The initial official count of Serbia’s weekend election on Monday confirmed a victory for the ruling populist party in the Balkan country’s parliamentary vote. However, political tensions escalated in the capital, Belgrade, due to reported irregularities.
An opposition faction alleged that it was unjustly denied victory in the local election in Belgrade, rejecting the results and calling for a rerun of the ballot. The parliamentary and local election, held on Sunday, pitched populist President Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party against the Serbia Against Violence opposition alliance.
According to a nearly complete preliminary count by the state election commission, Vucic’s SNS party secured approximately 47% of the parliamentary vote, with Serbia Against Violence following at 23%. Several smaller parties also participated in the election, conducted just 18 months after the previous presidential and parliamentary vote.
If the final count confirms these results, the SNS party is poised to have an absolute majority in the 250-member parliament, allowing it to form the next government independently.
While official results for Belgrade’s city hall are pending, projections by polling agencies IPSOS and CESID indicate that SNS won 38% of the ballots in Belgrade, while Serbia Against Violence received 35%. Nonetheless, Serbia Against Violence alleged fraud, citing numerous irregularities reported during the campaign and on voting day.
Election monitors and independent media also reported irregularities, including claims of mass transportation of ethnic Serbs from neighboring Bosnia to vote in Belgrade. Serbia Against Violence further asserted that 40,000 identity documents were issued to individuals not residing in the capital. There were also reports of assaults on monitoring teams and allegations of voters being incentivized or coerced to support the ruling party.
The independent Center for Research, Transparency, and Accountability, which monitors elections in Serbia, described the issues on election day in Belgrade as “particularly serious” and attributed them to attempts to influence citizens’ electoral will. Vucic and his party denied these allegations.
In response, the opposition announced its intention to file official complaints and called for a street protest later on Monday. Opposition politician Marinika Tepic emphasized the significance of defending the voting will of the people through legal means, denouncing the excessive inclusion of non-resident voters as a blatant abuse of the law.
Although the election did not include the presidency, governing authorities, backed by pro-government media, framed the campaign as a de facto referendum on Vucic. The Serbia Against Violence bloc, pro-European Union, had previously organized street protests triggered by mass shootings in May.
Despite Serbia’s warm relations with Russia and President Vladimir Putin, the country, a Balkan candidate for European Union membership since 2014, has faced allegations of diminishing democratic freedoms in recent years.