The possibility of early parliamentary elections in Serbia comes back to the fore after Vucic’s statements that he will decide in February whether the country will go to the polls.
Executives of the ruling party (Serbian Progressive Party-SNS) and media supporting the government determine the time of the elections for the end of March or for the first ten days of April. There are no political reasons for holding early elections, given that the ruling coalition has a majority of 2/3 in parliament (166 out of a total of 250 MPs).
The political criteria for calling elections, however, have been unimportant in Serbia over the last six years. Since the rise to power of Aleksandar Vucic in 2012 the polls are permanently set. Early elections are being held almost every two years without any serious reason. Just a statement by an insignificant opposition leader, or even a Tabloid publication, with spears against government policy, is enough to call citizens to the polls.
The supreme democratic process that is the election has been deprecated to such an extent that it is perceived by the people as a boring and futile act of routine. The fact that the winner is known before the polls open makes citizens impassive observers to developments. Apathy and depression are also the result of constant tensions that is used to justify resorting to the polls. The last parliamentary elections in Serbia were held in April 2016 and it is the first time since 2012 that the interval between two elections lasts over two years.
But what is it that now forces Vucic to initiate, without political speech, an issue of early elections?
Political analysts estimate that in 2019 the Serbian political leadership will be forced to make serious decisions regarding Kosovo. International pressure will become intolerable, mainly from the US, and Belgrade will be invited to present its proposal on Kosovo’s definitive status and the normalization of relations with Pristina.
Aleksandar Vucic, although he supported the idea of ”delimitation” between Albanians and Serbs, never submitted a concrete proposal. Public opinion in Serbia does not know what this idea entails and will be the price that Serbs will have to pay.
With the announcement of early elections Vucic will probably try to receive a new clear mandate before stating his intentions. Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) senior officials support the view that elections must be held before the negotiations on Kosovo enter a critical phase, where both sides (Belgrade-Pristina) would have to publicly make their proposals. Vucic himself has recently revealed that many of his party members are pushing him to call for elections.
Another reason that would force Vucic to appeal to the polls is to the coiling of opposition parties around the Union for Serbia (SzS), and in particular their call for the creation of equal conditions for political confrontation, which should be prerequisite for their participation in the elections. This coalition, with the protest marches every Saturday has been able to sensitize citizens who are increasingly involved in the mobilizations. What’s more, the efforts of this coalition to organize itself in the province where the SNS draws the most votes seriously worries Aleksandar Vucic.
The demands of the opposition, for equal exposure to mainstream and electronic media (the overwhelming majority of which are controlled by the ruling coalition) the reconstitution and update of electoral rolls and the monitoring of the election process internationally, are beginning to attract the attention of the international community, which does not exactly excite the political leadership of Serbia.
Analysts do not rule out the possibility that Vucic will try to surprise the opposition by announcing elections before they get a chance to fully organize, and especially before the accusations of a lack of democracy in Serbia are adopted by the international community. At the moment, Vucic’s popularity rate is very high in the interior, while the international player needs him for the issue of Kosovo and shows willingness to tolerate its totalitarianism.
So the early parliamentary elections are presented for Vucic as an opportunity to once again confirm his absolute dominance in the interior and to strengthen his position at the international level, in view of the tough negotiations that are expected in the Kosovo issue./IBNA