Serbian Parliament Supports Changes to Local Self-Government Law Amid Opposition Divide

Tensions escalate in Kosovo as Serbia's ruling party pushes for local elections, but Serb List party calls for boycott, leading to failed vote and continued stalemate in EU-facilitated negotiations.

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Salman Akhtar
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Serbian Parliament Supports Changes to Local Self-Government Law Amid Opposition Divide

Serbian Parliament Supports Changes to Local Self-Government Law Amid Opposition Divide

On April 22, 2024, Vladimir Orlić, a member of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in the Serbian parliament, announced that a two-thirds majority supports changes to the law on local self-government. The proposed changes would allow elections to be held on June 2 in 88 municipalities and the capital city of Belgrade, despite opposition parties being divided on the issue.

The proposed amendments to the law aim to enable the election of Serb mayors in the northern Kosovo region, where ethnic tensions have been high following the appointment of ethnic Albanian mayors last year. However, in a surprising move, the Serb List party, which is backed by Belgrade, called for a boycott of the extraordinary local election. This led to a failed vote due to low voter turnout, with only 253 out of 46,556 registered voters casting their ballots in all four municipalities. In one municipality, Zvecan, no ballots were cast at all.

Why this matters: The position of the Serb List party and the influence of Belgrade on the electoral process in Kosovo remain unclear. The failed referendum leaves the same tense status quo in northern Kosovo and its EU-facilitated negotiations to normalize ties with neighboring Serbia.

The opening session of the new National Assembly on February 6 was marked by opposition members walking out, accusing the ruling SNS party of electoral fraud in the December 17 elections. Domestic and international monitoring organizations, including the OSCE, reported irregularities in the elections, which the SNS and the state leadership denied.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani accused Belgrade of exerting pressure on Serbs in Kosovo to boycott the referendum, while Srpska Lista accused Prime Minister Albin Kurti's government of exerting pressure on ethnic Serbs in the north with its police presence. The result of the failed referendum leaves the same tense status quo in northern Kosovo and its EU-facilitated negotiations to normalize ties with neighboring Serbia.

Key Takeaways

  • SNS party proposes changes to local election law in Serbia.
  • Proposed changes aim to elect Serb mayors in northern Kosovo.
  • Serb List party calls for boycott, leading to failed referendum.
  • Opposition parties accuse SNS of electoral fraud in Dec 2023 elections.
  • Failed referendum maintains tense status quo in northern Kosovo.