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Two Decades of Election Tumult in Serbia

Since the renewal of multi-party politics in 1990 power has oscillated between a variety of parties in Serbia and votes have often followed by allegations of frauds and protests. 

Gordana Andric
BIRN
Belgrade

December 23, 1990

As the Yugoslav federation began to dissolve, all six republics held their first multi-party elections.

In Serbia, the Socialist Party of Serbia, successor to the League of Communists of Serbia, enjoyed undisputed popularity. Party leader Slobodan Milosevic was elected Serbian President a few weeks before parliamentary elections on December 9.

With no strong opposition, Milosevic’s party won an absolute majority. Of 7 million voters, about 5 million people, or 71 per cent of the electorate, cast ballots.

Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, 194 seats

Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO, 19

Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, DZVM, 8

Group of citizens, 8

Democratic Party, DS, 7

Party of Democratic Action, SDA, 3

Nine smaller parties, 11 (in total).

In January 1991, the SPS formed a government under Dragutin Zelenovic. On March 9, Vuk Draskovic’s opposition SPO organised street protests against TV Belgrade director Dusan Mitevic following its broadcast of attacks on Draskovic.

About 100,000 people rallied to demand Mitevic’s resignation. The protest was clearly anti-Milosevic in character. That evening Milosevic sent tanks onto the streets to “protect constitutional order”.

A few days later, Mitevic resigned along with Interior Minister Radmilo Bogdanovic. But the protest did not shake Milosevic. Significantly, during the protest, Milosevic led the negotiations instead of Zelenovic, on the grounds that the Prime Minister was busy dealing with the bankruptcy of a state-owned company. According to Zelenovic, he was shunted aside because he opposed Milosevic but the failed to win support within the party, which remained loyal to the President. In December, Zelenovic was forced to resign and Milosevic appointed Radoman Bozovic instead.

In spring 1991 Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia declared independence. In March 1992, Bosnia followed suit. Serbia and Montenegro then formed a new “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia”,SRJ, on April 27 1992. Federal Parliament elected Dobrica Cosic as the first president of SRJ on June 15, 1992. Serbia then called early elections.

December 20, 1992

Ahead of the elections, several opposition parties formed a coalition, the Democratic Movement of Serbia, DEPOS. But a wing of the Democratic Party, DS, led by Dragoljub Micunovic and Zoran Djindjic, refused to join the coalition. Meanwhile a fraction led by Vojislav Kostunica left to form a new party, the Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, which did join the coalition.

The most influential party in DEPOS was Draskovic’s SPO. Along with the SPO were Kostunica’s DSS and the smaller Serbian Liberal Party and New Democracy.

The Serbian Radical Party, SRS, formed after the 1990 elections, led by Vojislav Seselj, rapidly assumed a prominent position in the country. Besides DEPOS, the Radicals emerged as the main rivals to Milosevic’s Socialists.

Of 7 million voters, about 4.7 million, or 69 per cent, cast ballots.

Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, 101 seats

Serbian Radical Party, SRS, 73

Democratic Movement of Serbia, DEPOS, 50 (45 assigned to SPO)

Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, DZVM, 9

Democratic Party, DS, 6

Group of citizens, Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, 5

Three smaller parties, 6 seats (in total).

The same day saw presidential elections and elections for a federal parliament. Milosevic was again elected President of Serbia, while Milan Panic became Federal Prime Minister of Yugoslavia.

With 101 of the 250 seats, in February 1993 Milosevic’s Socialists formed a minority government supported by Seselj’s Radicals under Nikola Sainovic. But cooperation between Socialists and Radicals broke down in September and two months later, Milosevic called new elections, saying decision-making had become blocked.

In June 1992, students launched protests in Belgrade and Nis demanding Milosevic’s and Sainovic’s resignations and new elections. The protests lasted for about a month.

In June 1993, the federal parliament relieved federal President Dobrica Cosic of his duties on the grounds that he had violated the constitution.

Several thousand people took to the streets again protesting against Milosevic. During the turmoil, one policeman was killed while 32 people were injured. SPO leader Draskovic and his wife Danica were severely beaten by the police.

December 19, 1993

Ahead of these elections, Kostunica’s DSS left DEPOS, but two other smaller parties joined the coalition, the Civic Alliance of Serbia and the People’s Peasant Party.

Of 7 million voters, about 4.3 million, or 61 per cent, voted.

Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, 123

Democratic Movement of Serbia, DEPOS, 45 (40 assigned to SPO)

Serbian Radical Party, SRS, 39

Democratic Party, DS, 29

Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, 7

Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, DZVM, 5

Two smaller parties in coalition, 2 seats.

After the elections New Democracy, led by Dusan Mihajlovic, left DEPOS and formed a coalition with the Socialists. A government under Mirko Marijanovic was formed in March 1994.

That year, Milosevic’s wife, Mirjana Markovic, also formed her own party, Yugoslav Left, JUL.

Protestors again hit the streets following local elections in November 1996. For the local elections several opposition parties, the Democratic Party, DS, Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO, the Civic Alliance of Serbia, GSS, and the Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS formed the coalition, “Zajedno” [“Together”].

Following allegations of election fraud in which the Socialists were accused of magnifying their true number of votes, thousands of people joined protests all over the country. The Socialists later admitted they had in fact lost in numerous municipalities after OSCE representatives intervened and in 199 the authorities permitted Zoran Djindjic, who had became head of the Democratic Party in 1994, to become mayor of Belgrade.

September 21, 1997

Many believed the opposition might win these general elections. However, before the elections, the opposition coalition broke apart after the DS, the DSS and GSS decided to boycott the elections along with 13 other parties, while the SPO decided to participate.

Parties boycotting the elections said the conditions for fair and honest elections did not exist.

Milosevic’s Socialists went into the election in coalition with JUL and New Democracy.

Of 7.2 million voters, about 4.1 million or 57 per cent, voted.

Coalition SPS, JUL, New Democracy, 110

Serbian Radical party, SRS, 82

Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO, 45

Coalition Vojvodina, 4

Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, 4

Three smaller parties, 5 seats (in total).

In March 1998, the Socialist-led coalition formed a new government with the Radical Party.

In October 1998, a new movement against Milosevic called “Otpor” [“Resistance”] was formed, but the street campaign against Serbia’s strongman was derailed by the start of the NATO bombing campaign in connection with Kosovo.

In January 2000, most opposition parties, 18 in all, joined a new coalition, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, DOS.

DOS brought together the Democratic Party, DS, Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, Democratic Alternative, New Serbia and numerous smaller parties. DOS enjoyed the support of Otpor.

In the federal presidential elections held on September 24, 2000, DOS’s candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, won the vote. DOS also won a majority of seats in the federal general elections and in the local elections. Milosevic was forced to admit he had lost after mass protests overwhelmed the regime on October 5.

After the collapse of the Milosevic regime, the Serbian government led by the Socialist Mirko Marijanovic resigned. According to an agreement between the SPS, DOS and SPO, the three parties formed a transitional government and Serbia’s President, the Socialist Milan Milutinovic, agreed to called early elections.

December 23, 2000

Of 6.5 million voters, about 3.7 million or 56 per cent, voted.

Democratic Opposition of Serbia, DOS, 176

Socialist party of Serbia, SPS, 37

Serbian Radical Party, SRS, 23

Party of Serbian Unity, SSJ, 14

On January 25 2001, Serbia’s first post-Milosevic government was formed under Zoran Djindjic. The leaders of all the coalition parties entered the government as deputy prime ministers and ministers. Some ministries were assigned to non-political experts.

In August 2001, Kostunica’s DSS left the government, accusing the other DOS members of having connections with organised crime.

On March 12, 2003, Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic was assassinated in front of the government building.

The new prime minister was named as Zoran Zivkovic, also from the Democratic Party, while the rest of the government remained the same.

In October 2003, after opposition parties initiated votes of confidence in parliament, acting Serbian President Natasa Micic called early elections.

December 28, 2003

The Democratic Party went into the elections on its own as the DOS coalition fell apart.

Of 6.5 million voters, about 3.8 million, or 58 per cent, voted.

Serbian Radical Party, SRS, 82

Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, 53

Democratic Party, DS, 37

G17 plus, 34

Serbian Renewal Movement and New Serbia, SPO-NS, 22

Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, 22

The new government was formed in March after more than a month of negotiations led by the DSS with potential coalition partners. The new government led by Kostunica included the DSS, G17 plus and the SPO-NS coalition. The Socialists agreed to support the government from outside the government.

In 2006, after Montenegro declared independence, Serbia adopted a new constitution, which said general elections must be held within 120 days of the constitution coming into force.

January 21, 2007

In this election the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, led by Cedomir Jovanovic and formed in 2005 from former DS members, took part for the first time. Jovanovic’s group had disagreed with the DS for supporting for what they considered the nationalistic stands of the Kostunica government and so formed a new party.

For the purposes of the elections, the LDP went into coalition with Civic Alliance of Serbia, GSS, the Social Democratic Union, SDU, the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina and the Christian Democratic Party of Serbia, DHSS.

Of 6.6 million voters, about 4 million, or 60 per cent, cast ballots.

Serbian Radical Party, SRS, 81

Democratic Party, DS, 64

Democratic Party of Serbia and New Serbia, DSS-NS, 47

 G17 plus, 19

Socialists Party of Serbia, SPS, 16

Coalition led by Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, 15

Five smaller parties, 8 seats (in total).

The government was formed on May 15 after three months of negotiations between the DS, DSS and G17 plus. Kostunica was again Prime Minister.

After Kosovo declared independence in February 2008, the government was torn with disagreements. The DS and G17 plus wanted to continue the EU integration process and sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA. The DSS insisted that the EU must first affirm its support for Serbia’s territorial integrity and oppose Kosovo’s secession.

Kostunica decided to seek early elections, the DSS saying that it no longer trusted its coalition partners to protect Serbia’s unity.

May 11, 2008

The coalition led by DS gathered several pro-European parties in a coalition “Za evropsku Srbiju”, ZES, [“For a European Serbia”], namely G17 plus, the Sandzak Democratic Party, the Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO, League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina and Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija.

Coalition For European Serbia, ZES, 101

Serbian Radical Party, SRS, 78

Democratic Party of Serbia and New Serbia, DSS-NS, 30

Socialist Party of Serbia, Party of United Pensioners of Serbia and United Serbia, SPS-PUPS-JS, 20

Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, 13

Three smaller parties, 7 (in total).

A coalition led by the Democrats formed a new government with the Socialists and ethnic minority parties. The agreement between those former bitter rivals, the Democrats and Socialists, was unexpected. The new Prime Minister was Mirko Cvetkovic who was formally not a member of any party but was seen as a DS man. 

On February 15, 2011, the G17 plus leader, Mladjan Dinkic, resigned as Economy Minister. The resignation came a day after Cvetkovic said he was seeking to replace Dinkic as a result of policy and personnel disputes, and following Dinkic’s statements to the media that the government was disjointed and beset with problems.

On March 15, parliament approved a reshuffle, reducing the cabinet to 17 ministries and 21 ministers instead of the previous 24 ministries and 27 ministers. 

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