Serbia to have snap elections in December

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic poses for a picture after signing a decree to dissolve the parliament and schedule an early election in Belgrade, Serbia, November 1, 2023. Serbian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, has dissolved parliament and scheduled early parliamentary and municipal elections for December 17, a move occurring less than two years after his Serbian Progressive party (SNS) secured victory in the prior election.

“We live in times that are difficult for the whole world, in times of global challenges, wars and conflicts when it is necessary that we are all united in preserving vital national and state interests of the Republic of Serbia”, Vučić declared on November 1st.

Vučić, widely perceived as aiming to solidify his control, grapples with the task of normalising relations with Kosovo, still regarded by Serbia as its southern province, prompting several Serbian opposition parties to formally request the vote back in September. This followed mass protests triggered by consecutive shootings in May, resulting in 18 deaths, including children. The protesters accused the ruling party and government-affiliated media of fostering a climate of violence.

The impending parliamentary elections will coincide with local votes in 65 municipalities, including the capital city, Belgrade. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stressed the need for Serbia and Kosovo to intensify efforts in normalising relations, especially after recent outbreaks of violence, as a precondition for their EU aspirations.

The European Union has set conditions for Serbia, including supporting western sanctions against Russia, tackling corruption and organised crime, economic reform, judicial improvement, fostering a favourable business environment, and enhancing human rights.

The last elections in April 2022 saw the conservative SNS, in power since 2012, and its partners win 120 out of 250 parliamentary seats, securing Vučić a second term as president. However, Serbia’s major opposition parties boycotted the 2020 elections, criticising the process as neither free nor fair.

Vučić’s decision to call snap elections is seen as a strategy to fortify his support and rejuvenate the slipping popularity of the SNS primarily due to months of opposition protests following the May shootings. Polls indicate that an SNS-led coalition would likely receive about 44% of the votes and may require allies for a majority, with the centrist opposition bloc, Against the Violence, trailing at approximately 38%. Meanwhile, ultranationalist and pro-Russian parties combined could secure 11% of the vote.

Despite resigning as the head of SNS in May, Vučić continues to wield significant influence within the party.

The December elections will be the third vote in the Balkan country in nearly four years.

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