Early elections 2014 – Vučić’s triumph
At the congress of the SNS on February 26, 2014, the larger of the two governing parties decided to hold early parliamentary elections on March 16 of the same year on the proposal of its chairman and deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vučić. The decision was preceded by the successful completion of a stage in Serbia’s EU integration process and months of internal party pressure on the chairman. As a result of the extraordinary popularity of the SNS and its chairman, the party hoped to take over the post of prime minister after the election and perhaps even gain an absolute majority of votes or parliamentary seats.
The decision was followed by a short but intense election campaign. This was characterized by violent mutual attacks between the governing parties and the opposition parties as well as among themselves. Since almost all parliamentary parties in Serbia agree on the fundamental political course of Serbia, which is largely determined by the EU accession process (only the DSS and some extreme right-wing, extra-parliamentary parties represent anti-European political positions), the election campaign concentrated on personal attacks by political opponents. Programmatic differences remained indistinct. Not only did the party-political alternatives remain unclear for the voters, the reason why new elections had taken place in the first place also remained unclear.
In the camp of the democratic opposition, the former leader of the Democratic Party Boris Tadić formed a new party within a very short time as a split from the DS and after he had previously failed to overthrow its chairman zuilas and re-head the party. The party, the New Democratic Party (NDS), which changed its name to the Social Democratic Party (SDS) after the elections, and its chairman Tadić, in contrast to the DS, left it open during the election campaign whether it would be open in the event of entry into parliament for a coalition with the SNS.
According to ezinereligion, the parliamentary elections on March 16, 2014 turned out to be a triumph for Serbia’s new strong man, Alexander Vučić. The SNS obtained an absolute majority of the parliamentary seats with 48 percent of the vote. The former coalition partner SPS achieved the second-best result with 13 percent. The Democratic Party achieved its historically worst result with just 6 percent. The new party of Boris Tadic NDS also made it over the 5 percent hurdle with 5.8 percent of the vote. Otherwise, only the parties of the ethnic minorities that were exempt from the hurdle made it into parliament. A whole series of longstanding parliamentary parties fell out of the Serbian parliament: the LDS, the URS and the DSS.
With the election results it was clear that Alexander Vučić would become the new Prime Minister of Serbia. Despite an absolute majority in parliamentary seats – 158 out of 250 – the SNS chairman announced that he wanted to conduct coalition negotiations with the other parliamentary parties in order to create the broadest possible parliamentary base for the future government on which fundamental reforms can be carried out. The SNS lacked only a few parliamentary mandates to obtain the constitution-changing 2/3 majority. But the election winner did not rule out the option of an SNS sole government. In the end, the SNS decided in favor of a coalition government – again with the SPS and a smaller party belonging to the Hungarian minority. On April 27, 2014, the new government was established elected to office under Prime Minister Vučić with 198 votes. The SPS chairman Ivica Dačić became deputy prime minister and new foreign minister of Serbia, his party received three of the now 18 ministries.
Again early elections in 2016
After months of speculation, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić announced early parliamentary elections in January 2016 for the spring of the same year. This was the second time that early elections were held in the middle of the legislative period after 2014, even though the ruling coalition had a stable majority, and thus de facto there was no legal basis for voting. Once again, the Prime Minister owed his citizens a coherent reason for this decision.
Vučić publicly stated that he needed a four-year mandate for the upcoming reforms on the way to EU membership – one that he had received from voters in 2014. Vučić’s move presumably had two main reasons: first, he wanted renewed confirmation of the painful economic policy measures that would be imminent in 2016; secondly, with the parliamentary elections, he aimed to strengthen his party SNS in the local elections and the elections in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina.
The election campaign was dominated by the SNS and the omnipresence of its chairman by playing off the government’s media power. In terms of content, Vučić’s election campaign focused on two core messages – continuity in economic reforms, EU integration and regional cooperation and expansion of the position of power of the SNS through an election result of 50 plus percent of the votes. The democratic opposition failed in its attempt to agree on a common electoral alliance. Instead, she came up with two blocs – the alliance of the DS with some smaller parties, and a first-time alliance between the SDS and LDP of the formerly rival party leaders Boris Tadić and Čedomir Jovanović. In addition, the former Minister of Economic Affairs Saša Radulović took part in the election for the second time with his movement “Enough is enough”. On the far right, the radical party SRS hoped for a triumphant return to parliament. She based this hope on the return of her former party leader Vojislav Šešelj to the political stage. At the end of 2014, the UN war crimes tribunal temporarily released him home for health reasons. In the middle of the election campaign, on March 31, the tribunal announced its verdict against Šešelj and surprisingly acquitted him on all counts.
The polls that took place on April 24th, which had to be repeated on May 4th due to irregularities in some electoral districts, confirmed the ruling parties, but did not bring the result hoped for by the prime minister. With 48.25 percent of the vote, the SNS achieved almost the same result as in 2014, and its coalition partner SPS lost slightly to 11 percent. But at the same time this time 5 more electoral alliances / parties made it into parliament, in contrast to only 2 in 2014. The DS achieved an unchanged 6%, the alliance between the SDS and the LDP made it just over the five percent hurdle with 5.03%. Surprisingly, the movement “enough is enough” won 6%. On the political far right, the SRS returned to the House of Representatives with 8%; and the alliance of DSS and Dveri, with exactly 5% of the votes, also made it into the parliament again after two years.
With so many parties moving in, the number of parliamentary seats for the SNS (131) and SPS (30) has decreased significantly.
At the local level, Prime Minister Vučić’s plan worked: In Vojvodina, after 16 years, the opposition DS lost power to the SNS, which immediately gained an absolute majority of seats in the regional parliament.
Despite the relatively clear, renewed election victory of the SNS under its Prime Minister Vučić, the formation of the government took an unusually long time this time: it was not until August 11 that the Serbian parliament re-elected the same government coalition into office. As with the early elections, the public was left in the dark about the reasons for the sluggish coalition negotiations. Prime Minister Vučić replaced a total of 8 of his previous ministers – including one of his confidants, Justice Minister Selaković and the Minister of Economic Affairs Serdić, who is so important for the upcoming economic structural reforms – also without any explanation of the reasons. The leader of the Socialist Party, Ivica Dačić, remained Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor.