An article by: Dušan Proroković

The results of the recent Parliamentary elections in Serbia of 17th of December, show that everything has remained the same in the country. Anyway, after these elections, as far as the political scene is concerned - everything is different. When talking about their outcome, to a certain extent, everything is as it was expected. But a lot of unexpected things happened. How to explain these contradictions?
It was expected that after another in a series of extraordinary parliamentary elections, the ruling majority formed by the coalition gathered around the Serbian Progressive Party and its minority partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia, would retain their contingent of 51-54 percent of the votes. However, the redistribution of votes within that bloc is unexpected.

The coalition led by President Aleksandar Vučić

The coalition led by President Aleksandar Vučić won an incredible 46.7 percent of the vote. This party has been in power since 2012, numerous scandals are linked to its officials, inflation in the country is continuously growing, just as the public debt is growing somewhat uncontrollably, a large number of young people are emigrating to Western European countries, Vučić himself in charge “Kosovo politics” made numerous concessions that essentially represented political failures, but voter support not only did not decrease, but also increased. It turns out that it grew at the expense of its minority partner until recently, because the Socialist Party of Serbia finished at a modest 6.5 percent, which is the weakest result since 2003. The leader of this party, the current head of Serbian diplomacy, Ivica Dačić, has already announced his resignation because of this. The Socialist Party of Serbia no longer has the “golden share” to form a parliamentary majority, so its share in the future government will be proportionally smaller. Time will tell how it will affect the rating of the party!? However, according to the first estimates of political analysts from Belgrade, the Serbian Socialists have a difficult job in the attempt to maintain the party’s infrastructure and stable rating.

The anti-Western opposition

Unexpected is the outcome on the part of the anti-Western opposition (or, more precisely, among the parties that oppose Serbia’s entry into NATO and the EU, and openly support even broader and more dynamic cooperation with Russia and China). It was expected that these parties would win 14-16 percent of the votes, but the real surprise is the distribution of those votes. The coalition around the Democratic Party of Serbia maintained its rating from last year’s elections of 5.1 percent (although all public opinion pollsters predicted a drastic drop), while the National Gathering, which entered the election campaign with a projected support of around 8 percent, plummeted to 2 .9 percent and is now desperately fighting for the census.

Since irregularities have been registered at numerous polling stations, the voting procedure will be repeated at some of them, and it is mathematically possible that this list will also “skip” the 3 percent census. Dr. Branimir Nestorović, a man who captured all the media attention during the pandemic when he opposed the measures being taken (he is known as one of the most agile anti-vaxxers in the post-Yugoslav area), and whose movement was formed only a month ago, made sure of an absolute surprise on this side of the political spectrum. His list won 4.7 percent of the vote and gained parliamentary status.

How this movement will position itself in the future is a total unknown, as is how it will function in the future. Immediately after the announcement of the results, Nestorović said that he would not go with Vučić or the pro-Western parties. About 2.5 percent of votes within this category went to smaller parties that remained far below the census.

The fate of the anti-Western opposition is that from election to election these parties collectively win a significant number of votes, but they never manage to unite and capitalize on that support, they are already scattered and divided among themselves.

The pro-Western opposition united in one broad coalition got 23.5 percent, which was largely expected (collectively, their result at the republican level varied in the last decade between 18 and 25 percent). As expected, the results of the parties of national minorities for which the rules of “positive discrimination” and “natural electoral threshold” apply (out of a total of 250 seats in the National Assembly, Hungarian parties won 6 seats, Bosniaks 5, Albanians 1, and the news is that the parliamentary status was secured by the party of the Russian national minority with 1 deputy).

Nestorović’s attitude that he will remain “undecided” further complicates the situation regarding the composition of the parliamentary majority in the local parliament of the city of Belgrade. Namely, in parallel with the republican elections, local elections were held in 65 cities and municipalities, among them in Belgrade. Vučić’s strategy of maintaining a high party rating was based on an intensified campaign in all local elections, so this is another reason why he cares about maintaining power in Belgrade. However, according to the preliminary results in Belgrade, together with the socialists, the current government has 54 mandates out of a total of 110. The pro-Western opposition, together with the coalition gathered around the Democratic Party of Serbia (the anti-Western opposition party that refused to even talk to Vučić about establishing a parliamentary majority) has 50 mandates, and this already mentioned movement, which created a surprise, has 6. The parliamentary majority also depends on Nestorović. That is, if he remains in the position he is currently in, then a repeat of the city elections is also possible. Close to the census for the city assembly is the National Gathering, in their case the situation is the same as at the republic level.

The situation in Kosovo

There will definitely be repeated voting at polling stations in Belgrade. The pro-Western opposition sent a whole series of complaints, in a written statement they even requested the annulment of the just held elections and the organization of new ones, and the problem for Vučić’s government is that after these elections, ODIHR also made a whole series of objections. The European Union, quite unusually, did not comment on the elections in Serbia, saying that it would wait for the reports of the ODIHR and OSCE observation missions. By the way, since the Serbian political system resembles a stabilocracy in all its characteristics, the pro-Western opposition has also previously demanded stronger reactions from the EU due to the election conditions. Especially because of the control of the media space.

Despite this, the EU did not react at all, because it was not part of their geopolitical calculation. As long as Vučić made concessions during the “Kosovo negotiations” and was cooperative, renouncing one by one the competence of the Republic of Serbia on the territory of Kosovo, the EU did not problematize the issue of election conditions in Serbia. Is anything changing now? The EU requires Aleksandar Vučić to implement the so-called Scholz-Macron plan, to which he verbally agreed, and with which Serbia then de facto recognizes the so-called Republic of Kosovo. During the election campaign, Aleksandar Vučić himself claimed that he “didn’t sign anything”, and that only the implementation of parts of the Scholz-Macron plan can be discussed! The Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabić, at the EU Summit – Western Balkans held just before the elections, put a reservation on the conclusion in the joint statement in which Kosovo is mentioned, pointing out that Serbia opposes the membership of Kosovo in the UN and the agencies that are in the UN system. Above all, she was thinking about UNESCO, which is the long-standing wish of the Kosovo Albanians. Since the Scholz-Macron plan has already entered “political traffic” within the EU, it essentially becomes a new condition for the continuation of Serbia’s European integration.

There can be no new negotiations on the content, nor is it realistic for the EU to come to terms with its “sequential” or “partial application”. At the same time, right after the polls closed, Aleksandar Vučić himself repeated that “Serbia continues its European path.” However, it is not very clear as to how they will continue it if that path is conditioned by the actual recognition of the so-called Republic of Kosovo!?

Aleksandar Vučić’s “stabilocracy”

Generally, looking at the election results, it seems that Aleksandar Vučić has never been more stable in power. With this distribution of mandates, Serbia becomes a stable stabilocracy. In the elections in Serbia, everything remained the same as far as the balance of power is concerned. Everyone got their share of the electorate. The redistribution within those electorates, which are divided into voters of the government, pro-Western and anti-Western opposition, is different than before. This makes it possible to talk about individual winners and losers even after these elections. Nevertheless, viewed from a geopolitical point of view and through the prism of regional security, the same challenges that existed before the elections remain before Serbia. Absolutely nothing changes there. And events have shown that the stability of both the political and the entire social system depends on them.

Professor, PhD

Dušan Proroković