Early Parliamentary Elections in Serbia and Their Effects on Foreign Policy

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On November 1, 2023, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced December 17, 2023 as the date for the country’s third early parliamentary elections in nearly four years. On the same day, local elections will also be held in several cities, including the capital Belgrade. The election date is not a surprise. The Serbian leader had been campaigning for weeks in favor of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party. However, he has officially stepped down as head of the party.

Aleksandar Vucic made the following statements in his statement after the election call: [1]

“We are living in a time that is difficult for the whole world, of global challenges, wars and conflicts, when it is necessary for all of us to be united in the struggle to protect the vital national and state interests of the Republic of Serbia.”

The presidency of Vucic, who was re-elected by a landslide in general elections in April 2022 and whose nationalist party has the most seats in the 250-member parliament, will not be contested in the vote.[2]

In the run-up to the December vote, the traditionally fractured pro-democracy opposition parties decided to unite after several months of weekly protests against Vucic and his government under the banner “Serbia Against Violence”.[3]

The demonstrations began shortly after two protests in less than 48 hours in May that killed 17 people, including 8 children. The opposition accuses Vucic of creating a climate of uncertainty in a country that formally aspires to European Union (EU) membership but maintains close ties with its traditional ally Russia.[4]

Vucic’s nationalists, who have almost complete control over the country’s media, are again expected to win the parliamentary vote. However, the opposition hopes to win most of the votes in Belgrade, traditionally an opposition stronghold.

First, it is important to understand the reasons behind Vucic’s decision to formally step down from power and call early elections in order to campaign in favor of the Serbian Progressive Party. Vucic has ruled Serbia for a long time and has almost complete control over the media in the country. This gives Vucic the opportunity to suppress critical voices and consolidate his power. The decision to call early elections seems to be aimed at blocking the opposition and preserving power.

It is clear that the opposition is looking for an opportunity to make a strong challenge on the political scene in Serbia. The protests organized under the banner of “Serbia Against Violence” started as a reflection of a growing backlash against the government and Vucic’s policies. These protests have raised demands for political change in some segments of society. However, Serbia’s electoral system and media control may limit the opposition’s ability to challenge the government.

Serbia’s interest in EU membership, as well as its desire to maintain relations with its traditional ally Russia, may increase some uncertainty within the country. The opposition could accuse Vucic of fueling these uncertainties and creating public anxiety.

There are important issues about Belgrade’s attitude towards the EU and Russia. As a matter of fact, Serbia’s approach to the West is an important issue. Belgrade is less politically isolated than Kosovo and enjoys relative political stability. The main reason for this situation is that it has deep relations with Russia and has established a strategic partnership with China. In short, it can be stated that Serbia follows a policy of balance instead of moving away from the West, and sees the EU as an opportunity, especially in terms of economy, and attaches importance to integration into the West.

Moreover, Serbia-Russia relations are also important in this context. After all, it is clear that the Kremlin tends to resist Western domination. In this context, an instability over Serbia could be an opportunity for Russia to expand its sphere of influence, as it has the capacity to directly affect Europe in addition to the region. Therefore, Brussels aims to prevent this situation. It is likely that Brussels’ steps will accelerate in the future.

Local elections in Belgrade could offer a space for the opposition to strengthen its voting base. But Serbia’s generally fragmented pro-democracy opposition has often struggled to unite against the ruling party. Therefore, the votes won in the capital Belgrade and the concrete outputs indicating the consolidation of the electorate there can be an important symbolic victory for the opposition.

As a result, early elections and local elections in Serbia can be considered as a reflection of the political instability in the country and the complexity of the democratization process. While Vucic is accused of trying to protect his power, the opposition is looking for an opportunity to shake the government by taking into account the discomfort and demands among the people. The results of these elections may affect Serbia’s future political orientation and be indicative of instabilities in the region.

[1] “Serbia’s President sets Dec. 17 for Snap Parliamentary Election as he Rallies for his Populist Party”, Associated Press News,, (Erişim Tarihi: 01.11.2023).

[2] “Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic sets December 17 for Snap Parliamentary Election as he Rallies for His Populist Party”, The Times of India,, (Erişim Tarihi: 01.11.2023).

[3] Same page.

[4] Same place.

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten, 2021 yılında Yalova Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden “Amerikan Dış Politikası” başlıklı bitirme teziyle ve 2023 yılında da Anadolu Üniversitesi Açık Öğretim Fakültesi Dış Ticaret bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Tezli Yüksek Lisans öğrenimine devam eden Gülten, lisans eğitimi esnasında Erasmus+ programı çerçevesinde Lodz Üniversitesi Uluslararası ve Politik Çalışmalar Fakültesi’nde bir dönem boyunca öğrenci olarak bulunmuştur. ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.