The right-wing populist party of Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic claimed an overwhelming victory after Sunday’s parliamentary elections in the Balkan country. The election was boycotted by the opposition in protest to Vucic’s autocratic policies that has seen the country slide from “free” to “partly free” in the most recent Freedom House “Freedom in the World” survey.

Mr. Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has a record of interfering with independent media, the political opposition, and civil society organizations as well as meddling with the judiciary. In Sunday’s elections, the electoral coalition led by SNS won almost 62 percent of the votes and 191 of the 250 seats in parliament.

According to official data, the elections saw a turnout of around 50 percent, the lowest since 2000. However, as the election watch dog NGO CRTA reports, turnout would have been even lower at only about 45 percent had it not been for massive irregularities.

In addition, turnout was affected by fears over the COVID pandemic. Although Serbia ended its state of emergency restrictions on May 6, many voters presumably stayed home over fear of the corona virus.

Serbia is a candidate country of the European Union and started its negotiations with the bloc formally in 2014 . More recently, though, the country has also been courted by China as the centre of Beijing’s “hub and spoke” strategy. Serbia also enjoys political support from China in their policy of non-recognition of Kosovo that declared independence from Serbia in 2008.