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June 22, 2020

SERBIA: A landslide victory for the SNS

BY Andrius Tursa

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As expected, the Aleksandar Vucic-For Our Children coalition led by the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won its fourth consecutive term in office by a landslide in the 21 June general election. None of the main opposition parties will enter parliament, which will lead to the further concentration of political power in the hands of the SNS and its leader Aleksandar Vucic. Policy continuity is expected in most areas.

With 93.6% of ballots counted this morning, the SNS-led list had received 62.6% of votes, followed by the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)-United Serbia (JS) with 10.9%. Preliminary results show that only one more party – Aleksandar Sapic-Victory for Serbia (SPAS) – will pass the 3% threshold to win seats in parliament. In addition, all four national minority lists will enter parliament. The poll saw historically low turnout – estimated at 47.7% – most likely due to Covid-19 fears and calls to boycott the poll by one of the main opposition movements, Alliance for Serbia. The low turnout probably further boosted the performance of the ruling SNS, which has achieved its best result in recent history.

Unless the vote is legally challenged, the country’s electoral commission will announce the official results by 25 June. President Vucic – who also leads the winning SNS – will then appoint a prime minister-designate to form a new cabinet, which will need to win approval from parliament. This will be mostly a formality as the SNS-led list is projected to hold 189 mandates in the 250-seat house, with its traditional allies SPS-JS taking another 32. SPAS is expected to get 12 mandates, with the remaining 17 seats to be shared among four lists representing national minorities.

From a policy perspective, the election result will lead to continuity in most areas. The economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic will remain the near-term priority, with state support expected to be focused on the most affected industries and key state-owned enterprises. The SNS-led government is expected to remain broadly supportive of foreign investment, while continued investment into large infrastructure transport projects will help lower unemployment and promote growth. The SNS has a positive track record in managing public finances and is expected to return to a fiscal consolidation path in the coming years.

At the same time, more politically sensitive areas such as tackling high-profile corruption, reforming the judiciary and state-owned enterprises, promoting civil society, and ensuring greater media freedom and the transparency of the electoral process, will see limited reform. Finally, no changes are expected to Serbia’s multi-dimensional foreign policy, with the renewal of dialogue with Kosovo being the main near-term focus.

The vote will further consolidate political power in the hands of the SNS and, particularly, its leader Vucic. This could lead to the further erosion of democratic institutions and lower the probability of meaningful political change for the foreseeable future. One signpost to watch is whether the fragmented opposition manages to unite after such a disappointing electoral result.

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