Ljubljana/Belgrade – The only news after the presidential and general elections in Serbia was the result of opposition parties, while everything else had been known in advance, as all mechanism for election victory had been in the hands of Aleksandar Vučić, Borut Šuklje, a former Slovenian diplomat and an expert on the Balkans, told the STA on Monday.
“Vučić has been leading an election campaign for a few years. He had all the media opportunities he wanted and he literally shaped the contents of the events for the public. The only reality was the one he has created,” Šuklje said.
A typical example of this was the opening of the Belgrade-Novi Sad railway link, as part of which he took the train and waved to a non-existent crowd.
“Still, all TV stations that have national frequency – and they have it because they are controlled by Vučić – only showed his enthusiastic waving. Only opposition TV channels, which however have very limited reach, reported that he was waving to an empty space,” Šuklje said.
Vučić had not let the opposition to appear in public, as he had wanted to win the election with a 70% majority. “There is no more room for democracy when you have such plans.”
According to Šuklje, “everything is subordinated to one person” in Serbia. “The prime minister has to address him a few times and ask for his attention so that she can tell him he is the best and he rewards her with a smile.”
The government is in fact non-existent, as all decisions are made by Vučić and he also likes to point that out, Šuklje said, adding that this was possible because he had destroyed key state institutions long ago.
“Ten years ago, Vučić was assisted to power also by the US and European administrations. Back then the assessment prevailed that Serbia’s national stability was more important than its democracy.”
According to Šuklje, Vučić has also cleverly used the war in Ukraine. “He was stressing that Russians and President Vladimir Putin are great and firm supporters of Serbia. Thus he managed to stop organised opposition environmental and democratic movements.”
Still, the Sunday elections have brought significant changes. One of them is that the united opposition is now the second most powerful group in parliament. “The opposition got institutional power. The Serbian parliament will be different,” he said.
Another important development is that Vučić’s coalition party, the socialist party led by the “illusive” Ivica Dačić, slipped to third place in parliament. “And as such it will become superfluous for Vučić. He will want to simply take over.”
“Also, Vučić did not win in Belgrade, which is very painful for him and even more frightening,” Šuklje said, noting that Slobodan Milošević’s gradual downfall had started when the opposition won in the capital.
As yet unofficial results show that Vučić won almost 60% of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election, which means he has secured an outright victory in the first run. His closest rival, Zdravko Ponoš, won just over 18%.
Meanwhile, Vučić’s party won the parliamentary election with 43%, which translates into 121 out of the 250 seats in parliament. Its coalition party, the Socialist Party of Serbia, won 32 seats and the leading opposition grouping, United for Serbia’s Victory, 37.