Belgrade, May 6
After bringing Serbia to the EU’s doorstep, incumbent President Boris Tadic is seeking his third and final term in office aiming to bring the former pariah state over the European threshold.
A trained psychologist, the 54-year-old politician, who became Serbia’s first non-communist leader since World War II in 2004, is best known for his strong pro-European stance -- even when it was not popular in Serbia because of Brussels’ support for the independence of breakaway Kosovo.
Tadic has persistently urged Serbia not to turn its back on the European Union and, balancing between compromises with the international community and his electorate, he managed to get the country EU candidacy status in March.
Media savvy, the soft-spoken married father of two is sometimes mockingly nicknamed "mannequin" as he seems to dress just right for every occasion.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi dubbed the grey-haired Tadic "President Clooney" for his supposed likeness to movie star George Clooney.
Twelve years after the ouster of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, Tadic has worked hard to change the negative image that burdened Serbia following the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.
The amateur painter likes to be seen at home and abroad with Serbian success stories, like tennis world number one Novak Djokovic. His critics say he is trying to imitate US President Barack Obama’s relaxed style but can seem rehearsed and emotionless at times.
An activist student and prominent water polo player in his youth, Tadic took the helm of the centre-left Democratic Party (DS) after one of its founders, Serbian reformist prime minister Zoran Djindjic, was assassinated in 2003.
On the campaign trail, Tadic has warned voters of "tough times ahead" as the country faces a record 24-percent unemployment rate and people struggle to make ends meet on an average monthly salary of around 350 euros ($460).
He has vowed to focus on economic revival based on foreign investments and agriculture and export-oriented industry, as well as stepping up the fight against organised crime and corruption.
But many of his former backers blame Tadic for failing to impose more radical political and economic reforms and for turning a blind eye to widespread corruption and sometimes shady industrial privatisation.
Liberals and human rights activists accuse him of flirting with nationalism, and slam his support for hardline Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.
His opponents portray him as a power-hungry opportunist who is trying to control all political and economic matters in Serbia.
Tadic won Western support with his cooperative stance on Kosovo and by handing over the last remaining war crimes fugitives, Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, to the Hague-based UN tribunal.
At Tadic’s initiative the Serbian parliament passed an historic declaration condemning the Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslims by Belgrade-backed Bosnian Serb troops in 1995 and apologising to the victims and their families.
He had already apologised when he attended the 2005 commemoration of the massacre, the bloodiest episode in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.