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Serb Opposition Leader Partners With Anti-EU Party Before Vote

Serbian opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic reached an agreement with an anti-European Union party, committing to policies aimed at keeping Serbia politically and militarily neutral if he wins May 20 presidential runoff.

The partnership was outlined in an agreement signed by Nikolic, the leader of the Progressive Party, and the Democratic Party of Serbia led by former Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who wants Serbia to scrap its three-month old candidate status for EU membership and any further efforts to joining the bloc. In turn, Kostunica urged his voters to back Nikolic on Sunday.

The two parties, which are both targeting Russia for future investments, will pursue policies that will “enable citizens to vote in a free referendum” on whether Serbia should become an EU member or stay neutral, according to the agreement.

Nikolic enters the second round of the presidential election on May 20, facing off Democratic Party leader and incumbent Boris Tadic. The outcome will determine whether Serbia keeps striving for EU membership under Tadic or turns east for political and economic ties under Nikolic’s leadership.

Tadic won the first round of presidential election, while his party finished second in a concurrent parliamentary race, giving it six seats less than the Progressive Party’s 73 in the 250-member assembly. His Democrats have already agreed with the third-placed Socialist Party of former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to form a new government. Both coalitions need a third partner for a 126-strong majority in parliament.

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