Serbian PM considering early elections

Serbian PM considering early elections
By Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade January 14, 2016

Serb Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will consult with his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) on holding snap elections, SNS announced in a press release issued on January 13. 

The PM has scheduled a meeting of the main board of his party for January 17. On January 5, Vucic told journalists that he would like to avoid elections in 2016. However, he also admitted that any decision would depend on a variety of circumstances, including the political climate in the country. Days later, during the opening of the European waterpolo championship in Belgrade on January 9, crowds booed his name, as well as that of President Tomislav Nikolic.

"I hope that citizens of Serbia will soon have an opportunity to choose better," Vucic said, commenting on the event at a press conference on January 12. Questioned by journalists on whether that meant early elections would be held, the prime minister answered: "everyone wants them".

Vucic says he has discussed potential early elections with the SPS and the other parties of the ruling coalition: United Serbia (JS) and the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia (PUPS).

Early elections were an ongoing topic in 2015. Some SNS officials have suggested a vote could take place this spring, when local and regional elections in the northern province of Vojvodina are scheduled.

The head of the SNS parliamentary group, Zoran Babic, told bne IntelliNews in September that early elections would improve Serbia's political and economic stability. Holding them at the same time as the local elections in Vojvodina would also reduce political tension and costs, he added.

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.

The current Serbian government was put in place in April 2014 and is stable. SNS holds 158 seats in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament, but increasing the party’s majority would give Vucic a stronger mandate to push through unpopular reforms.