Serbia: Opposition says to boycott parliament, demands snap election | Reuters

Serbian opposition parties said on Monday they had started to boycott parliamentary sessions in protest against what they see as the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Opposition parties and their backers accuse Vucic and the SNS of stifling media freedoms and carrying out attacks on political opponents and journalists in Serbia, a country seeking to join the European Union. They deny the accusations. The boycott move comes amid weekly protests by thousands of people that began in December and have spread from the capital Belgrade to a dozen other towns and cities. The protesters and opposition are also demanding Vucic’s resignation and snap elections.

Serbia: Ruling populists sweep election in capital Belgrade | Associated Press

Serbia’s ruling populists of President Aleksandar Vucic swept the municipal election in the capital of Belgrade Sunday, further cementing an already tight grip on power in the country. Preliminary results by the Ipsos polling agency and carried by Serbian state TV, projected that Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party won around 45 percent of the votes, while the main opponents — groups behind former Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas — trailed with some 19 percent. “This is the best result ever in Belgrade,” Vucic told supporters. “This victory wasn’t easy to achieve!”

Serbia: Protesters demand departure of entire Serbian political elite | InSerbia News

A new protest was held in Belgrade on Monday evening by citizens dissatisfied with the outcome of the April 2 presidential election in Serbia. Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic won the vote in the first round. The protesters gathered for the eight time and marched from the National Assembly, past several media outlets – where they made short stops and expressed their dissatisfaction, including state broadcaster RTS, tabloid Informer, and Studio B broadcaster – as well as past the Serbian government and the Electoral Commission (RIK). They carried banners with anti-government messages and those demanding fair and free elections and freedom of the media.

Serbia: Thousands protest Serbia presidential outcome for 7th day | Associated Press

Thousands of people protested for the seventh consecutive day Sunday against the presidential election victory of Serbia’s powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, amid fresh allegations by the opposition of a rigged vote count. The protests by mostly young people have been held every day since last Sunday’s election, in which Vucic polled 55 percent of the vote and avoided a runoff. Opposition groups have alleged irregularities, including muzzling of the media during the campaign and voter intimidation and Election Day bribe. Sasa Jankovic, the liberal candidate who placed a distant second in the race, alleged Sunday that ballots from 25 polling stations showed evidence of massive fraud in Vucic’s favor. Vucic denied the allegation and told the state electoral commission to do a recount from two of the mentioned voting stations.

Serbia: Presidential Candidates Spar Over ‘Poll Irregularities’ | Balkan Insight

Serbia’s electoral commission was forced to hold a televised recount of some votes after opposition challenger Sasa Jankovic disputed PM Aleksandar Vucic’s poll results in 25 constituencies. The Republic Electoral Commission recounted votes from two polling stations in front of TV cameras on Sunday after allegations of irregularities were raised by opposition presidential candidate Sasa Jankovic. The recount was urged by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who won last Sunday’s presidential elections and denies any electoral fraud. The recount of votes from the two polling stations showed that Vucic received four fewer votes than initially counted, but is unlikely to resolve opposition concerns about the vote.

Serbia: Prime Minister Projected to Win Presidency, Consolidating Control | The New York Times

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic appeared headed toward a first-round victory in Serbia’s presidential election on Sunday, winning more than 50 percent of the vote among a field of 11 candidates, according to exit polls and early results. If the preliminary vote count holds and Mr. Vucic passes the 50 percent threshold, he would avoid a riskier two-way runoff on April 16. While Serbia is a parliamentary republic and the presidency is intended as a largely symbolic position, the actual effect of the election result is seen as removing the last check on Mr. Vucic’s power and as a further erosion of Serbia’s nascent democratic institutions. Mr. Vucic, by far the most popular political leader in the country, will choose his successor as prime minister, most likely a pliant one, and he is expected to exercise unchallenged control over all of the country’s main political institutions: Parliament, the executive branch, the ruling party and now the presidency.

Serbia: Putin Ally Aleksandar Vucic Claims Landslide Victory in Serbian Election | Associated Press

Serbia’s powerful Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic claimed victory Sunday in the presidential election that was a test of his authoritarian rule, an outcome that could expand Russia’s influence in the Balkans. Speaking to supporters at his right-wing party’s headquarters, Vucic said, “My victory is crystal clear. This is a very important day for us, showing which way Serbia should be heading.” … While Vucic has said he wants to lead Serbia into the European Union, he has been pushing for deeper ties to longtime ally Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed him.

Serbia: Amid a Murky Media Landscape, Serbia Prepares to Elect a President | The New York Times

When he was Serbia’s information minister in the late 1990s, Aleksandar Vucic censored journalists, forced media critics out of business and served as chief propagandist for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian strongman reviled for the atrocities that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. Today Mr. Vucic is the prime minister of Serbia, having been elected in 2014 as a reformer on promises to lead Serbia into a democratic future and membership in the European Union. He has renounced the extreme nationalist views of his past. Western leaders rely on him as a partner to maintain calm within the Serbian minorities in Kosovo and Bosnia, to support their migration policies and to keep sufficient distance from Russia — even though Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, has professed his support for Mr. Vucic.

Serbia: An unexpected twist to Serbia′s election | Deutsche Welle

On a sunny morning in Belgrade as people rush to work, activists are hastily setting up mobile stands on the streets. “I have talked to citizens since the beginning of the campaign and am convinced we will win,” Jelena, a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), told DW while arranging flyers and supporter lists on a stand with the slogan “Faster, harder, better.” As the first round of voting approaches this Sunday, the campaign has become increasingly tense, with insults traded, biased media coverage and a clear division between supporters and opponents of the ruling SNS presidential candidate and acting Prime Minister Vucic. Nominally there are 11 candidates, but judging by realities on the ground there’s Vucic – and then the “others.”

Serbia: In Serbian election, the comedy candidate is no joke | Reuters

It started as a joke, a way to poke fun at a discredited political class in elections last year for the local assembly in this rundown town in central Serbia. Communications student Luka Maksimovic, 25, donned a white suit and loafers, an over-sized gold watch and gaudy ring, and rode a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Mladenovac, promising jobs and cash to anyone who would give him their vote. He assumed the guise of the worst kind of politician – a sleazy fraudster he duly christened Ljubisa ‘Beli’ Preletacevic. Beli means white in Serbian, while Preletacevic denotes somebody who switches political party for personal gain. Spreading the word on Youtube and Facebook, his party won 20 percent of the vote. “We were just fooling around,” Maksimovic said. But Serbia’s political establishment isn’t laughing anymore.

Serbia: Opposition Takes to Streets Claiming Election Fraud | Balkan Insight

Serbian opposition groups alleged electoral fraud at weekend polls after the latest results showed a far-right DSS-Dveri coalition has been excluded from parliament. The leaders of the coalition, supported by other three opposition parties, called a protest for Saturday to be held in front of the Electoral Commission in Belgrade. With 99.45 percent of ballots counted, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, has won nearly 50 percent of the vote, giving it at least 138 seats in the 250-member parliament.

Serbia: Opposition Maintains Pressure over Election Flaws | Balkan Insight

The four opposition coalitions said they will drop their demand for all the alleged irregularities to be fully investigated by the Republic Electoral Commission, RIK, even though all of them made it into parliament at the April 24 polls. The coalitions around the Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Enough is Enough movement and the Democratic Party of Serbia-Dveri alliance also said they will also demand reforms of Serbia’s election legislation, which they claim is full of systematic errors. Bosko Obradovic, the president of the far-right Dveri, told BIRN that the opposition will produce a final report on the parliamentary election which will sum up all the reports issued by the RIK.

Serbia: Prime Minister Loses Ground In Repeat Elections | RFE/RL

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic appears to have lost ground in a repeat election held at a small number of polling stations on May 4. Preliminary results suggest the Dveri coalition will have 13 members in the 250-seat parliament, with coalition partners successfully surpassing the minimum 5 percent of votes needed for representation in the legislation. That outcome would be a setback for Vucic’s conservative Progressive Party, which now appears to be on track to control 131 parliamentary seats — 27 fewer than before the elections Vucic called halfway through his term.

Serbia: Partial repeat polls held after irregularities in April vote | Europe Online

Some Serbians are voting Wednesday in repeat elections after irregularities in the April 24 parliamentary polls. Only 20,000 of the 6.7 million registered voters may take part in the repeat vote being held in 15 polling stations because of problems reported by both the opposition and the government. However, the handful of voters will decide on 10 per cent of the 250 seats in parliament. The April elections were called by conservative Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic two years ahead of schedule. The victory of the coalition grouped around Vucic‘s Progressive Party (SNS), which won 48.2 per cent of the votes, is not in question – but the number of the seats it will control is. Vucic and the SNS go into Wednesday‘s vote with 138 of the 250 seats.

Serbia: Opposition cries foul after ballot | AFP

Serbian opposition groups on Friday alleged electoral “fraud” at weekend polls after the latest results showed a far-right coalition has been excluded from parliament. The leaders of four groups from across the political spectrum called a protest for Saturday to be held in front of the Electoral Commission in Belgrade. With 99.45 percent of ballots counted, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has won nearly 50 percent of the vote, giving it at least 138 seats in the 250-member parliament.

Serbia: Opposition rallies in Belgrade demanding election recount | Reuters

Hundreds of Serbian opposition supporters rallied in Belgrade on Saturday demanding a nationwide recount of last weekend’s election ballots, the resignation of the election commission or a re-run of the vote, claiming fraud and irregularities. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who wants to take Serbia into the European Union, won Sunday’s election with 48.24 percent of the vote, roughly unchanged from 2014. But his Progressive Party’s majority in parliament was reduced as more parties attained the five percent vote threshold needed for seats. Left-wing and ultra-nationalist opposition parties teamed up on Saturday to protest in front of the election commission office, chanting “We want our votes” and “This is fraud”.

Serbia: Election outcome hinges on handful of voided votes | Europe Online

Serbian election authorities on Thursday annulled the votes cast at a handful of polling stations amid allegations of irregularity, in a move that could significantly impact parliamentary elections held last weekend. The vote will be repeated in at least 15 polling stations, affecting around 18,000 of the 6.7 million registered voters. The election commission was also reviewing dozens of other complaints and recounting ballots from as many as 100 polling stations. Although the voided votes make up a tiny fraction of national total, they may be vital to two parties that stand to be eliminated if they do not pass Serbia‘s 5-per-cent threshold. The election authority‘s decision also means the final result can only be announced after the vote is repeated.

Serbia: Mock group becomes surprise election success in Serbian town | Associated Press

A young man poses as a sleazy, bejeweled politician in a white suit, sitting atop a white horse surrounded by hordes of bodyguards while promising jobs and prosperity to the voters. Luka Maksimovic and his friends started out to have fun, but the young pranksters have become a sensation — and have been elected to office — after finishing second in a local vote in a run-down industrial town in central Serbia. The success of the rookie citizens’ group at last weekend’s election in Mladenovac, outside Belgrade, seems to reflect widespread disillusionment with politicians in crisis-stricken Serbia and the desire for new, young faces still untouched by the corruption that has plagued all aspects of the Balkan country’s political scene.

Serbia: Rightists Threaten Protests Over Election Results | Balkan Insight

The right-wing Dveri-DSS coalition has accused Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, of pressuring the Election Commission, RIK, to declare that the coalition did not meet the threshold needed to enter parliament – and has warned of street protests. Bosko Obradovic, the president of Dveri, told BIRN that Vucic will try to use RIK’s decision to hold repeat votes in 164 polling stations to manipulate votes and leave DSS-Dveri out of parliament. “If that happens, we will definitely organize street protests,” Obradovic told BIRN. According to the RIK, seven lists crossed the threshold needed to enter the parliament after Sunday’s elections.

Serbia: Progressives “form legal team”, demand election recount |

The Serb Progressive Party (SNS) announced on Tuesday it is requesting an election recount, and access to all electoral materials. This came only a day after a group of opposition parties formed its legal team to analyze the material from the April 24 elections, in which the SNS took nearly 50 percent of the vote. SNS leader Aleksandar Vucic confirmed on Tuesday that the party will review the entire election material and repeated his assessment that “somewhat strange things” had occurred after the closing of the polling stations. The Progressives soon afterwards announced that the party’s own newly-formed legal team had sent to relevant institutions an official request for an election recount.

Serbia: Elections Deemed Fair Despite Irregularities | Balkan Insight

The international election observation mission led by the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, on Monday declared that the elections in Serbia were generally conducted in accordance with the law, but admitted problematic issues at polling stations. “The design of the voting screens and the layout of the PSs [polling stations] did not ensure the secrecy of the vote, which is not in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards,” an official statement said. The OSCE/PACE mission said it had received reports about the intimidating presence of members of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, in and around some polling stations.

Serbia: Prime minister wins election in endorsement of pro-EU policy | The Guardian

Serbia’s pro-western prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, won a resounding endorsement in Sunday’s general election for his policy of pursuing European Union membership, securing four more years in power with a parliamentary majority. But he will have to contend with a resurgent ultra-nationalist opposition that rejects integration with the EU and demands closer ties with Russia. Vučić went to the polls two years early, saying he wanted a clear mandate from Serbia’s 6.7 million voters for reforms to keep EU membership talks launched in December on track for completion by 2019. Even though Vučić presided over a period of austerity, partly forced on him by the terms of a 1.2bn euro ($1.35bn) loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund, voters again strongly backed the 46-year-old, himself a former hardline nationalist. His conservative Progressive party is set to win just under 50% of the vote, up from 48% two years ago, a projection by pollsters Cesid, the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, said.

Serbia: Ultranationalism and Russia colour Serbia’s election | The Irish Times

When Serbian ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj was controversially cleared of war crimes last month, cheers were heard far to the east of Belgrade. “I congratulate my friend on victory!” Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted soon after the UN court in The Hague acquitted Seselj. “But who will restore his health, ruined by prison and public humiliation?” asked Rogozin of a man who spent almost 12 years in jail in the Netherlands before being allowed home on health grounds in 2014 to await the court’s decision. A verdict that outraged many in the Balkans and which faces an appeal by the prosecution freed Seselj to contest parliamentary elections this Sunday, in which Serbia’s resurgent nationalism and the country’s old ally Russia are to the fore.

Serbia: Ultra-nationalist resurgence could complicate Serbia’s EU path | Reuters

Ultra-nationalists are set to return to Serbia’s parliament in an April 24 election after an absence of several years, boosted by growing discontent with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s pro-European Union stance and austerity policies. They include firebrand Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, whose popularity in Serbia was boosted by his acquittal last month of crimes against humanity by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Polls indicate Seselj’s Radicals and the right-wing Dveri grouping, which hold pro-Russian and anti-NATO views and demand an end to integration with the EU, will both get over the threshold needed to get into parliament and together could win about 25-30 seats in the 250-seat assembly.

Serbia: Government Asks President to Call Election Two Years Early | Reuters

Serbia’s government asked the president on Thursday to dissolve parliament and call an early election after Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said he needed a fresh mandate to pursue reforms and complete talks on joining the European Union. President Tomislav Nikolic is expected to set the parliamentary election for April 24, two years after the last poll. The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is well ahead in opinion polls, putting Vucic on track to win a second term. Once an ultra-nationalist disciple of the “Greater Serbia” ideology that fueled the wars of federal Yugoslavia’s bloody disintegration in the 1990s, Vucic has since rebranded himself as a pro-European modernizer.

Serbia: MPs Duel Over Danger of Election Fraud | Balkan Insight

Opposition and ruling party MPs clashed in Serbia’s parliament on Tuesday about potential wrongdoings in the forthcoming parliamentary elections broadly scheduled for late April. Zoran Zivkovic, president of the opposition New Party, said that his party, like most citizens in Serbia, feared electoral fraud. “We thought the period of election frauds ended on October 2000 [with the fall of Slobodan Milosevic] but election theft was already registered in the local elections… and new symptoms of the same disease are obvious,” Zivkovic said.

Serbia: Vučić to resign, Serbia heads for early elections | New Europe

The Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, announced on Sunday evening that he would be calling early elections in Serbia, B92 reports. That is only two years since the last legislative elections in March 2014. Following a meeting with his party’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) executive committee, Vučić argued that elections were necessary to resolve the current impasse of reforms. In fighting against a political-criminal power conglomerate, Vučić argued, his administration needs a new mandate that is resisting change for over a decade. He vowed to turn Serbia into an EU member state in which rule of law prevails by 2020. In the current parliament, SNS holds 158 seats in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament. SNS began as a junior coalition partner of the Socialist Party, before withdrawing their support and heading for the polls. Since, they have dominated the Serbian political landscape, which was traditionally fragmented.

Serbia: Premier Wins Party Support to Call Early Election | Bloomberg

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won his party’s approval to call elections two years before his term ends to change the make-up of the ruling coalition and carry out unpopular reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund. Vucic, whose party controls 135 seats in the 250-member parliament, is using early elections as a political tool for the second time since his Progressive Party first rose to power in 2012. The party initiated a snap ballot in 2014, elevating him to the head of the government. “My decision is to have elections,”

Serbia: Premier Seeks Snap Ballot to Lock In Public Support | Bloomberg

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will ask his party to authorize him to call early parliamentary elections two years before his term ends as he maintains a strong lead in opinion polls despite growing criticism of his policies. The ruling Progressive Party’s board is scheduled to meet Jan. 17 to “discuss the political situation,” it said in an e-mailed statement in Belgrade on Wednesday. The prime minister wants approval to initiate elections before his party’s congress on Feb. 13, with the actual ballot to be held later. Vucic’s party, together with some small political groups, controls 135 seats in the 250-member parliament.

Serbia: Progressives Prepare to Form Cabinet After Election Win | Businessweek

Serbia’s Progressive Party pledged to form a new government by May 1 after winning an outright parliamentary majority in an election on a pledge to fight graft, fix the economy and join the European Union by 2020. The party, led by Aleksandar Vucic, who forced the ballot two years earlier than scheduled, won 48.3 percent, more than polls predicted, Serbia’s Election Commission said today. Vucic will get 158 of the chamber’s 250 seats, while Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s Socialist Party received 13.5 percent, for 44 seats, according to preliminary results. Vucic said he will consult with President Tomislav Nikolic and three other parties that made it into parliament. Vucic, who was once an ally of late Balkan strongman Slobodan Milosevic, pledged to embrace painful austerity measures endorsed by the International Monetary Fund and lead Serbia into the EU two decades after the bloody Balkan civil wars. He said he will “extend a hand” to other parties before forming his administration.