14:22 GMT +306 December 2019
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    Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic

    I'm Here to Help: Outgoing Serbian President Congratulates Vucic on Victory

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    Outgoing Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has pledged to support Serbia and his successor Alexander Vucic in any way he can, including promoting ties with Russia and China, he told Sputnik Srbija.

    On Saturday, Serbia's current Prime Minister and leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Alexander Vucic won Serbia's presidential elections by a decisive margin.

    According to figures announced on Tuesday by Serbia's electoral commission, Vucic won 55% of the votes in the first round of voting, a decisive result which rendered a second round unnecessary. In second place was independent candidate Sasa Jankovic with 16%.

    Third place went to a satirical, fictional politician called Ljubisa Preletacevic Beli (9%) while former Serbian Foreign Minister and former UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic came fourth (6%).

    Having served as Serbian Prime Minister since 2014, President-elect Vucic will take over from outgoing President Tomislav Nikolic on May 31.

    Nikolic, who beat Boris Tadic in the 2012 presidential election, told Sputnik Srbija that the emphatic election result did not come as a surprise for him.

    "The results were what I expected. I was convinced that the SNS party candidate had to win the first round and that a second round would have been a failure even though he would have won in the second round," Nikolic said.

    "You saw the percentage of votes that the others got. It hasn't been the case for a long time that a candidate has almost no competition. As a rule, as in other countries, there has always been a second round in which the opposition candidate could hope to get some support from rest of the opposition."

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the leading candidate in the Serbian presidential election, at his headquarters in Belgrade
    © Sputnik / Alexey Vitvitsky
    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the leading candidate in the Serbian presidential election, at his headquarters in Belgrade
    The outgoing President was critical of the 9% of voters who voted for Ljubisa Preletacevic Beli, a comedy character created by satirist Luka Maksimovic. 

    Beli, whose name means "White," wears a trademark white suit and entered the race riding a white horse. His party, called "Sarmu probo nisi" (You haven't tasted the sarmu, a kind of stuffed cabbage dish) was formed by a group of comedians in 2016. 

    They promised "the most terrible campaign to date, with a fistful of broken promises, megalomania and whipping up false hope."

    Following the elections, he claimed to have won a majority of the vote and asked Nikolic to hand power over to him. In a Facebook post, he asked Nikolic to "come down and hand over the keys."

    Nikolic said that Beli's performance was "demeaning" for politicians and hopes that his success isn't replicated in future elections.

    "I hope that was just for this election, and that Serbian citizens who voted for him aren't sending a message to those who are going to decide their future. That's because by playing with your vote, giving it to someone who isn't serious, you are playing with your future and the future of your children," Nikolic said.

    The outgoing President had founded the SNS party in 2008 with the support of Vucic, after both left senior positions in the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) led by Vojislav Seselj

    In February, the SNS leadership chose Vucic as its presidential candidate, leading Nikolic to sever ties with the party he founded. 

    "When the party decided that Vucic would be the candidate, I immediately forgot my ambition to be president for another term, because I wouldn't be true to myself if I presented the citizens of Serbia, and especially members of the SNS, with the dilemma of choosing between two candidates from SNS. And since that wouldn't be good for Serbia, and the party had decided, then it was only left to me to decide whether to support this candidate or not. I made the decision, I supported him, congratulated him on his victory and we move on," Nikolic explained.

    He told Sputnik he is unlikely to return to the SNS, but has pledged his desire to continue to support Serbia in any way possible, including co-operation with Vucic and his successor as Prime Minister.

    "The firm friendships I have with at least a few heads of state could help Serbia, we could achieve a lot and I'm going to discuss that with Vucic and the future Prime Minister."

    "The easiest thing for me to do would be to represent someone in Serbia, but I don't want to do that because I want to represent Serbia and beyond. I want to help to complete all those difficult tasks for which Serbia needs the help of China and Russia. Then I can leave in peace, knowing that I did everything I could," Nikolic said.

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    presidency, vote, elections, Aleksandar Vucic, Tomislav Nikolić, Serbia
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