Serbia to appoint new PM by June

An elated Aleksandar Vučić. Belgrade, Sunday (2 April). [CGTN/YouTube]

Serbian President-elect Aleksandar Vučić, who scored a convincing victory in the first round of the election on 2 April, will take his time appointing his successor as prime minister, a position he’s held a firm grip on for three years. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

According to announcements by Vučić and officials of his Serbian Progressive Party, the country will get a new prime minister by June, two months after the presidential poll.

Off the record, several names are being mentioned, mostly members of Vučić’s current cabinet and his close aides.

Public speculation is that it will be someone who will have to cooperate closely with Vučić, who will de facto continue to decide on key issues. Some analysts warn, however, that this will only further strengthen Vučić’s already dominant position in Serbia.

Aleksandar Vučić is the first politician to have been elected head of state from the prime minister’s office since the introduction of the multi-party system in the early 1990s.

After he announced that he would be the ruling coalition’s candidate in the presidential election, Vučić refused to resign as prime minister, which the opposition had asked in order for the election race to be fair.

EU attacked by Serbian politicians for pro-government bias

Serbian presidential candidates are criticising the EU, blaming it for tolerating the authoritarian leanings of the government’s candidate and current Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, in exchange for stability and concessions over Kosovo. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

Serbia has no legally defined deadline by which a newly elected president must be sworn in and thereby start his five-year term in office. The constitution, however, stipulates that the president cannot perform any other public office or professional work. Vučić will have to resign as prime minister in order to take office as president.

As Politika reported on Wednesday (5 April), after he resigns, Vučić will not be able to lead the government until a new one is formed.

Serbian Parliament Speaker and senior Progressive Party official Maja Gojković said on Wednesday that Vučić will be sworn in following the expiration of incumbent President Tomislav Nikolić’s mandate on 31 May.

Gojković told the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation that, upon taking office, Vučić will consult with the representatives of the parliamentary parties and then hand a mandate to the new prime minister with the majority in parliament.

“I expect that we will get a new prime minister-designate in June,” said Gojković who pointed out that there was a very stable majority in parliament.

Vučić himself announced on Sunday that the new Serbian government would most likely be formed in the next two months.

 Who will succeed Vučić?

Politika says that, according to the law, the position of premier could go to Ivica Dačić, first deputy prime minister and leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, the ruling coalition’s second strongest party.

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The government in Belgrade is generally satisfied with the European Commission’s annual report on Serbia’s progress in European integration published on Wednesday (9 November), even though it might not agree with all of its conclusions. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

Dačić is not saying much on that subject and points out his party’s support and contribution to Vučić’s election success.

He resolutely dismisses claims that the party was not so unified in its support of the ruling candidate – that Vučić was left without 170,000 votes because of the Socialists who were in conflict with the Progressives at the local level in some parts of Serbia.

Dačić said on Monday (3 April) that he had not yet talked with Vučić about the prime minister’s job. He also emphasised that he had no incentive to back Vučić in order to replace him at the government’s helm since he had already occupied the post in the past.

The media is mentioning non-party members of the cabinet as potential candidates for the premiership – Minister of Finance Dušan Vujović and Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Ana Brnabić, as well as Vučić’s close aides, such as Minister of Interior Nebojša Stefanović and Serbian Progressive Party official Nikola Selaković.

Vučić won 55.02% or 1,953,481 votes, according to the data presented by the Serbian Electoral Commission based on 97.42% of polling stations, unveiled on Tuesday. The turnout was 54.56%. The final results of the presidential election will be announced after the vote has been repeated at 8 polling stations.

Dissatisfaction with the election result

This election was marked by a brief campaign, and the opposition has been berating the authorities for the unfair conditions in which the campaign unfolded, especially the inadequate coverage of the other 10 candidates in the media, as well as attacks by the pro-government tabloids on certain candidates and the members of their families.

The opposition also voiced dissatisfaction with the fact that the election had served as an opportunity for suspending the Serbian parliament’s session, which the ruling coalition justified by saying it had been done before.

Maja Gojković said on Wednesday that the parliament would soon resume its session.

After the turnout results were announced on Sunday, sociologist and political analyst Jovo Bakić said that the fact there would be no runoff was not good. “If there is no runoff, you’re living in a politically immature society. Where else is there no runoff? In North Korea?” Bakić remarked on N1 TV.

Serbian weekly fined for defaming interior minister

Serbian media defended the NIN newspaper after a court ordered the weekly to pay an estimated €2500 in damages to Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic on Wednesday (4 January), for an article about Belgrade’s Savamala district. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

A number of citizens, predominantly youth, are unhappy with the election results and have been gathering at the so-called Protest against Dictatorship since Monday. Protest rallies are being held in several Serbian cities and towns – in about 20 on Tuesday, and involve up to several thousand citizens in each.

The protests were put together on Facebook. For the time being, it is unknown who the organisers are. Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović said on Wednesday that the street protests were “highly political” and orchestrated by the opposition candidates who lost the election. Protesters reject claims they’re being directed by external forces.

Protesters asked for the Electoral Commission members to be sacked for “failing to follow the rulings of the Constitutional Court”, and called for the removal of Maja Gojković for the “pre-election obstruction of parliament, which cut off information to citizens and silenced the opposition”. They added that they demanded a change in the management of the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation for “regime-inclined reporting and unequal air time for the candidates”.

Support for the protests has been expressed in press releases by several presidential candidates who urged the youth to demonstrate in a dignified and peaceful manner.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also reacted to the protests in Belgrade. It said on Wednesday that Moscow hopes that all political forces in Serbia will behave responsibly and will not permit the country to be destabilised and that all issues will be resolved legally.

Unveiled on Tuesday, the latest report by Freedom House contends that the level of Serbia’s democratic development is at its lowest since 2005, despite the progress made in the European integration process so far.

Serbia remains in the category of semi-consolidated democracies. The overall rating of Serbia’s democratic development in 2016 worsened from 3.75 to 3.82 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the highest and 7 the lowest level of democratic progress.

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