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Serbia picks president, Marija backs candidate

22 January 2008 at 11:59 CET

Last night, Nikolic has won the first round of Serbia's presidential election. Nikolic appeared to have won about 39%, while the more pro-European president, Boris Tadic, had 35%, the electoral commission said.  Nikolic said his Radical Party "could not be stopped now." Tadic said he was "certain of victory in the run-off." One of the main issues facing the new president will be Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo, whose majority ethnic Albanian population is expected to declare independence in the near future, the BBC's Nick Hawton in Belgrade says.

A remarkable guest in Nikolic' campaign is nobody but Marija Šerifović, winner of last year's Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Serbia. It's not the first time a Eurovision Song Contest winner backs a presidential candidate so short after victory. In 2004, Eurovision Song Contest winner Ruslana strongly backed Viktor Yushchenko and the declared 'Orange Revolution', which would ultimately lead to the peaceful recognition of Yushchenko's electoral victory. The positive spirit that followed could easily be sensed in the theme of the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, Awakening.

"The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event, and that's the way it should stay, but  who the winner supports after the contest, is not a matter for  us," comments Bjørn Erichsen, Director of Eurovision TV. "However, political stability is an important condition to organize any large-scale event, also for the Eurovision Song Contest. We share our hope with the international community that the issues around Kosovo will be solved diplomatically," he adds.