Global Independent Analytics

Ex-Milosevic Ally Vucic Wins Majority in Serb Snap Election

Serbian PM has declared a "historic triumph" for his center-right Serbian Progressive Party in early parliamentary elections, promising to keep the country on its course to join the EU

Gordana Filipovic for Bloomberg reports: Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s Progressive Party won a majority in parliament in snap elections, securing a new four-year term to overhaul the economy and lead the country closer to the European Union.

The Progressive took 48.3 percent of votes, while the Socialist Party won 11 percent, taking the second place, and the Radical Party, led by acquitted war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj, was third with 8 percent.

Filipovic continues: “The prime minister has pledged to pursue an economic overhaul endorsed by the International Monetary Fund to end state support of unprofitable companies, shrink the public administration, and liberalize markets in the country of 7.2 million people. With his party’s result close to the 48.8 percent it won in 2014, enough for a majority in the 250-seat parliament, Vucic bucked a trend of growing anti-EU sentiment in other eastern European states including Poland and Hungary. He also overcame resurgent nationalists, including Seselj, who advocated shunning the bloc and boosting ties with Russia.

“Serbia obviously remains firmly on the path to Europe -- the premier’s strong election results show that quite clearly,” Ivan Vejvoda, senior vice president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said by phone Monday. “Despite the economic hardship, and regardless of the state in which the European Union is now, the people in Serbia still see their future in the EU.”

Vucic’s victory would mean the opportunity for the government to adopt economic reforms while probably hurting Vucic’s popularity, would also eventually create jobs and improve living standards, which so far are the worst among other former communist members. The Progressive leader is anticipated to attempt to prepare the country for EU entry by 2020. Meanwhile, the opposition leaders have complained of voting anomalies and pledged to stage protests. “There is no freedom and no democracy in Serbia,” Sanda Raskovic Ivic, the chief of the pro-Russian Democratic Party of Serbia said, after meeting the Election Commission.

“Critics of Vucic have complained that his consolidation of power while bringing some economic change, is threatening democracy and the rule of law. They say he has suppressed media, while the EU’s executive commission, in a report last year, said Serbia had made no progress in improving freedom of expression and hadn’t addressed recommendations to ensure campaign finances, and electoral processes are transparent,” assumes Filipovic.

However, Serbian bonds have profited under Vucic’s tenure. In three years he has cut public wages and pensions and almost halved the budget deficit to 3.7 percent of gross domestic product last year. Some say that stable political environment and acceleration of structural and economic reforms might increase the likeliness of being admitted to the EU. Deanie Jensen, an economist at ING Groep NV in London, said by e-mail: “Although the disruption to planned reforms has been kept at a minimum ahead of the snap elections, the new government will still have some catching up to do especially in the context of public administration downsizing.”

Filipovic concludes: “After declaring victory on Sunday, Vucic said his new government would stick with its $1.2 billion precautionary agreement with the IMF, and it would continue to rid the public balance sheet of more than 500 money-losing state-owned companies that sap as much as $1 billion from the budget a year.

“Then, Serbia will be on the right path,” he said.”

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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