The election day in Serbia was marked by tensions, incidents, and violence against opposition controllers and leaders, with continuous repetition of serious electoral breaches recorded at 5% of polling stations in Serbia and in Belgrade. Still, “the scope of these incidents did not influence election outcomes in Serbia and in Belgrade”, concluded the CRTA independent Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability, which monitored the elections.
According to the preliminary results of the Republic Election Commission (REC), the Serbian Progressive Party (which is the ruling party since 2012) won the most votes at all levels, and Aleksandar Vučić won the first round of elections for the president of Serbia. At the same time, a lot of votes were given to the parties and candidates who also belong to the right side of the political spectrum.
According to the REC, the candidate of the “Hope” coalition, Miloš Jovanović, won 5.97%, and the candidate of the Patriotic Bloc for the Renewal of the Kingdom of Serbia (POKS), Boško Obradović, 4.38%, while the candidate of the Zavetnici party, Milica Đurđevic Stamenkovski, won 4.25%. In absolute numbers, the right-wing candidates attracted 644,757 votes, not counting Vučić and Ponoš, who, with certain differences, also belong to the same side of the political spectrum. To make things clearer, a little over 100,000 people voted for Biljana Stojković, representative of the Moramo (“We have to”) coalition, the only one who did not represent the right in these elections.
At the parliamentary level, the situation is similar. The highest percentage of votes, 42.97%, was won by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), followed by the United for the Victory of Serbia (13.57%), the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS, 11.5%) and the Hope for Serbia (5.39%). They are followed by the Moramo coalition, which won 4.63%, Boško Obradović and the Patriotic Bloc with 3.83%, and Milica Đurđević Stamenkovski and the Serbian Party Zavetnici (3.74%). The radicals and sovereignists, both positioned on the far right, remained below the threshold this year with less than 3% of the vote.
Did the Vučić’s Progressives triumph?
As Dario Hajrić wrote for Mašina: “Looking at the graphs and the huge difference in votes between the SNS and the opposition, it is absurd to deny the victory of the SNS, regardless of the fact that it was once again achieved in completely irregular conditions. At the time of writing, their coalition has 120 deputies, the coalition around Zdravko Ponoš (SSP-NS-DS-PSG-etc.) 38, Dačić’s Socialists 32, DSS 15, MORAMO 13, Dveri-POKS and Zavetnici 10 each, while four minority the lists have a total of 12. This means that Vučić can very easily form a parliamentary majority once again and that there are several ways to do that.”
However, regardless of the convincingly best result in the elections, let’s put things in context, Hajrić advises. In his words, it would be absurd to compare a party that holds almost all media and has unlimited access to state resources with those whose budgets and minutes on television are not unlimited. Instead, “let’s compare it to itself”.
“For the first time since 2014 – that is, in the last four election cycles – the SNS does not hold a majority, and it needs a coalition partner. It can no longer change the Constitution on its own. The formation of the majority in Belgrade (although certain) is still not guaranteed: moreover, the results failed so much that the holder of the list in the Belgrade elections, Aleksandar Šapić, did not deserve to appear behind Vučić during his first pre-election address”, comments Hajrić.
Did the far right grow stronger?
It is clear that the Progressives lost voters since the previous elections, but also that the “strongest opposition bloc” won significantly less than what the pre-election polls predicted. Although the right may not have won a significantly higher number of votes than in previous election cycles, it is worrying to see who passed the census.
In 2016 the Serbian Radical Party won 8.01%, Enough was enough (now part of the Sovereignists coalition) 6.02% and Dveri 5.04% of the vote, more than the lists representing the extreme and far right in 2022. Nevertheless, the parliament will be clearly profiled as right-winged, except a few deputies from the ranks of the green-left coalition Moramo and those who come mostly from the centre, represented by the United for the Victory of Serbia.
The presence of the extreme right in the parliament is useful both for the Progressives and the right in general. In the given socio-political circumstances, Vučić will again have the opportunity to play the “stability” card and mimic a barrier to the extreme right in front of European officials. As Hajrić puts it:
“When forced to choose between the East and the West, Vučić can put on a long face and tell his Brussels friends that he would gladly support them, but that the domestic political circumstances do not allow him to do so. How, for example, can he impose sanctions on Russia when a mob marches through the streets of Belgrade carrying Russian flags and calling him a traitor? Or, how to negotiate the status of Kosovo, so that the nationalists in the parliament will crucify him! In other words, Vučić presents the public of his country to Europe as what he himself supports that public. We as a nation are a bad cop, he is a good one. We are the chaos he keeps under control.”
At the same time, given that political organizations tend to develop faster and easier with the help of infrastructure and visibility that comes with entering the republican parliament, we can expect a strengthening of political actors who passed the threshold in these elections.