On Sunday, April 3rd, Serbs were invited to vote in the presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. The incumbent president Aleksandar Vučić was triumphantly re-elected for a second term with about 60% of the vote in the first round.
Aleksandar Vučić belongs to the centre-right Serbian Progressive Party (SNS, Српска напредна странка).
Serbs were voting on the same day to renew their 250 deputies. The Serbian Progressive Party’s dominance in parliament has eroded slightly, with 44% of the vote, but the addition of the Hungarian Minority Party (VMSZ) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)—a party inherited from the communist period but difficult to classify, with today’s rhetoric considered national and populist—allowed the outgoing coalition to retain a majority.
Russian aggression in Ukraine had a significant impact on the election campaign. Vučić chose to position his campaign in reference to the war, using the slogan “peace, stability, Vučić” instead of using the rallying cry initially selected: “together we can do anything.” The president sought to make the most of his position as “protector of the nation.”
For his challenger, Vučić’s strategy proved to be devastating. “All the issues that we had managed to put on the table, such as education, ecology, social justice, purchasing power, corruption, taxation, health, the demographic crisis … were swept away by the war in Ukraine,” explains Biljana Dordević, opposition candidate in parliament for the Moramo (“We must,” Морамо) coalition.
While Serbia has traditionally held pro-Russian sympathies, the incumbent Vučić’s government has attempted a difficult balancing act, officially condemning Russian aggression at the UN, while refusing to vote on sanctions. Vučić is keen on Serbia’s entry into the European Union—the application was submitted in 2012—which forces him to reconcile opposites and to subdue his historically, often pro-Russian opinion. The pro-Russian nationalist party, the Serbian Movement Oathkeepers (SSZ, Српска странка Заветници) entered parliament with 4% of the vote, winning 10 seats for the first time. Suspicions of fraud tainted the election, but were denied by Aleksandar Vučić.
The situation with independent Kosovo is still not stabilised. The Kosovar government in Pristina refused to make arrangements for a ballot for the Serbian minority still living in Kosovo, so buses had to be chartered for them to come to Serbia to vote.
The reelected president was congratulated by Katalin Novák, the President of Hungary.
For his part, Vladimir Putin has indicated that he wants to deepen the strategic partnership between Russia and Hungary, which puts pressure on Vučić that is difficult to sustain internationally.