Serbia, day 41

Still no government in Serbia.

Parliamentary elections were held on January 21. It’s now March 1. The parties are still unable to agree. The previous ministers are staying on as a “transition” government.

Last time around — three years ago, early 2004 — it took them about 70 days. So I wouldn’t hold my breath. Article 109 of the new Serbian Constitution requires that a government be formed within 90 days, or Parliament gets dissolved and new elections called. It would not surprise me to see the various political parties, through stubbornness and brinksmanship, go right up to that line.

Why is it taking so long, again? Well, I have two working theories.

1) It’s an artifact of the weird political situation in Serbia. The biggest party, the populist and ultra-nationalist Radicals, are pariahs; nobody dares form a government with them. But without the radicals, the next two biggest parties — Democrats and Serbian Democrats — must join together, along with a minor party or two. And these two parties hate each other a lot. So they’re not going to reach an agreement easily, or soon.

2) It has something to do with the Serbian national character. It may be that the Serbs, like the Italians, just have trouble making parliamentary democracy work smoothly.

I don’t have a clear favorite yet among these two.


9 thoughts on “Serbia, day 41

  1. It is definitely 1.

    Regarding point 2: What is for you “parliamentary democracy working smoothly”? When there is really no choice for the voter because all parties are essentially the same like in practically all EU countries and USA?


  2. Well, it’s been a democracy for well under a decade, and there’s no real tradition of opposed ideological blocs cooperating (witness the fighting between the Chetniks and Partisans during WWII), plus there’s the strength of the Radicals and the Socialists, plus the personalities of ome of the leaders.

    And 70 days is still less than it took the Dutch this winter, although, to be fair, they didn’t have a time limit.

  3. Yes it might go ‘to the wire’ again. But I do think that all sides (apart from SRS) will back off from repeat elections.

    Thank heavens the new constitution was passed otherwise we could end up waiting even longer than the 90 days…

  4. It is a little bit of both I would say. Plus there is a third reason too. They might be hoping to delay the decision on Kosovo by saying ‘wait till we have a new government’. They think delay will lead to violence and a descrediting of the Kosovar demand for independence.

    But no one is buying that.

  5. @Dejan: “It is definitely 1.”

    Perhaps. But if you look at the Parliamentary history of Serbia before WWI, and Royalist Yugoslavia before WWII… well, let’s say there’s nothing inconsistent with Theory 2.

    @bytycci: “They might be hoping to delay the decision on Kosovo by saying ‘wait till we have a new government’.”

    Perhaps. But they can only delay another month or so. There is a general consensus that new elections would lead to gains for the Radicals, which would not help Serbia’s position WRT Kosovo.

    “They think delay will lead to violence and a descrediting of the Kosovar demand for independence. But no one is buying that.”

    …well, except that delay has already led to violence; two people died last month in pro-independence demonstrations in Prishtina.

    So I don’t think this is a ridiculous idea. I hope it’s wrong, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous.

    Doug M.

  6. Doug,
    you’re right. Delay has already led to violence. But, what they are hoping for is violence against the Serb minority. That would discredit the Kosovar claims. But even in that case the international community still understands that the best solution is independence. Thus as we are seeing, delay can only bring more unnecessary human suffering.


  7. Hey, it’s taken about three months for the Dutch to get a new government too, so it isn’t as if long transition periods between governments are unique to Serbia. That’s what you get with proper parliamentary documentaries, the risk that getting a coalition together might take a while.

  8. Martin: true, but the Dutch example was unusual. The Serbs are 2 for 2 — 70 days in 2003, 46 days (so far) in 2007. (I don’t count the December 2000 election, since that was weird — it was just a few weeks after the fall of Milosevic, and the DOS mega-coalition got 64% of the vote.)

    Once is accident, twice is coincidence… We may have to wait for another election to see if there’s really a pattern here.

    Doug M.

  9. The example was unusual because the Dutch had elections in 2003 and then it took much less then 70 days to form a government. Oh wait it took 125 days to install a government.

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