Here is a round-up of parties and coalitions taking part in the upcoming Belgrade election, and what’s known so far about their policies.
With the date of the Belgrade City Assembly election set for March 4, voters will soon be choosing between various party and coalition lists, some of which have caused surprise.
The Socialist Party, a junior partner in the ruling parliamentary coalition, will be going it alone in the Belgrade vote.
The opposition parties have also decided to field independent lists, although all of them have called for a joint list, to improve their chances of beating the dominant Progressive Party.
The Enough is Enough Movement, seen as a socially progressive group, have surprised many by throwing its lot in with the right-wing nationalist Dveri party, despite the clear ideological differences.
The vote is seen as a critical test for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his Progressive Party.
The Progressives are the main ruling party at all levels of government, so defeat in the capital would be a significant reversal of fortune, perhaps indicating further losses in future parliamentary and other local elections.
The race is expected to be fierce, with the party or coalition list that wins the majority of seats deciding who becomes Mayor of Belgrade.
Parties and coalitions have until February 16 to register with the Election Commission, but here is what we know so far.
SERBIAN PROGRESSIVE PARTY
Vucic’s party was the first to register its list, making sure to put Vucic’s name in the official title, in order to capitalise on the President’s popularity among voters, even though Vucic himself will not be standing in the Belgrade election.
Official list name: Aleksandar Vucic – Because We Love Belgrade.
Main candidate: Zoran Radojicic, director of the city’s University Children’s Hospital Tirsova and professor at the University of Belgrade’s School of Medicine. Radojicic is not a member of any party.
Mayoral candidate: The Progressive Party is not backing the current mayor, Sinisa Mali, but has not named its candidate. Some have speculated that Radojicic may be chosen.
Key policies: The Progressives have yet to set out any formal policies, pointing instead to their track record in infrastructure development and their aim to make Belgrade a world-class city. Vucic said only four party figures were in the top 25 candidates on the Progressive list. During a live TV appearance in mid-January, he said the famous swimmer Milorad Cavic was on the list, which Cavic denied, however, a day later via his Twitter account.
SERBIAN RADICAL PARTY
This hardline nationalist party is led by Vojislav Seselj, who was acquitted in 2016 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, of charges of committing atrocities during the wars of the 1990s. Prosecutors have since sought to overturn his acquittal.
Official list name: Dr Vojislav Seselj – Serbian Radical Party
Main candidate: Seselj
Mayoral candidate: Miljan Damjanovic, a current Serbian Radical Party MP
Key policies: The party has not yet published a manifesto for the city vote but is vehemently anti-EU and anti-NATO. It advocates closer relations with Russia. In January, Damjanovic went so far as the call for “full integration with the Russian Federation” during a press conference in parliament.
SERBIAN SOCIALIST PARTY
The Socialists, SPS, have formed a coalition list with United Serbia.
Official list name: Coalition Ivica Dacic, Socialist Party of Serbia – Dragan Markovic Palma, United Serbia
Main candidate: Aleksandar Antic, a senior SPS official and current energy minister.
Mayoral candidate: Antic.
Key policies: As a junior party in the national ruling coalition, few expect the SPS to be an effective opposition at local level.
Antic has underlined that SPS candidates come from a broad spectrum of society and key priorities include social care for the most vulnerable, support for the elderly, unemployed, children, and students.
The Democratic Party, DS, has agreed a coalition list with some smaller parties: the Social Democratic Party, the New Party and the Green Ecological Party – Green.
Official list name: To Free Belgrade
Main candidate: Professor Dr Vesna Rakić-Vodinelic
Mayoral candidate: Dragan Sutanovac, DS leader and former defence minister.
Key policies: Sutanovac, according to an article published by the daily newspaper Blic on January 14, will reorganise the police “because it should not be a paramilitary formation that intimidates and harasses citizens”.
Sutanovac has also said his party has formed a team of anti-corruption experts to investigate how the city assembly works and it plans to reorganise – and find fresh investment for – Belgrade’s public services.
The former water polo star and current head of the Novi Beograd [New Belgrade] municipality has decided to run his own list, said to include only close friends and family.
Official list name: Aleksandar Sapic – The Mayor
Main candidate: Sapic
Mayoral candidate: Sapic
Key policies: Sapic told N1 television on January 10 that he is open to collaborating with all parties after the vote, if they elect him mayor. Defending his decision to register a list of friends and families, he said he wanted to ensure no one defected to the Progressives after the election.
The former Democratic Party leader and former Belgrade Mayor will lead a coalition of the Movement of Free Citizens, led by Sasa Jankovic, the former Ombudsman who came second in the 2017 presidential election, and the People’s Party, led by former diplomat Vuk Jeremic. The group has already secured the support of war veterans, unions and many public figures and is ranked second in the polls, behind the Progressives.
Official list name: Belgrade Deciding, People Winning
Main candidate: Dragan Djilas
Key policies: At a party event held on Sunday, Djilas said the priority of his coalition was “care for people”. This included concern for mothers, pregnant women, young married couples, pensioners, etc.
Marko Bastac, currently head of the Stari Grad municipality, has filed a list of independent candidates that he says includes LGBT activists, models, former ambassadors, economists and sports personalities.
Official list name: What Are You Doing?
Main candidate: Political newcomer Djordje Lajsic
Mayoral candidate: Unknown
Key policies: None announced so far.
Serbia’s public broadcaster, RTS, complained about the list title as it is the same as one of its most popular television shows. The Electoral Commission rejected the complaint.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND DVERI
Sasa Radulovic, head of the Enough is Enough Movement, defended the surprise coalition with the right-wing pro-Russian Dveri party by stressing that the city elections were about municipal affairs and not about foreign policy issues. He highlighted tackling local-level corruption is a key priority.
Official list name: For Current Ones To Leave And For Old Ones Not To Come Back
Main candidate: Vojin Biljic
Mayoral candidate: Unknown
Key policies: In their joint interview for Espresso daily, the leaders of the two parties, Sasa Radulovic and Bosko Obradovic, admitted their differences.
“Yes, there are great ideological differences. However, we are honest, decent people who have found the things that connect us in the end,” Radulovic said.
Obradovic said the priority was to improve life for “family people” by such acts as building kindergartens and reconstructing children’s playgrounds. Decentralization of Belgrade is also important for Radulovic who said new city plans should be in the interest of citizens and not of “the privileged”.
DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF SERBIA
This right-wing party, according to its head, Milos Jovanovic, will present Belgraders with “a clear vision and the development program of the capital”. The party is known for its pro-Russian stance. It advocates anti-EU and anti-NATO politics. Jovanovic told the media that there are many professional, educated and honest people on its list.
Official list name: Democratic Party of Serbia
Main candidate: Milos Jovanovic
Mayoral Candidate: Jovanovic
Key policies: Jovanovic told N1 television on January 26 that his party will make “city topics” its priority ahead of the elections.
He said unplanned construction should be stopped, and added that, as mayor, he would not attend the annual Pride events. “I would not forbid it but would I join the parade? I would not,” he said.
SERBIAN GREEN PARTY
This party is little known in public. Its Facebook page called on people to support it, so “the voice of of honest people who want and can do something better tomorrow for our children” could be heard.
Official list name: Green Party of Serbia
Main candidate: Nebojsa Zugic
Mayoral candidate: Unknown
Key policies: The party advocate “green politics” and is against air pollution, GMO, and illegal landfills. However, there are still no public statements or published programmes for Belgrade.
This far-right party will bear number 10 on the ballot. It is known for strong pro-Russian and nationalist views. It opposes membership of the EU and cooperation with NATO. Its activists were involved several times in incidents at events promoting equal human rights for LGBT people and minorities.
Official list name: Belgrade Has Strength
Main candidate: Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski
Mayoral candidate: Unknown
Key policies: On its official website, Zavetnici promises to solve communal problems. It also said that it will “restore the value system of respecting history, tradition and the culture of Belgrade”.
Many other parties and candidates have declared they intend to stand.
Misa Vacic announced his new far-right Serbian Right Wing movement will submit a list too.
Luka Maksimovic, a political activist best known for his satirical political alter-ego Ljubisa Preletacevic Beli – a parody of politicians he uses to mock the system in Serbia – will also run as “Beli”.
A Ninamedia poll published on January 19 suggests that the Serbian Progressive Party has most voter support, standing at around 37 percent, with Djilas ranked second with 14 percent, and Sapic third with around 9 percent.
By Maja Zivanovic
(Balkan Insight, 30.01.2018)
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