Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic has given the mandate to form a new government to the president of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Aleksandar Vucic, who currently leads the country's caretaker government, Nikolic’s office announced on May 23.
The move was expected as the SNS has a majority in the new parliament. Vucic managed to extend the SNS’s term in office in the early parliamentary election on April 24. However, the SNS’s parliament seats decreased from 158 to 131, as more parties passed the threshold to enter the parliament than in the 2014 election. This means that although the party has a majority, Vucic is likely to seek coalition partners for when the government needs a two-thirds majority (167 votes) for certain decisions.
“I inform you that I have decided to give the mandate to Aleksandar Vucic as representative of the Serbia Wins list because he assured me that he has a majority of MPs to form a government. I have an obligation to give the mandate to the one who has a majority,” Nikolic told a press conference on May 23.
In line with the constitution, Nikolic had to listen to various opinions from representatives of the electoral lists that managed to take seats in the parliament, and afterwards to propose a prime minister designate.
Nikolic met on May 23 with representatives of the SNS’s junior coalition partner the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and its coalition partner United Serbia (JS), which together have 29 MP’s and have openly proposed joining Vucic’s new government.
According to SPS leader and deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister Ivica Dacic, the participation of SPS and JS in the next government "is still in Serbia's best interest”.
"Anyone could also give a few reasons against the idea, but only one - the future of Serbia - is the most important one," Dacic told reporters after consultations with Nikolic, adding that it is a question for Vucic whether the SPS will be asked to join the government.
Besides the SPS, the president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Cedomir Jovanovic, a member of the LDP-SDS-LSV coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Socialistic Democratic Party (SDS) and League of Social-democrats of Vojvodina (LSV), which has 13 MPs, also proposed becoming part of the new government.
Jovanovic said on May 23 that if Vucic invited him to be in the government, he would discuss it. He added that seeing a different type of politics pursued was much more important to him than having a governmental seat.
"We are interested in a [form of] politics that has to be different. The issue of government is not just an issue of seats, but rather the ability to provide answers to all the questions left open by the outgoing government," Jovanovic told reporters after his meeting with Nikolic.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party (DS) leader Bojan Pajtic said in a statement to reporters that he explicitly told Nikolic that being in government with the SNS was the last thing on the Democrats' minds.
The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) led by ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj with 22 seats in the parliament, also does not plan to be part of the SNS’s government. Nikolic’s meeting with the party’s representatives lasted only 30 seconds because Nikolic left the room after they called on him to resign, B92 reported.
SRS official Nemanja Sarovic, who, along with colleague Natasa Jovanovic represented that party at May 23 consultations, accused Nikolic of being involved in corrupt dealings, acquiring numerous pieces of real estate and having a fake university diploma. Sarovic also claimed Nikolic’s wife had a foundation based in the building of the presidency.
Seselj did not attend the meeting with Nikolic as the two were close friends until 2008 when Nikolic and Vucic decided to leave the SRS to form the SNS, which has very different policies including, crucially, advocating EU integration.
Another far right group, the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) in coalition with the Dveri movement, has 13 MPs. DS-Dveri representatives also met Nikolic on May 23, and told him they wanted him to give the mandate to form a government to someone who was “less of a Euro-fanatic” than Vucic.
Nikolic told reporters he believed another of electoral list would join the cabinet led by the SNS in addition to the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM), but that journalists should hear this from Vucic.
Vucic said on April 27 that SNS will definitely form a new government with the SVM, but he told daily Blic on May 8 that other steps have yet to be made.
Vucic, announced on May 19 that the country will most likely get a new government at the beginning of June, before the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Belgrade.
"The government must be formed before the visit of the Chinese president. Whether that will be three, seven or 15 days after the formation of parliamentary bodies I don't know - but within that framework," said Vucic. Xi is expected to visit Serbia at the beginning of June at the start of his Europe tour.
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