Extraordinary Elections in Serbia: A Turning Point for Democracy?

Extraordinary Elections in Serbia: A Turning Point for Democracy?On 17 December 2023, extraordinary parliamentary elections in Serbia, Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, and local elections for Belgrade and 65 local self-governments will take place. The most significant elections since 2012 will elect 250 Serbian Parliament members using a proportional system, with the right to vote extended to 6,500,165 registered voters across 8,300 polling stations. The extraordinary elections feature 18 electoral lists, with the ruling SNS-affiliated list “Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia Must Not Stop” leading, and the opposition bloc “Serbia Against Violence.”

The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) is expected to maintain its status as a parliamentary party. Political parties representing minority communities will have their representatives in the Parliament due to the low electoral threshold set at only 3%, contingent upon voter turnout. Local elections will have a distinct character, with the elections that garner the greatest public attention being those for council members in the Assemblies of the cities of Belgrade and Kragujevac.

Local elections in Belgrade hold particular significance, as it is one of the most rapidly developing European capitals, attracting an increasingly numerous foreign population. The city has nearly double the financial resources at its disposal compared to the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. In the local elections, citizens elect 110 council members for the City Assembly, with the SNS’s list named after the President of the country and the recently resigned president of the SNS. The party that secures a majority in the City Assembly proposes its candidate, who must be on the electoral list.

The local elections in Belgrade are expected to see a close competition between the ruling Serbian Progressive Party and opposition parties led by the electoral list “Serbia Against Violence.” The opposition’s ideological diversity lacks the necessary synergy and is largely influenced by various centers of power or foreign interests. Many opposition leaders have a political history with frequent changes in party affiliations, carrying the baggage of their previous political engagements.

Serbia faces international pressure to recognize Kosovo’s independence, but President Aleksandar Vučić resists. Analysts argue opposition leaders are unaware of the gravity of the situation, using populist proclamations and utopian approaches, while others envision Serbia as a NATO member.

The situation in Kosovo cannot be normalized through the deployment of special units of the Kosovo Police (ROSU), but rather through the development of democracy and integration of minority communities into Kosovar society to ensure peace and security. The authorities in Pristina resort to the use of force, which further exacerbates tensions and complicates the situation.

Without the implementation of the 2013 Brussels Agreement and a successful dialogue on the normalization of relations between official Belgrade and Pristina, progress remains elusive. The delay in implementing the Brussels Agreement and establishing the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) poses a tangible risk of the’militarization’ and radicalization of the Kosovo issue, potentially leading to a new hotspot and chain reactions in the region. Serbia has successfully repositioned itself in regional and international relations, thanks to President Aleksandar Vučić’s efforts and policies.

Serbia is a key player in the Balkans, with President Vučić focusing on normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina to secure prosperity and a stable future. Key objectives include economic prosperity, state development, international standing enhancement, and population migration. However, attempts to undermine Vučić and his administration are being made by individuals within the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and foreign actors.

Serbia faces international pressure to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence and align its foreign policy with the EU, including sanctions on Russia. The country’s foreign policy concept involves a quadrilateral engagement with the EU, the US, China, and Russia, with the EU demanding alignment without a guaranteed timeline.

Tycoons once played a crucial role in Serbia, but their influence has waned since Aleksandar Vučić and the Serbian Progressive Party’s rise. Analysts argue that a faction of opposition political parties in Serbia is funded by tycoons, while another segment secures financing from foreign centers of power to regain lost influence and reclaim dominion over Serbia.

The primary opposition electoral list, “Serbia Against Violence,” has raised concerns about insufficient media representation and control, but the primary electoral list’s experience shows that media presence is not crucial for winning elections. Public opinion surveys show that the Serbian Progressive Party’s electoral list, “Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia Must Not Stop,” commands a convincing lead in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. With the electoral threshold reduced to 3%, smaller political parties and minority communities can secure mandates in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. A robust and proactive opposition serves as a corrective force to the government, which has not been the case in Serbia so far.

DemocracyelectionsExtraordinary Elections in Serbia: A Turning Point for Democracy?Serbia