And the winner is…not Ivica Dačić
May 10, 2012 1 Comment
After some newspapers misleadingly declared that Serbia was once more “at the crossroads” before the latest elections, the Socialist Party of Serbia and its president Ivica Dačić was declared the “winner” of these elections. However, if Dačić were the winner, he only achieved a Pyrrhic victory. Indeed, his party and its two partners did very well, gaining 14.7 percent of the vote, a larger share than most opinion polls had predicted. This was also a success as for most of the past four years, it was not sure to which degree its electorate would follow the party’s reorientation after 2008 when it formed a coalition with Tadićs Democratic Party. However, the party and its president failed in one key aspect. Its power derives from its ability to be an indispensable partner for Tadić and being the only party that could form a coalition with the Progressive Party (SNS) of Tomislav Nikolić just as easily as with the Democratic Party. This ability to join different governing coalitions would have given it tremendous bargaining power and Dačić made no secret of his desire to become Prime Minister.
However, the election results did not go his way. Despite the party’s own success, the result of the Progressive Party has meant that a coalition between Socialists and Progressives would not suffice to form a government. The SNS and the SPS (and its partners) only hold 118 seats, not enough for the necessary majority of 126 deputies. There are no obvious partners in parliament to grant the two parties the crucial additional 8 MPs. Minority parties would be unlikely to support such a coalition and the Democratic Party of Serbia of former Prime Minister Koštunica has positioned itself so far to the right, openly rejecting EU membership, that they are not a viable partner for the two parties that claim to have become advocates of EU integration.
As a result, the SPS can demand an increased share of ministers due to its greater electoral support from the Democratic Party, but it cannot maximize its influence by threatening to provide a majority for Tomislav Nikolić. Ironically, the Democratic Party has more options. If the SPS tries to extract a too high price from it for joining the government it could form a “grand coalition” with the Progressives. Considering that Tadić wants to win the second round of presidential elections against Nikolić, it is not surprising that Democrats and Socialists came to an agreement about future cooperation just days after the elections. When it comes to negotiating the new government, the hand of Dačić will be tied and the party will certainly get greater influence in the government, any threat to not join the Democrats will sound hollow. Thus, all the signs point to a new governing coalition which does not look very different from the old one.