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September 22, 2017

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Serbia's center-right faces reform challenge after landslide

BELGRADE, Serbia--With a resounding election victory under its belt, Serbia's center-right SNS party must now forge ahead with tough economic reforms as it plots a course into the EU, analysts said on Monday.

With around half the ballots counted from Sunday's snap poll, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has taken 48.5 percent of the vote, according to the electoral commission, which would translate to 156 members in the 250-seat parliament.

On these trends, the SNS is headed for the most emphatic election win since late strongman Slobodan Milosevic came to power after the fall of communism in 1990.

SNS leader Aleksandar Vucic, tipped to become prime minister, had claimed victory on late Sunday.

Vucic "will be able to form the government without anybody else," the Blic newspaper wrote.

"But with such a majority, Vucic has also inherited an absolute responsibility for everything that happens in Serbia. From regular payment of pensions to negotiations with the EU and Kosovo, all will be his responsibility," it said.

The 44-year old Vucic, an ultra-nationalist hawk turned pro-European, said the first task for the government would be to push ahead with economic reforms and "solve the unemployment problem."

"We are facing difficult reforms... I am convinced that Serbia will pursue its path towards the EU and its fight against corruption," Vucic told supporters at a victory rally in Belgrade on Sunday.

Vucic has built up huge support on the back of a tough anti-corruption drive and his efforts to mend relations with Brussels.

A compromise deal last year over the status of breakaway region Kosovo opened the door for Serbia to start accession talks with the EU, which it hopes to join in 2020.

'Political tsunami'

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