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Elections

Center-right Vucic emerges as Serbian election winner

Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party has managed a landslide win in a snap parliamentary election. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic now appears to have a strong enough mandate to dissolve his coalition.

With polling stations closed on Sunday evening, Progressive Party (SNS) candidate Vucic appeared to be on his way to becoming prime minister, said observers.

The commercial electoral monitors CeSID said after the polls had closed that Vucic's party had won around 160 seats of the 250 available, with turnout put at 52 percent. If confirmed, the SNS score would be the highest for a single party in Serbia since 1990. It would also allow Vucic and the SNS to form a government on its own without seeking a coaltion partner.

After casting his vote, Vucic said he expected to be able to form an effective government by June. "It will not be easy, but I think we will have the strength for it," Vucic told reporters.

"We are facing tough reforms. But I am sure that Serbs will soon live better than they are living now," Vucic, considered the SNS' likely choice as prime minister, later said in his victory speech.

"They [SNS] will have an absolute majority in parliament," said CeSID head Marko Blagojevic.

The Socialist party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, appeared likely to come second, winning around 15 percent of the votes, or 60 seats.

The opposition Democratic Party and New Democratic Party were the only other parties that mustered enough votes to clear the 5 percent hurdle that parties must clear to win parliamentary representation in Serbia.

CeSID's fiures were the first to be officially released, with exit polls not being allowed under Serbian law.

Vucic's Progressive Party forced the snap election halfway through the government's term of office, seeking a stronger mandate. The 44-year-old, who was once banned from entering the EU because of his alleged involvement in Slobodan Milosevic's regime, has travelled a long political path since then.

A lawyer by training, he joined the far-right Serbian Radical Party in 1993, becoming one of its top members and writing hard-line speeches. In 1998, Vucic became Milosevic's information minister. He famously defended the actions of ethnic Serb leaders in the the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia. "You kill one Serb and we will kill 100 Muslims," he said.

In 2008, he split with the Radical Party, to form the considerably more moderate SNS, developing a pro-EU agenda. Vucic also served as deputy to Prime Minister Dacic in the outgoing coalition.

rc/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)