GMF holds roundtable on recent Serbian parliamentary election
On May 15, GMF held a roundtable discussion on the recent parliamentary election in Serbia that featured Ivan Vejvoda, executive director of GMF's Belgrade office and the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD). Ambassador Michael Polt, senior transatlantic fellow at GMF, participated in the discussion, and Pavol Demes, director of GMF's Bratislava office, moderated the discussion. The event was held under the Chatham House rule.
Despite divided pre-election predictions between those who were cautiously optimistic that the democratic block would win and cautiously pessimistic that the democratic block would lose, Serbia's pro-European forces, led by President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party (DS), secured the parliamentary election on May 11 in a surprising landslide victory over the nationalist Radical Party. While some thought that a nationalist/radical victory would have caused Serbs to be confronted with an irrational decision in order to come to their rational senses, the roundtable discussants agreed that the elections paved the way for Serbia's democratic future and proved that the majority of Serbs want to integrate with the Euroatlantic community.
Serbia has been in a constant election cycle over the last 15 months, but a combination of new outside factors had a major impact on the May 11 vote, including the resolution of Kosovo's declaration of independence; the signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Union (EU) and Serbia prior to the election that puts Serbia on track to join the EU, followed by an announcement that Serbs would no longer be required to pay visa fees for travel to 17 countries in Europe; and a deal signed between Fiat, the Italian carmaker, and Zastava, a Serbian cars-to-Kalashnikovs conglomerate. Internally, civic diplomacy was more intense this time around and many radical voters stayed home. This combination of factors created an increase in support for DS and Serbs made a rational choice for their future, for greater social and economic security, and for the freedom to travel within Europe, and for integration into Western institutions.
Serbia's resounding vote for the future gives hope in the upcoming period and confidence that a stable coalition government will likely form sooner than later. However, the roundtable discussants cautioned that the new Democratic government must deliver on both domestic and international matters of concern, including resolving ongoing tensions with the newly independent Kosovo and cooperating with The Hague on remaining war crimes issues.