Belgrade, Serbia. Election posters from a previous election round ©BalkansCat/Shutterstock

Belgrade, Serbia. Election posters from a previous election round ©BalkansCat/Shutterstock

Early political elections will be held in Serbia on December 17 for the fourth consecutive time. Since 2012, i.e. since the SNS party came to power and since Aleksandar Vučić became president, this will be the seventh time that Serbian citizens have been called to the polls

29/11/2023 -  Antonela Riha Belgrade

This is the fourth time since the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power in 2012 that early general elections are held in Serbia. In the last eleven years, only once have the deputies of the Serbian parliament carried out their duties for the entire duration of the term. Considering all the elections held in this period at different levels, December 17 will be the seventh time  that Serbian citizens have been called to the polls.

In addition to the parliamentary elections, elections will also be held for the renewal of the parliament of the autonomous province of Vojvodina, as well as administrative elections in 53 municipalities and 12 municipalities, including Belgrade.

What drives Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to continually test his popularity and power?

Elections as damage control

For the umpteenth time, Vučić tries to create a referendum climate, presenting himself as the eternal victim of conspiracies outside and inside the country. Despite having now left the presidency of the SNS, this time too Vučić directs the party's electoral campaign, and does so by taking advantage of his position as President of the Republic, thus violating the law . Perhaps he is trying to save his party, which is sinking more and more apparently due to numerous scandals and cases of corruption. At the same time, however, Vučić strengthens his personal cult.

Everyone in Serbia is now aware that Vučić is above the government and parliament, he is the one who makes all the decisions that matter. There is no discrepancy between the decisions approved by the aforementioned institutions, just as there are no majority problems in parliament. Therefore, the reasons why early elections are usually called do not apply.

However, Vučić calls new elections when it suits him, when he perceives a decline in popularity or when he assumes that situations unfavourable to his government may arise in the future. By doing so, he manages to carve out room for maneuvre that allows him to postpone important decisions, primarily those concerning Kosovo. In fact, to date, a political solution that would be acceptable to both Belgrade and Prishtina has not yet been reached.

Furthermore, Vučić tends to call political and administrative elections at the same time, although this time the early local elections will be held only in those municipalities where the president believes he can win.

In any case, Vučić has an advantage: he controls all the main media, the most popular broadcasters and the best-selling newspapers, he controls all the institutions and is used to "buying" loyalty with a government method based on clientelism, blackmailing people in various ways into supporting him.

What he cannot control is the increasingly difficult economic situation, the Kosovo crisis – which recently escalated, resulting in a clash between a group of Serbs and the Kosovar police – and the violence that has poured from the regime's broadcasters into schoolyards.

The opposition criticises the government for creating a general climate of violence and impunity which in May this year led to a mass murder in an elementary school in the centre of Belgrade, and then the following day to another massacre in some villages near Mladenovac. These tragic events prompted hundreds of thousands of people across Serbia to take to the streets. The protests continued for months under the slogan "Serbia against violence".

An unequal fight

The opposition enters the electoral race divided. Some of the opposition forces united in a coalition born during the protests and called "Serbia against violence" . These are pro-European, centrist and left-wing parties. The right has failed  to reach an agreement and form a single list. What the right-wing forces have in common is an explicit refusal to recognise the independence of Kosovo. This position is also shared by many other parties and coalitions, from those in favour of Serbia's accession to the EU and NATO to the far right.

Until midnight on November 26, when the deadline for submitting candidatures expired, thirteen lists  for the parliamentary elections had been confirmed. Much is expected from the election round in Belgrade, which is also the main opposition stronghold. In the meantime, members of the opposition electoral commissions warned that numerous irregularities were found during the presentation of the lists, including several ghost parties and forged signatures. An emblematic case is that of a party founded in view of the elections by a former minister , member of the SNS, who presented his candidacy for the municipal elections in Belgrade with a list containing several false signatures. Furthermore, the party in question was registered as a party of the bunjevci  minority, as national minority parties do not have to pass any threshold to enter parliament.

After a visit to Serbia, Council of Europe observers  underlined that the election campaign is characterised by “an unprecedented level of negative language, scaremongering, attacks on the opposition and journalists and serious problems affecting the media”. The most recent episode concerns a message received from Đorđe Miketić, a member of the opposition party Zajedno. From an unknown number, Miketić was sent a photograph , partly blurred, with a glimpse of himself in an intimate relationship with a woman. Miketić posted the message in question on X, explaining that a year ago someone broke into his house and stole his computer and some hard drives. That the whole affair may be linked to blackmail on the part of those in power is demonstrated by a statement   by President Vučić. One day before the incident Vučić called Miketić “human scum”, alluding that “he [Miketić] is aware of what I know”, without however revealing further details.

The first to launch himself into the electoral race was Vučić, who lent his face to the campaign of the coalition gathered around the SNS. It can be said that Vučić is constantly campaigning.

According to an analysis conducted by the CRTA organisation, in the first ten months of this year Vučić spoke 248 times in national coverage broadcasters, all of which he controlled. Recently the president also opened an account on TikTok where he makes crepes and recommends quality wines. In an attempt to intercept young voters, Vučić went further, announcing  that before the elections all high school students in Serbia will receive a one-off support of 10,000 dinars (just under 100 Euros). He also announced that anyone who attends a university will receive an aid of 1000 dinars on their student card. He has not forgotten the pensioners either, to whom he promised aid of 20,000 dinars in view of the elections. All these “gifts” from the president are obviously paid for by the state budget.

However, Vučić's plans were disrupted by farmers, postmen, lawyers, teachers, employees of private nursery schools and healthcare workers. All these workers are asking the government to fulfill their demands, as promised during previous negotiations. Some have blocked the roads, others have started a strike, and even Prime Minister Ana Brnabić will certainly be busy until the elections trying to reassure the workers and prevent a new protest from breaking out in the next few days.

What they will not be able to repress is the initiative launched by a group of academics, journalists, artists and professors, including a judge.


To date, around 150,000 citizens have signed to support ProGlas , promoted by some of the best-known public figures. The basic idea is to push as many people as possible to go to the polls and vote for one of the opposition parties (excluding those "created" by the leadership in power) since a high turnout is the first step towards a possible change of government.

ProGlas promoters began organising meetings throughout Serbia, but the initiative immediately encountered forms of obstructionism. In some cities the organisers were unable to find a space to hold the meeting, while the regime media avoided even mentioning the initiative. The messages launched during the meetings are aimed above all at those who abstain from voting and at young people who are invited to go to the polls, thus demonstrating that they are responsible citizens.

Unlike the ruling leadership, the opposition forces have not yet undertaken a full-scale election campaign. Negotiations on possible alliances have continued for a long time and the opposition campaign still remains focused on criticising the irregularities found in the electoral process. The real political battle has yet to begin. The fiercest fight will likely take place in Belgrade, where opposition supporters are more numerous and independent media are more accessible than elsewhere in the country, where total media darkness has reigned for some time.

One thing is certain: Aleksandar Vučić will not give up power easily. However, elections are the only way to control and limit his power, and December 17 is the opportunity to do so.

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