Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is seen as the front-runner in a presidential race with eleven candidates. According to polls, Vucic, has 53 percent support among voters. The question is not whether he will win, but only whether one round of elections will be enough for his victory. If not, there will be a run-off election in two weeks from now.
In today’s presidential election, Vucic does not have competitors, at least none who would be a real threat to him. His closest rival is Luka Maksimovic, a satirical candidate, who has about one fifth of the support Vucic can count on.
Vucic has been Prime Minister of Serbia since 2014. As President, he will probably try to give himself more power. At this stage, the President of Serbia mainly represents the country at ceremonies. He might express a political opinion, but that is basically it. But Vucic will want to have a say.
The probable winner of today’s election, Aleksandar Vucic, is 47 years old. He became Minister of Information in 1998, when the Milosevic years or terror and genocide in the neighbouring states of Croatia and Bosnia were over. In the year 2000, he became the leader of the Serbian Radical party, in 2008 he co-founded the Serbian Progressive Party. In 2012, Vucic became Defense Minister, in 2014 Prime Minister.
In Belgrade, Vucic is the strongest man since Milosevic. And he wants it all. This includes joining the European Union and having close ties to Russia at the same time. He definitely is the man of contrasts. During the Milosevic era, he threatened “the Muslims”. What he meant: The free part of Bosnia, in which Muslims, Serbs, Croatians and Christian Bosnians lived and died together, during Belgrade’s brutal wars of conquest. Today, Vucic is on the other side, at least officially. He openly flirts with the E.U..
His nationalist voters believe his E.U. accession talk was just pretence, while his pro-E.U. voters interpret it as real. So, what can go wrong for Vucic today? Hardly anything.
But Serbia does have lots of problems. Weak institutions, poverty and a crumbling infrastructure are just some of them. In the refugee crisis, Serbia is not doing a good job. In 2015, this transit country, from the perspective of asylum seekers, just sent thousands of refugees to Croatia and Hungary, every single day. Since the Balkan Route was closed officially, refugees had an extremely hard time in Serbia. A thousand men and boys from Afghanistan and Syria had to spend this last harsh winter in an abandoned warehouse, which was unheated. Nor did it provide anything, apart from a roof.
Vucic’s comedian rival, Luka Maksimovic, told voters during his election campaign, he was “the only light at the end of the tunnel.” In the town of Pancevo, he promised them he would “make” some hills in their flat area. That way, they would be able to “enjoy proper sledding.”
But jokes won’t help much. Vucic is 2 meters tall and overtowers everyone. That will not change in today’s presidential elections.