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Local Elections in Belgrade Mark the Emergence of New Political Leaders in Serbia

Ilustrimi nga: BigEye

On June 2, local elections were held in 89 cities and municipalities in Serbia, including the capital, Belgrade. While lists aligned with the sitting President Aleksandar Vucic claimed a sweeping victory in most cities, including Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Subotica, the triumph of opposition parties in some cities is a beacon of hope for the Serbian society and a cause for celebration. Elections for the Belgrade City Assembly were repeated following widespread irregularities in December 2023. 

There are several key takeaways from these local elections. Firstly, it was shown that Vucic is not invincible and that his party can be removed from power, sooner rather than later. Secondly, despite issues with election irregularities, the opposition still won in some areas. Thirdly, Savo Manojlovic from the Go Change movement emerged as a significant winner, indicating a wave of new, young faces in Serbian politics with promising potential. Lastly, the opposition's boycott tactic backfired, only preventing them from winning in Belgrade. 

According to preliminary results, the opposition has secured enough seats to potentially govern in Nis, Cacak, and several other municipalities within Belgrade (Stari Grad, Vracar, Savski Venac and Novi Beograd). However, since the margins between the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and the opposition parties are close, there might be some last-minute changes as all the votes are tallied. A real concern for the opposition is the potential defection of individuals elected on their lists. In the past, there have been instances where those elected on opposition lists shifted their allegiance to support the ruling party, SNS. 

A real concern for the opposition is the potential defection of individuals elected on their lists. In the past, there have been instances where those elected on opposition lists shifted their allegiance to support the ruling party, SNS. 

The pivotal aspect of this election was the Belgrade City Assembly. In order to consolidate their support base and improve their chances of winning, SNS formed a broad coalition of 14 political parties, including the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Zavetnici (which was part of the opposition list with Dveri in December’s local elections), and many other smaller parties. 

The opposition parties, on the other hand, were divided into several lists, further hampered by calls for a boycott by the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) and Serbia Center (SRCE), previously part of the unified opposition list, “Serbia Against Violence.” These two parties left the coalition “Serbia Against Violence” in December 2023 and boycotted elections in Belgrade, though they did not do so in other cities, leading to confusion among voters. 

Additionally, a right-wing monarchist coalition of the New Democratic Party of Serbia (Novi DSS) and Movement for Restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia (POKS), which won 6.36% of votes in Belgrade in December 2023, also decided to boycott the local elections this time. 

Electoral boycott of several key opposition parties crippled the opposition efforts in Belgrade, making it almost impossible to win against the united list of SNS and SPS. The boycott lowered the overall turnout from 58% to 46% in just six months, enabling SNS to increase its percentage and number of mandates in the Belgrade City Assembly despite a lower number of votes. It turns out that the decision to boycott elections in Belgrade only by part of the opposition confused voters but did not delegitimize SNS’s victory.

The coalition gathered around SNS (“Aleksandar Vucic, Belgrade Tomorrow”) will have 64 mandates in the Belgrade local assembly out of 110, achieving an absolute majority. 

However, SNS’s victory was not the biggest surprise in the election. The most unexpected result in Belgrade came from the “Dr. Savo Manojlovic – I am Belgrade Too – Go Change” list, which participated in elections for the first time. This list secured the second place with 17.2% of the votes. 

Go Change is a movement known for organizing the biggest protests in 2021 in Belgrade, opposing Rio Tinto over environmental concerns. This was the best result for a single party/list since 2012 which marks the beginning of SNS-Vucic domination in Serbia. 

Furthermore, in all municipalities where Go Change participated in local elections, they managed to secure more than 3% of votes, surpassing the electoral threshold. This positions them as a significant player in potential future government in those cities. 

Besides Manojlovic in Belgrade, another notable surprise was Dr. Dragan Milic in Nis, whose list secured 24% of the votes. This allowed the opposition to unseat SNS and SPS from power in Nis. 

Serbian voters have demonstrated their willingness to support new faces in politics, prompting discussions about the potential retirement of many long-standing political leaders.

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