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Serbian opposition rallies in Belgrade demanding election recount

People wait in line to cast their votes at a polling station during elections in Belgrade, Serbia April 24, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Hundreds of Serbian opposition supporters rallied in Belgrade on Saturday demanding a nationwide recount of last weekend’s election ballots, the resignation of the election commission or a re-run of the vote, claiming fraud and irregularities.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who wants to take Serbia into the European Union, won Sunday’s election with 48.24 percent of the vote, roughly unchanged from 2014. But his Progressive Party’s majority in parliament was reduced as more parties attained the five percent vote threshold needed for seats.

Left-wing and ultra-nationalist opposition parties teamed up on Saturday to protest in front of the election commission office, chanting “We want our votes” and “This is fraud”.

The Democratic Party of Serbia and Dveri (DSS/Dveri), an ultra-nationalist alliance, fell below the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament by a single ballot after a recount overnight on Thursday of around two percent of votes.

The recount was marred by heated arguments between DSS/Dveri activists and members of the election commission.

Scattered abuses were reported during Sunday’s vote but international observers said fundamental freedoms were respected - although there was biased media coverage, undue advantage for incumbents and a blurring of state and party activities.

A partial re-run of voting at 15 polling stations will take place on Wednesday, May 4, following irregularities, but the election commission has not agreed to a nationwide recount.

“Every single ballot is a cornerstone of democracy and must be defended as such,” Boris Tadic, Serbia’s former president and the head of the Social Democrats, told the crowd. The partial re-run could reinforce Tadic’s leftist alliance’s position and secure DSS/Dveri’s entry to parliament.

It could also push the leftist alliance below the threshold, giving Vucic’s conservative Progressives a more comfortable majority.

Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Ros Russell