aleksandar vučić.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ TANJUG/ik

Conservative Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and his Progressive Party (SNS) won their third consecutive parliamentary elections in Serbia, according to initial projections.

The SNS won 52 per cent of the votes, two polling agencies said, basing the projection on a representative sample of counted ballots, the CeSID election-monitoring agency said. 

Vucic called the elections two years early, saying that he wants a full four-year mandate to allow time for EU membership talks and reforms.

In the 2014 elections, which Vucic also called halfway through his term, the SNS won 48.3 per cent of the votes. After redistribution of votes cast for parties that stumbled on the 5-per cent hurdle, it had 158 of the 250 seats in parliament.

Socialist Party (SPS), the junior partner in the outgoing government coalition and the party of Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, came in second with 14.4 per cent, according to the projections. 

Once the party of Slobodan Milosevic, who led Serbia into a confrontation with the West during the 1990s, the SPS is now also on a pro-EU agenda.

The return of the extremist, fiercely anti-Western and pro-Russian Radical Party (SRS) also marked the elections and the end of the monolithic support for Serbia's path toward the European Union. The SRS was projected to win 7 per cent of the votes.

SRS leader Vojislav Seselj, whom the UN war crimes tribunal cleared of accusations related to the Yugoslav wars less than a month ago, immediately offered a coalition "to any party willing to renounce EU ambitions and turn to Russia."

The former flagship of opposition to Milosevic during his autocratic reign of the 1990s, the Democratic Party, sank to the lowest level ever, but only just cleared the hurdle to claim seats, winning 5.4 per cent.

The results could still move by a few percentage points as the ballot counting continued.

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