The first round is over, on one hand as expected, on the other not quite. What was expected was the runoff and the ranking of the candidates. The unexpected was the high turnout of the voters.
The winner of the first round is the Radical party candidate Tomislav Nikolić and he won in many aspects. The first is that he got more then incumbent Boris Tadić. The second is that Nikolić got 500.000 votes more then his party did in parliamentary elections a year ago today. And third, he busted beyond repair the myth that high turnout favours so-called democratic parties and that the Radical party's high watermark is a million or so voters.
The second winner is prime minister Koštunica who, through voters whom he is influential on, those who voted Velimir Ilić, can now blackmail Tadić into supporting him. Tadić iz not going to like having to beg Koštunica but he will have no other option. The number of those staying at home that he can activate is much smaller than before plus a lot of other circumsances have changed as well.
The biggest loser is Boris Tadić for reasons that apply for Koštunica and Nikolić only in reverse. He is going to have to beg people that do not like him and that he does not like for support, but they will have conflicting demands. Velimir Ilić would demand that Tadić's party agree with the Russia pipeline deal, and the "liberal democrat"(read: transantional progressivist) Čedomir Jovanocić will demand alignement with the EU(SSR). How do you reconcile that?
Talking of Jovanović, he is the second biggest loser of the night since he got less then a year ago and fell in 5th place behind Milutin Mrkonjić of the Socialist party(the party of late Slobodan Milošević). That is the best news of the night for me and an indicator that we haven't gone completely to hell as a nation.
So, what about the runoff? Assuming the leading candidates hold on to their first round voters, Nikolić can count on votes from Mrkonjić and a couple of small-time candidates whereas Tadić will get votes from Jovanović and the candidate of the Hungarian minority party Istvan Pastor. That still gives Nikolić the edge so the voters of Velimir Ilić will decide (this solves the mystery of how Koštunica and Ilić hold the positions that they do with 10-15% of support). Tadić has a mountain to climb and the negative campaign on Nikolić has already begun. It will be interesting to see the televised debates.
And last but not least I'd like to comment on the high voter turnout of nearly 60%. Nobody could predict this in Serbia caught up with seemingly incurable apathy over the years especially since the participants were more or less the same as before. What influenced this? Tadić and Nikolić did both good campaigns but the real reason is in international cricumstances and in the fact that Russia stands like a stone wall in defense of international law in case of Kosovo and Metohija. This has shown the people in Serbia that they do have a say in the destiny of their own land. They should use this new knowledge wisely.