President Aleksandar Vucic is big winner in boycotted Serbian election

Main opposition groups boycott vote, saying it lacked free and fair voting conditions The Progressive Party won more than 60 per cent of the vote, in the Serbian Parliament

epa08501255 Serbian President and the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Aleksandar Vucic declares an election win in Belgrade, Serbia, 21 June 2020. The Western Balkan nation's voters were choosing their representatives in the 250-seat National Assembly. The balloting was originally scheduled for 26 April, but it was postponed due to the state of emergency declared in a bid to contain the spread of the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.  EPA/ANDREJ CUKIC
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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday declared a landslide victory for his right-wing party in a parliamentary vote that was boycotted by much of the opposition.

Aleksandar Vucic told jubilant supporters that his Serbian Progressive Party won more than 60 per cent of the vote, or about 190 of the 250 seats in the Serbian Parliament.

The initial unofficial results indicate that Serbia will have virtually no opposition.

The president's allied Socialists are forecast to take 10 per cent of the vote and second place.

“I have been long in politics but I never experienced such a moment,” Mr Vucic said.

“I’m talking about a historic moment in which one party can find itself. We have won everywhere, where we have never been winning in the past.”

Sunday’s vote was the first national election in Europe to take place during the coronavirus pandemic.

The election, initially planned for April but postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, came as Serbia is still reporting dozens of new cases each day after completely relaxing its strict lockdown rules.

While Serbian voters were not choosing a president on Sunday, Mr Vucic has dominated the campaign through the mainstream media he controls, denouncing and ridiculing critics.

He has denied claims of abusing his formal ceremonial powers as president by taking a leading role in the campaign.

The opposition groups who boycotted the election said there was a lack of free and fair voting conditions and a danger to public health.

But a number of smaller parties decided to run, saying the boycott would only sideline an already marginalised opposition.

Mr Vucic briefly served as information minister in the government of Slobodan Milosevic during the 1990s wars in the Balkans.

While he now says he seeks EU membership for Serbia, critics warn that democratic freedom has been eroded since his party came to power in 2012.

The president called on supporters to vote in large numbers to get a strong mandate for internationally mediated peace negotiations on the future of Serbia’s breakaway former province of Kosovo.

Turnout was lower than in previous elections.

A US-brokered Kosovo-Serbia summit is to be held in Washington on June 27, while EU officials have announced plans to restart Brussels-mediated negotiations.

Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo’s independence and has the support of Russia and China in the dispute.