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February 4, 2008
Serbs Re-elect pro-western President Tadic
By a narrow margin, the Serbian people decided to maintain close ties to the west despite the threat of Kosovo independence which would almost certainly be recognized by the EU:
Tadic won 51 percent of the vote, narrowly beating his rival ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic, who won 47 percent. According to the Serbian electoral commisson, the remaining votes were spoiled. Tadic has proved adept at manuevering Serbia toward membership in the EU while maintaining his opposition to Kosovo independence - a not inconsiderable feat of political legerdermain. But his hard work may come for naught if Kosovo goes ahead and simply announces its independence. The Kosovars have grown tired of foot dragging on the part of the EU who not only has to bring Serbia on board but has had to deal with Vladmir Putin's insistence on some role for Serbia in Kosovo affairs, even some form of autonomy rather than outright independence.
Tadic's supporters took to the streets on Sunday night to celebrate the victory, honking their horns and setting off fireworks. "Serbia has shown its great democratic potential," Tadic said in his victory speech.
However, the strong support for Nikolic shows that many Serbs still hold hardline views, particularly on the issue of Kosovo, the Serbian province that is expected to declare independence within the coming weeks.
The province has been administered by the United Nations since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign halted former Serb dictator Slobodan Milosevic's brutal crackdown on Kosovo Albanian separatists.
The European Union is still begging Kosovo not to take this step so Tadic may yet be able to keep his country's EU bid on track. But if the Kosovars choose to act, it is likely that any hope of Serbian integration into western Europe will fail.