Prime Minister Vučić wins the 2017 presidential election
The five-year term of office of President Tomislav Nikolić ended in mid-2017. As early as the end of 2016, the presidential elections, which had yet to be scheduled, determined the political stage and indicated a crisis in the previously undisputed regime of Prime Minister Vučić, combined with Nikolić’s announcement that he would run again. Nikolić, who was largely politically marginalized by the Prime Minister after the SNS party chairmanship was given up, was countered by the democratic opposition efforts to find an agreement on a common candidate, who for the first time had a real chance of victory. At the same time, ideological differences between the president and prime minister became apparent, of which in the past few years it has remained unclear whether they are real or part of political tactics. Prime Minister Vučić thus fell on the political defensive for the first time: because in recent years he had prevented other party officials and members of the government from gaining political profile and power next to him, the election of an opponent of the SNS ran the risk of being in the elections against Nikolić or defeat a potential opposition candidate. Vučić’s only safe option – even running for the presidential election – was the challenge of moving the center of power from government back to the presidency, as had been the case under President Tadić. to be defeated in the elections against Nikolić or a potential opposition candidate. Vučić’s only safe option – even running for the presidential election – was the challenge of moving the center of power from government back to the presidency, as had been the case under President Tadić. to be defeated in the elections against Nikolić or a potential opposition candidate. Vučić’s only safe option – even running for the presidential election – was the challenge of moving the center of power from government back to the presidency, as had been the case under President Tadić.
At the beginning of 2017, it was still unclear which way out of the political dilemma the Prime Minister would choose. At the same time, the democratic opposition parties had failed to agree on a single common candidate. In mid-February 2017, Prime Minister Vučić finally declared himself to be a candidate and the party executive nominated him unanimously. More than a week after the decision, it looked like an open rift between the prime minister and president and Nikolić’s candidacy against Vučić. Only then did the President declare his withdrawal.
The first round of the presidential elections took place on April 2, 2017. It ended with a triumph for Vučić, who achieved the required absolute majority of the votes cast in the first round without a runoff. According to the official final result Aleksandar Vučić achieved 55% of the votes cast. Second place with 16.4% was the former ombudsman of Serbia, Saša Janković, who was supported by the Democratic Party (DS) and parts of civil society. A respectable success achieved third place with 9.4% of the unknown until the presidential election Luka Maksimovic, who had led a protest and joke campaign against the corruption of the political class in Serbia under the nickname “Beli Preletačević”. All the other candidates, including the ultra-nationalist Vojislav Šešelj (4.5%), landed far behind in the other places.
The elections were only fair to a limited extent, which was due to the fact that the prime minister and his ruling party had control over large parts of the media and his dominant media presence over the other candidates. In addition, after the elections there were allegations from the Janković camp and the opposition parties that Vučić had only achieved an absolute majority in the first round as a result of massive election fraud.
Against this background, a spontaneous protest movement against Vučić’s victory developed in the days after the elections. In Belgrade and many other Serbian cities, tens of thousands, above all young people, demonstrated for weeks against alleged election fraud and what, in their opinion, is the regime’s increasingly authoritarian features. Over time, this criticism was mixed with left-wing political demands for socio-economic reforms, while the demonstrators refused to allow political parties to participate in the protests. At the same time, the protests remained without clearly identifiable leaders. After about two months, the protests largely subsided.
According to franciscogardening, on May 31, Aleksandar Vučić was sworn in as the new President of Serbia in the Serbian National Assembly. In mid-June, he nominated the previous Minister for Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Ana Brnabićas his successor in the office of Prime Minister. The election of the non-party, Vučić loyal Brnabić reinforced political observers in their assessment that Vučić is striving for a de facto presidential system that is constitutionally inconsistent with the largely representative powers of the presidential office. This was supported by the fact that he had announced that, unlike his predecessor and former foster father, he would not give up the office of chairman of the ruling SNS party. In fact, government policy has since remained dominated by the new president and SNS chairman, while the prime minister remains politically pale overall. The Brussels negotiations in the political dialogue with Kosovo, which are so important for further political development, will continue to be led by Vučić.