Although the general election won't take place until the first half of 2012, campaigns are well under way.
By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 09/08/11
Serbia’s Progressive Party presidential hopeful Marko Djuric leads in the polls. [Reuters]
Campaigning ahead of Serbia's general election next year is already in full swing, as political parties work to attract voters and posters and billboards endorsing various parties pepper Belgrade.
The ruling coalition, led by President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party, has cited job creation and progress in the EU integration process as examples of successful policies. The opposition, however, criticises the ruling coalition's unfulfilled promises, as well as the low standard of living and pervasive corruption.
Public opinion analyst Srdjan Bogosavljevic emphasises that public dissatisfaction with the standard of living could have a major impact on voter turnout in the next election.
"Citizens are very unhappy. The average net salary in Serbia has been constantly decreasing over the past three years. There is a great desire for change, but the citizens simply don't know who to vote for from the current pool of candidates," Bogosavljevic says.
He believes that the public expected much more from the political changes of 2000, and that their disappointment is beginning to show.
Bogosavljevic expects representatives of the ruling coalition to highlight "how no one would have been able to handle the economic crisis better than they would, and that political change would destabilise Serbia" in the upcoming election.
On the other hand, Bogosavljevic predicts the opposition will focus on the poor economic situation to bolster their campaign. He says that the public's desire for change can be the opposition's trump card, in addition to "stoking nationalist sentiment" over the Kosovo issue.
"Kosovo is a topic that can be used in times of serious tension … if nothing is happening there, and the situation is calm, then the economy and corruption take precedence."
Spokeswoman for the Democratic Party Jelena Trivan tells SETimes "it will be much easier for the opposition in the upcoming campaign, because all it has to do is be loud in its criticism, while the authorities have to explain their actions and what they have done to improve the lives of citizens."
Trivan says the government can boast that signs of an economic recovery are beginning to appear. Unlike some EU countries, Serbia has not faced bankruptcy or excessive indebtedness to international financial institutions.
"We will also highlight the progress made in European integration, as well as our successes in fighting organised crime and implementing judicial reform," Trivan says.
Many opinion polls put the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), headed by Tomislav Nikolic, in the lead. Marko Djuric, an SNS official, says "deep and thorough change" will be the focus of the party's campaign.
He adds that the ruling coalition contributes to the increasing wealth of the privileged classes and the impoverishment of the majority of citizens.
"We will offer a concrete programme in each field and for each segment of society. We have already unveiled our anti-corruption platform, and we will present to the citizens our plans for all other areas, especially the economy," Djuric tells SETimes.
He expects the coming campaign to be "a competition of ideas" and sees Tadic's Democratic Party as the Progressive's greatest political opponent.