Serbia will hold early general elections in spring 2016, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced on January 17, after a meeting of the head committee of the government’ leading party, Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), according to an SNS press release.
SNS top officials, including Vucic, have been considering early parliamentary election to coincide with regular local and regional elections in the northern province of Vojvodina. They hope to extend their mandate and improve support, even though the government formed in April 2014 remains stable as SNS holds 158 seats in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament.
However, Vucic said that he made the decision that the country will go to early parliamentary elections because it needs to resolve social conflicts which are blocking reforms.
“The government needs a full mandate to complete the reforms that have to be steered by 2020, which will take Serbia on a good and safe path,” Vucic said.
Serbia previously held early elections in March 2014, almost two years after regular elections were held in the spring of 2012.
In 2012, the prime minister's seat was occupied by Ivica Dacic, current first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, who is the president of Socialistic Party of Serbia (SPS), SNS’s coalition partner. Dacic was appointed to the position as his support was crucial for forming the government at the time. Vucic was made first deputy minister and defence minister.
However, two years later Vucic's party decided to cancel its support of Dacic and call for early elections.
Vucic's decision was followed by the best result for his party, not only because it won over 48% of the vote but also because other parties support among citizens went down. The Liberal Democratic Party, United Regions of Serbia, Democratic Party of Serbia and even Vucic’s previous party, the Serbian Radical Party, didn’t manage to pass the census. SPS also saw a drop, but only to 13.49%.
Democratic Party (DS) leader Bojan Pajtic called Vucic’s decision to go to early elections a “resignation of the PM’s position” and said it was good news for Serbia’s citizens, DS announced in a press release on January 17.
“Snap elections will show to Aleksandar Vucic and his regime that citizens will not be silent while their salaries are being cut, pensions taken, taxes and prices increased,” Pajtic said.
Shortly after his mandate started, Vucic introduced new fiscal consolidation measures, starting with a 10% cut in public wages and salaries in November 2014. Thanks to this, his government managed to achieve a budget deficit in 2015 significantly below that envisaged.
However, Vucic said that since SNS came to power Serbia has been in a state of latent social conflict, with the SNS and the government facing enormous opposition because they have been striving to crush a bloc consisting of tycoons, politicians and criminals who had no interest in progress in Serbia or seeing any changes take place.
"We have begun a conflict with them as well as with those amongst us for whom power is just a way of personal enrichment," Vucic said.
Serbia’s president, Tomislav Nikolic, who is a former president of SNS, said in a press release on January 17 that he personally thinks that Vucic’s government has been doing an excellent job and has a right to expect a strong result in the elections.
“SNS has made a decision to check the results of its work in direct contact with citizens, in an election… I expect a fair and democratic competition,” Nikolic said.
The date of elections is not yet known, and according to SNS’s deputy leader Zorana Mihajlovic, the date was not discussed at Sunday's meeting of the SNS Head Committee.
"This is a battle for Serbia's future, so technicalities regarding the date are less significant," Mihajlovic told B92.
"Whether the elections will be held in late April or May is less significant than the citizens having an opportunity to say what they think about the government's work," she said.
An early general election could help the SNS push ahead with planned reforms, assuming the party manages to increase its majority. However, ongoing fiscal consolidation measures, the planned closure of hundreds of public companies which could result in 30,000 job losses, and constant increases in food prices are all expected to reduce Vucic’s popularity.