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The Pro-European Coalition led by President Boris Tadic easily wins the General Elections in Serbia

The Pro-European Coalition led by President Boris Tadic easily wins the General Elections in Serbia

13/05/2008 - Results

The coalition "For a European Serbia-Democratic Party-G17+-Boris Tadic" – rallying President Tadic's Democratic Party (DS), G17+ led by Finance and Regional Development Minister Mladjan Dinkic, the Sanjak Democratic Party led by Rasim Ljajic, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and the League of Social Democrats of Voivodina (LSV) led by Nenad Canak – easily won the general elections that took place on 11th May in Serbia. It won 38.70% of the vote, clinching 103 seats in the National Assembly, the only chamber in Parliament. The DS has therefore become the country's leading political party, a status it lost in 2003.

The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), led by Vojislav Seselj (imprisoned at present in The Hague) former Deputy Prime Minister to Slobodan Milosevic, won 29.10% of the vote and 77 seats. The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) led by outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, allied to New Serbia (NS) led by Infrastructure Minister Velimir Ilic came third winning 11.3% of the vote (30 seats). The Socialist Party (SPS) of former President Slobodan Milosevic led by Ivica Dacic, allied to the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia (PUPS) and to United Serbia (JS), achieved its best score since the fall of the Serb dictator in October 2000, 7.9% (20 seats). The coalition rallying the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Civic Alliance of Serbia and the Social Democratic Union led by Cedomir Jovanovic succeeded in rising above the 5% threshold necessary to be represented in Parliament, 5.2% (13 seats). Finally the parties representing the country's minorities won 7 seats.
The Democratic Party also easily pulled ahead in the local elections in the three largest towns: Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis.

The participation rate rose to 60.70%, a level that was almost the same as that recorded in the previous general elections (-1.03 points) and in the 1st round of the presidential election on 20th January last (-0.30 points) but lower than that recorded in the 2nd round that brought Boris Tadic and Tomislav Nikolic face to face on 3rd February (-6.90 points).
The Serbs of Kosovo did not turn out en masse; one in two did not bother to vote (46.10%). The turn out rate was 6 points lower than that recorded on 21st January 2007, and -16 points than that recorded in the most recent presidential election. The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) came out ahead in the former Serb province followed by the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and then the Democratic Party (DS). Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci welcomed the Democratic Party's victory in Belgrade. "My message to President Boris Tadic is to think more of Brussels and NATO than Kosovo. He personally knows that Kosovo is a democratic, independent, sovereign country, and that Kosovo and I are ready to co-operate with Serbia working towards a better future for our country and our populations," he declared.

"It is a great day for Serbia; the citizens have confirmed the country's European path. They have confirmed that they hope Serbia will be part of the European Union. Serbia will be in the European Union. We have promised this and we shall achieve it," declared President of the Republic Boris Tadic when the results were announced. During the entire electoral campaign, the Head of State repeated that these general elections were in fact "a referendum to decide if we are going towards Europe or remain isolated if we want to live as other European nations or remain isolated in the Balkans." The polls showed that voters were mostly in favour of drawing closer to the European Union again (the third time in 16 months: general elections on 21st January 2007 and the presidential election on 20th January and 3rd February 2008) and in favour of a European Serbia.

"The Serb electorate has clearly turned towards Europe. The Democratic Party won the general elections convincingly," maintained Zoran Lucic, manager of the Centre for Free Election and Democracy (CeSID) who also said he was surprised by the results. The score achieved by the pro-European parties easily rose above that forecast in the polls. The pollsters forecast that the Democratic Party (DS) and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) would be running neck and neck. "Three factors seem to have made a difference. Voters do not like losers, they chose a strategic vote and are counting on the improvement in their living standards," analyses sociologist Vladimir Goati. The signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 29th April last between the European Union and Serbia finally paid off, as did the decision a few days later taken by the 17 Member States to grant free visas, notably to young under 25 year olds. "The Stabilisation and Association Agreement is of great symbolic value. It is a message that says: Europe wants us. It is the first contractual relationship between Serbia and the European Union," stresses director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, Ivan Vejvoda. The announcement of the signature of a contract of 700 million euros between the Italian car manufacturer, Fiat and the factories of Zastava of Kragujevac, celebrated by the President of the Republic and many ministers, also helped the Serbs link Europe with investments.

The spokesperson for the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana welcomed "the clear victory on the part of the pro-Europeans." "We are impatient to work in close collaboration with the new government," he added. "The elections show that Serbia will develop quickly towards accession to the European Union and that the terrible era of the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990's is part of the past, that the inhabitants of South Eastern Europe are now able to live together in peace," stressed the Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country is at present running the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

In spite of the easy victory achieved by the Democratic Party the composition of the next government is quite open. With whom will it govern? "It has just begun. The democrats now have to form a government as quickly as possible, then we shall be the victors," said President Tadic adding, "I am ready to discuss possible coalitions with all those who respect the following principles: membership to the European Union, the protection of Serbia's integrity and sovereignty, the improvement of citizens' living standards, the fight against organised crime and corruption and continued co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague," and "the government we shall form will not acknowledge Kosovo." During the meeting in Belgrade, Boris Tadic said "You can be certain that Vojislav Kostunica will never be Prime Minister of this country again." Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac (DS), said that the coalition "For a European Serbia-Democratic Party-G17+-Boris Tadic" is open to alliances except the forces of the ultra-nationalists led by Tomislav Nikolic.

The Head of State can count on the 7 MPs representing the minorities and on those of the Liberal Democratic Party. The Socialist Party also seems in a position to influence the composition of the next government. Although it was close to the nationalists for a long time it has now drawn closer to the Democratic Party and on several occasions it has expressed the desire to develop into a respectable leftwing party.

"These general elections have shown that for the majority of Serbs the main aim is a sovereign Serbia that lies within borders that are acknowledged internationally – accession to the European Union is but secondary. There is a clear potential for a coalition without the Democratic Party. I say this to the citizens of Serbia who are celebrating – and quite rightly – the victory of the list that won the greatest number of votes. But Boris Tadic has no right to turn this party into the victory of those who will form the next government," said Tomislav Nikolic who has asked the President of the Republic to "calm down". He says he is prepared to form a government coalition or to bring about new general elections. Accusing the Head of State of "serious infringements of the Constitution" for having excluded a coalition with the nationalists, Tomislav Nikolic has announced that he will start discussions with the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Socialist Party. Suddenly very popular the latter is being careful. "We support Serbia's integration into the European Union but with new discussions over Kosovo" stressed its leader Ivica Dacic intimating that an alliance with the pro-European parties was not impossible. "Let's wait until tomorrow to see what we shall do," declared the party's second in command, Zarko Obradovic.

According to the Serb Constitution the government has to be formed in the 90 days following the first session of the new Parliament. This will take place in a month's time, mid-June. The political parties will therefore have the whole summer to negotiate and will have to form the new government before mid-September otherwise new general elections will have to be organised. "The results are highly encouraging for the pro-European forces," stresses political expert Milan Nikolic, "they have to act to exploit this to its best advantage." "We expect that politicians will express the will of the people. But I think that the European future of Serbia is guaranteed," indicated Zoran Lucic of the CeSID.

General Election Results of 11th May 2008 in Serbia

Turn out rate: 60.70%
Source: Internet site of the Centre for Free Election and Democracy (http://www.cesid.org)
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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