The 8,255 polling stations in Serbian opened this Sunday at 7:00 a.m. (5:00 GMT) for the elections presidential and parliamentaryin which the current president, the populist aleksandar vucicand the ruling SNS party, seek to renew their mandates.
Some 6.5 million citizens with voting rights will be able to deposit their ballots for 13 hours to elect the new head of state among eight candidates and the Parliament, of 250 deputies, among 19 parties and coalitions.
Also celebrated are municipal elections in Belgrade and in 13 other cities.
The polls give Vucic, a former ultra-nationalist turned pro-European, an absolute majority with which he could win his second five-year term already in the first round.
Opponents accuse him of authoritarianism and control of institutions since his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power in 2012.
Among the seven rivals of Vucic stands out the retired general Zdravko Ponos, of centrist orientationcandidate of the opposition coalition “United for the Victory of Serbia”, made up of a dozen pro-European parties and movements, which is also competing in the legislative elections.
Ponos, former Chief of Staff of the Serbian Army with experience also in diplomacy, would achieve 28%, according to the polls.
His coalition believes that a high turnout at the polls, above 60%, could lead to a second round of elections that would unite against Vucic all his critics and opponents.
Opinion polls differ in their forecasts, but agree in giving the SNS more than 45% of the votesfollowed by “United for the Victory of Serbia”, with 20%.
The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the opposition left-wing environmentalist alliance “Moramo”as well as the parties of national minorities.
Some small formations on the right too could pass the minimum threshold of 3%.
Serbs in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared itself independent in 2008 but whose sovereignty they do not recognize, will be able to vote in several locations in Serbia close to the border after the Kosovar government prohibited its voting on Kosovar territory.
Polling stations close in Serbia at 18:00 GMT and the first projections or results will be known a few hours later.
More than 5,000 observers nationals and foreigners supervise the electoral process.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.