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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Weimar Serbia? Ultranationalists top parliamentary poll once more

by Manuel Alvarez-Rivera: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Preliminary projections of yesterday's legislative election in Serbia have the right-wing nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) coming up once again as the largest party in the country's National Assembly (Parliament), although well short of an absolute majority.

The Centre for Free Election and Democracy (CeSID), a NGO that monitors voting in Serbia elections, estimates SRS will obtain 81 of 250 seats in the National Assembly - one fewer than in 2003. However, the Radicals' share of the vote actually increased slightly with respect to the preceding election, according to CeSID.

Meanwhile, the left-of-center Democratic Party (DS) of President Boris Tadic scored substantial gains and is expected to take 65 seats (up from 37 in 2003), displacing the conservative Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica (47 seats, down from 53 in 2003) as Serbia's second-largest party.

Both the right-liberal G17 Plus and the leftist Socialist Party of Serbia (the party of the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic) lost ground in the election but retained their parliamentary representation, with 19 and 16 seats, respectively (down from 34 and 22 in the last election).

At the time of writing, a four-party, center-left coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) appeared to have narrowly crossed the five percent threshold and secured 15 seats, but Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) has been wiped out, losing all of its National Assembly seats.

CeSID's figures come very close to updated preliminary results made available by Serbia's Republic Electoral Commission. According to the Commission, 62.6% of the electorate turned out to vote in the country's first parliamentary election since the breakup of the state union with Montenegro.

If these estimates are confirmed by definitive results (expected in four days), DSS will hold the balance of power in the new National Assembly. As such, it could form a majority coalition government with the main pro-European parties - DS and G17 Plus - or it could opt for a right-wing partnership with SRS, which would hold a narrow parliamentary majority. Both the Radicals and DSS are staunchly opposed to the independence of the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo - administered by the United Nations since 1999 - and DSS leader Kostunica has not ruled out an alliance with SRS.....

Editorial note: Manuel is the power behind the throne at the site Election Resources on the Internet, and will be offering coverage of election results - as and when they come in - here on Global Economy Matters.


Serbia's Republic Electoral Commission reports definitive results of the National Assembly election held last January 21 were as follows after voting was subsequently repeated in six polling stations:

Serbian Radical Party - 1,153,453 votes (28.6%), 81 seats
Democratic Party - 915,854 votes (22.7%), 64 seats
Democratic Party of Serbia - New Serbia - 667,615 votes (16.6%), 47 seats
G17 Plus - 275,041 votes (6.8%), 19 seats
Socialist Party of Serbia - 227,580 votes (5.6%), 16 seats
Liberal Democratic Party - Civic Alliance of Serbia - Social Democratic Union - League of Vojvodina Social Democrats - 214,262 votes (5.3%), 15 seats
Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians - 52,510 votes (1.3%), 3 seats
List for Sandzak Coalition - 33,823 votes (0.8%), 2 seats
Roma Union of Serbia - 17,128 votes (0.4%), 1 seat
Coalition of Presevo Valley Albanians - 16,973 votes (0.4%), 1 seat
Roma Party - 14,631 votes (0.4%), 1 seat
Serbian Renewal Movement - 134,147 votes (3.3%), no seats
Others - 244,318 votes (6.1%), no seats

In addition, there were 65,468 invalid ballots - 1.6% of the total number of votes cast. Voter turnout in the election stood at 60.6%.

The election's final results showed little change with respect to preliminary figures and estimates published on election night. In terms of parliamentary mandates, the Democratic Party lost a single seat to the Coalition of Presevo Valley Albanians, but the number of seats for the remaining parties stood unchanged.

Serbian President Boris Tadic started official consultations with parliamentary parties last January 29. Following the consultations, he was expected to propose a candidate for prime minister. However, as of early May no agreement had been reached on the formation of a new government in the three-and-a-half months since the election was held. Should that have continued to be the case by May 15, it would have been necessary to hold another parliamentary election.

In the meantime, on Tuesday, May 8, 2007, the Radicals, Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia and the Socialist Party of Serbia joined forces to elect Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party as Speaker of the National Assembly. As such, the ultranationalist Radicals, who became the largest party in Serbia earlier this year - like the Nazis did in Weimar Germany seventy-five years ago - now had one of their own as Speaker of Parliament - again, like the Nazis, who had Hermann Goering elected as president of the Reichstag in 1932, a few months before Adolf Hitler rose to power...

However, just as Serbia appeared inexorably headed towards an early election, DS, DSS-NS and G17 Plus reached a last-minute agreement to form a new government, 109 days after the election was held. Under the terms of the agreement, Kostunica will remain head of government, and DSS-NS will be in charge of the following portfolios: Internal Affairs, Energy, Infrastructure, Kosovo and Metohija, Trade, Education and Religion. Meanwhile, DS will have a Vice President for European Integration and the following ministries: Finance, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Justice, Telecommunications and IT, Labor and Social Policy, State Administration and Local Self-Government, Environment, Culture, Diaspora, and a minister without portfolio for the National Investment Plan. Finally, G17 Plus will run the following ministries: Economy and Regional Development, Health, Science, Youth and Sport.

In addition, Tomislav Nikolic has stepped down as Speaker of the National Assembly; as part of the coalition agreement, his successor will be from the Democratic Party.