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The main opposition Progressive party is likely to win most votes in the general election - but its chances of forming a government remain slim unless it can woo key partners.
|Photo by Beta|
“Don’t throw your votes at the Democrats or Progressives, because they both need to come to me after the elections.”
So said Serbian Socialist leader Ivica Dacic recently, referring to his hopes of emerging as the key powerbroker after the May 6 general, local and presidential elections in Serbia.
His party, formed in 1990, a coalition ally of the ruling Democrats, is widely seen as an essential ingredient of any future government.
The latest poll, conducted by Faktor Plus agency on April 24, says the Socialists can count on 11.8 per cent of the votes in the parliamentary election.
The same poll said that 33.5 per cent of voters would vote for the coalition led by the opposition Serbian Progressive Party and 28.3 per cent would vote for the coalition around the ruling Democratic Party.
The deadline for the formation of a new government is three months after the constitution of the parliament.
So far, three options on how the future government of Serbia might look like have emerged.
Analysts predict that although the Progressives will most likely win more votes, the ruling Democrats will again form a government with the Socialists as a result of the Progressives’ poor coalition potential.
The second option is for the Progressives to win the Socialists onto their side and so form a government.
The third and least likely option, which some analysts don’t rule out, however, is for the two main rivals to form a government.
Option 1: Democrats, Socialists and United Regions or Liberals
|Boris Tadic addressing audience at a rally, Photo by Beta|
Sociologist Vladimir Goati believes that Serbia is likely to get “more or less” the same government as it has now.
According to him, the two big parties will probably pick up 70 per cent of the seats in parliament while the smaller parties win the rest between them.
The Democrats “have a much greater potential for coalition and can cooperate with the the Socialist Party and United Regions of Serbia, as well as with the Liberal Democratic Party,” Goati said, referring to the opposition Liberal Democrats, formed after a split within the Democrats.
Both the Socialists and United Regions of Serbia are current coalition partners of the ruling Democrats.
All three small parties share the Democrats’ stances on key issues. They all want Serbia to join the EU and resolve the Kosovo issue through negotiations. Also, all three parties have already been cooperating with each other, the Socialists, United Regions and Democrats at national level, and the Socialists, Democrats and Liberals at local level, in the city of Belgrade, for example.
Goati believes that three parties will probably win enough seats to form a government, which will most likely consist of the Democrats, Socialists and Liberals.
He does not rule out the possibility of United Regions of Serbia, URS, keeping its ministerial seats in the new government instead of the LDP joining in.
The URS leader, Mladjan Dinkic, «has shown incredible energy in the days leading up to the elections,» Goati notes, adding that Dinkic's dispute with the Democrats is also not irreconcilable. [Last February, Dinkic was sacked as deputy prime minister and minister for economy after saying on TV that key decisions were not being taken within the government but by the president.]
However, Djordje Vukovic from the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, CeSID, believes that all three parties [Socialists, Liberals and United Regions] will have to support the Democrats and form a government together.
The Democrats say that they are willing to talk about a potential coalition with all three parties but seem closest with the Socialists. «The Socialists are our [Democrats'] safest partner,» Boris Tadic, leader of the Democrats, recently said.
Option 2: Progressives and Socialists
In the last general elections in 2008, the Progressives won more votes than any other party but were unable to form a government as the Democrats and Socialists decided to work together. The situation seems not to have changed since.
Goati believes that the Progressives will again probably get the highest number of votes but that their poor coalition potential hinders them.
|Tomislav Nikolic addressing audience at a rally, Photo by Beta|
Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Progressives, has repeated that the party has not undertaken any talks on potential coalitions.
“They would have a big problem forming a coalition with the minor opposition Democratic Party of Serbia [DSS, led by Vojislav Kostunica],” Goati said, noting their sharply different stances on EU integration, which the DSS opposes.
Kostunica’s party has been loud in opposing Serbia’s membership of the EU and NATO. The Progressives, on the other hand, position themselves on the pro-EU side.
Cooperation with the opposition hard-line nationalist Serbian Radical Party, out of which the Progressives emerged in 2008, is practically impossible as the two remain mortal enemies.
Once coalition partners in the Nineties, the Progressives along with the Socialists could get back together and form a government, however. Both back joining the EU and neither party has ruled out the possibility of forming a government with the other.
Option 3: Grand coalition
There is still an option for the two major parties to form a national unity government after the elections despite the negative campaigns they are now running against each other. This way they could expel the minor parties from the game.
Political science professor Zoran Stojiljkovic believes a post-election coalition of the Democratic Party and the Serbian Progressive Party is possible.
“A grand coalition is possible if the alternative is [one of them holding] a slender majority in parliament and the impossibility of forming a government,” Stojiljkovic told Balkan Insight.
Leaders of both the Democrats and the Progressives, have, however dismissed this option.
“I cannot imagine myself in a position to pardon all the things against which the Serbian people have been fighting for ten years,” Nikolic said, referring to the Democrats’ decade in power.
Tadic also said that such a coalition was not an option. The Progressives “are not a reliable partner with whom we could do something useful for Serbia to continue reforms,” he said.
“These people have no credibility or the necessary knowledge, either for running the country, or for negotiations with the EU,” he added.
This article is a result of BIRN Serbia project "Performance evaluation, step towards political accountability" supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, NED.
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