Will Belgrade give up its pro-Russian policy after them? However, the changed situation in the world may lead to a weakening of the pro-Russian vector “Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in Serbia” />
What sociologists predict
On Sunday, April 3, elections of all levels of government will be held in Serbia— presidential, early parliamentary and municipal. Their outcome is predictable: the Serbian Progressive Party (SPP), led by the incumbent President Aleksandar Vučić, will, according to polls, gain at least 50% of the vote and again receive a mandate to form the government, which it has been continuously leading since 2012. Wujijae is likely to be re-elected for a second term.
The previous parliamentary elections were held in the country in 2020, but almost all opposition parties did not take part in them due to the boycott, which, on the one hand, led to the lowest possible turnout, barely reaching 50%, on the other hand— brought Vučić's party a resounding victory. In the absence of competitors, the SPP won two-thirds of the seats in parliament, while the OSCE/ODIHR recognized the elections as having been held “in accordance with minimum democratic standards.” Thus, the boycott effectively provided the party in power with full-fledged political dominance, while the opposition, on the contrary, was deprived of the right to vote in parliament, since its expectation of recognizing the elected government as illegitimate did not materialize. Immediately after the victorious elections, Vučić announced that the next parliamentary elections would be held early, which experts explained as a desire to give legitimacy to the government.
This year all political forces of Serbia are participating in the parliamentary elections— there are 18 positions in the ballots. The party in power, together with the Socialist Party of Serbia, Speaker of the Parliament Ivica Dacic and the Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina, who supported the re-election of Vucic, will go under the common slogan “Aleksandr Vucic”; together we can do everything. Their main rival will be a broad opposition coalition of ten United Serbia parties. Most of the members of the coalition— newly formed parties led by people from the Democratic Party. It also includes the Freedom and Justice Party (PSS) of Dragan Djilas and the People's Party of Vuk Jeremic. Coalition slogan— “Let's unite for the victory of Serbia.”
It is noteworthy that this year the residents of Kosovo will not be able to vote in the elections of their place of residence, as they did in previous years, due to disagreements between local authorities and the leadership of Serbia, which does not recognize the independence of Kosovo. “We agreed to a lot of compromises <…> to ensure that people can vote for whoever they want, but they (Kosovo authorities. — RBC) insist on only one thing— so that Serbia recognizes the independence of Kosovo, and Serbia cannot agree with this, — Vucic commented on this decision. As a result, the Serbian Electoral Commission announced the possibility for the residents of Kosovo to vote on the territory of Serbia. Earlier, the Kosovo parliament adopted a resolution banning Serbia from holding elections on the territory of Kosovo.
How the events in Ukraine affected the balance of power
The beginning of the Russian military special operation in Ukraine put Serbia and its president in a difficult position. Vučić, who has been heading the country since 2017, has a reputation as a politician who knows how to maneuver between Russia and the European Union in order to achieve maximum preferences for Serbia. Russia for the country is not only a political ally, which regularly votes in the UN against the recognition of Kosovo's independence, but also an important economic partner, ready to provide it with gas, vaccines and weapons. In turn, Belgrade helps Russia to the best of its ability, which manifested itself, in particular, in issuing a broadcasting license to the Russian German-language channel RT Deutsch. On the other hand, since 2012 Serbia has the status of a candidate country for joining the European Union, and it is he who is its main trading partner. In addition, Serbia receives financial assistance from Brussels, including within the framework of a billion-dollar budget, which was allocated to support the Balkan states following the results of the last EU summit— The Balkans in 2021.
Serbia became the only European country that did not join the anti-Russian sanctions of the West, and the national air carrier Air Serbia first and completely increased the number of flights to Moscow against the backdrop of European countries closing their airspace for Russian airlines. Vučić, on the air of the B92 TV channel, explained such actions by the principle of reciprocity. “What will we do in the UN Security Council when the issue of Kosovo and Metohija arises again, how will we protect our Constitution and the territorial integrity of our country? How and at what price will we get gas, how will we tell those who have not imposed sanctions on us in the last 20 years and who have never harmed us that we will do this to them now, on the basis of what? said the Serbian leader.
Vučić's position causes rejection in the European Union, and he himself has repeatedly said that the West is putting pressure on Belgrade to join the sanctions against Russia. The fact that Serbia needs to reconsider its course towards Russia was also announced in early March by German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock, who visited Belgrade. “The question of Ukraine touches on our common values; the one who shares them cannot stand aside. Willingness to join the EU— it is also a willingness to share the positions of the European Union,»,— she said.
As a result, in mid-March, Air Serbia reduced flights to Russia, which Vucic explained this as pressure from the EU.
Will Belgrade's policy change after the elections
Politico believes that after re-election, Vucic is unlikely to take a more western course, abandoning the former, & mdash; not only because of energy dependence on Moscow, but also because of the widespread public support for its actions within the country. So, on March 5, a mass pro-Russian action took place in Belgrade, which brought together thousands of participants at the monument to Nicholas II, many of them holding portraits of Vladimir Putin. According to an August 2021 poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations, 95% of Serbs consider Russia a “necessary partner”.
At the same time, Vučić's statements in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as support for the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russian actions in Ukraine— too weak concessions to the West, and the differences on the Russian issue between Belgrade and Brussels will become more and more palpable. Nevertheless, a move away from the pro-Russian stance is possible for Serbia, not by rapprochement with the European Union, but by strengthening relations with China, says Florian Bieber, director of the Center for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz. “After all, Serbia in recent years has established close ties with China, which can compensate for the deterioration of relations with Russia, both in terms of supporting Serbia in the UN Security Council on Kosovo, and in terms of economic cooperation,” — he said.
European Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow, expert on the Western Balkans Angelusa Morina believes that after re-election, Vučić and his party can gradually begin to move towards rapprochement with the EU— however, be careful to avoid tension in the region. Increased pressure from the EU on the newly formed government could accelerate the rapprochement between Brussels and Belgrade, Morina concludes.