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Anti-EU nationalist parties gain foothold in new Serbian parliament after election recount

A right-wing nationalist grouping staunchly opposed to EU membership and supportive of Russia has edged its way into the Serbian parliament, but in what some observers feel marks a blow to a long-standing pro-EU consensus, it has done so with the backing of some left-wing and liberal parties

By: EBR - Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016

More remarkably, Bojan Pajtic, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, traditionally supportive of EU accession, urged supporters to vote for his ideological opponents in Dveri-DSS in the repeat elections. Several other left and center-left leaders followed suit.
More remarkably, Bojan Pajtic, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, traditionally supportive of EU accession, urged supporters to vote for his ideological opponents in Dveri-DSS in the repeat elections. Several other left and center-left leaders followed suit.

by Martin Banks

Statistically, the change, arising from repeat voting in just four polling stations (out of 8,500 nation-wide), makes little difference to the parliamentary standings, and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić's government will retain a majority of seats.

But a coalition of the Dveri and Democratic Party of Serbia parties, both espousing anti-EU policies, gained 13 seats, following accusations that voting was rigged to shut them out of the parliament. The Dveri-DSS coalition recorded 4.99% of the national vote on April 24 -- literally a single vote short of the 5% threshold needed for parliamentary representation. There were immediate protests, despite an OSCE monitoring team declaring there were no major irregularities.

More remarkably, Bojan Pajtic, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, traditionally supportive of EU accession, urged supporters to vote for his ideological opponents in Dveri-DSS in the repeat elections. Several other left and center-left leaders followed suit. Pajtic's announcement came as a shock to many who had supported his party publicly. "I don't believe we should make pacts with the devil, no matter the price," said theater director Kokan Mladenovic. "I don't believe we should radically change our own beliefs just in order to help a certain opposition party."

Serbia's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) also called on voters to ignore Pajtic and not vote for Dveri-DSS, which it says is openly homophobic. And Pajtic's own coalition partner, Zoran Zivkovic, president of the New Party, also refused to support Dveri-DSS, which promotes closer relations with Russia, support for the annexation of Crimea and and membership in the Russia-sponsored Eurasian Economic Union. And pro-EU activists have been alarmed that a formerly sympathetic figure like the leader of the Democratic Party could so swiftly switch allegiance for transparently opportunistic reasons.

Together with another anti-EU party, the Serbian Radical Party, opponents of the Serbian government's pro-Europe policies will now have a total 35 seats in the 250-seat parliament, having failed to win any seats in the last elections in 2014. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Vučić* dismissed the Dveri-DSS entry into parliament. "It looks like they will pass the threshold, so there is a parliamentary restaurant and a paycheck for them," he joked. "But what I will not allow them to do is to destroy Serbia, the state, its stability and fragile democracy, just because of their interests and seats." 

*(Note of the editor) Vučić served as minister of information during the Milosevic period. He introduced fines for journalists critisising the government and banned foreign networks. In 1999, before the assassination of the prominent Serbian journalist Curuvija, Vučić stated "I will have revenge on Curuvija for the lies he published.''  

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