Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić has called snap national elections in December.
The moves comes as Vučić looks to outmanoeuvre his domestic opposition by expanding demands for a Belgrade-only election into a nationwide one.
The Serbian Government, led by Vučić’s Progressive Serbian Party (SNS), faces a number of crises both domestic and regional.
“I believe that Serbia is at a turning point, that we need a half-time break,” Vučić said.
Serbia has one of Europe’s highest rates of gun ownership in Europe and, following two mass shootings this year, a unified opposition movement has demanded the government resigns.
The opposition initially called for elections in the capital Belgrade, where they usually perform well. By now proposing a national vote, political analyst Cvijetin Milivojevic said Vučić had deftly shifted the spotlight from his party’s unpopularity in the capital and broadened the electoral battlefield.
Speaking to regional outlet Balkan Insight, he said: “Vučić knows the SNS is polling much worse in Belgrade than in general.
“The opposition at first asked only for elections in Belgrade, where they can win but, after their protestations failed, they demanded parliamentary elections as well.
“This suits Vučić, as now he can join the campaign and cover the issues in Belgrade with a parliamentary campaign,” Milivojevic said.
Vučić said of the opposition: “We heard all their demands. They asked for Belgrade and parliamentary elections and they got them.”
The main issue dominating Serbian concerns is the crisis in Northern Kosovo, where tensions are high between the Serb minority and the ethnic Albanian Kosovar Government.
That was illustrated by a shoot-out between Serb gunmen and Kosovar police on September 4, leaving four dead.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused the Serbian military of being behind the attacks, while Vučić blamed what he said was the persecution of Kosovar Serbs by Kurti’s Government.
The recent deadly shootout in Kosovo between heavily armed ethnic Serbs and Kosovar police now gives authorities in the capital Pristina the upper hand against the EU, analysts have told Brussels Signal. https://t.co/SdUBZ2Jvdc
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) September 29, 2023
Many now fear that Serbia will face sanctions as a result of the violence.
In light of such, the opposition sent a letter to the European Union’s High Representative and de facto Foreign Minister Josep Borrell asking that sanctions be applied personally to Vučić and his political allies rather than all of Serbia.
That could damage Serbia’s hopes to join the EU.
Milivojevic said he believed that the opposition was making a major mistake, saying many would see its move as calling for sanctions on Serbia itself.
“The opposition calls for [EU] sanctions on him and not Serbia is a wrong move. The voters cannot understand the subtle difference, in a situation where Vučić is presented as Serbia,” he said.
The elections are scheduled for December 17. As well as for the national parliament and Belgrade, there will also be a vote in Vojvodina, an autonomous Northern region of Serbia.