Sunday, January 07, 2007

Serbian elections upcoming

Serbia will hold its first elections since separating from Montenegro in two weeks, on 21 January. The general backstory to these elections: the country recently approved a new constitution, which made some minor changes and reinforced that Kosovo is a part of Serbia (which will, of course, be detached following the elections). The feeling was that the Government wanted to hold these elections before any decision on Kosovo to prevent the right-wing Radicals, of Hague defendant Vojislav Seselj, from winning an overall majority.

The Serbian parliament is elected by proportional representation. One of the recent rules changes allows minority parties to win representation with 0.4 percent of the vote; other parties or coalitions require 5 percent.

The party lineup is as follows:
  • Radical Party of Serbia (SRS), Seselj's party, which essentially took over representing the far right after Milosevic's downfall.
  • Democratic Party (DS), the party of the assassinated PM Zoran Djindjic, and of current president Boris Tadic. Generally pro-European and left-leaning; currently in opposition; has suffered some splintering in recent years.
  • Democratic Party of Serbia--New Serbia (DSS-NS). Originally a breakoff from DS more than a decade ago and more conservative, DSS is the party of current PM Vojislav Kostunica. This time around it is running in coalition with New Serbia, a smaller party that ran with SPO last time.
  • G17 Plus (G17+). G17 was formed as a group of 17 intellectuals to push for reforms and eventually became a right-liberal political party, still with a very economic focus. It left the Kostunica government over the failure to apprehend fugitive general Ratko Mladic.
  • Liberal Democratic Party--Civic Alliance of Serbia--Social Democratic Union--a couple other parties (LDP--GSS--SDU...). This is a union of smaller social-liberalish parties. LDP is a recent splinter from DS; GSS ran on the G17+ list last time around.
  • Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO). Led by Vuk Draskovic, who a long, long time ago was the main Western hope to replace Milosevic (back in the mid-'90s). Draskovic, however, is actually a rather regressive rightish and monarchist character who reportedly doesn't get along too well with anyone else. Currently a part of the coalition government, where Draskovic is foreign minister.
  • Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Milosevic's old party, which has lost pretty much all its support by this point.
  • Last but not least, a bunch of other parties that won't win seats, and the minorities (including parties representing Presevo Albanians, Sanjak Bosniaks, the Vojvodina Hungarians, and the Roma).
It appears from the polls that have been posted on Wikipedia that SRS is, not surprisingly, still running ahead, but will probably make a similar showing to last time (a little under 30 percent). DS, as the main respectable opposition, has surged ahead to around 25 percent, which would represent a major increase from 2003. DSS-NS is a little under 20 percent (about where DSS alone finished last time), and G17+ a little under 10 percent (down a bit). The big losers are SPS and SPO, which both seem unlikely to win seats; the social-liberal coalition led by LDP is on the edge.

The biggest point is, whoever wins will have to form a broad coalition to again exclude SRS in Serbia's version of the cordon sanitaire. It would appear that even should DS make major gains, Kostunica's DSS will be indispensable to any government--which was a big problem last time, since the two parties get along very badly and are indeed quite different in many policy areas, with DS taking a much more pro-EU and pro-Western approach and DSS much more nationalistic and Euro-skeptical. However, the way things are looking, there probably will not be an alternative.

No comments: