What's at stake in Serbia's election

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2012 2:05 AM

Serbia, a landlocked nation of 7.1 million people in southeast Europe, is holding presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections Sunday. Whoever wins could affect Serbia's future relations with the European Union as well as Kosovo, a one-time province whose declaration of independence Serbia has refused to accept. About 8,500 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) and close at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Sunday. Unofficial results are expected a few hours after polls close, with a complete official count likely Monday or Tuesday. A glance at the races and contenders:

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PRESIDENTIAL RACE: The president is elected for a five-year term. Whoever holds the position commands the army, names the prime minister and signs laws passed by the Parliament. Boris Tadic, the pro-EU former president, is seeking a third term in this year's race. He is being challenged by extremist-turned populist Tomislav Nikolic, who has Russia's backing.

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PARLIAMENT: The parliamentary race features 250 seats up for grabs. Tadic's reformist Democratic Party and Nikolic's Serbian Progressive Party are said to be neck-in-neck, followed by the Socialists and a coalition around the Liberal Democrats. Tadic's Democrats have led the bid to join the EU together with Socialists as coalition partners. Surveys suggest no party will win an outright majority and another coalition government will be necessary.

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PREMIERSHIP: The prime minister is appointed by the president. If no party wins an outright majority, postelection coalitions are possible to put forth a candidate.

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LOCAL ELECTIONS: Municipal parliaments to be elected, including in the northern Vojvodina province and the highly contested capital, Belgrade. Mayors are chosen by local assemblies.