Serbia Progressives Threaten Election Over Corruption

Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party says it will intensify the fight against corruption even if it leads to the fall of the coalition government and a new election.Nebojsa Stefanovic, speaker of parliament and deputy president of the ruling Progressives, said his party would risk a new general election if it felt impeded in the fight against corruption and crime.

“We are not afraid of elections, but we are not preparing for them as we are working hard on reforms,” Stefanovic said.

Earlier, Aleksandar Vucic, the leader of the Progressives and Deputy Prime Minister in charge of corruption, said in an open letter sent to public on Monday that he will not relax the fight against corruption even if the cost is new elections.

“Neither I or the party I belong to [the Progressives] have ever avoided elections,” Vucic said, adding that he or his party may lose but that corruption must never win.

The warnings come days after the Progressives launched an anti-corruption campaign and announced that investigations involved an unnamed member of the cabinet.

Tension between the Progressives and their coalition partner, the Socialist Party, has mounted ever since.

Although Vucic did not name the minister, Balkan Insight has learned from independent sources that he meant Milutin Mrkonjic, the Minister for Transport, a Socialist.

The initial cause for the probe into Mrkonjic is his alleged connection to a case concerning the issue of permits for the mounting of optic cables on roads.

The alleged connection dates from the time of previous, Democrat-led government in which Mrkonjic held the post of Infrastructure Minister.

On Monday, parliament lifted the immunity from prosecution of another minister from the previous government, Oliver Dulic.

The prosecutor’s office requested the revocation of his MP’s immunity in order to run a criminal procedure based on suspicion that Dulic illegally issued permits for the mounting of optic cables on roads.

In a statement to the special prosecutor, Zoran Drobnjak, director of the public enterprise Putevi Srbije, drew a connection between Mrkonjic and the contentious issue of permits to place optical cables on the Batrovci-Belgrade road to a Slovenian company, Nuba Invest.
Mrkonjic and Dulic were friends in the former government.

Serbia held last general elections in May and the new government was formed in July.

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