The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, constantly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. In view of the presidential elections in Serbia which are to be held on June 13, 2004, IFIMES has prepared a comprehensive analysis. The most important and interesting sections are given below.
For the eight time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, presidential elections are held in the Republic of Serbia (1990, 1992, 1997, two times in 2002 and two times 2003) with 6,531,549 voters having the right to voteand 15 candidates competing: Dragan Marsicanin, Boris Tadic, Tomislav Nikolic, Ivica Dacic, Bogoljub Karic, Branislav Ivkovic, Milovan Drecun, Ljiljana Arandjelovic, Borislav Pelevic, Vladan Batic, Dragan Djordjevic, Zoran Milinkovic, Jelisavete Karadjordjevic, Marjan Risticevic and Mirko Jovic. The populistic rhetoric is what most of them have in common.
There are three favourites among them: Tomislav Nikolic (Serbian Radical Party), Boris Tadic (Democratic Party) and Dragan Marsicanin (Democratic Party of Serbia backed by the current government coalition). In Serbia there are 287 political parties registered at the moment.
Serbia is facing the adoption of a new constitution. The proposal for the constitution prepared by the Government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica defines the Republic of Serbia as the state of the Serbian nation and of other citizens, which implies a series of negative consequences for members of national minorities. All the autochthon minorities living in the Republic of Serbia should be stated in the preamble of the new constitution in order to define the appropriate model for minority participation in the political life of Serbia. The national minorities are discriminated against already in the Elections Law which provides for the 5% election threshold thus preventing the national minorities to enter the parliament even by means of the minority coalition called »Together for Tolerance«. If the national minorities are stated in the constitution, the Republic of Serbia will have to resolve the issue of participation of national minorities in the political life of Serbia as is the case in the neighbouring Croatia where minorities participate in the political life of Croatia through the guaranteed number of deputies in the Croatian Parliament (thus the Serbs have 3 deputies and other minorities or groups each have 1 deputy). This is probably the reason for avoiding the stating of national minorities in the constitution of Serbia.
Unresolved relations within the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro raise an open question: Who needs the State Union more, Serbia or Montenegro? Analyses have shown that Montenegro needs the State Union more than Serbia, however, the present Montenegrin leadership has skilfully and successfully introduced the thesis that the State Union is more necessary for Serbia although it is well-known that 95% of the costs of functioning of the State Union is financed by Serbia. Does Serbia need to finance simultaneously the functioning of two states: the Republic of Serbia and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro? There are certain prejudices present in Serbia related primarily to the exit to the sea which is regarded in some circles as being of vital importance for the future of Serbia. However, it is a known fact that a large number of states without an exit to the sea are very successful while some states which have long coasts are placed among the least developed states in the world. Obviously this is the remnant of Serbia's former conviction that it is vital to have the necessary size and to border a large number of states.
Serbia is facing regionalisation which, as it seems, will not be carried out in line with the standards since the current government gave up the envisaged regionalisation according to which the state should have been divided into six regions. This raises a very sensitive issue of regionalisation or autonomy of Vojvodina as well as Sandzak which will, according to the forecasts, become the new crisis point. Kosovo will remain an open issue and the place where the Serbian nation will try to become homogenous in critical moments.
Giving the right to vote to the diaspora has opened numerous questions in Serbia, primarily how to control the polling place in the diaspora and whether it is appropriate for the citizens living outside Serbia to decide on the future of Serbia by voting. However, the diaspora has shown a negligible small interest in participating at the elections.
Regarding the corruption, Serbia is placed at the inglorious fourth place in Europe following Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo. The long years of unwillingness to co-operate with the Hague Tribunal lead Serbia to a situation in which it became hostage of a few Hague defendants.
Serbia has still not consolidated as a state - the consequences of the period 1990-1995 are still present as well as the distressing social situation, the Kosovo issue and the unstable political situation which prevent foreign investments, relations with the neighbouring states etc.
THE FAVOURITES AT THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ARE
Deputy President of SRS - Serbian Radical Party (President is Vojislav Seselj). He is the favourite of the forthcoming presidential elections. He advocates the changes of foreign policy, improvement of the economy and, most of all, co-operation with the EU. Nikolic wishes to introduce control of the Government of Serbia. He advocates the policy of »Great Serbia« with the border line Karlobag - Ogulin - Karlovac - Virovitica. He is the unwanted person in the EU and USA states. He is inexperienced in international politics nor has he any political experience with the representatives of the EU, USA and NATO. He threatens to dissolve the parliament and order early elections should he be elected as President of Serbia. His political rating increased as his SRS won convincingly at the last parliamentary elections (December 2003) but due to international pressures Nikolic did not become the mandatory for the formation of the new government. This is, among others, where the reason for the increase of his popularity lies. It would be justified to wonder whether the Radicals should have been allowed to form the government in December 2003. The fact is that the above situation led to the formation of a kind of a »myth« about the Serbian radical party, especially since its President Vojislav Seselj has been isolated in the prison unit of the Hague Tribunal for five months. Tomislav Nikolic will become the new president of the Republic of Serbia since this kind of politicians actually reflect the present Serbian reality.
President of the Democratic Party (successor of assassinated Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic). Tadic said: »I am not satisfied with the work of the Government since we are witnessing the restoration of the party-state. For example, people from political parties are appointed as heads of intelligence services, security services, banks.« Tadic believes President should control the legitimacy and the work of the parliament and, indirectly, the legitimacy and the work of the Government. Should he be elected he will not order early elections. He advocates the »cohabitation of President and the Government« since he believes that President can not be the extension of the Government, as the presidential candidate Dragan Marsicanin states. Serbia must be oriented towards the West, its strategic partners are the EU, USA and Russia. Tadic believes he will win the votes of the Serbian decent citizens who are the silent majority - the normal people in Serbia who want the society to change for the better and fight for the restoration of the values. Tadic has rich experience in communication with the EU, USA and NATO. However, the analysts believe Tadic is trying to capitalise on the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic and is using this discourse to the point where the authority of Djindjic surpasses him.
Vice-President of DSS - Democratic Party of Serbia (President is the present Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica). He is the candidate of the leading coalition which is composed of the DSS, G17 Plus and SPO-NS (Serbian Movement for Renewal - New Serbia). The coalition is not in agreement regarding the support to Marsicanin's candidacy, especially the G17 Plus and SPO are opposing. The leading coalition thus failed to select a candidate who can defeat the opponents Nikolic and Tadic. Marsicanin, former president of the Serbian Parliament and Minister of the Economy, is not highly esteemed among the voting body. He is not familiar with the European institutions nor with Euro-Atlantic integration and their functioning. He never took part in formal talks on Europe. He is in favour of the accession to the EU and for a »cautious« accession to NATO. During his pre-election campaign Marsicanin visited the Republic of Srpska and its capital Banja Luka which can not bring him any new political points, only renewed suspicion of the interference of Serbia and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina through Dragan Kalinic, President the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska and President of Serbian Democratic Party. Marsicanin wants to be the extension of the present Government. The results of the work of the Government during the first 100 days are destructive. Does Marsicanin want to be a destructive president?
Among the other presidential candidates, the candidacy of the business tycoon Bogoljub Karic is one of the more interesting.
Candidate of a group of citizens and of the recently formed party called the Power of Serbia. Karic is the owner of BK Group, Astra Group known notably for the telecommunication company »Mobtel Srbije« and television company »BK Televizija«. Through his own television company, Bogoljub Karic presents himself to the public at most striking hours. This poses the question to what extent can an owned medium be (mis)used in election campaign and why the state did not regulate this area? Unless this is regulated it can lead to a situation where it is mostly the media owners who lead the state. Bogoljub Karic admits he has financed all political parties and political regimes till now. His fast accumulation of wealth is related to the family of Milosevic, especially Milosevic's wife Mirjana Markovic, President of the JUL (the Yugoslav left), who enabled Bogoljub Karic to become the majority owner of »Mobtel Srbije«. He is prohibited from entering numerous states. He travels abroad mainly using passport of another state. He has limited political experience. Karic is president of the Association of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Serbia and he uses this function mainly for self-promotion. In the election campaign he advocates the prohibition on importation of apples, lettuce and wheat into Serbia since he believes the Serbian farmer can produce sufficient quantities.This explicitly shows he is against the liberalisation of the market which could endanger the admission of Serbia in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Karic's vocabulary is the reflection of long years of political, economic, cultural and other isolation of Serbia in the last decade of the previous century and the resulting inability of comparison with others. He wants to regulate Kosovo according to the principles of a shareholder's company, in which most shares would be owned by multinational companies and the rest by Serbia and the citizens of Kosovo, whereby other republics of former Yugoslavia which invested in Kosovo should also take part in this division. This would additionally complicate the issue of Kosovo. Karic has shown political immaturity. The goal of his campaign is the legalisation in the Serbian society and the prevention of investigations which are being carried out against him and his business groupings. For quite some tome Karic has been in conflict with the past and present government due to his alleged avoiding to pay for the extra profit. Karic's legalisation was actually enabled by President of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, who appointed Karic to his Economic Council which is a part of the escort during Karic's visits abroad. Karic would call the Hague suspects to give themselves up since he would persuade them to do so. In the developed democracies the candidature of this kind would have little relevance. The results of the survey have shown that it would be very hard for Karic to convince the citizens of Serbia to place their trust in him at the forthcoming presidential elections.
Discrimination against women is still evident in the Serbian society. The only female candidates at the elections are Princess Jelisaveta Karadjordjevic and Ljiljana Arandjelovic. There are also no presidential candidates from national minorities nor are there any government members who come from national minorities. In the Council of Ministers of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro there is Minister for human rights from national minorities who comes from the Sandzak Democratic Party (SDP) which was defeated in Sandzak at the last parliamentary elections and became a non-parliamentary party. This raises the question whether Rasim Ljajic has the legitimacy to be in the Council of Ministers. The answer should be sought from Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, as Rasim Ljajic is one of his staff in the Council of Ministers.
The IFIMES International Institute is aware that Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and the SRS presidential candidate Tomislav Nikolic made a secret agreement which is to come into effect if Nikolic becomes president of Serbia. In the agreement they made a commitment that there would be no additional destabilisation of Serbia and the region nor early parliamentary elections.
The IFIMES International Institute believes the crisis in Serbia will be further aggravated which can additionally threaten the stability in the region and calls for additional commitment of the international community in order to avoid undesirable effects of the aggravation of crisis in Serbia.
PUBLIC OPINION POLL
Data on the sample:
• The sample: random, three-stage
• Size of the sample: 1843 respondents (male and female citizens of lawful age)
• Methodology: telephone survey
• Period: June 2 to June 4, 2004
• Degree of reliability: 95%
• Control: per 10% specimens
• Standard deviation +/- 3
• Territory: the Republic of Serbia without Kosovo
Are you going to take part in the forthcoming presidential elections in Serbia on June 13, 2004?
YES ~ 56.80%
NO ~ 28.60%
NO OPINION ~ 14.60%
At the forthcoming presidential elections on June 13, 2004 I am going to vote for:
TOMISLAV NIKOLIC ~ 33.80%
BORIS TADIC ~ 28.10%
DRAGAN MARSICANIN ~ 20.70%
IVICA DACIC ~ 5.20%
OTHER CANDIDATES ~ 12.20%
If Tomislav Nikolic and Boris Tadic enter the second voting of presidential elections which is to be held on June 27, 2004, who would you vote for?
TOMISLAV NIKOLIC ~ 58.70%
BORIS TADIC ~ 41.30%
If Tomislav Nikolic and Dragan Marsicanin enter the second voting of presidential elections which is to be held on June 27, 2004, who would you vote for?
TOMISLAV NIKOLIC ~ 53.80%
DRAGAN MARSICANIN ~ 46.20%