Anticipated victory?

Early elections in the Balkan country. Vucic favoured in spite of his past with Milosevic

The Serbs are called to the polls March 16 to elect 250 MPs that will sit in the new single-chamber parliament. Two years after the last national elections, the leader of the Progress Party, vice-Premier Vucic, pushed for early elections in order to take advantage of the wave of popular support he currently enjoys to gain full control of the next government. Serbia is a key for stability in the Balkans. Its economy is among the strongest in the region, and owing to its traditionally good relations – both political and economic – with Russia, it represents a bridge between the East and the West. On January 21st the Country the country has also started negotiations for accession to the European Union EU adhesion negotiations. “After so many years of travail, Serbia is no longer presented as an outsider but as a partner who wants to make its contribution to the growth of Europe”, Marco Nikolic, researcher at the Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade, told SIR Europe. The electoral campaign. The main themes of the short electoral campaign have been the economy, job creation and the need to attract foreign investment, given widespread poverty and high unemployment. But candidates also addressed the need to fight on organized crime. All political parties, except for the nationalists of Vojislav Koshtunica, agree that in the coming years the main goal is to fulfil the conditions for entry into the EU and achieve a European standard of living, in peace and prosperity. Serbia hopes to close the negotiations by 2018. But Kosovo – with which Belgrade began a process of normalization of relations a year ago – did not figure among the themes addressed in the campaign. However, even in the region disputed by Belgrade and Pristina elections will be held, in line with the Brussels agreements and under the control of OSCE. Forecasts. According to the latest surveys, the conservatives of the Progress Party (SNS) have commanding lead with 44% of all votes, far ahead of their ally of the outgoing government, the Socialist Party (SPS) of Prime Minister Ivica Dacic estimated at 13%. Among opposition parties figure the two wings of the former Democratic Party that recently broke up, the Democratic Party (DS) led by the former mayor of Belgrade Dragan Djilas with 9% and the New Democratic Party of former President Boris Tadic with 8%. Other two parties could cross the 5% threshold: the nationalists of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), led by Vojislav Kostunica with 7%, and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Cedomir Jovanovic, estimated just above 5%. According to “CESID”, the Belgrade Centre for elections and democracy, Sunday less than 50% of those entitled to vote will go to the polls. “People are disappointed by the political class and many consider elections only a game of power”, said Liljana Smajlovic, news editor of the daily “Politics”. Vucic, a rising star. In all likelihood, Vucic is the most powerful man in Serbia today, gaining popular support at an impressively speedy pace. Indeed, this clever politician knows how to gain consensus, he has charisma and very much appreciated by the media. It’s the first time in the past twenty years that a political figure is so popular in Serbia. “I think it is linked to the reform process he initiated, including the fight against organized crime and European integration”, Nicolic said. However, some admit that such a powerful man could become dangerous, like the Belgrade daily “Danas”. “Aleksandar Vucic wants full control of Serbia, and the last person who had similar ambitions was Slobodan Milosevic”, the paper wrote. Indeed, Vucic was a member of Milosevic’s government, but today this part of his past seems irrelevant. After the elections. Although he seems to have a clear advantage compared to the other competitors, there is no certainty that Vucic’s party will govern alone. “Serbia has to adopt a set of important reforms with serious social repercussions, such as the privatization of several public companies and the new law on employment”, Nicolic said. That’s why it’s likely that SNS will seek alliances with a smaller party to share resonsibilities with. According to the expert of the political Institute, “social protests that could bring about political transformations cannot be excluded”. The “echo of recent events in Bosnia was heard in Belgrade and the problems are shared by alla Balkan countries”. That’s why the road leading to the European Union will be long and difficult, but it’s considered indispensable, because the monster of extreme nationalism that shed blood over this region is still very scary.

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