The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, formally dissolved the Serbian National Assembly (Parliament) a unicameral body composed of 250 members, in Belgrade, the capital, in order to smooth the way for ‘extraordinary’ elections on December 17th 2023. These elections are not only for the Parliament but also for local authorities in the 64 municipalities.
The parliamentary elections are being held earlier than expected as the ruling party – the Serbian Progressive Party (SPP) – feels that if the municipal elections take place as part of a more broad set of election this may counteract its current unpopularity in the capital.
The party system in Serbia is highly fragmented with many small parties all vying for office and power but several opposition parties have agreed to run on a joint ticket having organised protests under the name “Serbia Against Violence”. The joint list will include the ‘Freedom and Justice Party’, the ‘People’s Movement of Serbia’ and the ‘Green-Left Front’ (Ne Davimo Beograd in Serbo-Croat.). In addition, it will include ‘Srce’ (The Heart movement), the ‘Ecological Uprising’, the ‘Democratic Party’ (a former ruling party), the liberal, pro-European ‘Movement of Free Citizens’ and the ‘Zajedno (Together) Party’. These parties came together after two mass shootings at demonstrations in May 2023. They could broadly be described as the ‘Left’ and have held joint rallies and demonstrations since then. There have been consistent and continual calls for elections to be held by the end of the year and the President appears to have bowed to this pressure to a certain extent.
The parties of the right which call themselves “The State-Building Opposition” have yet to agree joint tickets and manifestos. Many of the elections taking place are ‘snap’ elections as the mayors of several of the municipalities suddenly, and collectively, resigned at the end of September in order to force a vote. The Serbian Radical Party, whose leader is a convicted war criminal, has stated that for municipal elections only it will run jointly with the ruling party – the Serbian Progressive Party, but not in for elections to the National Assembly Parliament. It is not yet known if its leader will stand for any office.
The local elections were originally intended to be held in June next year (2024) although there were expectations that all elections would actually take place in spring 2023 as the ruling party had stated in 2022 that its party would only stay in office for two years. The opposition parties would prefer for elections in Belgrade to be held separately from the rest of the country – in order to capitalise n the government’s unpopularity there and have called for this. Belgrade has a population of 1.6 million out of 6.6 million for Serbia as a whole so represents just under 25% of the population. The opposition parties made a strong showing in the Capital in the previous elections polling some 50,000 more votes than the ruling party – however this did not translate into a majority of seats due to the vagaries of the electoral system.