Incumbent President Aleksandar Vucic won the combined presidential and parliamentary elections in Serbia with 59.39% and his pro-Russian Serbian Progressive Party (NRP) in coalition with the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Hungarian Union of Vojvodina, which won 43.78%. the country’s election commission based on the results of processing 91.42% of ballots. Elections were held both in Serbia and at polling stations abroad, but Kosovo Serbs had to vote in polling stations on Serbian territory, as the partially recognized state does not have a diplomatic mission of Serbia, which considers it its region.
“I managed to do what no one has ever managed to do in Serbia. I am the only one who won twice in the first round, “Vucic told reporters on the night of April 4, when just over 66% of the votes were processed (quoted by Pink TV). At the same time, he noted that the NGN received a smaller result than in 2020, which then became an absolute record in modern history. Vucic explained that she did not “flirt with the people.” According to the President, in the new political cycle the country will maintain the previous foreign policy course of cooperation with Russia.
This is the first combined parliamentary and presidential elections in Serbia since 2012. Parliamentary elections are held ahead of schedule – their term was postponed to October 2020 by the decision of President Alexander Vucic from 2024.
The candidate for the post of head of state from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party is its leader and current president since 2017 (in 2014-2017 – Prime Minister, in 2012-2013 – Minister of Defense) Alexander Vucic. He is known for his personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and refrains from joining anti-Russian sanctions in connection with the events in Ukraine. Russian Sberbank, VTB, Lukoil, Sogaz and Russian Railways operate in the country. However, Vucic, in favor of Serbia’s neutral status and non-NATO membership, said it was necessary for the country to join the European Union in the future. Following the launch of a special operation in Ukraine, the European Parliament has threatened to freeze talks on European integration and financial assistance if Serbia does not join the anti-Russian sanctions. In late February, the Security Council and the Serbian government called the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity “wrong,” and in early March, Serbia voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the “Russian invasion.”
The key candidate for the presidency from the opposition was Zdravko Ponos, former Chief of Staff (2006-2008), Assistant Foreign Minister (2010-2012) and former Vice President of the opposition People’s Party of Serbia (2017-2022). , which received, according to preliminary data, 17.66% of the vote. During the Kosovo war and the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, he worked as a technician to minimize Serbian army casualties and jammed Albanian radio signals, but then studied international military programs in Britain, Switzerland and Germany. under the standards of the Western military-political bloc. Opponents also point out that Ponosh, as a navigation scientist, is now regularly published in foreign scientific journals.
Ponosh is ambiguous about Russia: on the one hand, he criticizes Vucic for being able to yield to Western pressure to join anti-Russian sanctions and “blindly follow” Serbia’s policy of restrictions on Russia. in his opinion, should not. Ponosh also considers Moscow’s position on Kosovo important. On the other hand, he criticizes Serbia’s growing energy dependence on Russia, as well as Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which it describes as a violation of its territorial integrity and undermining Russia’s ability to support Belgrade in its position on Kosovo. Ponos also suggested making Belgrade a platform for Russian-Ukrainian talks.
The main contenders in the parliamentary elections were the ruling NNP and the United Serbia opposition coalition, which included 10 parties (including the People’s Party and the Freedom and Justice Party). The opposition received 12.9%, according to preliminary data.
The previous parliamentary elections in Serbia took place in 2020, bringing Vucic’s SPP 63% of the vote and two-thirds of the seats in parliament (188 out of 250). This success is due in part to the fact that the vote then boycotted most opposition parties (the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, however, recognized the election as meeting “minimum democratic standards”). The NRP advocates close cooperation with Russia and has even signed a number of agreements with Russia’s ruling United Russia. At the same time, the ruling party, like its leader Vucic, has consistently called for Serbia’s membership in the European Union, denying NATO membership.
In the next, second (more than two consecutive terms it is forbidden to hold) Vucic’s presidential term, the parliament will become more multiparty, with stronger opposition, and the NGP will retain not a constitutional but a relative majority, says Oleg Bondarenko, a political scientist and founder of the Balkanist project. But that will not stop the Serbian leader from pursuing close relations with Russia and continuing to act as a bridge between the EU and Moscow, the EU and Ankara, the EU and, in part, China, the role Yugoslavia played during the Cold War. Another thing is that the bridge requires “two-way traffic”, if one of the parties isolates itself or will be isolated, the need for it disappears. But in any case, Vucic will not join the anti-Russian sanctions under any circumstances, as Russia’s support among Serbs is still great, Bondarenko said.
In recent years, Vucic has done enough to diversify Serbia’s foreign relations: in addition to Russia, with China and Turkey, and relations with Ankara are actually more intense than with Moscow, said Alexander Pivovarenko, a senior researcher at the Institute of Slavonic Studies. Despite the declared course of European integration and traditional ties with Russia, the Serbian leadership has shown foresight in understanding that the country’s development is connected not only with Western Europe, but also with the Asian world.
But the geography factor plays a major role, Pivovarenko said: Serbia is under significant pressure from the EU, which sees the current crisis in Ukraine as the basis for involving all Balkan countries in the Euro-Atlantic integration paradigm. Belgrade is also heavily dependent on European lending, especially in the sensitive sphere of transport and even food security: on March 23, the European Commission preliminarily approved a loan of 288 million euros for the development of agriculture in the country until 2027.
All this is a factor influencing Vucic’s foreign policy, Pivovarenko continues. It is no coincidence that the opposition candidate, whose chances of victory were low, apparently acted as a mouthpiece for criticism, “highlighting” a number of vulnerable actions of the head of state in the foreign arena and his foreign policy course of multi-vector. In particular, it is a critique of the fact that Serbian diplomacy is based on Vučić’s personal relations with world leaders, while it should be structured and conducted on the sites of certain international organizations.
Pivovarenko is convinced that the student will have to make a difficult choice in the new political cycle. There are three countries for relations with which there may be claims against him from Europe – China, Russia and Turkey. And now the head of Serbia has to choose which of these countries he will more or less cooperate with in the next five years, the expert concludes.