13:56 Apr. 17, 2016
Serbian Radical Party return to Parliament can prevent developing closer ties with the E.U.
Ultra-nationalists are set to return to Serbia's parliament in an April 24 election after an absence of several years, boosted by growing discontent with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's pro-European Union stance and austerity policies.
They include firebrand Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, whose popularity in Serbia was boosted by his acquittal last month of crimes against humanity by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Polls indicate Seselj's Radicals and the right-wing Dveri grouping, which hold pro-Russian and anti-NATO views and demand an end to integration with the EU, will both get over the threshold needed to get into parliament and together could win about 25-30 seats in the 250-seat assembly.
While the ultra-nationalists are unlikely to challenge the prime minister's strong hold on power, they will use the platform to attack his pro-EU course and fight any concessions he is forced to make during Serbia's negotiations to join the bloc, which began in December.
Opinion polls suggest Vucic's Progressive Party is on track to retain its parliamentary majority, but Seselj's Radicals — who failed to win any seats in elections in 2012 and 2014 — could become the third-largest group in parliament.
Seselj, whose war crimes acquittal is being appealed by prosecutors, gives voice to the grievances many Serbs feel over NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia over the Kosovo conflict. Seselj was deputy prime minister at the time.
"The EU is made up of NATO countries. They bombed us, they took Kosovo away from us," he told cheering supporters last week in Jagodina, a central town where unemployment runs at 30 percent.
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Seselj, 61, was a mentor to Vucic until 2008 when his protege broke with the Radicals.
Seselj, who has been battling colon cancer for several years, remains a fierce advocate of the "Greater Serbia" ideology that fuelled bloodshed in the 1990s Yugoslav wars.
His goal is to secure enough members of parliament — one third or 84 legislators — to block any attempt to change Serbia's constitution if Belgrade comes under pressure during the EU negotiations to remove a constitutional reference to Kosovo being part of Serbia.