Serbia’s bid to join the European Union will be strongly tested in elections this weekend that pit ruling pro-Western democrats against nationalists who are promising jobs, economic revival and closer ties with Russia. Held in the shadows of French and Greek ballots, some seven million voters in Serbia will choose a president, a 250-seat national parliament and local councils—a triple vote held amid deep economic problems, joblessness and widespread discontent over rapidly falling living standards. Sunday’s balloting is key for Serbia’s plans to become an EU member, after being an isolated pariah state under late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic in the ’90s. It also could determine whether Serbia continues to reconcile with its neighbors, including the former province of Kosovo which declared independence in 2008.
The two leading contenders are Boris Tadic and his pro-EU Democratic Party, and Tomislav Nikolic, whose nationalist Serbian Progressive Party has Russia’s support. A presidential runoff is expected in two weeks as both Tadic—who had been president until he resigned so that all three polls could be held together—and Nikolic are unlikely to get more than 50 percent of the first round vote.