Serbian President Boris Tadic called parliamentary elections for May 6 as the Balkan country works to start European Union membership talks and resume a funding agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The forthcoming ballot is a “chance to unite around central strategic goals,” Tadic said in a statement on his website today. “The new government will have to make tough and complex decisions to ensure a better future for the citizens,” the report said.
Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic’s government wants to stay in power after wrapping up four years in office, the first cabinet in 12 years to have lasted its full term. The largest ex-Yugoslav republic was declared a candidate to join the EU on March 1, taking a further step out of the isolation it suffered after the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.
Serbia relied on the EU for trade and investment over the past decade, while the sovereign-debt crisis in Europe cut demand for Serbian exports. The government lost support from the International Monetary Fund, which froze its $1.3 billion precautionary loan program in January after discovering that the nation would exceed the 2012 budget gap and debt targets.
Cvetkovic led a coalition government of Tadic’s Democratic Party, the Socialist Party of Serbia, once led by former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and the G17+ party of technocrats and economic liberals. All three political groups will run independently for the new parliament.
The election campaign begins at a time when the dinar is at its weakest levels since Milosevic’s fall in 2000, unemployment at 24.4 percent and growth of 0.5 percent at best according to the central bank and the International Monetary Fund forecasts.
Serbia’s future in the 27-nation bloc will be the main foreign policy issue, Marko Blagojevic, director of operations at the Belgrade-based Center for Free Elections and Democracy, said in a phone interview.
“It would be fair to say that eventual membership in the EU is not seen as a goal in itself but rather as means for achieving what people are fundamentally interested in, a higher living standard,” he said.
Tadic’s ruling pro-Western Democrats have the support of 27.5 percent of 1,550 people polled in an opinion survey held by the Center for Democracy and Development in the first week of March. The opposition Serbian Progressive Party were backed by 29 percent of the voters, according to the survey, which did not provide an error margin.
“Only when the accession talks begin, the process of European integration will be irreversible,” Tadic said in a speech to his party on March 10, adding there will be no post- election coalitions with the biggest opposition Serbian Progressive Party, which is more popular than the ruling Democratic party.
To contact the reporters on this story: Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade at firstname.lastname@example.org Misha Savic in Belgrade at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org