Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Serbia's powerful PM claims landslide presidential win

Published:Monday | April 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP):

Serbia's powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic claimed victory Sunday in the presidential election that was a test of his authoritarian rule, an outcome that could expand Russia's influence in the Balkans.

Speaking to supporters at his right-wing party's headquarters, Vucic said, "My victory is crystal clear. This is a very important day for us, showing which way Serbia should be heading."

"A huge majority of people in Serbia support continuation of the European path for Serbia, along with preserving our traditionally good ties with Russia and China," Vucic said, while his backers chanted "Victory, victory!"

While Vucic has said he wants to lead Serbia into the European Union, he has been pushing for deeper ties to longtime ally Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed him.

Right before the election, Vucic visited Putin, who reportedly promised his signature on the delivery of fighter planes, battle tanks and armored vehicles to Serbia. The move triggered fears of an arms race in the western Balkans, which Russia considers its sphere of influence.

Vucic claimed victory after projections by different independent polling agencies had him receiving more than 55 per cent of the votes cast during yesterday's election. Liberal challenger Sasa Jankovic placed second with 15 per cent and Luka Maksimovic, a media student who ran as a parody politician, came in third with nine per cent, according to the pollsters.

Official results are expected today.