Low turnout, fraud row mar Serb presidential vote
By Aleksandar Vasovic and Matt Robinson
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Voter apathy and accusations of fraud marred a presidential run-off in Serbia on Sunday, where pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic is vying with rightist Tomislav Nikolic for the right to lead the nation into talks on joining the EU.
Seven hours after polls opened, just 23.2 percent of the 6.7 million Serbs eligible to vote had done so.
Tadic began the day as the frontrunner, but analysts have said a low turnout might favor Nikolic, whose supporters are considered more disciplined voters.
Twice elected president since 2004, Tadic, 54, was part of the reformist bloc that ousted strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 after a decade of war and isolation during the collapse of Yugoslavia.
Under Tadic, Serbia in March became an official candidate for EU membership, but there is deep frustration among Serbs over the grinding transition from socialism to capitalism and an economic slowdown that has driven unemployment up to 24 percent.
Nikolic, 60, was an ultranationalist ally of Milosevic when Serbia was bombed by NATO in 1999. But, since losing to Tadic in 2008, he has tried to rebrand himself as a pro-European conservative, accusing his opponent of presiding over a creeping culture of elitism.
"I don't trust either candidate but I had to make a choice and I voted for Nikolic because he seems less fake than Tadic," said 28-year-old bus driver Marko Jovanovic.
A dour former cemetery manager, Nikolic has accused the Democrats of stealing the first-round presidential vote and a parliamentary election on May 6, and threatened to call supporters into the streets. Continued...