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Milan Marković, General Manager, Smurfit Kappa Belgrade

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Bojan Klačar, Executive Director Of The Centre For Free Elections And Democracy (CESID)

Open Doors

The return of the opposition to the parliament will lead to numerous changes. The national assembly will once again be pluralistic, with MPS that differ in terms of their programme and ideology, and openness to differing opinions

Following the April elections, parliament is returning to the pre-2019 period (when the opposition launched its boycott of parliament), with all the virtues and challenges brought by parliamentary life. The National Assembly is returning to itself and to its role in the political system, and that is good news.

The return of the opposition to the parliament will lead to numerous changes. The National Assembly will once again be pluralistic, with MPs that differ in terms of their programme and ideology, and openness to differing opinions. In terms of political dynamics, this convocation of the parliament will resemble the 2016-2018 period, or the 2012-2014 period. This means that the ruling majority will sit opposite a relatively large number of dissenting voices (around 90 MPs), but that there will be major political disagreements among the opposition MPs themselves. Secondly, the opposition’s return strengthens the parliament’s control function, which had been reduced to a minimum in the previous convocation. The opposition’s participation in parliament also creates more opportunities for opposition political activity, which was very limited during the period when it was outside the institutions (lasting almost three and a half years). The boycott of the parliament (from 2019) and the 2020 elections greatly damaged the opposition and time will be needed for the opposition to recover both politically and financially.

Returning to the parliament gives the opposition increased media visibility, institutional action, networking possibilities and opportunities to communicate differently with voters… By granting seven deputy speaker positions, SNS wanted to send a message that it is taking a constructive approach, because previously the Serbian national assembly has only once (2004-2008) had this many deputy speakers

Parliament will partially regain trust, but we shouldn’t be optimistic that it will become the most important political institution overnight, nor that it will improve dramatically over the recent past (until 2020). Political power has always resided either at 11 Nemanja Street, during the phases when Serbia has been closer to the parliamentary system, or at 1 Andrićev Venac, during the quasipresidential phases, which is the case today.

Marking the work of the parliament will be a combination of constructive debates, frequent confrontations between MPs and shifting away from the agenda. The election of heads of parliamentary groups shows that political parties have opted for tried and tested politicians. Returning to the parliament gives the opposition increased media visibility, institutional action, networking possibilities and opportunities to communicate differently with voters (through the opening of parliamentary offices, for example). Those possibilities are partly represented by broadcasts of sessions that are not among the most watched content on television, but which do have their own audience. Through their work in committees, MPs can launch topics and be at the source of information, while they will gain opportunities to lead some of the sessions through deputy speaker posts. The seven deputy speaker posts are important, though not crucial, and they shouldn’t be tied to the future look of the parliamentary majority. By granting seven deputy speaker positions, the ruling Serbian Progressive Party wanted to send a message that it is taking a constructive approach, because previously the Serbian National Assembly has only once (2004-2008) had this many deputy speakers.

Comment by Zoran Panovic

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