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Serbia Braces Again for Snap Legislative and Belgrade Elections

Less than two years since they last voted in parliamentary and Belgrade city elections, voters in Serbia are again going to the polls on Sunday. Elections will also be held for councils in 64 more cities and towns.

The three main opposition blocs are the “Serbia against Violence” coalition, named after the protest wave that followed two mass shootings in May, and two coalitions of right-wing parties.

The “Serbia against Violence” list includes the Freedom and Justice Party of former Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas, the People’s Movement of Serbia, led by Miroslav Aleksic, and the Green-Left Front/Ne Davimo Beograd, which is known for its grassroots activism.

It also includes the Srce (Heart) movement, led by Zdravko Ponos, who came second to Aleksandar Vucic in the presidential elections in 2022, the Ecological Uprising, known for leading environmental protests, the Democratic Party, which led the country before Vucic’s Progressive Party, the liberal, pro-European Movement of Free Citizens and the Zajedno (Together) Party.

The right-wing parties that call themselves “the state-building opposition” failed to make a deal about jointly going to the elections. They are divided into the “National gathering” coalition, made up of Dveri (Doors) and Zavetnici [Oathkeepers], and the NADA (Hope) coalition, made up of the New Democratic Party of Serbia and the Movement for Renewal of Kingdom of Serbia, POKS.Although most of the opposition is up against smear campaigns, private video leaks, fake support signatures, pre-election giveaways to citizens and more, a BIRN analysis suggests that some of them have a chance to do well in Belgrade and shake up Serbia’s numbed political scene.

During their finishing rally in Belgrade on Tuesday, Marinika Tepic, a “Serbia against Violence” list representative, said that “the decisive battle is ahead us on Sunday.

“We are choosing whether the mafia and the party will rule, or order, law and the constitution,” Tepic said.

Last year, the opposition in Belgrade won around 50,000 votes more than the parties of the ruling coalition, but failed to win power when the votes were translated into actual seats.

Meanwhile, two consecutive mass shootings in Belgrade, killing 19 people in total, triggered an outpouring of anger and frustration over what many Serbs saw as a culture of violence presided over by Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party.

The parties organising the series of protests named “Serbia against violence” in October agreed to run jointly in coming elections.

Around 1.6 million people have the right to vote in Belgrade and 14 lists are on the ballot. Voters will elect 110 councillors to the Belgrade City Assembly, who then elect the mayor.

Opposition expectations are lower for the parliamentary elections. Some 6.5 million people have the right to vote for the 250 seats in parliament, eighteen lists are running and it is widely foreseen that the Serbian Progressive Party will win most of the seats.

The regular deadline for local elections in Serbia was spring 2024 and, as the ruling Progressives tend to combine multiple levels of elections, the current government’s mandate was expected to last until then.

But after the protests that followed the mass shootings in May as well as complications in relations with Kosovo, Vucic, using the opposition’s request as an excuse, decided to go for snap elections in December.

Experts told BIKRN that Vucic knows the popularity of the Progressives is decreasing and that this is a better time to shore up support for a new government mandate ahead of further unfavourable political developments.

At a Progressive rally in Belgrade on December 2, Vucic – who is not an official participant in the campaign but is still its star – said: “Times are difficult in Kosovo and Metohija, I am sure they will be even more difficult, but we will never give up on our people and we will never turn our backs on them.”

This is third time that Kosovo Serbs will be casting their votes for a Serbian election. on the territory of Serbia, not in Kosovo.

Source : BalkanInsight