Tag Archives: jankovic

Vučić easily wins presidential victory to consolidate power across Serbia’s government

Prime minister Aleksandar Vučić easily won the weekend presidential election in Serbia. (Facebook)

For decades, presidential politics in parliamentary democracies were boring affairs — if popular elections were even held for the position, they typically featured technocrats or independents. Politicians, if they ran for what are mostly ceremonial presidencies, would be episodes that ended a successful political career.  

That’s still generally the case in western Europe — presidents like former Labour firebrand Michael D. Higgins in Ireland, one-time foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Germany, and the charismatic communist Giorgio Napolitano in Italy all ended (or are ending) their political careers as figureheads.

But increasingly, in emerging democracies in eastern Europe, it’s becoming a power play for popular prime ministers to wage campaigns for a previously ceremonial presidency, using the ‘mandate’ of popular election as a bid to suffuse the presidency with far more than ceremonial power.

It is a gambit that’s worked in the Czech Republic and in Turkey, where presidents Miloš Zeman (since 2013) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (since 2014) have succeeded, to some degree, in shifting some power from the parliamentary branch of government to the presidential. The Czech Republic remains a parliamentary democracy, but Zeman, who is running for reelection in 2018, shrewdly took advantage of the country’s first direct presidential elections to carve a new role for the Czech presidency in domestic and foreign policymaking. Erdoğan not only won the Turkish presidency, but hopes to formalize constitutional changes to enshrine presidential power in a high-stakes April 16 referendum.

It failed in Slovakia, where sitting prime minister Robert Fico lost the 2014 presidential election to independent businessman and philanthropist Andrej Kiska. So it’s a power move that can sometimes backfire — Fico managed to remain Slovakian prime minister, but his center-left party dropped from 83 seats to 49 in the National Assembly in last March’s parliamentary elections after a swing of 16% away from Fico’s party.

There will be no such regrets for prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, who easily won a first-round victory with 55% of the vote among an 11-candidate field, cementing control of the Serbian government not only in the hands of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (Српска напредна странка / SNS), but, in particular, under the personal command of Vučić, who nudged incumbent Tomislav Nikolić to stand aside from a reelection bid in late February.

It will make Vučić even more powerful than Boris Tadić, a center-left and pro-EU leader who similarly dominated Serbian politics as president from 2004 to 2012. Though Nikolić narrowly defeated Tadić five years ago in a runoff, Vučić (and not Nikolić) held more sway over Serbian government over the last half-decade, increasing his grip on power over a series of three parliamentary elections between 2012 and 2016. Vučić’s presidential victory means that power is now likely to swing (once again) to the Novi Dvor, the Serbian presidential palace.

Over the next two months, as he prepares to take the presidential oath on May 31, Vučić, who remains prime minister for the time being, is likely to choose one of several cabinet members as his successor — leading names include two independents appointed by Vučić to his cabinet, finance minister Dušan Vujović or public administration minister Ana Brnabić (who would not only be Serbia’s first female prime minister, but its first openly lesbian one, too). Nikolić, over the weekend, hinted that he would retire from party politics altogether, which would seem to eliminate him as prime minister. Former justice minister Nikola Selaković, a rising star within the SNS, is also often mentioned.  Continue reading Vučić easily wins presidential victory to consolidate power across Serbia’s government

How Miro Cerar rose to the top of Slovenian politics in four weeks


Slovenians on Sunday turned over their country’s government to Miro Cerar, a political neophyte that barely anyone outside (or even inside) Slovenia had ever heard of a year ago.slovenia

Cerar (pictured above), an attorney and law professor, and the son of an Olympic gymnast, formed the Stranka Mira Cerarja (SMC, Miro Cerar’s Party), barely a month ago. But that didn’t matter to Slovenians, and the SMC easily won the July 13 snap elections by a margin of 34.6% to 20.7% against the center-right center-right Slovenska demokratska stranka (SDS, Slovenian Democratic Party), whose leader, two-time prime minister Janez Janša, has been sentenced to two years in prison in relation to corruption charges. Cerar’s victory represents the strongest victory of any party in a Slovenian election since the return of Slovenian sovereignty in 1990.

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Sunday’s snap parliamentary elections follow the resignation two months ago of Alenka Bratušek, Slovenia’s first female prime minister, after just over a year in office. Bratušek’s center-left coalition government is the second government since Slovenia’s last elections in December 2011.

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RELATED: Bratušek, Slovenia’s first female prime minister, resigns

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Cerar will now likely command 36 seats in the 90-member, unicameral Državni zbor (National Assembly), forcing him to form a coalition government with any of a number of allies in a National Assembly that remains fragmented, despite the strength of Cerar’s  mandate.

Cerar’s success is in large part due to his novelty. He’s not tainted by the past six years of austerity or the past two decades of corruption that characterizes much of Slovenia’s political elite. He lies somewhat in the center or center-left of Slovenian politics, leaning right on the need for economic reform, but leaning left on the need for reconsidering some austerity-era policies that Cerar believes have harmed Slovenian growth. For example, he’s called into question several recent plans for privatizations, including the national telecommunications company and the corporation that run’s the national airport. Continue reading How Miro Cerar rose to the top of Slovenian politics in four weeks

Bratušek, Slovenia’s first female prime minister, resigns


It’s been a busy season for politics in the Balkans this year — Croatia began the year for the first time as a member of the European Union, Serbia’s snap elections in March returned a resounding victory for Aleksandar Vučić and his center-right Progressives, protesters in Bosnia and Herzegovina are calling for new conditions to longtime economic and political stagnation, and Macedonia’s center-right government recently won a fourth consecutive term in power.slovenia

Now it’s Slovenia’s turn.

Alenka Bratušek, the country’s first female prime minister, resigned on Monday, calling into question whether the shaky Slovenian economy will avoid an international bailout that Bratušek worked to avoid in her 13-month government.

Bratušek’s resignation follows internal upheaval within her own party, Pozitivna Slovenija (Positive Slovenia), still a relatively new center-left political party. With voters fed up with the two dominant parties, Positive Slovenia burst onto the political scene in the most recent December 2011 parliamentary elections. It won the largest bloc of seats (28) in Slovenia’s 90-member, unicameral national assembly, the Državni zbor.

In the 29 months since the last election, Slovenia has now had both a center-right coalition government and a center-left coalition government, and both have fallen. That means that Slovenia likely faces snap elections this summer or early in the autumn, and Bratušek, 44, has suggested that she will form her a new party of her own to contest to them.

Bratušek (pictured above) was never the driving force within the party, however, whose founder is Zoran Janković, a former retail businessman who served as the mayor of Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, from 2006 until 2011, and against since 2012 following his failure to become Slovenia’s prime minister.

Janković returned to the leadership of Positive Slovenia late last month after engineering a putsch ousting Bratušek as leader. That, in turn, unraveled the coalition that Bratušek built in February 2013.  Continue reading Bratušek, Slovenia’s first female prime minister, resigns