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Organisation profile 03 Apr 12

Key Parties in Serbia

Twelve years after the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, the scene has changed significantly as parties rise, fall and change their minds. See Balkan Insight's profiles of Serbia's ruling and opposition parties.

Bojana Barlovac

Democratic Party, DS:

The Democratic Party, DS, was set up in 1989 as the first opposition party in Serbia. Dragoljub Micunovic, a former parliamentary speaker widely acclaimed for his work on human rights, was president.

The party advocates pro-Western values, including EU-integration, political pragmatism and co-operation with the international community.

While it remains firmly opposed to Kosovo's independence, the coalition argues that Serbia must turn its back on the nationalism of the past. It believes only European Union membership will bring lasting improvements to people's lives. The party's slogan on the last election in 2008 was: «Both EU and Kosovo».

Today it is the country's biggest party in terms of membership. A year after the assassination of prime minister Zoran Djindjic in March 2003, Boris Tadic, a party member since 1990, was elected president of the party. In the same year he won the Serbian presidential elections.

Critics say that today's DS has lost touch with the values of the Djindjic era and that it has become corrupted by years in government.

Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS:

The Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, was formed in 1990 as a merger of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's League of Communists of Serbia and the Socialist Alliance of the Working People of Serbia.

Ivica Dacic, who took over the leadership in December 2006 after Milosevic had died in detention in The Hague in March that year, began to modernize the party and put its ultra-nationalist past behind it.

Thus, the party has distanced itself from the politics of the former leadership and turned towards integrating Serbia into the EU.  

Advocating social justice, free education and social security for all has led the party towards coalitions with the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia and United Serbia.

In the last elections the SPS, with its coalition partners, won 7.58 per cent of votes and entered a Democrat-led coalition government. Socialists hold the positions of the First Deputy Prime Minister [Ivica Dacic] and four ministerial posts.

Serbian Progressive Party, SNS:

The Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, was formed in October 2008 by a group of MPs who broke away from Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party, SRS, under Tomislav Nikolic.

Nikolic resigned as the deputy leader of the Serb Radical Party over disagreements with the Seselj [currently on trial in The Hague], over Nikolic's call for the Radicals to moderate their nationalist image a little and embrace the EU.

At the founding assembly Nikolic said his party would be «a bridge between East and West, with the future goal of forming a union with the Republic of Srpska» [the Bosnian Serb entity].

Over time, the SNS has become more EU-oriented and has so became closer to the Democrats in terms of its policy profile. Its leaders are often seen meeting with EU officials.

United Regions of Serbia, URS:

Formerly a non-governmental organisation lobbying for economic reforms and EU membership, G17 Plus became a political party in December 2002 after Miroljub Labus left the Democratic Party to become its first president.

A former head of the Yugoslav National Bank, Mladjan Dinkic later took over the party’s presidency.

G17 Plus advocates a liberal economy, regionalisation, better living standards and political pragmatism, appealing to young, well-educated and urban voters. Last year it changed its name into United Regions of Serbia.

Its pragmatism has been demonstrated through its decision to form coalitions with the nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, as well as with the pro-Western Democratic Party in order to stay in power.

Liberal Democratic Party, LDP:

The Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, led by Cedomir Jovanovic, is the only mainstream party to maintain that the country is better off without Kosovo, criticizing other leaders for courting nationalist votes and for compromising on reforms.

Jovanovic was a student leader during the protests against former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic and set up the LDP when he was expelled from the Democrats in 2005 in a party purge.

Earlier he had been a close ally to Serbia's first-democratically elected Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, who was assassinated in 2003.

In 2008, the LDP formed a pre-election coalition with the Social Democratic Union and the Christian Democratic Party of Serbia.

In 2012, under the name «Preokret» («Turn-around»), the party formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Union, SDU, and the Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO.

Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS:

Formed from the nationalist wing of the Democrats in 1992 under Vojislav Kostunica, its opposition to Slobodan Milosevic kept it close to the Democratic Party during the 1990s.

Kostiunica, then a little-known lawyer, challenged and defeated Milosevic in the presidential elections in September 2000 as the candidate of a united democratic block.

Critics say Kostunica, who remained in power as Serbian Prime Minister till 2008, has wholly lost his reformist credentials by threatening to sever ties with the EU over the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by 22 of the 27 member states.

Relations with the pro-European Democrats and with G17 Plus ministers in the government have been fractious in the last year with Kostunica often turning for support to the nationalist Radicals.

The party is loud in opposing both Kosovo's independence and Serbia’s membership of the EU and NATO.

Besides its pro-nationalist politics, the party insists on reforms of the judiciary and the police. It has a reputation for being less corrupt than some other political parties.

Serbian Radical Party, SRS:

Though Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Radical Party, is currently on trial in The Hague on charges of inciting ethnic and religious hatred, he still rules his party back home in Serbia.

Shifting towards and away from the Milosevic regime at various points between 1998 and 2000, the core Radical programme remains based on the idea of a greater Serbia.

Tomislav Nikolic, who replaced Seselj as acting leader once Selselj went to The Hague, tried to shift the focus away from Seselj's vision of a Greater Serbia with more populist pledges on tackling poverty, corruption and organised crime.

But he gave up and resigned in September 2008 after which he formed a new party, the Serbian Progressive Party.

The Radicals remained constant in their nationalistic discourse, firmly opposing Kosovo’s independence and Serbia’s progress towards the European Union.

Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO:

Formed in 1990, the Serbian Renewal Movement, SPO, is the only declared advocate of a return of the monarchy.

The SPO, which was then Serbia's leading opposition party, organized a famous rally on March 1991 that resulted in Slobodan Milosevic sending tanks onto the streets of Belgrade.

Nowadays its long-lasting leader, Vuk Draskovic, is a more marginal political figure, well known for changing his stances on important issues from time to time.

In the 2008 elections his coalition partner was the New Serbia Party run by the mayor of Cacak, Velimir Velja Ilic.

In 2011, the party shifted its stance towards Kosovo, saying Serbia had to face reality and recognise the loss of Kosovo. That policy shift opened the way for the party to form a coalition in the 2012 election campaign with the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP.

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Key Parties in Serbia

Twelve years after the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, the scene has changed significantly as parties rise, fall and change their minds. See Balkan Insight's profiles of Serbia's ruling and opposition parties.


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