There are two weeks remaining until the presidential elections in Serbia, which means that the tough part of the campaign is yet to come. The president is elected directly for a five-year term, and can serve a maximum of two terms. According to the Constitution, the election should be held not earlier than 90 days and not later than 60 days before the expiry of the current president’s term in office, which expires on 31 May 2017. On 2 March, the parliament announced that the presidential election will be held on 2 April 2017.
The incumbent president (former SNS leader Tomislav Nikolić) has stated that he would not seek re-election despite being eligible and the fact that earlier he suggested the opposite. It is retrospectively assumed that he actually never wanted to confront Alexandar Vučić and only desired some media coverage. We shall see later on whether it happened in seek of a new political position or because of completely different reasons. One of these could be that the public support of Vučić is certainly more overwhelming than that of Nikolić, whose re-election would not have been granted at all.
The victory of the incumbent Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić is almost certain. He has a chance to gain absolute majority already in the first round (due on 2 April 2017) as he is said to have the support of 53% of the voters.
Opposition parties failed to conclude an agreement on having a common candidate. As a result, even their most popular candidates, Saša Janković and Vuk Jeremić are unlikely to become the next president of Serbia. It is important to mention Vojislav Šešelj, the head of the ultra-nationalist Radical Party who has only recently been acquitted by the ITCY, where he was tried on nine counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Šešelj is expected to attract a sizeable share of votes (about 10 percent).
However, if Aleksandar Vučić is forced to enter the second round of elections with only one challenger, he is likely to face an unpleasant situation (even if he is victorious in the end).
As the voters of Vučić’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) are more or less disciplined in terms of participating in the elections, opposition candidates hope for a high turnout.
Naturally, the campaign is not free from controversial aff airs. There have been media reports of verbal and physical insulting of journalists and even candidates. An activist of the Progressive Party actually died during delivering posters.
Moreover, Serbia’s Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) banned the airing of an election video for the Serbian Progressive Party which featured its leader overhearing being insulted as a faggot. The video was banned because it violated the Advertising Law, which specifies that “advertising messages must not contain statements or visual presentation which may be considered offensive”. This example (the words used against Vučić in his own video) clearly shows how different these election spots are from the ones we are generally used to.
Whether the results will also be different, we shall see in a couple of weeks’ time.