An independent election center says pro-Western candidate Boris Tadic beat his ultra nationalist rival, Tomislav Nikolic, in Serbia's presidential elections receiving 54 percent of the vote. Results show Mr. Nikolic receiving only 45 percent of the vote.
The Centre for Free Elections and Democracy reports that Boris Tadic managed to rally enough supporters behind him to win what has been called the most important presidential election since the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.
Analysts says that Mr. Tadic was helped by the slightly higher than expected voter turnout, around 49 percent. Three previous ballots were declared invalid because of a now abolished law that required a minimum turnout of 50 percent.
Western leaders saw Sunday's election as a choice between European integration and international isolation. While Mr. Tadic favors European Union membership and is open for cooperation with the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, his rival, Tomislav Nikolic, sees the future of Serbia very differently.
Mr. Nikolic had warned that as president he would not force Serbs to surrender to the U.N. court and indicated he wanted the troubled province in Kosovo to remain within the republic. He also made clear that the restless tiny coastal republic of Montenegro, which now forms a lose union with Serbia, should not become independent.
The director of the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, Zoran Lucic, told VOA News that in the end Mr. Tadic, through grassroots campaigning, managed to convince Serbs that Western integration is best for Serbia. "He had an excellent election campaign. But that campaign was not seen on media. That was a campaign going door-to-door. It was a hidden campaign, sending letters and doing other things. Boris Tadic has a party with very strong infrastructure and they were pressing a part of Serbia where he has more changes than other candidates," he said.
Despite tensions between the ultra nationalist Serbian Radical Party and the Democratic Party, Mr. Lucic said the way the elections were conducted gives some hope for the future. "What I can do is to compare these elections with elections in the Milosevic time. And comparing with the Milosevic time it is silly to talk about the differences. We can say that elections in Serbia at the moment are a lot better and with very high standards compare to the elections in the 1990's," he said.
Mr. Tadic's victory is expected to be welcomed by the EU and the United States, which have contributed huge aid packages for the reconstruction of Serbia after a decade of wars under President Milosevic.
Although the power of Serbia's president is limited under the constitution, the post is seen as important to Serbia's image abroad and to the country's domestic political stability.