Extraordinary Elections In Serbia: Domestic And Foreign Factors Vying For Influence – Analysis

On December 17, 2023, the Republic of Serbia will hold extraordinary parliamentary elections, elections for the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, and local elections for the capital city of Belgrade, along with an additional 65 local self-governments.

According to the proportional representation system employed for parliamentary elections to the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, 250 members of parliament will be elected. Approximately 6.5 million registered voters are eligible to exercise their voting rights across over 8,000 polling stations.

In accordance with the current electoral law, the Republic of Serbia represents a single electoral constituency. Parliamentary mandates are allocated proportionally based on the number of votes received. If political parties representing national minorities fail to surpass the electoral threshold of 3%, a ‘natural threshold’ is applied. This threshold is determined by dividing the total valid votes by 250, representing each parliamentary seat. The required vote range varies between 12,000 and 16,000, contingent upon the voter turnout during the elections.

For participation in the parliamentary elections, 13 electoral lists have been registered: ● Electoral List Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia Must Not Stop /Srbija ne sme da stane/● Electoral List Ivica Dačić – Serbian Prime Minister ● Electoral List Dr Vojislav Šešelj – Serbian Radical Party ● Electoral List Milica Djurdjević Stamenkovski – Boško Obradović – National Gathering- State Building Force /Nacionalno okupljanje – Državotvorna snaga/ – Serbian Party Oathkeepers- Serbian Movement Dveri ● Electoral List Dr Miloš Jovanović – Hope for Serbia /Nada za Srbiju/ – Serbian Coalition of Hope – National Democratic Alternative – New Democratic Party of Serbia (New DSS) – Movement for the Restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia (POKS) – Vojislav Mihailović ● Electoral List For Our President, Our Community, for the Future! /Vajdasági magyar szövetség – – Elnökünkért, közösségünkért, a jövőért!/- Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians ● Electoral List Serbia Against Violence/Srbija protiv nasilja/ – Miroslav Miki Aleksić – Marinika Tepić (Freedom and Justice Party, People’s Movement of Serbia, Green-Left Front, Do Not Let Belgrade Drown, Ecological Uprising – Ćuta, Democratic Party, Movement of Free Citizens, Serbia Center, Together, Movement for a Turnaround, United Unions of Serbia ‘Sloga’, New Face of Serbia) ● Electoral List Usame Zukorlića – United for Justice /Ujedinjeni za pravdu/ – Party of Justice and Reconciliation – Bosniaks of Sandžak, Tomislav Žigmanov – Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina ● Electoral List SDA Sandžak – Dr Sulejman Ugljanin ● Electoral List Together for the Future and Development /Zajedno za budućnost i razvoj/ – Coalition for Peace and Tolerance ● Electoral List People’s Party – Safe Choice, Serious People /Siguran izbor, ozbiljni ljudi/– Vuk Jeremić, Dr. Sanda Rašković Ivić, Siniša Kovačević, Vladimir Gajić, Marina Lipovac Tanasković ● Electoral List Saša Radulović (Enough is Enough – DJB) – Boris Tadić (Social Democratic Party – SDS) – Ana Pejić (Stolen Babies) – Good Morning, Serbia ● Electoral list “Albanians’ political struggle continues – Shaip Kamberi”/”Beteja politike e Shqiptarëve vazhdon – Shaip Kamberi”

Enabling the use of active Serbian citizenship in Kosovo
According to the current Serbian constitution, Kosovo is recognized as an autonomous province within the jurisdiction of the state. The integration of Kosovo Serbs into local institutions was contingent upon their ability to participate in all elections held in Serbia, even while residing in Kosovo. Previous Kosovo administrations adhered to this agreement until the ascent of Albin Kurti’s government (LVV). The exclusion of Serbs living in Serbian communities in Kosovo from participation in the previous Serbian elections has led to an escalation and the emergence of new tensions. Political representatives of Serbs withdrew from Kosovo institutions, posing a tangible risk that Serbs may abstain from participating in the upcoming Kosovo parliamentary elections, which could permanently disrupt peace and stability and lead to the paralysis of Kosovo institutions. Serbian parliamentary elections in Kosovo were intended to be conducted under the auspices of the international community (OSCE) in areas where the Serbian community resides. The OSCE Mission in Kosovo has proven ineffective, as was the case during the recent extraordinary local elections in four municipalities in northern Kosovo (Mitrovica, Leposavić, Zvečan, and Zubin Potok). Due to a Serbian election boycott, ethnic Albanians were elected as mayors in predominantly Serbian communities.

Despite the escalating situation in Kosovo, Albin Kurti persists in advocating for the dismissal of Albanian mayors in northern Kosovo through a petition, despite warnings from certain Albanian politicians, both former and current members of the Central Election Commission of Kosovo (CIK), as well as former judges, who have cautioned that such a petition contravenes the Constitution of Kosovo. Analysts anticipate that Kurti may call for general elections in Kosovo after the conclusion of the elections in Serbia, aiming to sidestep the establishment of the Association of Serbian Municipalities (ZSO) and capitalize on his current popularity among Albanian voters, especially within the diaspora, following the events in Banjska.

Analysts caution the international community, asserting that the Quint countries (France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States) could have played a more substantial role in ensuring the conduct of elections in Serbian communities in Kosovo. They argue that allowing further compromise of the ongoing dialogue for the normalization of relations between official Belgrade and Pristina, especially by linking the holding of elections in Serbian communities in Kosovo to international recognition of Kosovo by Serbia, was ill-advised.

The non-conduct of elections in Serbian communities in Kosovo under the pretext of the purported lack of agreement between official Belgrade and Pristina, disrupts and hinders the dialogue on normalization, jeopardizing fragile peace and latent stability. Consequently, elections for Serbian citizens residing in Kosovo will take place outside the territory of Kosovo, specifically in the municipalities of Vranje, Kuršumlija, Raška, and Tutin. This impedes the exercise of active Serbian citizenship in Kosovo, thereby depriving those who wish to participate, predominantly Serbs but others as well, of the opportunity to fulfil their constitutionally guaranteed active voting rights.

Over 100 foreign intelligence services are operating in Serbia
The elections in Serbia mark a turning point for the country’s future and the preservation of peace and stability in the region. Given Serbia’s pivotal role in maintaining regional stability and peace, it is necessary to prevent all forms of violence in the final stages of the election campaign and to avoid provoking unrest on election day, which could result in declaring the elections illegitimate and illegal, rendering them invalid. Ensuring the legality, regularity, and control of the electoral process is of paramount importance. There are indications that future electoral losers may contest the election results. Political entities participating in the elections must demonstrate a high level of civility, political culture, and responsibility, renounce violence as a political tool and accept the officially declared election results. It would be paradoxical if those advocating against violence would resort to violence as a form of political action.

Analysts contend that Serbia is entering the final phase of destabilization, marked by the potential for electoral manipulation, the expectation of widespread protests, and the refusal to acknowledge the election results. Of particular concern is the presence and activities of over 100 security and intelligence services within Serbia’s borders. The role of the Republic of Croatia is particularly noteworthy, specifically in the expulsion of the first secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Serbia due to violations of the Vienna Diplomatic Convention and allegations of espionage. Croatia is implicated in collaboration with third countries for espionage services, leveraging its knowledge of the language, mentality, customs, personal connections, and culture to facilitate a smoother, faster, and more effective infiltration.

Domestic and foreign factors vying for influence – who prevails?
Excessive involvement of foreign factors provokes constant turbulence and instability in Serbia. Certain political leaders within the Serbian opposition make no effort to conceal their ties with foreign actors. Despite Serbia’s declared military neutrality, a faction within the Serbian opposition favours Serbia’s NATO membership and advocates for imposing sanctions on Russia. The foreign stakeholders play a pivotal role in Kosovo, particularly through the NATO/KFOR mission, ensuring the security and protection of the Serbian population. The recent visit of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to Serbia was crucial, as it provided assurances that NATO/KFOR would continue to safeguard peace and security for all citizens, especially Serbs in Kosovo. Over the past decade, Serbia has liberated itself from a subservient mindset regarding foreign influence.

For voter turnout in the elections, a crucial determinant lies in the voters’ perception that these elections are marked by uncertainty, profound significance, and historical weight. Consequently, the upcoming elections in Serbia will serve as a test to gauge the strength of influence between domestic and foreign factors – determining who holds greater sway. It is widely acknowledged that Serbian voters are averse to having their electoral will imposed from abroad, which particularly favours political options advocating for Serbia’s NATO membership and endorsing sanctions against Russia. A segment of the Serbian opposition supports NATO membership, enjoying robust support from a portion of Western political factors. According to public opinion polls, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is considered a frontrunner in the upcoming elections, with the belief that President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) should continue steering a decisive, determined, and responsible state policy.

Analysts contend that there is still a small segment of society in Serbia that finds it advantageous to collaborate with certain foreign elements to destabilize the country. Rather than enabling Serbia to maintain its status as a regional leader and a catalyst for European integration, these actors seek to undermine both Serbia and the wider Western Balkans. Serbia stands out in the region due to its levels of foreign investment, relatively low public debt, rapid salary growth, low unemployment, and investments in sports and infrastructure. The country also boasts a high annual economic growth rate, with the potential for further progress in these domains in the coming period.

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