Serbs due to vote in closely fought contest
Published: 6th May 2012 02:33:48
Voters in Serbia are due to go to the polls in presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
Opinion polls suggest opposition candidate Tomislav Nikolic and liberal incumbent Boris Tadic are running neck and neck in the presidential race.
Mr Tadic stepped down as president last month, forcing an early presidential vote alongside the other polls.
Both men say they are committed to European Union membership for Serbia, which won EU candidate status in March.
However, Mr Nikolic, an old ally of the late Slobodan Milosevic, fiercely opposed the move just a few years ago.
The election is being fought primarily between two parties at the centre of the political spectrum, the BBC's Nick Thorpe reports from Belgrade.
As president, Mr Tadic oversaw Serbia's EU candidacy negotiations and has argued that success for him and his Democratic Party (DS) is vital for development and stability in Serbia over the next decade.
Mr Nikolic, who once said he would rather see Serbia ally itself with Russia than join the EU, has recently softened his nationalist rhetoric and chosen to attack the DS on its economic record.
Serbia is plagued by unemployment of 24% and foreign debt of 24bn euros (£19.5bn; $31.5bn).
"The economy is the most important issue at hand for all the voters, there's no question about that," Srdjan Bogosavljevic, from the Ipsos Strategic Marketing polling agency, told the Associated Press news agency.
"The economic situation is much worse than people have expected it to be."
Aleksandar Ristic, a 30-year-old with a small business in Belgrade, said people were "struggling to survive".
"People are fed up with them all," he added.
Opinion polls suggest Mr Nikolic's Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) may become the biggest in parliament, just ahead of the DS, but some kind of coalition with smaller parties is the likely outcome.
Mr Nikolic has said on the campaign trail that the SNS wants the EU and the jobs and investment it may offer.
But he added that Serbia could not give up its breakaway province of Kosovo in exchange.
If there is no outright winner in the presidential race, as seems likely, a run-off vote will be held in two weeks' time.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Serbs due to vote in closely fought contest [Online] (Updated 6th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1426794/Serbs-due-to-vote-in-closely-fought-contest [Accessed 23rd Apr 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com