Serbia: Vučić's party wins, opposition protests

After almost all the votes have been counted, the nationalist SNS under Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has won a clear victory in snap parliamentary elections with around 47 percent of the vote. Observers and the liberal opposition alliance Serbia Against Violence (SPN) - which came second with 23 percent - accuse the government camp of massive vote rigging. SPN has issued a call for protest. Europe's press takes stock.

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Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Not free and democratic elections

Serbia is moving further and further away from the EU, the Kleine Zeitung laments:

“The most recent Serbian elections once again fell far short of being democratic, fair and free - particularly in Belgrade. What was surprising was not so much the manipulation of the election itself, but the brazenness with which it was committed and even justified by dignitaries. ... Serbia is moving further and further away from the rule of law and democracy: on its long journey the accession candidate is distancing itself from the goal of harmonisation with the EU.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Opposition must stand united

Vučić's opponents have pulled off more than just a commendable success, the Süddeutsche Zeitung applauds:

“They have managed not only to protest against the Vučić regime for months on end, but also to finally present a joint election list. ... Indeed, the opposition might even have won in the capital Belgrade had it not been for the massive manipulation of the election. ... For the opposition, which has mostly been fragmented up to now, the hardest times are just beginning: they need unity, not only to hold out, but also to build up an apparatus outside Belgrade and raise the necessary funds for their work.”

Népszava (HU) /

As unfair as in Hungary

It's just as hopeless to run against the government in Serbia as it is in Hungary, Népszava complains:

“The opposition called for new elections but made a big mistake by not campaigning for new electoral conditions. ... Many people have only grasped after these latest elections that they have no chance against the current system, they have no tools at their disposal, the media dominance of the ruling party is an insurmountable obstacle. Moreover, the SNS has become a kind of cult in which the basic principle is: whoever is not for us is against us. ... Vučić has created similar conditions in Serbia to those his friend the Hungarian prime minister created in Hungary.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Good relations strengthened

For the pro-government Magyar Nemzet the election outcome in Hungary's neighbouring country is good news:

“Stability in the Balkans is in our vital interest, just as it is in the EU's interests. And Prime Minister Orbán has worked hard to create the basis for this, namely Serbian-Hungarian cooperation. Aleksandar Vučić's party has won again and he sees the Hungarians not as opponents but as allies. ... This is a historic act on both sides.”

Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

Only verbally Moscow-oriented

Novaya Gazeta Evropa sees Serbia continuing on its Western course:

“Vučić will retain control of the government and continue his course of slow rapprochement with the West, which he hides from his own voters behind fierce nationalist rhetoric. Belgrade's relations with the Kremlin will also remain largely unchanged. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the 'Russian question' has become less and less important for the Serbian economy and foreign policy. This trend will continue, whereby Vučić will try to show rhetorical solidarity with Moscow and only join in with the Western sanctions when this is acceptable to the nationalist part of his electorate.”

Vreme (RS) /

Fiasco for the opposition

Vreme analyses the consequences for the alliance that opposed Vučić:

“If Vučić's result is correct, the democratic and pro-European opposition has suffered a fiasco despite a relative success. It is more or less exactly where it was before the elections. ... Serbia Against Violence is disputing the SNS's election results. In addition to accusations of electoral fraud, it has announced that it will appeal to the state electoral commissions and also bring criminal charges. But what will it gain from this? And what will it do if the relevant authorities don't cooperate? ... Is Serbia sliding into a new political crisis, or is this the swan song of a generation of opposition politicians?”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Dancing at two weddings

Serbia is already doing an impressive balancing act, Corriere della Sera comments:

“Despite growing dissatisfaction, Vučić is seen on the international stage as the only credible leader capable of managing relations with Kosovo and Belgrade's diplomatic balancing act between Russia and the EU. ... But Serbia's balancing act threatens to become even more complicated: unlike its neighbours Bosnia, Albania and North Macedonia, whose governments unreservedly support European integration, Belgrade - a candidate since 2012 - has not joined the sanctions against Moscow because it wants to avoid damaging its relations with its brother country, on which it is dependent for energy.”