INTERVIEW Serbs may have a new president as of Sunday. The victory of the current Prime Minister Aleksander Vučić is generally expected with a profit of over 50 percent. This is also confirmed by the security and political analyst of Serbian origin Milutin Ilić. In an interview with ParlamentníListy.cz, he also talked about Czech-Serbian relations.
Description: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić
Serbia will hold presidential elections on Sunday. The favorite is Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić. Can we expect any surprises? Can we trust the polls that predict Vučić’s victory even in the first round?
Acting Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić is indeed the absolute favorite of the presidential election. It will be enough for him to win the first round when the voters of his Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska napredna stranka – SNS, editor’s note) and the coalition around the SNS arrive at the polls in a disciplined manner. Vučić’s meeting with Putin this week in Moscow on the topic of economic and military-technical cooperation will add a few percent of undecided voters. I estimate that with this development, everything will be resolved in the first round, where Vučić will gain 53 to 56 percent and there will be no second round.
With what program is Prime Minister Vučić going to the polls? And why do you think he is running for president, does he not have more powers as prime minister?
Prime Minister Vučić is running for president mainly with a program that emphasizes stability, Serbia’s European path, cooperation with neighboring countries, military neutrality, but also the best cooperation with Russia and China. Serbia has a very complex geostrategic and security environment. The restart of relations between America and Russia is expected, which will significantly affect the whole of Europe and especially the Balkans.
It is known that Vučić has good cooperation with EU countries, Germany, Italy or the Czech Republic and Hungary. China has significant investments in Serbia, and as I said, Vučić was now in Russia for President Putin this week in connection with military-technical cooperation and the purchase of six MIG 29 fighters, 30 T-72 tanks and thirty BRDM 2M armored reconnaissance transporters. Vučić suggested to Putin that they could host a summit of Serbia and the Eurasian Union in Serbia in the autumn of this year. Serbia’s goal is to maintain the liberalization of trade with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and to expand the list of goods that can be exported duty-free and certain products, especially Fiat cars. It also intends to improve relations with Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
Your question shows that you know the legal system of Serbia. The truth is that the prime minister has more powers than the president. I think that Vučić has decided to run for President of Serbia to give Serbia a geostrategic and security position through his policy. In its party of the CIS, which has over 600,000 members, a pro-Russian, pro-European and pro-Western orientation can be observed, which shows openness to all directions and an even distribution of forces in foreign policy.
To what extent could an exchange in the presidential palace change Czech-Serbian relations?
The Czech Republic primarily supports Serbia’s integration into the EU and Serbia is committed to further developing political, trade, economic and cultural relations. In 2015, nine bilateral meetings took place at various levels of government, and the year before the Czech President was on a state visit to Belgrade. In 2016, five representatives of the Czech Republic and Serbia held mutual meetings.
For example, the exchange of goods in 2015 between the Czech Republic and Serbia reached 643 million euros, of which Serbia exported 275.8 million and imported goods for 367.2 million euros. Any future president, and of course Vučić in the first place, would consider the Czechia as an important political and trade partner.
Our mutual relations continue to deepen and this can be seen in concrete examples. Member of the Parliament of the Czech Republic Jaroslav Foldyna was recently awarded by the current President Tomislav Nikolić for improving mutual relations and cooperation. MP Foldyna founded a Czech-Serbian economic and cultural association in Prague, and Serbian members of parliament in Belgrade formed associations with similar goals. I must not forget that the Czech President Miloš Zeman has great sympathy for the Serbian nation for his firm and consistent views. He has supported us many times, for example by refusing to appoint a Czech ambassador to the pseudo-state of Kosovo, our historical territory, which was stolen from us with the generous help of the West to Kosovo Albanian criminals and mobsters.
Vojislav Šešelj, who was imprisoned in The Hague for almost 12 years, is also running for president. What support does he have?
Prof. Dr. Vojislav Šešelj is, in the first place, a Russophile, anti-globalist, opponent of NATO and the EU in its current form. He is consistent in his nationalist political agenda, for which he spent those 12 years in custody at The Hague Tribunal. After all, the court acquitted him as innocent and he was acquitted in all respects. I perceive his constituency somewhere between 11 and 12 percent, but in the current situation more around 8 percent due to some other candidates who have appeared and may attract voters with strongly nationalist views. In any case, I think it is a success that Šešelj’s Serbian Radical Party (SRS) exists at all due to the pressure from the West to which Serbia is exposed.
Can the future president, if he is one of the main candidates, change the current situation in the whole of the Balkans in any way?
My estimate is that Vučić will win with foresight and his policy is clear: cooperation with neighbors, stability in the Balkans and a common path to the EU.