Serbian elections chart an EU course

Snap elections held in Serbia on Sunday, April 24 recorded solid turnout of a little over 56% and can be characterised as a victory for the current leading parties – the Serbian Progressive Party, SNS (which has been in coalition with 6 other parties), and the Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS. Both main parties expect to increase their tally once the final vote is counted, however, for now, they lie on 48% and 11% respectively according to the first results. The early results, already contested by some opposition parties, show that the Democratic party, as well as the SDS-LDP-LSV and the civic movement “Enough is enough” all passed the 5% threshold.

The new Parliament of the Republic of Serbia will additionally witness the return of right wing parties – DSS-Dveri, as well as the ultranationalist, anti-European Radicals (SRS) who won 8%. That said, the Serbian Progressive Party’s resounding victory is demonstrated in its wins in the province of Vojvodina (over 44%) and in municipalities and cities throughout Serbia.

The results are being seen as an affirmation of the popular support for both the leader of the Progressives, Prime Minister Mr. Vucic and the policies of his government which has combined both tough reforms (promised to end within a couple of years) and a pro-EU path. However, it is clear that the new Parliament of Serbia will witness much more debate and the next government, which will most likely take the same format as before the elections, will face more resistance from both pro-European opposition to the Democrats, as well as from right wing and anti-European forces, both moderate and radical. This is likely to stir more debate ahead of the opening of the additional negotiation chapters with the EU later in 2016, including difficult and key chapters such as 23 and 24. The future which will see Serbia introducing both further cuts in public spending and searching for ways to increase investment in an economically challening environment.

The strives made towards European integration will thus continue apace, alongside attempts to balance with other international actors, including Russia. Moreover, given that the representation of ultranationalists in the Serbian Parliament is less than in some EU member states their presence in the Parliament is not necessarily bad news. The anti-EU and Eurosceptic sentiment, which exists among Serbian citizens, will hopefully have its voice heard in Parliamentarian, democratic debate.

The biggest challenges for Serbia, as discussed in our recent Congress in Belgrade, remain reforms related to the EU path, especially the rule of law, the fight against corruption and establishing an efficient judiciary; economic development and the normalisation of relations with Kosovo.