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Serbia's Tadic Re-Elected President by Narrow Margin


Incumbent president of Serbia Boris Tadic won Sunday's presidential election, defeating by a narrow margin a pro-Russian nationalist candidate. VOA's Barry Wood reports from Belgrade.

Preliminary results give Mr. Tadic about 51 percent of the vote, compared to over 47 percent for extreme nationalist Tomislav Nikolic. The victory touched off celebrations in downtown Belgrade where Mr. Tadic appeared at his party's headquarters to thank voters for choosing a European future over isolation.

Marko Blagojevic of Belgrade's Center for Free Elections said the turnout was higher than expected.

"Almost 68 percent of all voters have decided to cast their ballots today, which is a spectacular turnout," said Marko Blagojevic. "The turnout exceeded 4.5 million."

Nikolic conceded defeat late Sunday and congratulated Mr. Tadic on his victory.

This is the second time since 2004 that he lost to Mr. Tadic.

Nikolic's pro-Russian Radical Party is led by Vojislav Seselj who is on trial at the war crime tribunal in The Hague.

The Serbian presidency is largely ceremonial. Its most important power is control over the armed forces.

The election was closely watched in Kosovo, the secessionist province that plans to declare independence in the next few weeks. Mr. Tadic opposes independence but has said Serbia will take no military action against the NATO-led forces that maintain security in Kosovo.

Goran Svilanovic, a Tadic supporter and former foreign minister, congratulated the Serbian voters on their decision.

Svilanovic called on Serbia's nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to resign in the wake of the election result. Even though he governs in coalition with Mr. Tadic's Democratic Party, Mr. Kostunica refused to endorse Mr. Tadic for re-election.

The prime minister wanted the president to take a stronger stance against the European Union's plan to send a police and judicial monitoring group to guide Kosovo towards independence.

Russia has been Serbia's principal ally on Kosovo and has blocked United Nations Security Council action to endorse its supervised independence. Populated mostly by ethnic Albanians, Kosovo has been under UN control since 1999 when 78 days of NATO bombing forced Serbian troops out. NATO had intervened to halt Serbian excesses in dealing with an ethnic Albanian insurgency.

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