Vladimir Djukanovic, a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Presidency and Main Board, called on Thursday for the dismissal of Nebojsa Stefanovic, the country's Defence Minister and chairman of the SNS Belgrade board.
Without an explanation, Djukanovic wrote on his Facebook profile he was also in favour of the entire Belgrade branch replacement, only days before SNS and a nationalist SPAS movement led by former water polo star Aleksandar Sapic, at some point seen as an opposition politician, were to merge.
Though known as a loud critic of some of his colleagues, it isn’t easy to assume that Djukanovic posted such an open call without prior knowledge of his party’s boss and the head of state Aleksandar Vucic.
The move could suggest the first severe crack within the SNS highest ranks, especially with Stefanovic, former Interior Minister, or it could be a trial balloon to test Stefanovic’s power within the party, and his former Ministry as well.
Besides, it is believed that SNS is not doing well in Belgrade ahead of the 2022 city elections, alongside with the presidential race and possible early general vote.
Sapic is a long-time head of the Novi Belgrade municipality and is believed to be Vucic’s ace in the run for the city.
The two have said they would formalise the unification by the end of May.
That, the opposition and analysts agree, motivated Vucic to take SPAS and Sapic, under his wing.
During his mandate in the Interior Ministry, the police wiretapped Vucic’s phone conversations, and some believe he had a lot of potentially compromising material.
Officially, not Vucic’s but his interlocutors’ phones were under surveillance, but rumours had been that one of Stefanovic’s protégé in the Ministry was behind the wiretapping, which had not been carried out through proper channels.
Neither the recordings had been destroyed since, as the current Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin said, no elements of any crime were heard.
Stefanovic’s dismissal is said to be also caused by an accusation that he, as the Interior Minister, knew that the recently arrested criminal organisation planned to endanger Vucic’s safety. Stefanovic is suspected of not sharing that information with Vucic and his security.