Extraordinary Elections in Serbia: A New Chapter or Just a Political Maneuver?
The Possibility of Extraordinary Elections in Serbia
There are indications that Serbia might be on the brink of a significant political event. The suggestion of holding parliamentary, Belgrade, and local elections has emerged, presenting a surprising twist in the country’s political narrative. More intriguing is the mention of elections for the Assembly of Vojvodina, a topic previously unexplored in the context of the potential extraordinary winter elections.
Delving into the Details
If one interprets the President of Serbia’s statement as a response to the opposition’s request for the conduct of extraordinary elections by the end of the year, it appears that the opposition may have received more than they bargained for. Their initial request only pertained to parliamentary and Belgrade Assembly elections, excluding the provincial elections.
Ambiguity Surrounding the Provincial Elections
While there are no major obstacles to holding these elections in December, doubts have arisen over whether provincial acts allow for Vojvodina to fit into the planned election timeline. The feasibility of holding provincial elections on December 17th seems to hinge on the previously unused option of dissolution of the Assembly of AP Vojvodina, currently the only viable possibility.
Implications for Democracy
The year 2021 was a turbulent year for democracy in Serbia, marked by a state of emergency, suspension of the parliament, violent crackdown on civil protests, controversial elections, and a near single-party parliament following an opposition boycott. Opportunities to enhance democratic governance and electoral conditions were missed, and the continuing decline of media freedom and freedom of association aggravated the political crisis and further eroded democratic institutions.
Interparty Dialogue and Electoral Conditions
Despite the launch of a new phase of the European Parliament-mediated interparty dialogue, improvements in electoral conditions remained scant, and the political crisis found no resolution. The dialogue was abandoned by most opposition parties, and the ruling parties’ behavior suggested a lack of political will for an honest dialogue.
Pre-Election Phase and Opposition Participation
Late 2021 marked an important pre-election phase. Regular presidential, Belgrade city elections, and a few other municipal elections were also scheduled to be held on April 3, 2022. Despite their exit from the EP-mediated talks and lack of improvements to electoral conditions, virtually all the opposition parties that boycotted the 2020 elections decided to participate in the 2022 elections. This decision could potentially normalize political life in 2022, but the elections and their aftermath will represent a true test of electoral conditions and democratic capacities.
The State of Media Freedom
State influence over the media landscape increased in 2021 through Telekom Srbija, a joint-stock company in which the state is a majority shareholder. Telekom extended its hold over the cable market with its purchase of state-owned Posta NET and launched a new news channel, Euronews Serbia. Their attempts to strike commercially dubious deals were seen by observers as attempts to stifle press freedom and increase the influence of the dominant Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).
Constitutional Reform and Corruption Scandals
The process of constitutional reform, required within Serbia’s European Union (EU) accession negotiations, was reinitiated in 2021 after previous attempts had failed. The goal of constitutional reform is to increase the independence of the judiciary. However, two high-profile organized crime and corruption scandals linked to rifts within the hegemonic SNS further exposed links between organized crime groups and high-ranking state officials.
Subscribe to BNN Breaking
Sign up for our daily newsletter covering global breaking news around the world.