Analysts’ opinion: Vucic unassailable, opposition must change strategy

Political analysts argue that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s presidential election victory gives him almost unassailable power and that the opposition must change its strategy.

Analysts comment on Vucic’s first-round poll win on Sunday and say that his triumph puts the Progressive Party leader in an unprecedentedly strong position to take the country in his chosen direction for the next five years.

Zoran Stojiljkovic, a professor at the Belgrade Law Faculty, told N1 television on Sunday night that Serbia was now on the edge of becoming a “system of personal power” for Vucic. 

Stojiljkovic said that the power of the Progressive Party was now so strong that it could not only decide who gets the jobs at the top of the state apparatus, but at all levels of state employment.

Jovo Bakic, a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, told N1 that Vucic’s first-round win was not good for democracy in Serbia.

“[Society] will confidently and thoroughly collapse. But since we’re used to it, it should be accepted with philosophical calm,” Bakic said.

He suggested however that Vucic has the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met the Serbian premier during his campaign for the presidency.

“Vucic is important because he’s able to guarantee security. Every authoritarian in the Balkan is excellent for them [the international community] while guaranteeing security. From the moment that he can’t, they will search for another one,” Bakic said.

According to preliminary results, published on Sunday by the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, CeSid, Vucic won with 56.1 per cent of the vote, securing a five-year term as Serbia’s president.

The preliminary results put former Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic on 15.5 per cent, spoof politician Ljubisa Preletacevic – Beli on 9.6 per cent, the former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic on 5.7 per cent, and the leader of right wing Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, on 4.6 per cent. 

Both Stojiljkovic and Bakic said they expected serious changes in the opposition after its latest election failure – and its inability to even push Vucic to contest a second round of voting.

Boban Stojanovic from the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade suggested that Jankovic’s second-place showing meant he was now the opposition’s de facto leader.

“I expect Sasa Jankovic will take over the position of leader of the opposition, and his result showed that,” Stojanovic told N1 on Monday.

The amount of votes won by satirist Ljubisa Preletacevic – Beli was the surprise result of the election, Stojiljkovic said.

“I expected Ljubisa Preletacevic to animate abstainers more, but he obviously motivated a number of younger and disappointed opposition voters,” he said.

Bojan Klacar from CeSid also said he was expecting changes on the political scene, and warned that all political parties should take note of the success of Beli. 

Beli mocked the political system in Serbia during his campaign by saying he was a ‘foreign mercenary’ who had a fake degree and was only in politics for the money. 

Dragoljub Draza Petrovic, the editor-in-chief of Danas newspaper, said on Sunday night that the presidential elections were “easy morning jogging for Aleksandar Vucic”, and suggested that the opposition should boycott the polls instead of spreading false hope. 

Petrovic said there had been a “flood of Vucic” in the Serbian media in the run-up to the vote. 

The premier received disproportionate coverage from the mainstream media during the campaign, although the most active of Serbia’s 11 presidential candidates on Facebook was spoof character Beli, according to research by the Belgrade-based NGO Share Foundation.

Petrovic said the crowning moment was Vucic being interviewed alongside his parents on Happy TV, when a young man in the audience fainted and the premier rushed to revive him.

“It looks comical to us, but to his voters apparently it does not,” he said. 

By Maja Zivanovic

 (Balkan Insight, 03.04.2017)

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