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Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at a press conference, Belgrade, Jan. 14, 2016 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

Vucic’s Plans for a Reform Mandate Could Backfire in Serbia’s Election

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BELGRADE, Serbia—Growing fears about the unmooring of the Western Balkans from its European path; the prime minster himself warning that the region remains a powder keg; concerns over malign Kremlin influence and gains made by pro-Russian hard-right parties; allegations of rising authoritarianism and corruption in government circles; and claims of double-dealing among a fragmented and fractious opposition. This is the atmosphere in which Serbia’s parliamentary election this Sunday, April 24, is taking place.

The ruling pro-European Union Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) looks assured of topping the poll, the third Serbia has had in four years. The snap election was called two years early by SNS leader and current Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, despite the party’s commanding majority in parliament. Vucic called the early election ostensibly to ensure a firm mandate for a 4-year program of reform needed to secure European Union membership and transform the Serbian economy, one of Europe’s poorest. The vote was also intended to marginalize both pro-Russian elements and the remnants of parties in power between 2000 and 2012, which the SNS accuses of bringing Serbia close to the brink of ruin. But the election may in fact embolden both. ...

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