The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyzes developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. In the context of the finalization of the election campaign for presidential, parliamentary and local elections for the city of Belgrade and 12 municipalities, which are scheduled for 3 April 2022, IFIMES made an analysis of the current situation in the Republic of Serbia. We bring the most important and interesting parts of the extensive analysis “2022 Serbia: Elections in the shadow of pressures, Ukraine crisis and Kosovo.”
In the Republic of Serbia, regular presidential, extraordinary parliamentarian and regular local elections for the capital of Belgrade and 12 municipalities are scheduled to take place on 3 April 2022.
At the parliamentary elections, 250 representatives will be elected for the Republic of Serbia National Assembly using the system of proportional-representation. There are 6,501,689 registered voters who will be able to vote at 8,255 polling stations.
According to the positive election legislation, the Republic of Serbia represents a single electoral district. Representative mandates are awarded proportionally to the number of votes won. If an ethnic minority political party does not pass the election threshold of 3%, the “natural threshold” will be applied. Natural threshold is calculated by diving the number of valid votes with 25o for each representative mandate, which depending on the turnout at the election varies between 12,000 and 16,000 votes.
A total of 19 election lists will participate at the elections: ● Aleksandar Vučić – Together We Can Do Everything /Zajedno možemo sve/ ● Ivica Dačić – Serbian Prime Minister● Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians - Ištvan Pastor ● Dr. Vojislav Šešelj - Serb Radical Party ● Marinika Tepić – United for the Victory of Serbia (Freedom and Justice Party, People's Party, Democratic Party DUVM - VMDK, Party of Macedonians in Serbia, Movement of Free Citizens/Pokret slobodnih građana/, United Trade Unions of Serbia Sloga, Movement for Reversal /Pokret za preokret/, Free Serbia Movement /Pokret Slobodna Srbija/, Vlaška Party) ● Dr. Miloš Jovanović – Hope for Serbia /Nada za Srbiju/– Serbian Coalition NADA - National Democratic Alternative – Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) – For the Kingdom of Serbia (Monarchists) - Vojislav Mihailović ● Milica Đurđević Stamenkovski – Serbian Party Oathkeepers /Srpska stranka zavetnici/ ● Mufti’s Legacy Party of Justice and Reconciliation - Usame Zukorlić ● We must /Moramo/ - Action – Environmental Uprising - Ćuta – Do not let Belgrade down /Ne davimo Beograd / - Nebojša Zelenović ● Sovereigntists - Saša Radulović (DJB) - Milan Stamatović (ZS) – Dr. Jovana Stojković (ŽZS) ● Boško Obradović –Serbian Movement Dveri - POKS - Miloš Parandilović – Patriotic Bloc for the Restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia- /Patriotski blok za obnovu Kraljevine Srbije/ ● Together for Vojvodina /Zajedno za Vojvodinu/ - Vojvodinians (Democratic Union of Croats in Vojvodina, Together for Vojvodina) ● SDA Sandžak – Dr. Sulejman Ugljanin ● Boris Tadić – Come on people /Ajmo ljudi/ – Social Democratic Party – New Party - 1 of 5 million - Tolerance of Serbia – United Green Movement of Serbia – Bosniak Civic Party – Party of Montenegrins ● Alternative for Changes – Albanian Democratic Alternative ● Albanian Coalition from Preševo Valley /Koalicija Albanaca Doline/ ● Stolen babies /Otete bebe/ -Ana Pejić ● Roma Party - Srđan Šajn ● Russian minority alliance – Milena Pavlović, Pavle Bihali Gavrin (Serbian-Russian Movement, Serbian-Russian Party Vukovi /Wolves/,Movement of Greeks Srbiza).
Analysts believe that with the leading Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Serbia needs a strong opposition as a corrective to the government. The Serbian opposition has invested majority of its efforts on the issue of representation in the media, creating an impression that elections are won through the media, which does not reflect the reality and the election experiences in numerous countries. The opposition voters are discontented with the boycott of the last parliamentary elections by the opposition parties, because as a result they were deprived of being represented in the parliament and exercising their interests. The opposition is criticized for not preparing a clear and substantive political program and not offering quality candidates, but candidates with a “mortgage” related to their previous political engagements and candidates who had changed several political parties already, which brings into question their credibility and trustworthiness. The opposition directed its campaign against Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) and should have instead nominated candidates and political programs of better quality. The opposition has an opportunity to achieve a notable result in Belgrade. The Democratic Party did not manage to become the center of opposition gathering in Serbia. This was partly informed also by the internal turmoil in the Democratic Party, which further marginalized it.
The elections for the city of Belgrade are particularly important, because Belgrade is one of the European capitals with the highest development rate and is becoming increasingly attractive for living for numerous foreigners.
Eight candidates will run at the presidential elections: ● Miša Vacić, candidate of the civic group “Serb patriot - Miša Vacić” ● Biljana Stojković, from the “We must” coalition ● Branka Stamenković, “Sovereigntists” ● Zdravko Ponoš, candidate of the “United for the Victory of Serbia” coalition /Ujedinjeni za pobedu Srbije/ ● Milica Đurđević Stamenkovski, candidate of the Serbian Party Oathkeepers ● Aleksandar Vučić, candidate of the Serb Progressive Party /SNS/, SPS and Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians ● Miloš Jovanović, candidate of the NADA coalition ● Boško Obradović candidate of the Dveri and POKS.
The presidential elections will be particularly interesting as the candidates run individually. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) has seven challengers from the opposition parties.
Analysts believe that the Republic of Serbia, and particularly its President, is under extremely strong international pressure. Zdravko Ponoš, an opposition candidate, is a major unknown. Hence, it is questionable whether he would be able to manage and cope with such a complicated period and situation. The position of Serbia has never been more difficult. In the existing situation Serbia needs a head of the state who will not just provide for the continuity of security and preserve the existing peace and stability, but also continue to rebrand and reposition Serbia in regional and international relations, as the current Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has successfully managed to do so far. In fact, key international factors regard him as the main defender of peace and stability in the Balkans. In the existing situation, peace and stability in the region depend on peace and stability in Serbia. As a result, the key international actors are interested to preserve the military neutrality of Serbia in the current constellation of relations. The Serbian foreign policy, which is based on 4 pillars (European Union, Unites States, Russia, China plus the Nonalignment Movement) proved itself optimum at the time of crisis. After all, what would have happened had Serbia relied on just one pillar, regardless of which one?
The EU has to define more precisely its enlargement policy for the West Balkans, identify the timelines, as well as give up on the use of platitudes about the European perspective and that the West Balkans belongs to Europe, as they mean nothing to West Balkan states and their citizens, and do not reduce but increase the existing uncertainties.
Analysts believe that thanks to the effects of the Ukraine crisis the EU can rectify its mistake by speedily coopting the remaining West Balkan countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro) into full-fledged membership, as otherwise judging by everything the region will fall under the strong influence of Russia, China and Turkey, which could lead to major geopolitical changes. Integration of the West Balkans into the EU is now more important than ever before. Analysts remind that in its recent history the EU coopted into its full-fledged membership Bulgaria and Romana, although even now in some sectors West Balkan states function better and achieve more notable results than Bulgaria and Romania. In 2004, the European Union even coopted just half a state, Cyprus, into full-fledged membership. Therefore, the EU has no justifiable excuse for postponements with respect to accelerated accession of West Balkan countries to EU membership. In the official Brussels, Serbia is still faced with the matrix which had been established for Serbia which long time ago. Specifically, during Slobodan Milošević's regime.
Regional initiative Open Balkan is an initiate for the Balkans regions for XXI century. It will contribute to homogenization of the European space and provide for practical implementation of European freedoms, movement of people, goods, capital and services. The initiative would render senseless Balkan nationalisms and strengthen the EU, which for the time being is powerless in the face of pressures by Russia, China and Turkey. Furthermore, the EU does not confront the populists who collaborate with the forces whose only goals is destruction of European unity. A part of factors in Europe and the world oppose the Open Balkan initiative because it is in their interest that the Balkans permanently remains an instable area with no neighborly reconciliation and cooperation, true Europization, long-term economic progress, stability, peace, good prospects for young and educated people that would ultimately result in integration of all West Balkan countries into the EU, which would lead to prosperity of all countries in the region after almost 30 years of disputes, tensions, conflicts and halts.
The experiences of the Visegrad group of countries that spoke with one voice in the process of admission to the EU is important for the Open Balkan initiative, as acting individually results in lonely voices that do not resonate strongly enough in the process of integration into a community of 450 million citizens, that is the EU. The current crisis should not be perceived just as a danger and threat, but also as a chance for development and improvement of mutual relations, as well as repositioning in international relations in the best possible way.
On Kosovo, which the Republic of Serbia according to its positive constitution still regards as its autonomous province, the parliamentary elections were to be held with the assistance of the international community (OSCE - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in the areas where the Serb community lives, as has been the case so far. One should not forget that Kosovo Serbs became a part of Kosovo institutions under the condition that they are allowed to vote on Kosovo in all elections organized in Serbia. Prevention of participation of Kosovo Serbs in the Serbian elections in the Serb areas in Kosovo could lead to withdrawal of political representatives of Serbs from Kosovo institutions or even nonparticipation of the Serbs at the next Kosovo elections, which can permanently undermine peace and stability, as well as result in non-functioning of Kosovo institutions.
Analysts believe that the Quint countries (France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States) could have done much more to have the elections organized in Serb areas in Kosovo, because endangerment of the ongoing dialogue on normalization of relations between the official Belgrade and Pristina by the conditioning of organization of elections on Kosovo with international recognition of Kosovo by Serbia should not have been allowed. The decision of Kosovo authorities on the ban of organization of elections in Serb communities in Kosovo undermines the dialogue on normalization, as well as peace and stability. As a result, the elections for Kosovo residents will be held outside the territory of Kosovo in the municipalities of Raška, Tutin, Kuršumlija and Bujanovac.
In October 2021, Belgrade successfully hosted the Nonalignment Movement Summit, which was the biggest multilateral event in Europe in 2021 and one of the biggest in the world. The event brought together representatives of more than 120 countries and contributed to better positioning of Serbia in international relations and predominantly within the group of Nonalignment Movements states, which has particular importance within the framework of the UN General Assembly in New York.
According to analysts, the idea to have Belgrade as the venue for future Russia-Ukraine negotiations is a recognition of the foreign policy pursued by Serbia and the image it enjoys in the international community. The image of Serbia is continuously improving with the growth of its rating at the global level. The organization of the Nonalignment Movement summit in Belgrade contributed significantly to its image, as well as the fact that its status of military neutrality gives a new dimension to the position of Serbia in the international community.
The elections in Serbia are an important moment for the future of Serbia and preservation of peace and stability in the region.
Serbia is a key country in the region when it comes to preservation of stability and peace. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent the possibility of outbreak of violence in the final phase of the election campaign by causing unrests on the very day of elections, with the aim of declaring elections illegitimate and illegal, thus invalid. It is necessary to ensure legality and regularity of the election process. There are already indications that the future election losers could dispute the results of the elections. Therefore, it is important that the political actors demonstrate a high level of political culture and reject violence as a means of politics.
Analysts believe that in Serbia there is still some forces who work in cooperation with the foreign factor and are interested in destabilization of Serbia, so that Serbia and the West Balkans would be pushed 30 years backwards. Serbia is the regional leader and the engine of European integration. Furthermore, Serbia is the leading country in the region with respect to the level of foreign investments, relatively low public debt, low unemployment level, accelerated growth of salaries and high annual economic development rate, which has the potential to further grow in the coming period.
Ljubljana/Washington/Brussels/Belgrade, 1 April 2022
 IFIMES – The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia,has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018.