Over the past months, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic hinted several times at the possibility of holding early parliamentary elections in tandem with the local elections in Belgrade in March 2018. If they indeed take place, it would be the fourth parliamentary elections in Serbia in only six years. According to the President, it is the opposition that calls for new elections, without specifying who exactly demands early polls. Coalition around Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has an absolute majority in the parliament.
However, it seems rather that Vucic tries to advance his position by calling for parliamentary elections on strategic important moments, or when he feels the opposition is weak. Last presidential elections showed the popularity of the party in the capital has decreased with the main opposition presidential candidate Jankovic obtaining more votes than Vucic. The President fears losing Belgrade and simultaneously holding two polls, the President draws attention away from the local elections in Belgrade, using his personal popularity to motivate his supporters to get out to vote. In this way, the President can secure the post of mayor of Belgrade for his party.
Vucic used this tactic earlier as an effective way to consolidate the position of his party. There are also other ways the SNS tries to impede the opposition of winning the elections. Former Democratic Party leader and Belgrade mayor between 2008 and 2013, Dragan Djilas, said he has been threatened with arrest if he tries to run as mayoral candidate in the capital. A high-ranking city official told him through an intermediary that he will be taken to court if he tries to run for elections. The government also thwarts the opposition through silencing independent media, as it did during the presidential elections of this year.
The attempts of the government to hinder other political parties are not the only obstacles for the opposition to win the elections. The opposition seems to be divided more than ever. Some parties already said they will not support each other in the upcoming elections. Political willingness among the opposition parties is therefore needed to form a common front against the SNS.
One of the few occasions the parties are unified, are during protests against the government. For example, the Movement of Free Citizens organised a demonstration on 20 October to demand fair and democratic vote with respect to independent media in the upcoming local elections. Cooperation between opposition parties is a prerequisite to challenge the stronghold of Vucic.