The leadership of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party proposed party chief and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic as its candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, making him the frontrunner.
Vucic became the immediate favourite to win the Serbian presidency after the Progressive Party leadership named him as its favoured candidate on Tuesday.
In an interview with public broadcaster RTS after the decision was announced, Vucic portrayed himself as the candidate who could save the country from destruction by the opposition.
“It is an issue of importance for the future of Serbia, because in recent months we could see how all of those who were destroying the country, who led it to the brink of bankruptcy and destroyed the future, wish to return to power and destroy Serbia,” said Vucic, referring to the opposition Democratic Party, which was in power until 2012.
Bojan Klacar, director of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, CESID, told BIRN that Vucic’s decision to run will give the Progressives a good chance to win the presidency without a second round run-off.
“Bearing in mind two things – the rating of the party, which is relatively high and still at the level of the previous elections and rating of Vucic who is their promotional face, and the one who generates the most of [party’s] potential, his decision is increasing the chances of the Progressives [to win],” said Klacar, although he added that victory is not certain, because elections carry risks.
Vucic said in his interview with RTS that without the support of current Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, a “lot of good and important results” would not have been achieved, and that Nikolic played a “historic role”.
“I intend to work together with him, if he wants that,” he said, adding that he had met with Nikolic, but did not want to discuss the details of “private talks” between the two men.
Klacar said he believes that Vucic’s decision will not create an earthquake in the Progressive Party, adding that it involved took a lot of compromise and a suitable severance package for Nikolic to ensure his acquiescence.
“I think they decided not to allow their differences of opinion, which are obvious, to become a problem for the party. We’ll see what the days ahead us will bring, and what benefit Nikolic got,” he said.
The Progressives’ ruling coalition partners immediately came out in support of Vucic’s candidacy.
He received backing on Turesday from the leaders of Socialist Party of Serbia, the Movement of Socialists, the Social Democratic Party of Serbia and Unique Serbia.
“This decision is the best for Serbia, the only rational and logical one. His victory as the joint candidate guarantees the political stability of Serbia in the upcoming period,” Ivica Dacic, leader of the Progressives’ most important coalition partner, the Socialist Party, told Tanjug on Tuesday evening.
Opposition parties argued however that Vucic’s candidacy would bring down the government.
The president of Democratic Party Dragan Sutanovac called on voters who want change and who believe that “Serbia can be a land of hope and perspective” to support former Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic in the upcoming elections.
“Sasa Jankovic's victory in the presidential elections will stop the spiral of decay into which got us into Vucic’s government and we will finally get a president of all citizens of Serbia,” said Sutanovac.
Another declared presidential candidate, Vuk Jeremic ,said on Tuesday evening that Vucic's victory in the presidential elections would mean "cementing bad policy for a period of five years".
Bosko Obradovic, leader of the right wing Dveri, who has also announced his candidacy, said that Vucic’s decision to run means the Progressives don’t have any other political figure who could be candidate and that current President Nikolic been doing his job badly.
Bojan Klacar from CESID said that Vucic’s candidacy will not change the strategy of the opposition in terms of running a joint candidate, because at this point it would be difficult to expect all the opposition parties to back Jankovic or Jeremic.
The Progressive Party leadership decision to back Vucic must be endorsed at the meeting of the party’s main board on February 17.