Serbian ruling party calls for govt reshuffle or early elections

By bne IntelliNews March 6, 2013

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Growing signs that Serbia faces a new period of political instability as senior members of the largest party in the coalition, the Serbian Progressive Party, said the cabinet will either be reshuffled or fresh elections held.

Radio B92 reported Progressive official Igor Mirovic as saying on March 5 that his party was "carefully analysing the work of all its ministers", that its main board will "in the coming weeks" consider their reports, and that the party was "not running away from the citizens perhaps possibly having their say" through early elections.

The comments echo those of the Progressives' leader Aleksandar Vucic, who said on March 4 that he was in favour of a reshuffle of the three-party coalition cabinet. "We are not satisfied with some members of the government and some people need to be replaced," said Vucic, who is deputy prime minister and defence minister.

He said the Progressives are seeking an "evaluation" of individual ministers' performance, a task that must be approved by Prime Minister Ivica Dacic of the junior coalition Socialist Party. Discussion on the issue over how to proceed with ministerial evaluations is set to take place at a cabinet meeting scheduled for March 15.

"Despite its reluctance, the [Socialist Party] and Prime Minister Dacic will probably accede to most of the demands of its [Progressive] partners," says IHS Global Insight. "Indeed, in what amounts to a political ultimatum to its coalition partners, Vucic is reported as saying that the 'first option is the reconstruction of the government, the other to go to the polls'."

An offer of resignation from Minister for Agriculture Goran Knezevic of the Progressives is likely to be accepted after his handling of a recent milk contamination scandal provoked widespread criticism. Unofficially, says B92, the Progressives are also unhappy with the performance of Minister of Mining Milan Bacevic and Culture Minister Bratislav Petkovic. The same goes for "non-partisan" figures Ivan Mrkic and Alisa Maric, who hold the foreign policy and sports portfolios respectively and are reportedly seen as "not sufficiently present in public".

Those certain to keep their jobs are Vucic himself, Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic, energy minister Zorana Mihajlovic and construction minister Velimir Iliic.

Branko Ruzic, the head of the Socialist Party parliamentary group, said on March 5 that it remains to be seen which model of cabinet reshuffle would be implemented and whether it would be "reduced to ministers from the Serbian Progressive Party only."

Deputy PM Vucic also revealed this week that a decision on whether the Progressives would go for an early parliamentary election would be put off by the party until Serbia is given a date to start accession negotiations on joining the EU. "Assuming Serbia is granted a start date for EU talks later in 2013, as appears to be the case, it follows that in the medium term there is a greater likelihood of an early election," argues IHS Global Insight.

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