Voters in Serbia head to polls to shape countries future
6.5M eligible voters to elect president, National Assembly, authorities for 12 municipalities, 2 cities, including Belgrade
Serbians head to the polls today to choose a new president, members of the country's 250-seat parliament and local authorities.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time and will close at 8 p.m. (0500 to 1800GMT).
Parliamentary elections were supposed to be held in 2024 but President Aleksandar Vucic announced in October 2020 that snap parliamentary polls would be held in or before April 2022.
Besides the general elections, local elections will be held in 12 municipalities and two cities, including Belgrade.
Around 6.5 million eligible voters will elect members to the 250-seat National Assembly, the unicameral parliament, from 18 lists.
A total of 126 seats are needed for a majority in the assembly.
Meanwhile, eight candidates are competing in the presidential election.
Local elections will be held in the capital, Belgrade, and in the city of Bor.
Bor, with 48,615 residents, has 32 different ethnic groups represented among the population. It is one of the most ethnically mixed cities in Serbia.
Voters will cast ballots for the municipalities of Arandjelovac, Smederevska Palanka, Lucani, Knjazevac, Medvedja, Bajina Basta, Doljevac, Kula, Kladovo, Majdanpek, Secanj and Sevojno.
The newly elected president and the new government will need to deal with major issues that Serbia is facing.
One is in the breakaway region of Kosovo, which declared independence in February 2008. But Belgrade still claims it is a breakaway province.
Serbia has also refused to impose sanctions on Russia for the Ukraine war.
The government is facing pressure from the European Union and the US to recognize Kosovo's independence and impose sanctions on Russia.
Moreover, the Kosovo government announced earlier that Serbs in Kosovo would not be able to vote in the April 3 Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections.
Then, the president of the Mitrovica Court, Ljiljana Stevanovic, who is of Serb origin, attended a National Security Council meeting in Serbia on March 22 and met Vucic.
The Kosovo government announced it suspended Stevanovic for attending the meeting.
France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US criticized Kosovo for not allowing Serbs who are Kosovo citizens to vote in the elections.
Vucic said Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has decided to attack the Serbs.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic harshly criticized Kosovo.
"Brutal violence against Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija continues. Kurti undermines peace and stability with every new decision he takes. International agreements are being violated. Their basic human rights are being taken away. Accordingly, the Brussels Agreement is dead," said Brnabic.
After the decision, hundreds of Serbs in Gracanica and Kosovska Mitrovica in Kosovo gathered for a peaceful protest demanding human rights.
Previously, Serbs in Kosovo were allowed to vote in elections in the presence of international observers but that did not happen when Serbia held a referendum earlier this year.
Lithium mine investment
Serbia came under international criticism after declaring neutrality and refusing to impose sanctions against Russia for the Ukrainian war.
Another issue that the new government will face is environmental protests.
A series of protests have been going on across the country for the adoption of the modified Law on Expropriation regarding Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto's planned lithium mine investment.
Environmentalists are demanding a law that would ban lithium and borate mining in Serbia as a result of various problems with waste management and air and water pollution.
The government announced Jan. 20 that it decided to withdraw the expropriation law and adopted amendments to the law in a referendum.
Vucic dissolved parliament Feb. 15 and urged citizens to show the democratic capacity of Serbia.
He said it will be another step into the democratic and European future of Serbia.
With a population of 6.9 million, according to the World Bank and other sources, the Balkan nation has a large expatriate population that is eligible to vote.
Vucic and retired Gen. Zdravko Ponos are the two favorites in the presidential race.
The 52-year-old Vucic has been president since 2017 and has been on the political scene since the early 1990s. He served as prime minister for two terms, from 2014 to 2016 and 2016 until 2017.
His election slogan is "Peace and Stability," in which he vows more infrastructure development for economic growth as well as preserving peace and stability.
Since Vucic took off office, Serbia has recorded steady economic growth and progress toward European Union membership.
Meanwhile, Ponos was a professional soldier who rose to the rank of general and held the post of Chief of the General Staff before retiring.
He claims that Serbian society is divided into "ours" and "theirs" and vows to unite everybody and be the president of all citizens.
The full list of candidates for president approved by the Republic Election Commission (RIK) is as follows:
- Misa Vacic
- Biljana Stojkovic
- Branka Stamenkovi
- Zdravko Ponos
- Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski
- Aleksandar Vucic
- Milos Jovanovic
- Bosko Obradovic
Parties running for parliament
In parliament, the main coalitions are Vucic's "Together We Can Do Everything" and Marinika Tepic's "United For Serbia's Victory."
The RIK approved 18 lists for parliament and published a list in the order that they were submitted:
- Aleksandar Vucic - Together We Can Do Everything
- Ivica Dacic - Prime Minister of Serbia
- Istvan Pastor Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians
- Vojislav Seselj - Serbian Radical Party
- Marinika Tepic - United for Serbia's Victory
- Milos Jovanovic - Hope for Serbia
- Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski – Serb Party Oathkeepers
- Usama Zukorlic - Mufti's Legacy, a Bosniak national minority party
- Nebojsa Zelenovic - We Must - Don't Let Belgrade D(r)own, a coalition of environmental organizations
- Sovereignists - Sasa Radulovic (Enough is Enough), Milan Stamatovic (Green Party), Jovana Stojkovic (Living for Serbia), a coalition of minor opposition parties and organizations.
- Bosko Obradovic - Serbian Dveri Movement, POKS - Milos Parandilovic (Patriotic Bloc for the Restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia), a coalition of conservative/right/nationalist parties.
- Together for Vojvodina - League of Vojvodina Social Democrats, Union of Socialists of Vojvodina, Vojvodinian Movement, Social Democratic Union and Democratic Union of Croats
- Sulejman Ugljanin - Party of Democratic Action (SDA), a conservative Bosniak national minority party headed by a former Cabinet minister.
- Boris Tadic - Let's Go People, Social Democrat Party, Nova stranka, 1 of 5 Million, Tolerancija Srbije, United Movement of Greens of Serbia, Bosniak Civic Party, Party of Montenegrins, a coalition rallied around former President Tadic's Social Democrat Party.
- Alternative for Changes – Albanian Democratic Alternative, national minority list.
- Coalition of Albanians of the Valley, a national minority coalition representing the ethnic Albanian community in the Presevo Valley of southern Serbia.
- Ana Pejic - Kidnapped Babies, an organization representing the parents of babies allegedly kidnapped at birth.
- Srdjan Sajn - Roma Party, a national minority party representing the Roma population.