It is a problem that citizens would delegate these tasks to a “firm handed” leader, while the exit is actually through their greater engagement in terms of persistent dedication to ensuring state institutions respect their rights
Although Serbia is nominally a parliamentary democracy, where parliament is the place for deliberating, adopting and confirming the most important political decisions, today’s main centre of decision-making is the President of the Republic, Aleksandar Vučić. Vučić informs citizens publicly, on a daily basis, whether he approves or disapproves of something, gives or doesn’t give, often encroaching into the jurisdiction and authority of numerous other state institutions. The President of the Republic thus often acts as if speaking from the position of Prime Minister, Director of the Police, Chief Prosecutor and Judge, as well as the chief editor of the media. There are many examples of this, the more dramatic of which include the declaring of a state of emergency without a word from the National Assembly, possessing and failing to submit to judicial authorities a key two-minute video recording of a toll booth accident in which one person died (which is evidence), or the disclosing of secret documents of BIA (Serbia’s security and intelligence services agency) in a TV broadcast.
The consequences of the strong personalisation and centralisation of decision-making in the hands of the President of the Republic are the collapse of the constitutional order and the integrity of state institutions. However, even more importantly, such an attitude of a president towards state institutions undermines the trust of citizens in those institutions, but also in the very democratic order.
The president of the republic thus often acts as if speaking from the position of prime minister, director of the police, chief prosecutor and judge, as well as the chief editor of the media
Thus, for example, according to the latest public opinion survey conducted by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, fewer than half of Serbian citizens consider democracy to be a desirable form of government, almost a quarter of respondents are of the opinion that democracy is desirable, but that under current conditions we need a “firm hand”, while a fifth of those polled believe that all regimes are the same. Moreover, participants in the focus group cited among the desirable qualities of a political leader expertise, education, and regular and candid contact with the people, but they also stressed that a good leader should have a “firm hand”, because it is only with such an attitude that one can achieve something in Serbia. Or, as one focus group participant said, a political leader should have “skills like Vučić, just to work in the interests of his people and not in the interests of others”.
Admittedly, research findings indicate that Serbian citizens want the law to be consistently applied to all, as well as the “cleansing” of institutions through lustration purging and the forming of a special prosecution service and police composed of “honourable” people. The problem is that citizens would delegate these tasks to a “firm handed” leader, while the exit is actually through their greater engagement in terms of persistent dedication to ensuring state institutions respect their rights and the ruling political elite respects the powers of state institutions. If none of that happens, they should punish the ruling political elite faster by not voting for them in elections.