Serbia's prime minister elect has invited the Socialist Party to take part in the new government, despite ideological differences, as he seeks a broad-based coalition to push through potentially painful reform.
Aleksandar Vucic, leader of the Progressive Party, which scored a decisive victory in the March parliamentary elections, said April 15 that he has offered a place in the new coalition government to both the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), led by departing Prime Minister Ivica Dacic. The Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, which represents Serbia’s Hungarian minority in the north, has also received an invite, he said.
"I made an offer to SPS in accordance with their strength which is significantly lower than that of [the Progressive Party], but bearing in mind the need to form a Serbia of unity and not of division,” Vucic, who will become Serbia’s Prime Minister in the new government, told a party meeting, according to Tanjung.
The invitation to the two rival parties comes despite a substantial majority for the Progressive Party in the March 16 elections. Following its landslide victory, the party took 158 of the 250 seats in parliament. The SPS, which led the last administration as senior partner in a coalition with the Progressive Party, is left holding just 44 seats.
However, Vucic seeks a broad-based coalition to help maintain public support for the reform and austerity measures he plans. Part of a push to secure a new loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the plans clearly hit a sweet spot with the population during the election, but that could quickly change as they take real effect.
The centre-right Progressive Party has been in government with the SPS since 2012, although the SPS has opposed Progressive Party attempts to bring in austerity measures and cut back the public sector. However, in March, the Progressives forced a snap election in order to take advantage of momentum in its popularity to obtain a mandate to form its own government.
This will pave the way for Vucic to introduce the reform needed if Belgrade is to strike a new deal with the IMF, which has called for an overhaul of the public sector and pension system, in order to reduce the budget deficit and government debt. Vucic’s government is also expected to embark upon a new wave of privatisation following IMF calls for loss-making state firms to be sold off or shut down.
SPS vice president Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic confirmed on April 15 that Dacic will likely join the next government, although it has not yet been decided how many other cabinet seats will follow. "Ivica Dacic is talking intensively with Aleksandar Vucic and it is very likely that we will take part in the next government as well. In what form and how many ministerial positions we will occupy, I do not think that is important at the moment,” he told journalists.
Vucic told party members that the next government would be “small and efficient”, with just 17 members. The new administration is expected to take office on April 27.
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