Nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic has caused an upset in Serbia after beating the odds and defeating the country's incumbent president Boris Tadic in a run-off vote.
According to Associated Press, the Center for Free Elections and Democracy independent polling group, said Nikolic, 60, won 49.4% of the vote, while Tadic received 47.4%. The news agency added that the "result that adds to the political turmoil in the Balkan country and could slow down its attempts to join the European Union."
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Tadic, 54, who leads the Democratic Party, was quick to concede the defeat and AFP says he congratulated Nikolic on "a fair and well-earned victory". The election had been seen as a vote on EU membership, but following the news of his victory Nikolic promised: "Serbia will not turn away from the European path."
Surveys conducted just ahead of the second round vote had predicted Tadic would secure a comfortable win with up to 58 per cent of the vote.
Speaking on Serbian state television RTS political analyst Slobodan Antonic remarked: "This was an electoral earthquake, a totally unexpected result."
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However, Radio Free Europe says that turnout may have been as low as 46%, speculating that voters were frustrated by a lack of choice. Tadic had defeated Nikolic in Serbia's last two presidential elections in 2004 and 2008.
The BBC says that Mr Nikolic once served as a deputy prime minister under the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was put on trial for genocide at The Hague. He was also in government when Nato bombed Serbia in 1999 and once said he would rather see the country ally itself with Russia than join the EU. However, the news service says he and his Progressive Party have since made serious efforts to rebrand themselves.