Today’s general parliamentary elections in Serbia were crucial for the country. Everybody who has been following the issues in the Balkans knows the meaning of this statement. It is not another cliché statement about elections in a country – Serbian citizens had an abundance of parties to choose from with three of them being the major competitors but only two paths for the future.
Those two paths lead to exact opposite directions – either east to Russia, a Serbian ally, or west to the European Union, whose majority of countries has already recognized Kosovo’s unilateral Declaration of Independence. Predictions were that Tomislav Nikolic’s Radical Party would win the elections and form a pro-Russian government along with possible coalition partners one of which was believed to be Vojislav Kostunica’s Serbian Democratic Party.
Despite those predictions, however, President Boris Tadic’s Coalition for a European Serbia have won the elections with a substantial lead: 39% to 28.6% for the Radicals and 11.6% for the Kostunca’s bloc. It is still unclear, however, which party Boris Tadic is going to form coalition with for the sake of a pro-E.U. government. What is clear is that he is not going to form coalition with Tomislav Nikolic, and Vojislav Kostunica also rejected a possible alliance with the Coalition for a European Serbia. The two leaders are planning on forming a government with the Socialists who have been announced to have had 8.2% of the votes. This has been the Socialists’ best result since the end of the Slobodan Milosevic’s era.
Meanwhile, President Boris Tadic’s Coalition for a European Serbia hopes that the Liberal Democratic Party will reach the 5% barrier so that the latter has representatives in the Serbian parliament. The Liberal Democrats, the only party that accepts Kosovo’s independence, is close to those 5% and if they manage to reach it, it is very likely that they will try to form government with the Coalition for a European Serbia. Contrary to expectations that Boris Tadic is going to recognize Kosovo, the Serbian President denied such claims saying that he would never recognize Kosovo as an independent country.
The current political situation in Serbia reminds me of the last parliamentary elections in Bulgaria. Three years ago the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, could not form government with the Movement for Rights and Liberties, NMRL, and a triple coalition between the two parties and the then National Movement Simeon the Second, NMSS, had to be formed accordingly by the NMRL having been given the chance by President Parvanov. A similar scenario in Serbia may come true.
What conclusions are to be drawn from the elections in Serbia? Radicals threatened that voting for the Coalition for a European Serbia will be equal to recognizing Kosovo because of President Tadic’s having signed a pre-membership agreement with the European Union last week. According to them, signing this agreement is technically a recognition of Kosovo – something that Boris Tadic completely denies. And it turned out that the Serbian people believed Mr. Tadic. They chose the path to the European Union instead of the one that leads to Russia. That does not make them traitors, neither do they recognize Kosovo.
The results are unfortunate for Russia. Another country’s people prefers the West at its expense. Whether or not Russia is going to continue its good relations with Serbia is not entirely clear. I think that those relations will not deteriorate at all, neither will Russia change its position on the Kosovo’s status for another conflict in the region is not beneficial to any country.
In terms of Serbia, in my opinion it will never recognize Kosovo – at least not until there are 100% Albanians there. A good example is the fact that despite the U.N.’s disapproval, they organized local elections in northern Kosovo where the majority is Serbian. Those local elections also caused demonstrations by Kosovo Albanians in Pristina but those demonstrations did not stop Kosovo Serbians from choosing their local leaders for the first time since the United Nations have taken the administration of the disputed territory.
Overall, I see a bright future for Serbia. By Serbia I mean Central Serbia and Vojvodina. Kosovo is another matter that I believe will not be resolved for years to come.