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Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Serbians are frustrated by regional relations, torn between the EU and Russia, and exasperated by corruption permeating all spheres of life.

Yet none of these problems was turned into an issue ahead of early elections Sunday, and the only uncertainty is the winning margin of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's Progressive Party (SNS).

The campaign, with Vucic dominating the media, was mostly reduced to smearing opponents and skirting concrete promises.

"Wages will be better, they will be up to 500 euros (650 dollars) in 2018," Vucic said on television Monday night.

That would be a massive increase from the current average monthly paycheck of 400 dollars, but Vucic did not explain how it would be achieved.

"This campaign was worthless. It lacked concrete electoral promises," Zoran Stojiljkovic, a political science professor at the University of Belgrade, told dpa. "There was nothing palpable on unemployment, economic growth or standard of life."

Though the number of people saying they are discontented has risen over the past three years, according to the Centre for Free and Democratic Elections (CeSID), pollsters predicted a landslide win for Vucic.

In a survey published April 12, the Belgrade-based research agency Faktor Plus predicted SNS would take 50.9 per cent of the vote, on a turnout of 55 per cent.

The expected win would be the third in a row for the SNS in four years.

In snap polls two years ago, with Vucic at the helm, the party claimed 48.3 per cent of the votes and 158 of the seats, falling short of a two-thirds majority by only nine.

In spite of the whopping majority, Vucic forged a coalition with Ivica Dacic's Socialist Party (SPS). It was not clear whether the alliance would be renewed. 

The SPS enters the race as the likely runner up, predicted by Faktor Plus to win 12.3 per cent.

The weak opposition may become dominated by extremists from the Radicals of Vojislav Seselj, who has surged since his acquittal at the UN war crimes tribunal last month; and Dveri, a nationalist, clerical, anti-gay movement, tipped to win 7.8 and 5.1 per cent respectively.

The Democratic Party, the opposition flagship of the Slobodan Milosevic-era and in power several times since 2000, will face a battle to enter parliament, standing at 5.7 per cent, just over the minimum 5-per-cent cut-off point.

Vucic has said that he called elections halfway through his term, despite a majority in parliament, because he wants a full mandate to steer Serbia's EU membership talks.

But an absence of a reform plan hints at a different motive, Stojiljkovic said: "These vacant elections are like the reason for which they were called: The authorities called them to win with a better-than-half majority, with only that as the motive."

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