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On the 15th of March, Serbia will have its fifth parliamentary elections since the breakdown of Milosevic’s regime. Although the previous elections took place as recently as 2012, the government has decided to go to premature elections even before reaching half way through the four-year term.

The official explanation to this is that that the ruling parties need a clear mandate in order to launch an in-depth reform processes. The government, however, has already spent two years without really demonstrating that they are reform oriented.

There are two main reasons for the government to hold premature elections. The coalition government consists of three parties without sufficient trust between them. Only a year after the last elections, the government was dissolved and then reformed. Several ministers were replaced and one of the three coalition parties was driven out.

The party that led the government, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), has continued to gain public support ever since, and has now decided to use that momentum and call for elections, knowing that it has the opportunity to attain an absolute majority in parliament.

The results of opinion polls vary, but in each of them, the percentage of people stating that they will vote for SNS is over 40 percent. That seemed highly unlikely only five years ago. That was when the two strongest figures in the Serbian Radical Party decided to stop following the commands of the party president Vojislav Šešelj, who is still waiting for a sentence in ICTY, leave the party and the party’s right wing rhetoric, and form SNS.

The supporters of SNS expect the party to accelerate the battle against corruption, reduce unemployment and restart the Serbian economy that has been seriously affected by the economic crisis. Aleksandar Vučić, president of SNS, is at the peak of his popularity, and very few politicians in the recent history of Serbian politics has had that level of public support. However, that popularity is based primarily on words rather than actions. It will not last unless citizens shortly after the election start benefiting from the reforms.

SNS will win the election. At this moment, the only open question is which party they will govern with. The Democratic Party (DS), who led the government in the period of 2008-2012, continues to lose ground and has been ever since the elections two years ago.

Boris Tadić, the former president of DS, and president of Serbia from 2004 to 2012, was succeeded by Dragan Djilas soon after the last elections. But less than two months ago, Tadić decided to leave DS and form a new party, the New Democratic Party (NDS).  Altogether NDS has around 15-16 percent support. The Socialist Party (SPS) has around 15 percent. Only a few other parties can expect to reach the 5 percent threshold required to enter parliament.

These are also the first elections since 1989 in which Kosovo is not even among the first five most important topics discussed.

Text: Danilo Milić
Photo: Boris Dimitrov

Published: 2014-03-10

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