Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic casts his vote at a polling station in Belgrade, Serbia, on April 2, 2017. Serbia's presidential election started on Sunday morning across the country and abroad where people will vote to choose their new head of state among 11 independent and party candidates, including the incumbent prime minister, who leads in surveys. (Xinhua/Predrag Milosavljevic)
BELGRADE, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Serbia's presidential election started on Sunday morning across the country and abroad where people will vote to choose their new head of state among 11 independent and party candidates, including the incumbent prime minister, who leads in surveys.
From 7:00 a.m. (0500 GMT) in the morning when the polls opened, voters started arriving to cast their ballots in some of the 8,400 designated polling stations across the country and abroad.
The Republic Electoral Commission said more than 6.7 million Serbian citizens are eligible to vote in the election.
Serbians living in 29 foreign countries, including China, Russia and Turkey, would also cast their votes on Sunday, while those living in Britain, the United States and Canada already voted on Saturday.
Pre-election surveys show that Aleksandar Vucic, the 47-year-old prime minister and leader of the ruling Progressive Party, is expected to win by a large margin against 10 rivals. Vucic needs to win by over 50 percent of the vote in the first round to avoid a runoff on April 16.
Vucic, prime minister since 2014, has the support of incumbent President Tomislav Nikolic, Foreign Minister and the leader of the Socialist Party Ivica Dacic, and other smaller partners in the ruling coalition.
The opposition has been unable to field a single candidate to run against Vucic, so he faces a wide range of challengers, including former foreign minister Vuk Jeremic, former ombudsman Sasa Jankovic, comedian and political activist Luka Maksimovic, and the leader of the far-right Radical Party Vojislav Seselj.
Around 2,000 domestic observes from four associations and 130 foreign observers from 25 international organizations, electoral commissions and embassies will monitor the voting process at polling stations.
Polls in Serbia and abroad will close at 8:00 p.m. (1800), and then the votes will be counted by polling boards and sent to the Republic Electoral Commission for its first official preliminary results.
Serbia's president is elected for a five-year term and cannot hold the office more than twice.