while an opposition alliance led by former mayor Dragan Djilas trailed far behind with 18 percent.

Final and official results by the election commission are expected later in the week.

Another opposition alliance of Aleksandar Sapic, the mayor of the Novi Beograd municipality and Socialists of the Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic garnered 8.2 percent and 6.3 percent of votes respectively. The remaining 20 parties and groups failed to pass the 5 percent threshold to enter city hall.

Around a quarter of Serbia’s 7.3 million population lives in the capital which has budget of around 850 million euros ($1.05 billion) or 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The opposition accused the Progressives of rigging the vote in some polling stations, pressuring political opponents and stifling media freedoms ahead of the vote, claims Vucic dismissed.

“The people have clearly shown they want continuation of reforms,” Vucic, a former nationalist firebrand who later adopted European values and wants to lead the country into the European Union, told his cheering supporters.

The Progressive Party now has 60 days to nominate a candidate for the mayor of Belgrade, which is considered the fourth most important position in the country, behind the president, prime minister and parliament speaker.

Although Progressives now have a comfortable majority of 65 deputies in the 110-seat city council it will forge a coalition with Socialists, a co-ruling party in country’s government, Vucic said.

($1 = 0.8126 euros)

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Toby Chopra

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