Former Serbian ombudsman forms new political movement

Former Serbian ombudsman forms new political movement
By bne IntelliNews May 22, 2017

Serbia’s former ombudsman Sasa Jankovic, the runner-up in the April 2 presidential election, officially launched a new political movement on May 21.

Jankovic only took a small share of the vote compared to Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who won the election in the first round. However, his political engagement is seen as the beginning of a strong opposition to Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which has increasingly dominated the political scene since 2012. This is mainly thanks to the popularity of Vucic and the SNS, but also to the poor reputations of other political parties. Thus, Vucic has been almost without opposition for years, which is the the main treat to emerging democracy in the country. 

Jankovic’s new movement is called Slobodni gradjani Srbije (Free citizens of Serbia)

It was founded by 62 individuals, among them several prominent citizens like actor Nikola Djuricko, sociologist and university professor Ratko Bozovic, lawyer Bozo Prelevic and musicians Vlado Georgijev and Vasil Hadzimanov.

“Now, we have a lot of work to do. The movement will put back smiles on the faces of Serbia’s citizens. We will work and do a good job. We have gathered in order to cure the society which is deeply divided,” Jankovic said on May 22, regional broadcaster N1 reported

“We have numerous goals which we are going to accomplish thanks to our democratic principles which we have shown even today, at our establishing conference. The Constitutional Act depends on each individual and all of us together. It was an honour to be elected president of this movement, and I believe that very soon we will say that Serbia is a better place to live in.”

Despite this optimism, Jankovic’s movement still doesn’t look like a serious political party and thus a serious competitor to Vucic. As during the election campaign, Jankovic lacks a serious approach and programmes related to issues like Nato integration, regional cooperation, international politics. Instead, Jankovic focusses on human rights and freedoms, and social and labour rights, as well as criticising Vucic’s politics and the threat of dictatorship. 

Jankovic has not yet confirmed or denied whether the movement will participate in the next Belgrade local elections, which are expected in 2018. 

However, it is possible that the party’s first electoral test could be another round of early parliamentary elections either in 2018 or this autumn. This is an open topic in Serbia, where early elections have been held twice since 2012 (in 2014 and 2016) even though Vucic had stable support and a majority in the parliament. The president elect has still not appointed a new prime minister, giving rise to speculation he could call early elections before naming a replacement. 

If early elections take place, it is likely that Jankovic’s movement will pass manage to pass the 5% threshold to enter the parliament since he is the only serious opposition to Vucic.

The question of early elections was raised to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Affairs Nebojsa Stefanovic by journalists on May 19. Stefanovic said that no decision had been made, B92 reported.

"Everything's always possible, we have no decision on that for now, we are above all dedicated to doing our work and we try to create results, which is what Serbian citizens pay us to do," he said.

Earlier on May 19, daily tabloid Alo reported, citing confidential sources, that Vucic will not give anyone the mandate once he takes over as president, and that instead, early parliamentary elections will be held, most likely in August.

A month ago, Vucic said that the list of his possible successors at the helm of government was down to "two to three names”, and that he would announce his decision in the first 20 days of June. 

Serbia’s public - and betting offices - have been guessing that the prime minister could be First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic, Minister of Local Self-government Ana Brnabic who is also the first openly gay minister in Serbia, Minister of Finance Dusan Vujovic, Minister of Infrastructure, Construction and Traffic Zorana Mihalovic, former Minister of Justice Nikola Selakovic or central bank governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic. However, these are just guesses as Vucic has never revealed who he is considering.