Serbian presidential elections will be held 2 April, the speaker of the Serbian Parliament announced on Thursday (2 March). EURACTIV Serbia reports.
As the electoral campaign is about to begin, the decision puts parliamentary sessions on hold and provides only 30 days for campaigning, sparking an outcry from the opposition.
Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić is considered to be favourite, while the fragmented opposition doesn’t have a candidate that could gather enough support to win.
Vučić will keep his position during his campaign, as he is not obliged to resign by law.
A day before she officially scheduled the elections, speaker of Parliament Maja Gojković put the regular spring parliamentary session on hold until the completion of the elections.
Ms Gojković told reporters in the Serbian Parliament that she had made that decision because she wished to “preserve the dignity of the parliament and democracy”.
Opposition parties fiercely criticised the move because they believed it is aimed at narrowing their opportunities to be heard by a wider audience.
As examples, Democratic Party representative Gordana Čomić said that the decision was formally in line with the rules of procedure, but that it was actually an abuse of parliament.
The head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Čedomir Jovanović, described it as a “slap in the face of the deputies”, while the Social Democratic Party says that parliament is the only place where criticism can be heard.
Indeed, there is no obvious reason to make a pause in this spring session as the presidential elections should in no way interfere with the work of the parliament.
Immediately after the elections were scheduled, the opposition candidates called on the premier to step down from his position in order to ensure fair play.
It is widely believed that even after his expected transfer to the presidency, a position much less influential than the prime minister, Vučić will keep control over key decisions, as the most powerful political figure of the ruling party.
In November 2016, Vučić said it was unacceptable to have a political opponent for a president.
In 2016, Vučić reiterated several times that he doesn’t intent to run for president, but changed his decision in February, surprising many and, according to the media, provoking a brief crisis in relations with the now-president Nikolic, who expected to be the candidate of the ruling SNS once more.
While campaigns have been limited to a month in the past, this time the procedure for the nomination of candidates might require more time, as the list of citizens supporting candidates, which was previously verified by the courts, must now be verified by public notaries.
From 1 March, the verification task in Serbia has been transferred to the public notaries, who are less numerous, especially outside the largest cities.
Moreover, the Commissioner for the Information of Public Importance, Rodoljub Šabić, said that the public notaries are not obliged to provide information under the Law on the Information of Public Importance, and therefore called on the Chambers of Public Notaries to eliminate any doubt about the good work of notaries related to the pre-electoral campaign.