Serbia Polls Results on Hold after PM, Opposition Complain

Serbia's electoral commission has asked some voters to recast their ballots after both opposition groups and powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who won by a landslide, disputed the regularity of the weekend polls.

The repeat votes at 15 polling stations, likely to take place next week, mean the final results of Sunday's general election will not be announced on Thursday, as required by law.

The commission said it was continuing to review reports from the polling stations, although international observers said "fundamental freedoms" were respected during the vote.

Vucic, 46, called for the election two years earlier than necessary, saying he needed a clear mandate to implement reforms needed for Serbia to join the European Union.

But the polls were seen by many as an attempt to consolidate and prolong his power, with critics expressing concerns over his authoritarian tendencies.

Although his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won nearly 50 percent of the vote -- according to the 98 percent of ballots counted -- its representation in the 250-seat parliament has dropped from 158 seats from the last election to 131 seats.

This is because a greater number of parties crossed the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament and win a share of the seats.

Opposition parties began claiming irregularities on Sunday, and after preliminary official results were announced a day later, Vucic also expressed concerns and called for a review.

Vucic accused his opponents of putting pressure on the commission in order to get into parliament, saying he expected the votes to be "counted fairly" so that "no one gets more than he should have", Blic newspaper reported Thursday.

Vucic's rivals say he wants to oust smaller parties from parliament so that their seats will be redistributed to other groups in the legislature, increasing the power of the SNS.

"Obviously, the SNS will not hesitate to abuse (power) to hide the fact that it won 27 MPs fewer," the opposition Democratic Party said in a statement.

Far-right coalition Dveri-DSS, which won exactly the required five percent of the votes, has threatened to launch street protests if it is excluded from parliament by the commission's decisions.

Some 16,500 voters from the electorate of 6.6 million will be eligible to repeat their vote.

Source: Agence France Presse

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