Almost all the political challenges that Serbia experienced in 2023 will spill over into 2024 – from the elections, which are not formally over yet, and new ones that will take place in the spring, through the opposition’s protests, the formation of a new government and to foreign political pressures regarding Kosovo.
According to political analysts, the most pressing state matters are the following:
- New Serbian government
Bojan Klačar, executive director of CeSID, does not expect the SNS to independently form a new Serbian government.
“Considering that the final election results are still not known, nor the outcome of the legal processes and complaints against election results, it seems that the most realistic outcome is that the government will be formed by a broad coalition of the SNS, SPS and minority partners. Although the SNS has a sufficient majority without having to partner with anyone, political experts say that the SNS wants to have a comfortable majority, which is important for major geostrategic decisions, the implementation of ambitious plans announced by the government and President Vučić and the continuation of the good relations that the SNS has with the Hungarian and Bosniak communities in Serbia,” says Klačar.
A new government won’t be formed before the spring when regular local elections in 44 municipalities are scheduled.
„I do not expect that there will be a rush to form the new government, but it is also not realistic to expect that the formation will wait until the latest deadline,“ Klačar adds.
- The Kosovo issue
Đorđe Trikoš, a communications expert, believes that external pressures could also affect the dynamics of the formation of the new cabinet.
„The speed at which the new government will be formed depends on how much pressure Western countries will exert on Aleksandar Vučić to fulfill expectations regarding the Belgrade-Pristina talks. One of the possible reasons that the elections were called in December was to create prerequisites for the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement. I do not think that the agreement will be fully implemented during the mandate of the technical government. Vučić will rather time the formation of the new government before the agreement’s implementation to avoid unpopular decisions threatening the legitimacy of the Government even before it is formed,“ Trikoš notes.
He adds that “the Government could be formed quite quickly”.
„Vučić will certainly strive to form as broad of a government as possible, despite having an absolute majority. I expect the full cooperation of the SPS and the standard participation of minority parties in the government. Although it will probably not take part in the Government, Nestorović’s movement will be tasked with pretending to be the opposition, to draw votes away from the authentic opposition parties. Nestorović is Vučić’s bait, he is not a real opposition“, claims Trikoš.
- Belgrade stuck between a rock and a hard place
The results of the Belgrade elections gave birth to many dilemmas as no one party or a coalition won the majority, i.e. 56 out of 110 seats in the city assembly. Therefore, the coming months
Klačar assesses that “one should not rule out repeated election in Belgrade, because the negotiations with Branimir Nestorović’s movement (“Mi – Glas Naroda”) will not go smoothly” and adds that “a more comfortable scenario for the SNS would be to reach an agreement that would include either the formation of a stable majority with a post-election coalition agreement between the SNS and Nestorović’s movement (plus SPS) or minority support from the movement to the ruling party”.
- Repeated election in Belgrade?
Trikoš believes that the option of having repeated elections in Belgrade, along with the regular municipal election in Belgrade, is quite realistic.
- Local elections in spring
Regular local elections will be held in more than 40 municipalities in the spring of this year and the race for votes is expected to be more uncertain in larger cities.
“The focus will be on municipal elections in cities like Novi Sad and Niš, but also in central Belgrade municipalities, as well as some of the larger municipalities in the suburbs,” Klačar says.
Trikoš has a similar opinion and says that the local elections in the spring will be “the best opportunity for the opposition to develop an original political programme”.
“Novi Sad and Niš will be able to test a new approach, new people, but also new ideas. It could be a kind of test for a new opposition platform, and the final result will depend on how creatively and seriously the opposition approaches those elections”, Trikoš believes.
- Belgrade-Priština negotiations
There is no doubt that throughout 2024, one of the most important political topics in Serbia will be the Kosovo issue and the Belgrade-Priština dialogue. Klačar estimates that in 2024, “at least partial implementation of what was agreed in Ohrid” can be expected.
“It is in the West’s best interest for the dialogue to achieve some results by the time of the European and American elections take place. In this regard, and without speculating about deadlines, the expectations are that in the first half of the year, some progress will be made, primarily in the part related to the formation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, the recognition of certain Kosovo documents such as license plates, which has already been done by Serbia, and the inclusion of some segments of the Ohrid Agreement into EU accession criteria for Serbia,” says Klačar.
- Sanctions against Russia
“The current European governments, as well as the current American government, will strive to achieve some foreign policy successes before the end of their mandate. Such successes are important for them to develop credibility before voters, but also as a signal of power in the foreign policy arena. The latter could even be more important, because the global public is not excessively interested in Serbia and Kosovo, and showing strength in foreign policy issues is important because of the unfavourable circumstances on the Ukrainian battlefield,” Trikoš states and adds that “in that context, the pressure on Serbia (to impose sanctions against Russia) could intensify”.
Klačar believes that in 2024, “the focus, at least as far as Serbia is concerned, will be on Kosovo and less on Serbia imposing sanctions against Russia, for two reasons”.
“First of all, the normalization of Belgrade-Priština relations also weakens the possible influence of Russia (in the Balkans). These are related issues because Russian influence in Serbia is dominantly connected with the Kosovo issue. Secondly, Kosovo is also a problem of regional importance and Western diplomacy has invested a lot of effort and political capital in it, so they need concrete results before the European and American elections take place,” Klačar concludes.
Photo credits: Isakovic/AFP
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