Serbian parliamentary elections of 2016 came 2 years early and were called in a time of great internal political stability. The massively popular Serbian Progressive Party that won the absolute majority in the previous elections of 2014 sought to capitalize on its undisputed popularity by calling another premature election. Its ruling coalition partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia, had little choice but to accept the dissolution of the national assembly and gather its strength for the coming challenge. The only part of the political spectrum in which the coming elections will have a greater degree of significance and a bigger possibility of making a change is the opposition. Two major pro-European coalitions and two major patriotic lists will fight not only for passing the threshold and establishing themselves as recognizable political forces inside the Serbian parliament, but will also struggle to shape the political scene and the entire socio-political discourse that will dominate the country in the following years. So, the coming election is not so much a battle for gaining the political power needed to rule Serbia, as the victors of such a struggle are pretty much already clear, but a fight for shaping its political scene in the coming years and setting the stage for future elections.
Serbian Parliament is a unicameral legislative body numbering 250 members. These are the electoral lists that are taking part in the process:
1. SNS (Serbian Progressive Party) coalition
The absolute favorite not only for winning the election, but perhaps repeating the success of gaining the absolute majority of the parliament seats is the SNS coalition led by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. SNS, a party that split from the Radicals in 2008, is itself strongly based on a personality cult that formed around the prime minister in the past four years. Their centrist ideology, with dialectical leanings towards the right, former nationalist background, and current Europhillic stance makes this coalition immune to a great majority of attacks and appealing at the same time to the great majority of voters. While officially maintaining good relations with Russia and reiterating the Serbian position of not engaging in EU sanctions towards that country, the SNS elite is leaning towards the West. And while officially against the prospective Serbian membership in the NATO, some dissonant tones on the issue have already been heard inside the party. Projections say that the SNS coalition will win between 45% and 50% of the vote and probably claim the absolute majority in the future national assembly.
2. Democratic party coalition
After losing the elections of 2012 and falling back into the opposition, the main liberal force of the country, the Democratic Party, has suffered a couple of divisions and semi-successful reunifications. Once the strongest political coalition in the country the DS has found itself thinking of finding ways to pass the threshold for the first time in more than 15 years. Its new leader, Bojan Pajtic, who at the same time serves as the prime minister of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, has much to lose and very little to gain. However, his coalition, according to polls, still has a strong chance of being the main left liberal pro-European force in the next parliament assembly. Projections put them at between 5% and 7% of the vote, claiming between 15 and 20 seats in the parliament.
3. SPS coalition
For the past 25 years of the reestablished Serbian multi-party system, the Socialist Party of Serbia has been outside of the ruling majority for only 3 years. This coalition of the orthodox Titoist left has rejuvenated itself over the past 10 years, since the death of its leader, former Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan MIlosevic who died in The Hague Tribunal. This rejuvenation has also included the change in the once anti-European position of the party, making it a cautious pro-EU side. Populist rhetoric and folksy appearance of the party leader and current Serbian minister of foreign affairs, Ivica Dacic, have turned the coalition around his party into the second strongest political force in the country, behind SNS, in the past four years. SPS has strong ties with Russia and is lagging behind SNS in expressing its pro-EU positions. Projections put them at between 10% and 12%. They will probably claim around 30 seats in the parliament.
4. Serbian Radical Party
After The Hague Tribunal first released Vojislav Seselj in late 2014 and later freed him of all charges in March of 2016, his Serbian Radical Party, once the main force not only of Serbian nationalism but on the entire political scene of the country has a good chance of regaining at least a part of its former power and influence. The question of passing the threshold now seems obsolete for the Radicals, while possibilities of being the main party of the right and perhaps the second strongest force in the parliament are now on the table. As always, the Radicals are entering the electoral process alone, outside of any coalition, while holding the firmest positions on Serbian national questions, such as Kosovo and Republika Srpska. SRS is also the only political force that openly advocates for Serbian accession into the Eurasian union and Collective Security Treaty Organization. Projections put them at between 8% and 10%. They will probably claim around 25 seats in the parliament.
5. DSS – Dveri coalition
Once the main center right political party and the backbone of the coalition that formed the government of Vojislav Kostunica between 2004 and 2007, the Democratic Party of Serbia has been losing support and influence ever since it lost power in early 2008. For the first time in the last 15 years, they have failed to pass the threshold in the elections of 2014. After that, the party founder and leader, former Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica resigned and a new internal structure was formed, under the leadership of the new head of the party, Sanda Raskovic Ivic. Shortly after that, a coalition with Dveri, once pro-DSS NGO that turned into a political party, was formed. Dveri have so far failed to enter the parliament on their own, coming closest to achieving that feat in 2012 when they won more than 4%. They promote social conservatism and family values. However, many of the influential members and a good part of the original DSS were lost during the divisions that followed the election of Raskovic Ivic. In 2008 DSS adopted an eurosceptic course, highlighting it with the establishment of the new party leadership. Today, it is regarded as the main force of the moderate right (as opposed to the populist right of the Radicals) and the main eurosceptic coalition. It advocates close ties with Russia, but not a full-fledged Eurasian accession.
6. Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians
The principal political party of Serbia’s largest national minority is the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians. Formed in 1994, the party has grown into the biggest Hungarian political force in Serbia. Pro-European and pro-Hungarian, they advocate the rights of the Hungarian minority as well as close ties between Serbia and Hungary. The party is led by a father and son duo of István and Bálint Pásztor. They are expected to claim the absolute majority of the Hungarian vote, giving them around 5 seats in the parliament in accordance with minority rights and status that they enjoy.
7. SDS-LDP-LSV coalition
The second main left liberal pro-European coalition is the alliance between the Social Democratic party of the former Serbian president and former head of DS, Boris Tadic, Liberal Democratic Party of Ceda Jovanovic, the main pro NATO ultraliberal political party, and regional League of Social-democrats of Vojvodina, an autonomist, even pro-separatist force lead by Nenad Canak. More of a technical than an ideological coalition, formed in spite of the personal disagreements between its leaders, its main purpose is to get each of the members a place in the parliament and a chance to continue their diminishing political careers. Ideologically pro-EU and even pro-NATO, it saw a transformation of the former Serbian president from a moderate social-democrat to a full-fledged western liberal. They are expected to fight for the threshold, with polls giving them between 4% and 5% of the vote. If they make it into the national assembly, they will have no more than 16 seats.
8. Muamer Zukorlic – Bosniak Democratic Union of Sanjak
Bosniak Democratic Union of Sanjak is a party formed around its leader, the controversial imam from the town of Novi Pazar in southwestern Serbia, Muamer Zukorlic. Once a proponent of radical Islam, Zukorlic has in recent years toned down his fiery rhetoric trying to assume the role of a more moderate minority leader. His influence is more cultural than political (he runs a university in Novi Pazar, as well as a national council) with most of his finance coming from the Salafist structures in the Arab world. If he manages to breach the natural threshold, he may win a seat in the parliament in accordance with minority rights component of the election law.
9. SDA Sandzaka – dr. Sulejman Ugljanin (Party of Democratic Action)
The Party of Democratic Action of Sanjak is a Serbian branch of the largest Bosniak party that was formed in 1990 in Bosnia. Representing the right wing of the Bosniak minority, it has been led by Sulejman Ugljanin since its establishment. A skilled politician, he has managed to push his party in many previous government forming coalitions. SDA is pro-Bosnian, pro-European nationalist party of the Bosniaks and is expected to win no more than 3 seats in the parliament, in accordance with minority rights protected by the election law.
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10. For free Serbia – Zavetnici (Oath givers)
Zavetnici are a fairly new Serbian nationalist youth movement, being formed in 2012 and taking part it their first elections in 2014. Once a fringe political option, they have recently gained notoriety by holding several anti-EU and anti-NATO rallies. Their program is Serbian nationalist, Eurosceptic in nature, seeking the closest possible ties with the Russian Federation. However, due to their small numbers and political inexperience, they are not expected to pass the threshold. The polls put them at up to 2%.
11. Citizens group for Serbian revival – dr. Slobodan Komazec
Another fringe patriotic movement formed ad hoc for the elections of 2016. Its three leaders and most prominent members are Slobodan Komazec, an economist, Dejan Lucic, a conspirologist, and Jovan Deretic, a radically revisionist historian. They are expected to win a negligible number of votes and no parliament seats.
12. Russian Party – Slobodan Nikolic
Another fringe movement made for the coming elections. They have failed to register themselves as a minority movement, and have no chance of winning any parliament seats. They officially support integrations with Russia.
13. Republican Party
Led by Nikola Sandulovic, a controversial businessman with ties to the Serbian underground, the party has a pro-European pro-NATO position and is based on attacks made against the current PM Aleksandar Vucic. They are expected to win a negligible number of votes an no parliament seats.
14. Serbian-Russian movement
Led by Slobodan Dimitrijevic, it represents another fringe ad hoc formed organization that failed to register itself as a minority party. The movement supports Serbian integrations with Russia. It is expected to win an insignificant number of votes with no parliament seats.
15. Borko Stefanovic – Serbia for all of us
A movement formed around the former DS member and deputy minister of the exterior, Borko Stefanovic (who recently officially changed his name from traditional Borislav to more modern and popular Borko) it combines the ideas and esthetics of the new European left, such as the Spanish Podemos, or Greek SYRIZA, with already established rhetoric of the Serbian mainstream left. Borko Stefanovic is moderately pro-EU, but comes as a strong critic of the international financial institutions (such as the IMF and the World Bank). Although his movement has recently grown in popularity, it is expected to win no more than 3% of the vote, failing to pass the threshold. However, this may prove to be just enough to cripple the ambitions of Stefanovic’s former colleagues in DS and SDS, as they share the same vote.
16. Dialogue – The youth with attitude
Another obscure ad hoc movement, this time formed on the left side of the political spectrum. Their program deals with student rights and education system, lacking any wider political or geopolitical positions. They are expected to win a negligible number of votes, claiming no seats in the parliament.
17. Enough IS Enough – Sasa Radulovic
Sasa Radulovic launched his political career as the minister of economics in the government of Ivica Dacic. One a man loyal to Vucic, he has fallen apart with the now Serbian Prime Minister turning into one of his biggest personal opponents. His program is centered on an audacious mixture of liberal and socialist economic ideas, with the main themes of his campaign being the corruption that plagues the Serbian state apparatus. He has gained significant support from both the center left and center right. His foreign and geopolitical affinities remain somewhat of a mystery, as the movement that he leads deals pretty much only with domestic economic issues. However, he is rumored to be a hidden atlantist and a close associate of the US embasy in Serbia. Enough is Enough has a chance of passing the 5% threshold, but most of the polls put it below that figure, at around 4%.
18. Party for Democratic Action (Albanian minority)
A minority party of Albanians from the towns of Presevo and Bujanovac in southern Serbia, it represents positions of moderate Albaninan patriotism integrated with a pro EU and a pro NATO stance. They are expected to win 1 seat in the parliament, in accordance with the natural threshold implemented with minority lists.
19. Green party
Another obscure movement of the ideological left, the Green Party is expected to take some of the votes of the more prominent leftist options. It has no special foreign or geopolitical affiliation and is expected to win an insignificant number of votes with no seats in the parliament.
20. In Spite – together for Serbia – Popular alliance
Formed by former Dveri leader, Vladan Glisic, and an earlier Dveri outcast, Miroslav Parovic, it is a rightist conservative coalition that advocates Eurosceptic, anti-NATO policies, as well as closer ties with Russia. Having emerged from Dveri, they share about the same vote with their former party comrades. However, they are not expected to gain much support, probably ending up with less than 2% of the vote and no seats in the parliament. How much political damage will they do to DSS-Dveri coalition remains to be seen?