Insults, toilet paper and physical altercations – Does Serbia have a culture of parliamentary dialogue?

Since the introduction of multi-party systems, Serbian Parliament has become a setting for various inappropriate behaviours by its members.

In order to boost citizens’ trust in the Parliament, a code of conduct for deputies was adopted in 2020, but it seems that this did not significantly affect the culture of parliamentary dialogue with shouting, verbal, and almost physical confrontations continuing.

During the three days of the constitutive session of the new Parliament, insults and toilet paper flew, and the police were present in the Parliament daily. Penalties, stipulated in the code of conduct, were increased in 2021, and they include penalties of the Parliament deducting up to half of an MP’s salary for not following the rules.

Thus, recently, Borislav Novaković was punished for approaching the speaker during the presentation of the exposé.

In the last session, the chairman fined five deputies ten percent of their salaries, or 11,521 dinars.

Serbia is not an isolated case, as shown by the proposal that arrived in the German Bundestag. Their deputies will have their fines doubled, so for shouting and hurling insults, they will pay between 2,000 and 4,000 euros in penalty.

Would this be a good remedy for bad behaviour of Serbian MPs?

“We are light years away from any parliament in Europe. Here, it is impossible to silence the opposition through repression”, said penalized deputy Srđan Milivojević.

“This will not affect me; it might even motivate me further because if they punished me for insignificant things, why wouldn’t I behave even worse, if I have to pay a penalty for whatever I do,” Tijana Perić, a regularly penalized deputy.

Since they predominantly live off their salary, hitting their wallets might be somewhat effective, but the so-called Serbian defiance could be decisive – believes Bojan Vranić, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences.

“In Serbia, there is a prevalent and established belief that national deputies should behave well, and I am not sure that they will stop misbehaving so anytime soon, as penalties are not excessive compared to what they would otherwise pay for, let’s say, marketing costs”, the professor added.

Penalizing can have some effect, analysts believe, but they add that it is still the responsibility of each deputy individually to choose the way to present opinions and defend interests in a manger that is fitting for the institution they work in, which is something we still seem far from achieving.

(Blic, 10.07.2024)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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