Serbia votes, with an eye towards Europe

Serbia votes, with an eye towards Europe

Geminello Alvi | Columnist and writer
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The latest, most reliable polls indicate a 53% preference for Aleksandar Vucic, of the Serbian Progressive Party and current Prime Minister. Despite the difficult atmosphere, the outcome should benefit the area's stability

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The President of the Republic, to remain in office for the next five years, will be elected in Serbia on April 2, by the absolute majority of voters and in a two-round system. The latest, most reliable polls, performed by Ipsos Strategic Marketing and published on March 20 by Belgrade newspaper Blic, indicated a 53% preference for Aleksandar Vucic, of the Serbian Progressive Party and current Prime Minister, expressing the identical alliance supporting the current government. However, the second place in the polls is no longer occupied by the independent Sasa Jankovic, former ombudsman of Serbia, who has now fallen to 10.6% of the electoral estimates. The candidate who may be able to win 11% of the electorate is now Luka Maksimovic, better known as Ljubisa Preletacevic, Beli, the premeditated satirical representation of all of the flaws in Balkan politics. Beli, not to be confused with Grillo, whilst being a comedian, citing a kind of Serbian Cetto la Qualunque, could come out as a real surprise on April 2. Suffice to say that Maksimovic was still at 3%, according to some polls the previous week. Ultra-Nationalist Vojislav Sešelj of the Serbian Radical Party is expected to gain only 8.7% of the votes, and Vuk Jeremic, a former foreign minister, is expected to have dropped to below 7%. The Beli surprise is justified by the now irrepressible disaffection for politics among the youth, disappointed by a crisis that often leaves them with no option other than to emigrate. The comedian, however, is not a hit with older voters, who are far removed from his extravagance, including that which he portrays through the media.

The climate of the election campaign

It is not only Maksimovic’s presence that makes these elections resemble the atmosphere of an Emir Kusturica film. The election campaign is taking place in a truculent climate, amid allegations of drug trade, aimed at the wife of one of the candidates, immediately followed by excuses and, in any case, explanations and recriminations regarding the fact that the brother of another candidate was previously accused of leading a criminal gang. Beyond the tones, however, the only real unknown in these elections is the possibility of a second round. It will all depend on the turnout, political scientist Boban Stojanovic recently explained, predicting that Vucic will have between 2.1 and 2.2 million votes. And, considering the turnout in the 2016 parliamentary elections, with 3.8 million voters at the polls, there would be a chance of a second round if the turnout increases by 500,000 voters. At the elections of April 24, 2016 for the National Assembly of Serbia, voters amounted to 56.07% of enrollments. Therefore, the new voters involved by Beli, should add 10% more voters to the previous elections. An unlikely increase, however, and it is difficult to image that Beli may come out on top in a second round, as has been said, since he is expression of the dissent of youths, which does not, however, have a scope such as to worry Vucic.

One of the most stable countries in the Balkans

Despite the paradox of an election campaign involving such extreme tones, Serbia can, however, be said to be one of the most politically stable countries in the Balkans at present. Vucic, who initially grew up in nationalist environments and in the state apparatus, gradually confirmed, with his government, the impression of being the only one to have and to pursue a possible modernization policy for Serbia. Serbia’s policy of recent years, in fact, has always been careful not to be singled out in the international community as that which creates problems, in terms of both Bosnia and Kossovo. In this way, despite its emotional ties with Putin’s Russia, Vucic’s Serbia is opening up sensitive political spaces with the European Union. An agreement with Europe remains crucial for Serbia’s growth and modernization. Ivica Dacic, the current Foreign Minister, is another interesting figure who could ultimately emerge strengthened from these elections. After having proven his composure over the years, he could become the next prime minister after Vucic’s election as President of the Republic. In conclusion, Serbia’s political game is heavy and, perhaps, more grotesque than elsewhere, but the outcome of this presidential election is expected to further benefit the area’s stability, with significant room for maneuver for the diplomacy of the European Union.