13/06/2004 - Analysis
On 16th November 2003, Tomislav Nikolic won 45% of the votes expressed in the presidential election far ahead of Dragoljub Micunovic, candidate of the ruling coalition at the time - Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) rallying around fifteen political parties - and the present president of the Parliament of Serbia-Montenegro, who won 36% of the vote. However the second round of this presidential election was invalidated due to an insufficient participation rate. This was only 38.30% of those registered i.e. 12% less than the minimum required by electoral law for the validation of the election.
For the third time running in thirteen months after the elections of 13th October and 8th December 2002 that both witnessed the victory of Vojislav Kostunica, former President of the Republic of the Federation of Yugoslavia and candidate of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), the Serbian presidential election was invalidated due to an insufficient participation rate.
Serbia has therefore been without a President since December 2002 when Milan Milutinovic's mandate (at present in prison in The Hague) expired.
Since the clause that made it obligatory to have a minimum of 50% participation (plus one vote) in the second round of the presidential election has been deleted by Parliament it is likely that Serbia will elect its President either on 13th June if a candidate wins an absolute majority or 27th June if a second round is necessary.
To date thirteen personalities have come forward as candidates including:
Tomislav Nikokic, interim president from Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party (SRS), (the latter being accused of war crimes against non-Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Voïvodina by the International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia in the Hague and former deputy Prime Minister under Slobodan Milosevic ;
Boris Tadic, 46 years old and leader of the Democratic Party (DS) in the Opposition camp at the moment;
Ivica Dacic, Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party candidate (SPS);
Dragan Marsicanin, 54 years old, economist, vice-president of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's party (DSS) of which he was one of the founders and present Economy Minister;
Bogoljub Karic, 50 years old, business man;
Vladan Batic, leader of the Christian Democrat Party;
Ljiljana Arandjelovic, director of the radio and TV channel Cuprija and the United Serbia candidate.
Boris Tadic, who succeed assassinated (12th March 2003) Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic as head of the Democratic Party said that he was standing in order to try and "stop the rise of nationalism (...) We are ready to co-operate with all of those who are able to stop the rise of nationalism and prevent the danger of seeing the country isolated. We must defend democratic, pro-European values won on 5th October 2000" (the date when the opposition coalition led by Vojislav Kostunica and Zoran Djindjic overthrew Slobodan Milosevic's regime) he maintained. His party, the Democratic Party (DS), in the opposition camp since they did not succeed in coming to an agreement with Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), appointed after the general elections on 28th December 2003. He accuses the party that has governed Serbia for the last three years of having acted illegally in setting up reforms, and of not having fought against organised crime and corruption sufficiently and accuses it of being responsible for the rise in unemployment.
Bogoljub Karic, from Kosovo, is believed to be the richest man in Serbia. He built his fortune under Slobodan Milosevic's regime whose ally he was for a long time before an argument irrupted in 1997 when the former dictator prevented the business man from standing as President of the country. "I shall re-start all of the country's economic sectors, I shall create jobs, I shall improve living conditions and I shall raise productivity to a level close to that of European economies. I can make Serbia happy and make it a rich country", he maintains unhesitatingly, without mentioning however, the means by which he will succeed in fulfilling all of his promises. The business man has also said he is in favour of a "Europe without frontiers" and for Belgrade's co-operation with the International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia in The Hague. "It only remains for Belgrade to convince suspects to give themselves up of their own free will to the ICC, as the Prime Minister and President of Croatia did recently", he declared simply.
Dragan Marsicanin is the ruling coalition's candidate that rallies the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), Prime Minister Miroljub Labus's G17 Plus and author Vuk Draskovic's Movement for Serbian Renewal -New Serbia (SPO-NS). "All the parties who support me have a balanced approach to democratic, national, pro-European and State questions", he declared.
Although victory by Tomislav Nikokic would not prevent the continuation of the reforms undertaken by Vojislav Kostunica's government - since the competence of the President are limited in Serbia and this has been particularly the case since the creation of the State of Serbia and Montenegro - it would however make it more difficult for the country to draw closer to the EU and the Western community. The leader of the Radical Party founds his hopes on the result he achieved during the last presidential election (invalidated) on 16th November and also on the excellent score achieved by his party during the last general elections on 28th December 2003. The Radical Party did in fact win 27.7% of the vote and acquired 82 of the 250 seats in Parliament hence becoming the country's leading political party ahead of the Democratic Party of Serbia DSS (18% of the vote and 53 seats), the Democratic Party DS (12.6% and 34 seats) and the G17 Plus (11.7% and 34 seats).
Although Dragan Marsicanin, the ruling coalition's candidate is the favourite, the previous presidential elections and the latest general elections on 28th December 2003 showed that the nationalist forces were still very powerful in Serbia.
Therefore, right now, the election outcome is far from being certain, the instability of the on-going power struggle in the country makes any forecast impossible.