Serbia is to hold regular parliamentary elections on June 21, 2020. They were originally called for April 24, 2020 but were postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak. The winner of these elections is already known since (political, financial and media) domination of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska Napredna Stranka – SNS) is unchallenged [1]. The only unknown factor with these elections is who will be able to pass the election threshold of 3%, reduced urgently from 5%, in February 2020.

It is difficult to imagine that SNS will change its behavior after the elections.

After these elections SNS will confirm its total control of the country and every aspect of its life. Therefore, situation will continue in the same directions as it is going today. This is particularly the case since in Serbia the President is determining direction of the country and not the parliamentary elections. In history of Serbia’s multiparty system, orientation of the state changed only after presidential elections and changes of the President [2] and only once after the parliamentary election, in 2003 [3], but then Serbia did not have the President since the position was vacant until 2004 elections.

Situation in the state of democracy, freedom of speech and media freedom will probably continue along the same lines since there is no evidence why this would not continue to deteriorate further. With the opposition losing seats in the National Assembly, it will have to take its political actions outside institutions, trying to consolidate and prepare for presidential elections in 2022. With the opposition weakened, focus of the ruling party will be placed more on journalists (particularly investigative journalism) and civil society organizations as a loud voice against illiberal tendencies in Serbia. Thus, further confrontation and tensions can be expected.

When it comes to the EU accession, the Government has come to the point when serious changes and reforms will have to be taken if any progress is to be recorded or Serbia will come to a halt. Progress in the rule of law, particularly in the fight against high level corruption and organized crime that is predicated with existence of independent judiciary, will be the main point of measurement of progress by the EU. Readiness to resolve Kosovo* issue will not be (as it has never been) the one and only condition to join the EU, as the public in Serbia is being led to believe.

Parliamentary election will further cement current situation and backslide of democracy. They will give more room to Vucic to impose his political choices and decisions on entire country, but also for making necessary decisions on issue of Kosovo*. Elections will confirm that all decision-making power resides with the President and decisions are based on his cost-benefit assessment, as stated by the “Freedom House” reports.

 

The paper elaborates on the deteriorating state of democracy and media freedoms in Serbia under which these elections will be held and what possible changes in Serbia’s politics they will bring. It also examines  the quality of the work of the National Assembly observed in the last couple of years that represents the interlude for these elections. The new convocation will inherit a poor situation in the National Assembly, from the incumbent 2016 – 2020 convocation, that had a historical opportunity to bring the country closer to the EU membership, an opportunity that was regrettably missed, by far.

To read full parer, click here.

Paper was published by “HERMES” Institute of International Affairs, Security & Geoeconomy, Occasional Papers 2/2020, June 2020


[1] SNS became the ruling party of Serbia in 2012, Aleksandar Vucic became the Prime Minister in 2014 and later the President of Serbia in 2017.

[2] In 2000 Slobodan Milosevic lost as the incumbent President and Vojislav Kostunica became President of FR Yugoslavia, in 2004 Boris Tadic won (Presidency was vacant) and in 2012 Boris Tadic lost as the incumbent President and Tomislav Nikolic (SNS) became the President.

[3] In 2003 Vojislav Kostunica (Democratic party of Serbia) became the Prime Minister.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.