By Sasa Dragojlo
Aleksandar Vucic’s party romped home in Serbia’s general elections on Sunday, winning about two-thirds of the votes, early results show – although opposition parties boycotting the polls said less than half the electorate turned out
The coalition gathered around the ruling Serbian Progressive Party won an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections on Sunday, winning 63.5 per cent of votes cast.
Only two other electoral lists crossed the 3-per-cent threshold needed to take seats in parliament, Ipsos and CeSID announced, based on 73.4 per cent of a processed sample of votes.
The elections in Serbia were the first national elections held in Europe since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, and were dominated by the party leader, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, whose name was on the ballot, although he was not a candidate in the elections.
The junior partner in the outgoing government, the Socialist Party-United Serbia coalition, came second with 10.7 per cent of votes vast. Third place went to the opposition Serbian Patriotic Alliance, SPAS, led by a former water polo player, Aleksandar Sapic, which won 4 per cent.
President and leader of Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Vucic, said that his party gained “huge trust from citizens, the highest ever in Serbia”.
“I have been in politics for a long time, but I have never experienced a moment like this, we have gained huge trust from the people, the greatest ever in Serbia, in conditions when few people believed in it,” Vucic said on Sunday evening at the SNS headquarters, after elections results came in.
“Tonight, we received more than 2,000,000 votes of the little less than 3,300,000 people who went to the polls,” Vucic added.
According to parliamentary elections, which have yet to be finalised, SNS won some 63 per cent of votes which will give them 187 out of 250 mandates in Parliament.
The ruling Progressives lowered the threshold to enter parliament from 5 to 3 per cent this year in order to persuade as many parties as possible to take part – but this concession did not help most of the opposition parties that did not boycott the elections.
The closest to crossing the threshold was the royalist Movement for the Reconstruction of the Kingdom of Serbia, POKS, which won 2.9 per cent of the votes.
The Movement of Free Citizens, led by the actor Sergej Trifunovic, who decided not to boycott the campaign two months before the elections, won only 1.8 per cent of votes cast.
All four electoral lists of national minorities won seats; the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, the Party of Democratic Action of Sandzak, the Albanian Democratic Alternative and a list led by Muamer Zukorlic, another Bosniak list.
Opposition calls on EU to mediate
The coalition of opposition parties that boycotted the elections, gathered in the Alliance for Serbia, announced that their boycott had been a success because, they said, less than 50 per cent of voters turned out at the polls.
Although there is no law stipulating how many voters are needed for elections in Serbia to be valid, the Alliance for Serbia said a turnout of less than half of the registered voters meant that the new government had no legitimacy.
Dragan Djilas, president of the Party of Freedom and Justice, and leader of the Alliance for Serbia, claimed: “It is clear to everyone” that there is a crisis of power.
“One option is to continue in the same direction, which leads to further tensions and instability, the other is to reach a normal situation with the essential mediation of Europe where we will be able to have fair and honest elections,” Djilas said.
Scattered violations reported
Serbian-based NGOs observing the parliamentary elections, CRTA and CESID, reported various irregularities. Rasa Nedeljkov, from CRTA, said violations had been noted in 5 per cent of polling stations, but these were individual cases, not mass violations of the law.
In the towns of Pozarevac and Zrenjanin, a so-called “Bulgaria train” process was reported. The term refers to when a person is bribed to submit a pre-prepared ballot paper, and then collect a second one from the polling station which they return blank to the person who paid them, as proof that they submitted the fraudulent ballot.
Violating ballot secrecy by taking pictures of ballots and folding ballots so that others can see who the person voted for was noticed in 11 polling stations.
In one polling station, in the northern town of Kula, it was noticed that party members kept track of who had voted. The news portal Juzne Vesti reported that ballot boxes in one village in south Serbia were stolen overnight.
At one polling station in Gorazdevac, a village near Pec/Peja in Kosovo, voters who were not registered to vote were allowed to cast ballots for others who had died but were still on the voting list, Radio Gorazdevac reported.
A member of the conservative Serbian Right party, Ivan Andjelkovic, was detained on suspicion of having threatened the president of the polling board in Vranje in southern Serbia.
The elections in Serbia had been scheduled for April 26 but were postponed as the country declared a state of emergency on March 15.