Presidential election: The opposition’s dilemma

Following Tomislav Nikolic’s decision not to run for president again, the opposition parties in Serbia are now regrouping. Still, the chances of the Serbian opposition having just one presidential candidate are very slim.

Even if the opposition manages to rally its support behind one presidential candidate, that candidate is probably not going to get more votes than Aleksandar Vulic, the nominee of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Political director of the Centre for Free Election and Democracy (CeSID), Djordje Vukovic says that although this prognosis is not comforting for the opposition, nothing has changed much after Nikolic deciding not to run for the second term in the office.

“Aleksandar Vucic remains the favourite for winning presidential election. The second round is of utmost importance here. Even if it happens that there is a second round, and the opposition has several nominees in that round, it is almost certain that Vojislav Seselj will be among those candidates that have made it to the next round of election. If that happens, the pro-European part of the opposition will be faced with a problem of one of their candidates never making it to the second round”, Vukovic estimates.

Sociologist Vesna Pesic comments on the topic: “Now, there are two other candidates – Vuk Jeremic and Sasa Jankovic. Since they are not official nominees of any political party per se, I really don’t know what is now expected from the opposition parties?! There is a lot of noise coming from the Enough is Enough Movement (Dosta je Bilo). Three MPs had left them, they regrouped and now are eager to establish some kind of collaboration. And these are the people who never wanted to collaborate with anyone in the past. Maybe joint candidates would make sense if we had parliamentary elections, but since it seems that they won’t be held any time soon, I really don’t see the reason why parties should rally behind each other. I don’t think that political parties own their electorate and that electorate votes as per orders of their respective political parties”, Pesic explains.

Djordje Vukovic cites a survey according to which the governing coalition enjoys over 60% of support from their electorate. “If you take this as a measuring stick of sorts, the situation is pretty clear. The fact that both Jeremic and Jankovic are not endorsed by any parties is only detrimental to them because you have no collective motivation that would prompt abstinent voters to go and vote. This motivation that comes from a political party is crucial because we are talking about people that are politically active and would like to vote”, Vukovic adds.

 The opposition is pretty diverse and this could be the reason why they cannot agree on one presidential candidate – Vukovic thinks. “There are opposition parties which are more fitting to go into coalition with the ruling SNS, than another opposition party. We should not forget the vanity of many opposition leaders. I think that even they are not that much interested of having one candidate since that could jeopardize their own positions”, Djordje Vukovic goes on to say.

Vesna Pesic adds that “Vucic, just like Putin, doesn’t care only about winning”. “He has to win at least 80% of the votes which would then send a message to Hahn, Angela Merkel, McAllister and others that he is the key political figure in Serbia. If Nikolic ran for president, than Vucic would have to go to the second round and probably appear in many media duels which is something that he wants to avoid at any cost because he lacks courage”, Pesic concludes.

By Ivica Petrovic

(Deutsche Welle, 22.02.2017)

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