Why Serbian Elections Matter December 2023

 
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BiEPAG TO THE POINT

17 December 2023: extraordinary parliamentary elections, local elections in 65 municipalities, including Belgrade.

4th early parliamentary elections triggered by ruling SNS since coming to power in 2012 (2014, 2016, 2022). Regular elections took place only 2020.

First elections with a united pro-European opposition (Serbia against Violence) and separate nationalist lists. First elections with a huge mobilization of civil society and GOTV campaigns.

Ruling SNS for the first time runs in coalition with the far-right Serbian Radical Party (led by convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj & party from which SNS broke away in 2008) in several local elections, including in Belgrade.

Mass protests every year since 2016 (2016 against Belgrade waterfront, a controversial urban renewal project; 2018/19, 1 of 5 million against government repression; 2020 against lockdown; 2021/2 against lithium mining, 2023 Serbia against violence). 2023 was the largest protest movement since fall of Slobodan Milošević in 2000, with hundreds of thousands taking the streets across the country.

In Serbia overall, more support to join BRICS than EU. There is no majority for EU membership, as several opinion polls show. This is the direct result of 10 years of state-controlled media. The voters of opposition are clearly pro-EU than ruling parties and overall population.

Serbia marks a continuous decline in state of democracy and human rights since 2014/2015. (Freedom House 2023: Partially Free, Transitional or Hybrid Regime).

Key take-aways

Opposition unlikely to win due to complete media-control, a controlled voting mechanism through 700.000 party members, pressures to vote SNS through all state institutions.

Opportunities:
  • Victory in local elections for the opposition is possible in some municipalities (Kragujevac, Šabac and, less likely, Belgrade)
  • Strong presence of a united pro-European opposition in parliament
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Challenges:
  • keeping up opposition unityafter the elections
  • addressing further repression and incidents (including in Kosovo)
  •  
A strong showing of opposition might trigger responses by ruling SNS:
  • Attempts to coopt opposition
  • Increasing repression, already taking place through physical attacks & smear campaigns
  • Change in key government positions (replacing Ana Brnabić as PM)
  •  
Further resources

Serbia Elects: https://serbiaelects.europeanwesternbalkans.com

CRTA: https://crta.rs/en/

BiEPAG further reading and policy briefs: https://biepag.eu/publications/

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