Tomislav Nikolić

Tomislav Nikolić is the President of Serbia since 31 May 2012 and founder of Serbian Progressive Party and its former leader.

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Tomislav Nikolić (Serbian Cyrillic: Томислав Николић, Serbian pronunciation: [tǒmislaʋ nǐkolitɕ]; born 15 February 1952) is the President of Serbia since 31 May 2012 and founder of Serbian Progressive Party and its former leader. On the 2012 Serbian presidential elections, he was elected to a five-year term on 20 May 2012 as a leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

Nikolić was previously a long-time member and MP of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). He served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia from 1998 to 1999 and Deputy Prime Minister of FR Yugoslavia in the coalition government from 1999 to 2000. Nikolić was the Radical Party's deputy leader from 2003, when he briefly served as the President of the National Assembly of Serbia in 2007. In 2008 he resigned following a disagreement with party leader Vojislav Šešelj regarding Serbia's relations with the European Union, as Nikolić became in favor of Serbia's accession to the EU, a move that was staunchly opposed by Šešelj and his faction.[1] Nikolić then formed the Serbian Progressive Party, which several SRS members joined.

Nikolić ran for the President of Yugoslavia in the 2000 elections and placed third. He also ran four times for the President of Serbia (in 2003, 2004, 2008 elections, and 2012 elections). In 2003 he garnered the most votes, but the election was cancelled due to low turnout, while in 2004 and 2008 he placed second behind Boris Tadić. In 2012, he won the runoff against Tadić to become president of Serbia.

Early life

Tomislav Nikolić was born in Kragujevac. His father Radomir was a labourer, and his mother Živadinka (née Đoković) was a housewife. In his youth, he trained in athletics. He completed secondary technical school in Kragujevac.[2] His first employment was as a cemetery supervisor,[2][3] which led to his later nickname "Toma The Undertaker".[4] In 1971 he began working with the building construction company "Žegrap", and in 1978 he worked for the company "22 December” in Kragujevac as head of the Investment and Maintenance Department. He was also Technical Director of the Utility Services company in Kragujevac.[2] He and his wife Dragica (née Ninković) have two sons.[2]

Political career

Radical Party

Nikolić began his political career as vice-president of the People's Radical Party. Under his initiative, the People's Radical Party merged with Vojislav Šešelj's Serbian National Renewal to form the Serbian Radical Party. Šešelj was elected president of the new party and Nikolić as vice-president.[5] He has been a deputy in the National Assembly of Serbia since 1991, the only one to be elected continuously since that year.[citation needed] During the rule of Slobodan Milošević and the Socialist Party of Serbia, he and Šešelj were sentenced to three months in prison which he served in Gnjilane. However, in March 1998 the Serbian Radical Party formed a coalition with the Socialist Party and he then became the vice-president of the Government of Serbia and, by the end of 1999, the vice-president of the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In 2000, he began the first of several runs for the presidency of Serbia. In the FR Yugoslavia presidential election of 2000, he finished in third place behind Vojislav Koštunica and Slobodan Milošević. He then ran in the 2003 Serbian presidential election, in which garnered the most votes in the first round (46.23%), ahead of Dragoljub Mićunović, but the results were invalidated due to a low turnout of only 38.8%. Nikolić made yet another bid for presidency in the 2004 presidential election. In the first round, he received 30.1% of the vote and Boris Tadić received 27.3%. In the second round held on 27 June, Nikolić lost to Tadić by 53.7% to 45.4%.[citation needed]

On 23 February 2003 he became the deputy leader of the party, after Vojislav Šešelj went voluntarily to the ICTY.[4] During his leadership of the party, Nikolić favoured pushing the party towards focusing on more economic and social issues such as poverty and unemployment, rather than militant nationalism.[4]

Nikolić was elected Speaker of Parliament on 8 May 2007, defeating Milena Milošević of the Democratic Party by 142 to 99 votes out of 244 members of Parliament. The Democratic Party of Serbia endorsed him.[6] Hajredin Kuci of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Ylli Hoxha of the Reformist Party ORA, and the Prime Minister of Kosovo Agim Çeku condemned the election of Nikolić as "counterproductive and dangerous for Kosovo".[7] On 9 May, Nikolić met with Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Alekseyev and gave a speech to Parliament in which he advocated making Serbia part of a Belarus-Russia superstate, saying that together they would "stand up against the hegemony of America and the European Union".[8]

He resigned from his position as speaker on 15 May after the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Serbia formed a preliminary alliance in preparation for a coalition government. He was the Speaker with the shortest mandate in the history of parliamentary democracy in the Balkans.[6][9] Nikolić told the Democratic parties that if they "peacefully accept" the independence of Kosovo the Radical Party "will not sit calmly and wait".[9]



Tomislav Nikolić 2008 campaign logo

In 2008, he ran again for the presidency in the 2008 presidential election. His slogan was With All Heart (Serbian: Свим срцем, Svim srcem). On 20 January 2008, Nikolić again won the first round with 39.99% of the vote. Nikolić and incumbent Boris Tadić, who garnered 35.39% of the vote, faced off against each other in a runoff election on 3 February. Nikolić lost, receiving 2,197,155 or 47.97% of the vote.[10]

Nikolić abruptly resigned from the Radical Party leadership on 6 September 2008. Serb media cited differences between Nikolić and other members of the Radical Party hierarchy, especially party leader Vojislav Šešelj, about how the party should react to the proposed European Union membership for Serbia.[11] In the following days Nikolić formed a parliamentary group with a number of other Radical Party representatives called "Napred Srbijo" (Forward, Serbia).[12] Nikolić told the press that the "old Serbian Radical Party no longer exists".[13] On 11 September 2008 Šešelj addressed all Radical Party members in a letter. He named Nikolić and his group as "traitors, Western puppets and agents". He also called upon all SRS members to remain loyal to the ideology of "Serbian nationalism, anti-globalism and pro-Russian politics".[14] On 12 September 2008, Nikolić and his group were officially ejected from the Radical Party.[15] In reply, Nikolić announced that he would form his own party.[16]

Progressive Party



Tomislav Nikolić and Aleksandar Vučić at the founding convention of SNS

On 24 September 2008 he announced that his new party's name would be the Serbian Progressive Party and that the first convention would be held on 21 October.[17] The founding congress of the new party was held on 21 October 2008.[18]

On 5 February 2011, in front of the National Assembly, Nikolić and his political supporters – Milanka Karić (Strength of Serbia Movement, Velimir Ilić (New Serbia), Aleksandar Vulin (Movement of Socialists) and Aleksandar Vučić organized a protest demanding early parliamentary elections. According to an official Serbian police report there were around 55,000 people present. On 16 April 2011 Nikolić organized a larger protest with the same request. He also started a thirst and hunger strike that morning and later moved to the national parliament. He stated that his goal was to force the then-Serbian government (led by Boris Tadić) to hold early parliamentary elections.[19] On 17 April Tadić came to visit Nikolić in the latter's parliamentary chambers. Tadić advised Nikolić to stop striking for his own good. Nikolić's condition worsened and he was taken to a private hospital. Serb media regularly reported on his condition. That same night his arterial tension was high (150/100 mmHg)[20] but he refused to seek intravenous therapy or medication.[20] When he realized that his hunger strike would not bring about the desired outcome, Nikolić stepped down, using Orthodox Easter as his justification.[citation needed]

Nikolić led the party in the Serbian parliamentary election, 2012, and he ran for president in the 2012 presidential election. His slogan was Let's Get Serbia Moving (Serbian: Покренимо Србију, Pokrenimo Srbiju). During the campaign, the issue of his education was raised, as the opposition claimed that Nikolić obtained his master's degree under dubious circumstances in a private school. Nikolić responded by suing the daily newspapers Blic and Kurir, demanding 4 million euros as compensation.[21]



A Nikolić campaign billboard in Petrovaradin before the 2012 elections.

On 6 May 2012, Nikolić lost the first round with 25.05% of the vote. Nikolić and incumbent Boris Tadić, who garnered 25.31% of the vote, faced off against each other in a runoff election on 20 May. Nikolić won, receiving 49.4% of the vote in a tally of 70% of the polling stations. Boris Tadić, his rival in the elections, congratulated him on the victory, and stated that he hoped that Serbia would continue its progress under Nikolić.[22]

Nikolić resigned as leader of the Serbian Progressive Party on 24 May 2012.[23]

President of Serbia

Nikolić was inaugurated as the President of Serbia on 11 June 2012. Stefan Fuelle, the EU's enlargement commissioner, was the highest-ranking official to attend and many ambassadors from other countries were also present. Leaders of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia boycotted the inauguration due to his denial of the genocide at Srebrenica and claims about Vukovar.[24][25][26]

Controversies

Greater Serbia

During the 1990s and until 2008, Nikolić repeatedly called for the creation of a Greater Serbia.[27][28] Nikolić told a Zagreb paper in 2004 that the boundaries of Greater Serbia along the Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line were not part of any imperialistic politics, but would always remain a "dream" for him and other Radical leaders.[29] He also said that he would not have diplomatic relations with Croatia because they are "occupying Serbian land".[30] In 2007 Nikolić stated that the basis of political action in the Serbian Radical Party was the unification of Republika Srpska, Montenegro, and the Republic of Serbian Krajina with Serbia in a single Balkan state.[31] But a few days before the 2012 elections, Nikolić told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview that the territorial integrity of neighbouring countries can not be questioned and that his former opinions were no longer valid.[32] When asked about this change of position, he quoted a French philosopher that "only a fool does not change his opinion."[33]

Đinđić and Ćuruvija

In a remark about Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić's injured leg, Nikolić said on 28 February 2003: "If anyone of you, in the following month or two, sees Zoran Đinđić somewhere, tell him that Tito also had a problem with a leg before his death".[34] Less than three weeks later Đinđić was assassinated in Belgrade. Nikolić later apologized for his statement by saying that he would have never said that had he known what would happen. In contrast to Đinđić, Nikolić repeatedly refused to apologize for stating "I don’t regret that Slavko Curuvija was murdered”.[4][35][36] A prominent journalist, Slavko Ćuruvija was murdered on 11 April 1999 in front of the door of his building.

Accusations of war crimes

In 2005, the Humanitarian Law Center asked the War Crimes Prosecution Office to investigate a massacre committed in the Croatian village of Antin in the then-SAO Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia in August 1991. Survivors claimed it was perpetrated by the members of volunteer units “Šešelj's followers”, among whom Tomislav Nikolić was mentioned. The inspiration for initiating such a claim were previous statements of Nikolić regarding his involvement in the Yugoslav wars. He was awarded a title of chetnik voivode (Chetnik duke) by Šešelj for “showing by a personal example how one should fight for the Serb ideal in the battles in Slavonia”.[37] The video of the swearing-in ceremony resurfaced in 2012.[38]

In 2005, Vladimir Popović, former chief of the Government Communications Bureau, in the interview to B92 Insajder said that he had learned about these allegations from Jovica Stanišić, former head of State Security Service.[39][40] Stanišić is currently facing trial at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for his role in the wars in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and apparently during his service he acted in the role of a CIA agent.[41]

Nataša Kandić, a human rights activist, wrote in a public letter that she was in possession of evidence indicating Nikolić had personally participated in the killing of elderly residents of Antin.[42]

Nikolić did not deny claims that he was stationed in Antin at the time, but has stated that there were no civilian deaths in Antin and that he himself never fired a bullet.[43] Tomislav Nikolić filed a lawsuit on 12 September 2005, as Kandić stated on B92 that "some civilians in the Croatian village of Antin suffered under his hand in 1991".[44] The Serbian Radical Party then accused the NGO of spreading anti-Serbian sentiments.[1] The Croatian Ministry of the Interior stated it had no information on Nikolić's offences in Antin.[44]

After Kandić refused to apologize, Nikolić sued her for defamation.[45] The court found Kandić guilty in February 2009. Nikolić was given the right to seek material compensation in damages.[46] International human rights organization Front Line condemned the lawsuit as "part of a campaign aimed at stigmatizing human right defenders and human rights organisations operating in Serbia, portraying them as enemies of the country",[47] and Human Rights Watch named the case as an example of criminal libel laws used as "a tool to silence human rights criticisms".[48] The defamation verdict was later overturned on appeal in District Court in Belgrade.[49]

Vukovar statements

In a May 2012 interview, Nikolić was quoted by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to have said that ″Vukovar was a Serb city and Croats have nothing to go back to there″.[50] Croatian President Ivo Josipović criticized Nikolić for this statement and conditioned future cooperation on Nikolić′s withdrawal of the statement.[51]

The following day Nikolić′s office issued a statement saying that Nikolić never made any such statement and called it a ″treacherous lie″.[52] However, Michael Martens, the journalist of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung subsequently published the audio recording showing that Nikolić had indeed made that statement.[53]

Comments about Srebrenica massacre

On 2 June 2012, Nikolić stated on Montenegrin television that "there was no genocide in Srebrenica. In Srebrenica, grave war crimes were committed by some Serbs who should be found, prosecuted and punished. [...] It is very difficult to indict someone and prove before a court that an event qualifies as genocide." Nikolić also stated that he wont attend the annual commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre: "Don't always ask the Serbian president if he is going to Srebrenica, my predecessor was there and paid tribute. Why should every president do the same?"[54]

Bakir Izetbegović, a member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency, said Nikolic's comments insulted the survivors. He elaborated "the denial of genocide in Srebrenica will not pave the way for co-operation and reconciliation in the region, but on the contrary may cause fresh misunderstandings and tensions. "[54]

Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief of the European Union, condemned his comments and stated that "the EU strongly rejects any intention to rewrite history."[55]

The United States deplored Nikolić's statement and considered them unfounded and counterproductive.[56]

University degree

Nikolić's University degree caused controversy due to the fact that he finished his second year in two days, from 13 to 16 June 2005. Some of the dates of his exams in the records coincide with his public appearances in other towns.[57] The degree that he presented to the public states the University name as Faculty for Management while in the official database of degrees of the National Library of Serbia he is registered as a graduate of the Faculty of Commerce and Banking "Janićije and Danica Karić". Final thesis names also differ, at the first University it was registered as Marketing of political parties in the election campaign and at the second University his thesis is called Stock exchange operations and brokers at the Belgrade Stock Exchange.[58]

Bibliography

Tomislav Nikolić has published thirteen books.[citation needed]

  • Ни победа ни пораз - Neither victory nor defeat
  • Све за Косово и Метохију - All for Kosovo and Metohija
  • Отета победа - Abducted victory
  • Шешеља за председника - Šešelj for President
  • Кроз медијски мрак - Through the darkness of the media
  • Писмо са адресом - The letter with an address
  • У канџама мржње - In the grip of hatred
  • Говорио сам - I spoke
  • Скупштински ход по мукама - The parliamentary walk on torture
  • Неокомунистички парламент - Neo-communist parliament
  • Од почетка - Since the beginning
  • Кад падне влада Милошевић пада - When the government falls, Milošević falls
  • Ровови у Народној скупштини - The Trenches in the National Assembly

References

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  33. Tomislav Nikolić: Ne stidim se što sam kao četnik bio u ratu
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  38. Kako je Nikolić polagao zakletvu za četničkog vojvodu
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  40. Mladen Bajić na potezu: 'Tomislav Nikolić u Baranji 1991. pobio desetak civila?'
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  46. Nataša Kandić osuđena zbog klevete Nikolića[dead link]
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  50. Novi srbijanski predsjednik Tomislav Nikolić: Vukovar je bio srpski grad i Hrvati se nemaju zašto vraćati u njega
  51. Josipović: Saradnja moguća ako Nikolić promeni stavove
  52. Nikolic: I did not say that Vukovar was Serb city
  53. Poslušajte što je točno Nikolić rekao za FAZ: Vukovar je bio srpski grad i nemaju šta Hrvati da se vrate
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  57. Blic: Kako je Nikolić studirao
  58. Nikolić napisao dva diplomska rada