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Q&A: Serbia presidential election

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Serbs are voting as Kosovo independence looms

Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic has won re-election, beating his nationalist rival Tomislav Nikolic in a run-off vote.

Mr Tadic won 51% of the vote in the second round on Sunday, against Mr Nikolic's 47%, the electoral commission said. Mr Nikolic had narrowly won the first round two weeks ago.

The election came at a sensitive time, with the UN-administered Serbian province of Kosovo preparing to declare independence.

Q: Where do the two rivals stand politically?

Boris Tadic is the current president and leader of the Democratic Party. He has pledged to continue Serbia's pro-Western orientation and free market reforms. His support comes from the G17 Plus group and three Muslim minority parties. He campaigned under the slogan "Both Kosovo and the EU", arguing Kosovo should remain in Serbia, and Serbia should join the EU.

Tomislav Nikolic is deputy leader of the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party. He was standing in for the party's official leader, Vojislav Seselj, who is still on trial in The Hague, accused of war crimes. It was Mr Nikolic's fourth attempt to win the presidency. In 2004, he made it to the second round, only to lose to Boris Tadic. Mr Nikolic has recently toned down his rhetoric but is on the record for saying that if the new government "peacefully accepts" Kosovo's independence his party would not "sit calmly and wait".

Seven other candidates were eliminated in the first round.

Q: What were the main issues?

Kosovo's future and EU accession talks were major issues in the poll. But bread-and-butter issues such as unemployment and improving living standards also figured prominently in the campaign.

Q: Why is Kosovo such an important issue?

Mr Tadic now faces the prospect of Kosovo becoming independent. He is not keen to go down in history as the president who gave up the province considered by many Serbs as the cradle of their culture, religion and national identity.

Both Mr Tadic and Mr Nikolic voiced their strong opposition to any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population.

Q: Where do the candidates stand on the EU?

Mr Tadic advocates closer ties with the EU, while Mr Nikolic is in favour of closer ties with Russia and China. EU leaders meeting in Brussels in December offered to accelerate Serbia's membership negotiations, but only after Belgrade hands over war crime fugitives still at large. In the past, Mr Tadic has pledged to find and arrest war crime suspects such as Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, while Mr Nikolic has let it be known that the fugitives would no longer have to live in fear of arrest if he came to power.

Q: How does the system work?

The president is elected for a five-year term and cannot serve more than two terms.

Nearly 6.7m voters are registered in Serbia, along with 107,000 Serbs living in Kosovo. They were able to cast their ballots at more than 8,000 polling stations. Just over 37,000 Serbs living abroad were also eligible.

Q: What are the presidential powers?

The role of president is largely ceremonial, but it does carry enormous symbolic influence and the president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Serbia
22 Jan 08 |  Country profiles
Serbian presidential rivals
01 Feb 08 |  Europe
Regions and territories: Kosovo
12 Jan 08 |  Country profiles
Serbs put jobs before Kosovo
16 Jan 08 |  Europe
Q&A: Kosovo's future
09 Jan 08 |  Europe

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