Serbia’s strategic choice: the West or Russia

Map of Serbia and its neighbors and ethnic groups
Serbia’s government must manage the volatile mix of ethnic minorities scattered throughout the region as it attempts to push the country closer to the West (source: macpixxel for GIS)

This year will be a decisive one for Serbia. Many considered the elections that were held on April 24 as a sort of national referendum. Not only did the vote give pro-European Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic a parliamentary majority, it also gave him a mandate to put the biggest country to come out of the former Yugoslavia on a path toward decoupling with Russia. The stage is now set for a fierce political battle that will have strategic importance not only for Serbia’s internal stability, but for regional security overall.

After winning just over 48 percent of the vote, Prime Minister Vucic’s Progressive Party retained its parliamentary majority, though with fewer seats – 131 – than during its previous term. Mr. Vucic now faces the difficult task of steering the country toward the West. He has a historic opportunity to create a European Serbia, after half a century of communism and 25 years of authoritarianism.

Despite his party’s win, Prime Minister Vucic faces an uphill battle. Opposition to his pro-European stance is ferocious both inside and outside the country. Pro-Russia sentiment has increased in Serbia – two huge anti-NATO and anti-American protests have recently been held. The far-right nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), which is expected to be Russia’s voice in the new parliament, saw the biggest gain among all parties in the election, nabbing 21 seats. And there are hints of Moscow’s meddling in the election. Serbian police are investigating the falsification of registration signatures for two pro-Russian political parties.

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