Serbia's ruling party claims historic election victory despite boycott

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's Progressive Party (SNS) won a partially boycotted, pandemic-delayed parliamentary election on Sunday by a huge margin, newswires reported, citing early results. According to a projection by the agency CESID based on a sample of polling stations, the SNS will have 63.4% of the votes, on a turnout of around 48%.

Vucic said his triumph was "historic" because "out of 3.3 million votes, we won more than 2 million." "We received a huge vote of confidence, which is also a call for us to do even better," he told supporters in the party headquarters.

The junior partners in the governing coalition, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic's Socialists (SPS) will have 10.3% according to the projection. The opposition SPAS (Rescue) of former water polo star and mayor of the New Belgrade borough Aleksandar Sapic, was projected to come in third with 3.9%. No other ticket cleared the 3-per-cent hurdle to win some of the 250 legislative seats. However, as the votes of parties that remained below the bar are redistributed proportionally top to bottom, another one or two parties hovering just below the threshold may still win seats.

A part of the opposition boycotted the election, accusing Vucic of manipulating the media and the economy, tilting the playing field to his favour.  The boycott had been announced already last year, with opposition leaders saying they want to draw international attention to Vucic's and Serbia's democratic backsliding and increasing manipulation of the electoral framework to the ruling party's favour.

It is not yet even clear who will head the next government, as the SNS ran the campaign under its leader's name, who will also nominate and formally propose the prime minister

Official results of the election are not expected before the ballots cast by Serbs in Kosovo to be counted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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