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Serbians went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament in Europes first national election since coronavirus lockdowns took effect three months ago, with the ruling conservatives expected to win a comfortable majority.
Polling stations were equipped with face masks and hand sanitisers for the use by the countrys electorate of almost 6.6 million, many of whom were expected to skip voting – partly due to fears of becoming infected.
Turnout could also be hit by the boycott campaign of some opposition parties, who say the vote will not be free or fair due to President Aleksandar Vucics firm grip over the media.
Voters largely back efforts by Vucics ruling coalition to push for Serbian membership of the European Union while maintaining strong ties with Russia and China.
According to the latest opinion polls, Vucics conservative Serbian Peoples Party (SNS) is set to win about 50% of the vote, boosted by widespread approval over the governments handling of the pandemic.
Vucics coalition partner, the Socialist Party, is expected to come second with about 10%.
'I am for the things to stay as they were'
The opposition centre-right Serbian Patriotic Alliance (SPAS) led by Aleksandar Sapic, the mayor of Novi Beograd, Belgrades most populous municipality, is tipped to come third.
Mladjan Knezevic, a pensioner from Novi Beograd, said he voted for the status quo: “I am for the things to stay as they were.”
Vucic himself is not up for re-election but the opposition parties boycotting the vote accuse him of using his position as president to promote his party.