A guide to the 2022 Serbian elections

NEWS 22.03.2022 10:45
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Source: N1

All Serbian citizens from the age of 18 resident in the country will have an opportunity to cast ballots for a new president, parliament and local assemblies on April 3.

Voters will cast ballots for the state president, members of parliament, the Belgrade City Assembly and several (not all) municipal assemblies across the country.

The Serbian Republic Election Commission (RIK – the country’s top election authority) is in charge of organizing the vote and making sure the central electoral roll is up to date. The RIK has a term in office of four years while the polling station commissions are formed separately for every election.

The law says that there is no obligation to turn out to vote and that no one has the right to force anyone to vote or for who. The electoral roll can be checked by individual voters on the RIK portal by entering their personal ID number.

The Vote

The elections for parliament were called by the president. Under the law the elections have to be held within a period of 45 to 60 days from the day they were called. Unlike other countries where voters cast ballots for individual candidates in constituencies across their countries, Serbian voters cast ballots for lists of party or coalition candidates with the entire country as one constituency. The parties and coalitions are awarded seats in parliament based on the number of votes they won using the D’hondt system.

Under Serbian law, voters cast ballots for a specific person only for president. The seats in parliament and on local assemblies will be filled by parties, coalitions or citizen groups that submit lists of candidates. The names on the ballots are those of the parties and/or coalitions that submit lists of candidates to the RIK and there is no guarantee that the names on the list are of the people who will fill the number of seats their parties/coalitions win in parliament. Every party or coalition tries to nominate as close to 250 candidates as they can. The Serbian Parliament has 250 seats. The lists are submitted to the RIK for approval at least 15 days prior to the elections along with at least 10,000 notarized signatures in support of the list.

Seats in parliament are won by any party or coalition that crosses the threshold of 3 percent of the vote and the number of seats are calculated using the D’Hondt system with the votes that were cast for parties/coalitions that did not cross the threshold mainly going to the party with the most votes. National minority parties/coalitions do not have to meet the 3 percent threshold to win seats since the calculations used to determine the number of those seats is different but they do have to be recognized as national minority candidates by the RIK.

The law says that the lists of candidates have to include at least a third of candidates of the less represented gender.

Election Day

Polling stations open at 7 am and close at 8 pm on election day. That has been the norm since the early 1990s when the first multi-party elections were held in Yugoslavia before the country broke up.

Commissions made up of members or activists of the parties standing in the elections handle the voting process, checking names on the electoral roll, handing out ballots and checking the hands of voters for the invisible spray that every voter’s index finger is sprayed with to make sure the can vote only once. Also present at polling stations are controllers, also nominated by the participating parties as well as watchdog organizations. International organizations such as the OSCE have traditionally fielded observer missions at every election in Serbia.

Initial results are released by both parties and the RIK on election night. The results can be appealed only after the final results are released. Irregularities at polling stations can be filed immediately with the RIK ruling on them later to determine whether the vote should be repeated at individual polling stations.

Election Fraud

There have been claims of election fraud at elections in Serbia for years, some of them have been proven but none had any serious effect on the outcome of elections at any level.

Parties that were not in power have been calling foul in every round of voting since the introduction of the multi-party system in the early 1990s.

Of the various forms of election fraud, two have been the most reported in the past 10 years: paying for votes and pressuring voters.

In order to get paid for their vote for a certain party, voters have to take a picture of their ballot and show it to the person offering to pay them.

Pressure on voters is exerted in several ways. Party activists coming to the doors of voters with copies of the electoral rolls, asking how they will vote, an activity banned by law. The same is done by phoning voters. On election day, pressure has been exerted on voters by local party activists (most reports blamed ruling coalition activists) or by thugs in unmarked SUVs. In some cases, the police have been ordered to detain opposition activists.

The latest widely reported form of election tampering is the registering of voters in places where the ruling coalition believes it could lose. Serbians vote in their place of residence and have to be registered with the local police. The opposition has reported a large number of those cases in the Serbian capital and called voters to report false residence registration.

The Players

President

The two favorites in the presidential race are incumbent President Aleksandar Vucic and retired General Zdravko Ponos but the list of candidates for president approved by the Republic Election Commission (RIK) has 6 other names on it.

The RIK organized a draw to decide which candidate would get what numbered place on the ballot:

1. Misa Vacic (Srpska desnica – Serbian Right a nationalist/right wing organization with few members and followers that analysts say was formed to support the authorities.) Vacic (1985) is known for extremist views and his efforts to draw public attention to himself and his organization.

2. Biljana Stojkovic (Moramo – We Must, a green political organization). Stojkovic (1972) is a Belgrade University biology professor who has been socially active both in protecting the environment and on other social issues.

3. Branka Stamenkovic (Suverenisti – Sovereignists, a nationalist political organization). Stamenkovic (1968) is a translator who won a seat in parliament in 2016 for the Enough is Enough party.

4. Zdravko Ponos (Ujedinjena Srbija – United Serbia, an opposition coalition). Ponos (1962) was a professional soldier who rose to the rank of General and held the post of Chief of General Staff before retiring. He attended the Royal College of Defense Studies and served in the Serbian Foreign Ministry after retiring from the military.

5. Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski (Zavetnici – Oathkeepers, a far right/ultra-nationalist political party opposed to membership in the European Union and NATO). Stamenkovski (1990) holds a degree in political science.

6. Aleksandar Vucic (SNS-SPS-SVM – Serbian Progressive Party – Socialist Party of Serbia – Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians) Vucic (1970) is a career politician who has been on the political scene since the early 1990s first as an official of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) which he left to form the SNS with former Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic in 2008. He holds a law degree from Belgrade University.

7. Milos Jovanovic (NADA – Hope, a coalition of conservative/nationalist parties). Jovanovic (1976) heads the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and holds degrees from the Sorbonne School of Law and School of Political Science

8. Bosko Obradovic (Patriotski blok – Patriotic Block, a coalition of conservative/right/nationalist parties). Obradovic (1976) is the founder of the Dveri movement and a former MP. He holds a degree from the Belgrade University School of Philology.

Parliament

The favorites are the list of candidates on the Aleksandar Vucic Together We Can Do Everything list and the Marinika Tepic United For Serbia’s Victory.

The RIK approved 18 lists of candidates for parliament and published a list in the order that they were submitted:

1. Aleksandar Vucic – Together We can Do Everything (Zajedno mozemo sve – A coalition formed by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) with several minor parties)

2. Ivica Dacic – Prime Minister of Serbia (Premijer Srbije – A coalition formed by the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) with its traditional partner Unified Serbia (JS))

3. Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians – Istvan Pastor (Savez Vojvodjanskih Madjara – The major party rallying ethnic Hungarians in the north of Serbia)

4. Dr Vojislav Seselj – Serbian Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka or SRS – An ultra-nationalist party headed by convicted war criminal Seselj)

5. Marinika Tepic – United for Serbia’s Victory (Ujedinjeni za Pobedu Srbije – A coalition formed by the Party of Freedom and Jutice (SSP), People’s Party (NS), Democratic Party (DS), DUVM – VMDK, Party of Macedonians in Serbia, Movement of Free Citizens (PSG), Sloga United Unions of Serbia, Movement for Change, Free Serbia Movement, Vlach Party)

6. Dr Milos Jovanovic – Hope for Serbia (NADA za Srbiju) – (The Serb Coalition NADA (a center/nationalist coalition) formed by the National Democratic Alternative, Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), For Kingdom of Serbia (Monarchists) – Vojislav Mihailovic)

7. Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski – Serb Party Oathkeepers (Srpska stranka Zavetnici – a far right conservative party)

8. Mufti’s Legacy (Muftijin amanet – Party of Justice and Reconciliation (Stranka pravde i pomirenja) – Usama Zukorlic (a Bosniak national minority party)

9. We Must (Moramo) – Action (Akcija) – Ecological Uprising (Ekološki ustanak – Cuta) – Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own (Ne davimo Beograd_ – Nebojsa Zelenovic (a coalition of environmental organizations)

10. Sovereignists (Suverenisti) – Saša Radulović (DJB – Enough is Enough) – Milan Stamatović (ZS – Green Party) – Dr Jovana Stojković (ŽZS – Living for Serbia). A coalition of minor opposition parties and organizations.

11. Bosko Obradovic – Serbian Dveri Movement (Srpski pokret Dveri) – POKS – Miloš Parandilović – (Patriotic Block for the restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia (Patriotski blok za obnovu Kraljevine Srbije). A coalition of conservative/right/nationalist parties.

12. Together for Vojvodina (Zajedno za Vojvodinu) – Vojvodjani Democratic Union of Croats in Vojvodina (Demokratski savez Hrvata u Vojvodini), Together for Vojvodina (Zajedno za Vojvodinu).

13. SDA (Party of Democratic Action) Sandzak – Dr Sulejman Ugljanin. A conservative Bosniak national minority party headed by a former cabinet minister.

14. Boris Tadic – Let’s Go People (Ajmo ljudi_ – Social Democrat Party – Nova stranka – 1 of 5 Million – Tolerancija Srbije – United Movement of Greens of Serbia (Ujedinjeni pokret zelenih Srbije) – Bosniak Civic Party (Bošnjačka građanska stranka) – Party of Montenegrins (Stranka Crnogoraca). A coalition rallied around former President Tadic’s Social Democrat Party.

15. Alternative for Changes – Albanian Democratic Alternative (Alternativa za promene – Albanska demokratska alternativa). National minority list.

16. Coalition of Albanians of the Valley (Koalicija Albanaca doline). A national minority coalition representing the ethnic Albanian community in the Presevo valley of southern Serbia.

17. Kidnapped Babies (Otete bebe) Ana Pejić. An organization representing the parents of babies allegedly kidnapped at birth.

18. Roma Party (Romska partija) – Srdjan Sajn. A national minority party representing the Roma population.

Belgrade City Assembly

Voters will also cast ballots for members of the Belgrade City Assembly but not for the city Mayor who will be elected by the assembly when its constituted. The Assembly and Mayor have a four year term in office.

Lists of candidates that were fielded for the Belgrade City Assembly and approved by the City Election Commission (GIK):

1. Aleksandar Vucic – Together We can Do Everything (Zjedno mozemo sve – A coalition formed by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) with several minor parties)

2. Sovereignists (Suverenisti) – Saša Radulović (DJB – Enough is Enough) – Milan Stamatović (ZS – Green Party) – Dr Jovana Stojković (ŽZS – Living for Serbia). A coalition of minor opposition parties and organizations.

3. Nemanja Sarovic – For all the Normal People (Za sav normalan svet). Sarovic, a former Serbian Radical Party (SRS) official now heads the Love, Faith, Hope movement.

4. Dusko Vujosevic – Boris Tadic – Let’s Go People (Ajmo Ljudi). Coalition formed by champion Basketball coach Vujosevic and former President Tadic.

5. We Must – For a Good City (Moramo – Za dobar grad). Candidates fielded by an umbrella environmental group. Dobrica Veselinovi of Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own is running for Mayor.

6. Dr Milos Jovanovic – Hope for Serbia (NADA za Srbiju). A center/nationalist coalition.

7. Vladeta Jankovic – United for Victory Belgrade (Ujedinjeni za Pobedju Beograda). A coalition of opposition parties including the Party of Freedom and Jusice (SSP), People’s Party (NS) and Democratic Party (DS). Jankovic is running for Mayor.

8. Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski – Serb Party Oathkeepers (Srpska stranka Zavetnici) A far right conservative party.

9. Dr Vojislav Seselj – Serbian Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka or SRS – An ultra-nationalist party headed by convicted war criminal Seselj.

10. Ivica Dacic – Prime Minister of Serbia (Premijer Srbije) Toma Fila Mayor of Belgrade. The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) list of candidates with lawyer Fila running for Mayor.

11. Bosko Obradovic – Serbian Dveri Movement (Srpski pokret Dveri) – POKS – Miloš Parandilović – (Patriotic Block for the restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia (Patriotski blok za obnovu Kraljevine Srbije). A coalition of conservative/right/nationalist parties.

Other Local Elections

Belgrade is not the only place where local elections will be held in Serbia on April 3.

Voters will cast ballots for municipal and city assemblies in the city of Bor (city is defined in Serbian law as a town with more than one municipality) and the municipalities of Arandjelovac, Smederevska Palanka, Lucani, Knjazevac, Medvedja, Bajina Basta, Doljevac, Kula, Kladovo, Majdanpek and Secanj.

Voters will also be turning out to elect a municipal assembly in the Sevojno municipality in the city of Uzice.