March 29, 2013 / 4:29 PM / 7 years ago

Ruling Serb Progressive Party stays popular: opinion poll

BELGRADE (Reuters) - The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), the strongest in Serbia’s coalition government, kept its popularity in March, indicating it could win any snap election, an opinion poll published on Friday said.

Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) leader and Serbian defence Minister Aleksandar Vucic (C) gestures during a media conference in his party's headquarters in Belgrade February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

The poll conducted this month put support for the SNS, led by Vice-Premier Aleksandar Vucic, at 38.6 percent, well ahead of the 14.8 percent scored by its closest rival, the opposition Democratic Party, which lost power in an election in May.

The SNS’s coalition partner, an alliance of Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s Socialist Party of Serbia and its two small allies, came third with 13.6 percent, the survey showed.

The third coalition partner, the pro-business United Regions of Serbia, gained the backing of 4.9 percent of those polled.

The margin of error in the poll, conducted by Faktor Plus on a sample of 1,260 respondents from across Serbia, was 3 percent.

Vucic, who is also defense minister and oversees the intelligence agencies, won a 71 percent personal approval rating, mainly because of his anti-corruption campaign.

Serbia must root out rampant corruption and organized crime to secure a date for accession talks with the European Union.

The ruling coalition was rocked in February by a scandal over contacts between Dacic, who is also interior minister, and a suspected drug trafficker. That fuelled speculation the SNS might seek an early election to capitalize on its popularity.

The next parliamentary election is scheduled for 2016.

The poll showed respondents still divided over how Serbia should resolve its dispute with Kosovo, with 27 percent rejecting any deal that could imply independence for its former province, while 24 percent favored any agreement that would advance the country’s drive for EU membership.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 secession, but is under pressure from the EU to improve ties and help overcome a split between Kosovo’s Albanian majority and a Serb enclave in the north before a date for accession talks is set.

Talks between Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Brussels, hosted by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, failed to produce an agreement. Talks are to resume on April 2.

Editing by Alistair Lyon

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