Serbian PM to call general election for April 24

Serbian PM to call general election for April 24
By Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade March 2, 2016

April 24 is the "most likely date" for early parliamentary elections in Serbia, prime minister Aleksandar Vucic said on March 1. Vucic told national broadcaster Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS) that within two days the government will submit a proposal to president Tomislav Nikolic on calling early parliamentary elections.

Vucic announced on January 17 that Serbia will hold a general election in spring 2016, just two years after the early elections in March 2014. The government led by Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) remains stable as the SNS holds 158 seats in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament. However, Vucic hopes to extend his mandate and boost support before launching unpopular measures which include closing hundreds of public companies with expected losses of almost 30,000 jobs.

A March 1 statement from the SNS confirmed Vucic's plans to set the date for the election for April 24. This means Vucic needs to call the election not later than March 17, as well as to resign by that date. The general election will coincide with regular local and regional elections in the northern province of Vojvodina.

Vucic told RTS it was necessary to pave the way for the next four years. The goal is that within four years we will reach European living standards, he said, and underlined that there will be no compromise when it comes to the future of Serbia.

According to Vucic, the elections will be a referendum on whether Serbia will be a modern European country by 2020, and a choice between the past and the future.

"I will tell you what I want to achieve in the next four years - I want our education and health system to reach a modern European level. I want every person in Serbia to have decent job so we can eradicate poverty and offer families a higher living standard,” Vucic said, according to the SNS statement. “We have to continue our fight against corruption and establish our country with one rule of law for all.”

Vucic became prime minister in 2014, replacing Ivica Dacic, president of the SNS’s coalition partner the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Dacic became prime minister in 2012 even though the SNS had more parliament seats, as his support was crucial for forming the government at the time. However, two years later Vucic's party decided to end its support for Dacic and call early elections.

Vucic's decision was followed by the best ever result for his party, not only because it won over 48% of the vote but also because support for other parties went down. The Liberal Democratic Party, United Regions of Serbia, Democratic Party of Serbia and even Vucic’s previous party, the Serbian Radical Party, failed to pass the threshold to take parliament seats. The SPS also saw a drop to 13.49%.

Two years later, the opposition remains weak and the three main opposition parties have failed to strike a coalition deal. Democratic Party (DS) leader Bojan Pajtic said on February 29 that his party will not join the Social Democratic Party (SDS) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - both of which split from the DS in recent years - in a pre-election coalition.

While the opposition is in disarray, the SNS has continued working to weaken its potential opponents. The Party of United Pensioners of Serbia (PUPS) and the SNS decided to campaign together under a coalition deal struck between their leaders on February 19 after PUPS left the coalition led by the SPS.

An electoral coalition between the Social Democratic Party of Serbia (SDPS) and the SNS was confirmed on February 28, as was an agreement between New Serbia and the SNS.