Vucic’s SNS scores landslide victory in Serbia’s general elections

NEWS 22.06.2020 10:59
Source: Tanjug/Zoran Žestić

The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is likely to have 189 deputies in the 250-seat country’s parliament, after winning over 63 percent of votes, and will be joined by two other parties and those of the minorities, N1 reported.

Besides SNS, its current key coalition partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SNS), and the first-time runner in the general election, the Serbian Patriotic Alliance SPAS passed the three percent threshold, reduced from five percent amid the opposition boycott campaign.

Several minorities’ parties will also have deputies based on the natural threshold. 

The official results will be published by Wednesday. Still, the SNS leader and country’s President Aleksandar Vucic declared a landslide victory in the Sunday’s parliamentary, provincial and local elections tarnished by a boycott from the leading opposition group Alliance for Serbia (SzS), who accused the leader of burgeoning authoritarianism.

Vucic did not run for office himself but solely led the SNS campaign under ‘Aleksandar Vucic – for Our Children’ slogan.

The campaign had two parts – before the state emergency due to the coronavirus epidemic and after it was lifted.

“I am grateful to the people for this historical support,” Vucic, the 50-year-old who had been in power since 2012, said at the SNS headquarters during the celebration with blasted brass music.

 “We won everywhere,” Vucic said. “We won in the places where we had never won before.”

Coupled with the opposition stay-at-home campaign and lingering concerns about the coronavirus, turnout was lower than usual—but not dramatically—at slightly under 50 percent according to the independent election monitor CRTA.

The boycotting opposition slammed the “fake elections” and claimed their movement was victorious.

However, SNS won a majority in the local assembly in the central Paracin municipality so far being one of a few districts held by the opposition.

The results for Sabac in western Serbia, the only town where SNS lost elections four years ago, are still being counted, but Vucic’s party declared victory.

It failed to take over the municipality of Serbia’s western municipality of Cajetina, where the opposition coalition won 61 percent of those who voted at local elections.

According to the preliminary results, 18 parties, including the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, led by convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj, considered Vucic’s political father, did not cross the three percent threshold for the national parliament.

Balkans analyst Florian Bieber tweeted that on without a meaningful opposition, the “pyrrhic victory” could ultimately discredit SNS as it would be viewed as “less legitimate than ever before.”

He said that SNS exceeded results of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s  United Russia party.

Serbia’s watchdogs say Vucic’s power lies in his manipulation of the media, with the majority of outlets, including TV channels with national frequency and tabloids, effectively serving as SNS mouthpiece.

However, besides close ties with Moscow and Beijing, Vucic has backing from the West, seen as capable of resolving Serbia’s decades-long territorial dispute with the former province of Kosovo which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

After cementing his power in Sunday’s elections, Vucic will face pressure to make progress on talks with Pristina on the normalisation of relations that have been on hold since November 2018.

His already busy schedule includes talks with the European Union’s envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Miroslav Lajčak on Monday, visit Moscow and meet Kosovo representatives at the White House on June 27.

Vucic has never disclosed his plan for Kosovo solution since it’s a sensitive issue for the Serbs but vowed Belgrade would never accept to recognise Pristina’s independence despite great pressure from the leading players in the international community.

He reiterated that “Serbia cannot lose everything, while Kosovo wins everything.”

However, many see his latest statement – ‘the EU membership is not enough for Serbia’s support of  Kosovo’s UN seat,’ as preparation of the public at home for at least agreeing to that without official recognition and any diplomatic ties with Kosovo.