On 30 January Serbia president Tomislav Nikolic called early parliamentary elections for 16 March. According to the president Serbia “shall certainly get a government with more energy and enthusiasm and released from problems that this government has solved.” The coalition government, in which the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is the main party, explained its request for early elections by the need to ensure ‘as wide as possible support for accelerated reforms and modernization of Serbia’. However, the fact that SNS is skyrocketing in all polls (above 40%) is considered as crucial factor for SNS to go to the polls and having its leader Aleksandar Vucic as prime minister.
On 5 March the Republic Electoral Commission (RIK) declared the collective list for parliamentary elections. Nineteen political entities will run, seven of them represent minorities. 36% of the 3020 candidates are female.
The competing partners are trying to boost their standing by making short term elections promises (no cuts to pensions) and by attracting foreign visitors to their rallies and conventions. According to Radomir Nikolic, president of the board of the ruling SNS, this has a positive effect because people then see Serbia as an acceptable political partner who is suited for cooperation. Using Facebook is a popular tool to attract attention as well. In the campaign SNS through its media channels has been attacking the main opposition Democratic Party (DS), calling them extremists that are willing to use violence on the street and aiming at a Ukraine scenario in Serbia. DS is focusing on European values such as democracy and rule of law. However, the party is weakened after former President Boris Tadic left the party. Interestingly, SNS is not attacking the newly established New Democratic Party (NDS) of Boris Tadic. Some analysts argue that SNS and NDS might form a coalition after the elections.
The ruling SNS, former Serbian Radical Party (SRS) is expected to win easily, with a coalition gathered around the Socialist Party in second place. It is yet unknown who will come third. A survey presented by the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) said the Progressive Party will win 44% of the votes, the Socialist 13% and all the other parties less than 10%. Although not every survey predicts the same, the SNS is expected to win the most votes.
Democrats and Tadic
According to CeSID the New Democratic Party (NDS) of Boris Tadic will win 8% of the votes. Tadic, Serbia’s former president and until recently the honorary president of the Democratic Party, quit this party in January and started his own party: NDP.
Democartic Party of former Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas, is expected to win 10% of the votes. Rivalry between the two parties is visible. Djilas accused Tadic of being weak for leaving the Democrats. Tadic himself is optimistic and expects his party to do better.
After the elections
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said that the talks with Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, will resume after the 16 March elections. The talks are based in Brussels and mediated by the EU. There is not yet a specific date but Dacic said the Serbian government is “looking for a possibility for an urgent session of the UN Security Council over the current situation in Kosovo and the formation of some sort of so-called Kosovo army.” Further he is worried about a political leader of Serbs from northern Kosovo who has recently been arrested.
Next to talks with Kosovo, talks with the EU should continue as well. Tanja Miscevic, Serbia’s chief negotiator with the EU, argued that the next government “should adopt as soon as possible the legislation on labor, bankruptcy and privatization that has been prepared, as well as a great number of bylaws.” The 16 March elections are in accordance with the agreements reached with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE will observe the parliamentary elections, which they have done already six times before. According to Roberto Battelli, Slovian MP and special coordinator of this mission, the elections are “an important chance for Serbia to again demonstrate its commitment to democratic electoral standards and to put reforms into practice that enhance the integrity of the process.”
By Laura Ritter
Sources: Blic, b92 I, Balkan Insight I, Balkan Insight II, Tanjug I, Balkan Insight III, b92 II, Tanjug II, Tanjug III, Tanjug IV