Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic took the surprising step on Wednesday to dissolve the parliament and announced the scheduling of general and local elections to be held on December 17. The decision came shortly after a visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Belgrade, during which she promised EU membership to Serbia but with certain conditions.
The upcoming elections will not only determine the 250 members of the National Assembly but will also involve voting for mayors in Belgrade and ten other cities, as well as the heads of 54 counties. The recommendation for new elections was made by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic’s cabinet, who emphasized that it would lead to a “greater degree of democracy” and help “reduce tensions” within Serbian society, while also affirming European values.
This move comes as a response to the recent protests held by various opposition parties, which gained momentum after a tragic school shooting incident in May. Capitalizing on the widespread outrage, the opposition demanded a snap vote, prompting President Vucic to announce his intention to call for elections held this year. He emphasized that the winning party in these elections would hold a clear mandate until 2027, ruling out the possibility of any further elections until then.
Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has been the dominant political force in Serbia since 2012, replacing the previous liberal democrats who came to power through the 2000 color revolution. His government is known to identify as centrist-populist and has so far refused to join EU sanctions against Russia or recognize Kosovo as an independent province.
However, EU membership talks require Serbia to fulfill certain conditions, including recognizing Kosovo and aligning its foreign policies with those of Brussels, which include sanctioning Russia. During her visit, von der Leyen made it clear that Belgrade was expected to implement the Franco-German plan for “normalizing relations” with Kosovo, which involves recognizing its independence, and to synchronize its foreign policy with the EU.
Germany’s von der Leyen expressed the EU’s desire for Serbia to join the union, presenting it as a promise of peace and prosperity, an opportunity that no one else can match at present. While there have been suggestions, notably by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, that the former Yugoslavian countries should consider joining BRICS instead, Vucic still believes that EU membership is in Serbia’s best interest.
Critics have accused Vucic of gradually surrendering to EU demands, while others from the liberal opposition have criticized him for not doing so quickly enough. The upcoming elections will provide an opportunity for the Serbian population to voice their opinions and determine the country’s future direction.
In conclusion, President Vucic’s decision to dissolve the parliament and call for general and local elections has brought new dynamics to Serbian politics. The elections scheduled for December 17 will not only determine the composition of the National Assembly but also various municipal and county positions. The outcomes of these elections will likely have significant implications for Serbia’s relationship with the EU and its stance on issues like recognition of Kosovo and alignment with EU foreign policies.