Serbia's ruling nationalists claim victory in local elections rerun

Serbia's ruling nationalist party claimed victory in the capital Belgrade on Sunday in a rerun of local elections, nearly six months after allegations of fraud in a previous poll sparked weeks of protest.

With official results yet to be announced, Serbia's president and SNS party leader Aleksandar Vucic claimed a commanding victory in the capital and almost all other municipalities around the country where votes were held.

The SNS had narrowly won the December vote with 49 seats in the city council but was unable to form a municipal government, prompting a new election.

"We had a majority even after December 17 in Belgrade. But we felt that wasn't enough legitimacy because some others didn't want to form a coalition with us. Now, we will have 62 or 63 seats" out of 110 on the city council, Vucic said on Sunday.

Shortly after Vucic's speech, fireworks resounded in the capital.

According to preliminary results based on exit polls published by the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) and Ipsos, the SNS came out on top with 53 percent of the vote in Belgrade followed by Kreni Promeni ("Go for Change"), a newcomer to the opposition, with 17 percent of the vote.

Turnout, meanwhile, was lower than in December -- two hours before the polls closed at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT), 37 percent of voters in the capital had cast their ballots, compared with over 45 percent in December, according to the only official turnout figures published that day.

Local media reported that when activists tried to enter the building, clashes broke out and tear gas was used.

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