Aleksandar Vucic (Serbian President), who has maintained close ties to Russia and refused sanctions against Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, will likely extend his nearly 10-year-old grip on power in Balkan country during Sunday’s national elections.

According to polls, Vucic, a populist, who boasted about his personal connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin will be elected to a fifth-year term. The country’s parliament will continue to be dominated by his right-wing Serbian Progressive Party.

However, polls showed a tight local government race in Belgrade, the capital. Vucic could lose his party in Belgrade, which would undermine his increasingly autocratic rule.

The conservative views of Serbia’s 6.5million voters reflect the majority of political parties participating in the general, presidential and municipal elections. A new Green-left coalition, which focuses on long-neglected environmental issues, is also fielding candidates.

Officials from opposition parties claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only strengthened Vucic’s control over Serbian politics, and the main media. The president’s election slogan was changed to “Peace” shortly after Russian tanks invaded Ukraine. Stability. Vucic.”

Dragan Djilas (leader of United Serbia’s largest opposition coalition) stated in an interview that the war had diverted attention from the events in Serbia.

Djilas stated that articles are published every day on how a kilogramme of bread costs in Italy and Germany at 9 euros each, how fuel is scarce, how they will get food stamps, and how we are so great. “People are afraid, and it suits the authorities because people will say, “Let’s change nothing now.”

Serbia, a long-standing Russian ally has refused to be part of sanctions against Moscow being proposed by the United States and the European Union. The resolution condemned Moscow’s attack against Ukraine as violating international law was approved by the country’s representative at the United Nations.

Vucic and his comrades have resisted condemning Russia for the invasion, even though the Serbian government claimed it was seeking EU membership. This could be a sign that they don’t want to alienate pro-Russian voters before Sunday’s election.

Many Serbs are pro-Russian because they hate NATO. The Western military alliance bombed Serbia in 1999 to stop a Serb crackdown against ethnic Albanians who wanted independence for Kosovo.

Ivica Dacic, former Serbian Foreign Minister, stated that Russia’s imposition of sanctions would be political suicide because Moscow blocked U.N membership for Kosovo. The country declared independence in 2008.

Dacic stated, “If we are willing to give up Kosovo then we can impose sanctions against Russia.” “But if it is not possible, we will not be able to.”

Thousands of people from Serbia attended rallies in support of Putin during the five week invasion. They waved Russian flags and displayed the letter Z, a symbol that was seen on Russian military vehicles in Ukraine. Serbia is somewhat unusual in Europe because of its support for Moscow.

Officials from the opposition said that Vucic has almost complete control over the media and that the pro-Russian narrative created up to the election, but they still expect a positive outcome on Sunday.

“The situation in Ukraine was very clear for us. It’s about Russian aggression, which we immediately condemned,” Dobrica Veslinovic, the candidate for the We Must coalition and Belgrade mayor, said.

According to polls, Vucic is expected to win the presidential election on Sunday. He would be facing an unpredictable runoff against Zdravko ponos, the opposition candidate and Western-educated former general of the army.

Vucic called for an early vote following criticisms from the EU about Serbia’s 2020 elections. That election was boycotted by the opposition.

Slobodan Studar, a political analyst, stated that there is no difference in these elections from those held two years ago. Vucic will be represented by fewer legislators than he is now in a new parliament. He will be able tell Europe that he is a democratic country. “See how many enemies he has in parliament.