Progressives file request for early provincial elections

NOVI SAD -- The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) filed a request for early provincial elections to Vojvodina Assembly Speaker Ištvan Pastor on Thursday.

The Progressives also called on Vojvodina Executive Council Chairman Bojan Pajtić to resign.

The request of the SNS-led parliamentary group calls for a session of the Collegium of the Vojvodina assembly which would table the issue of the evident loss of legitimacy of the parliamentary majority in the current legislature.

The SNS has called for a resignation of the president of the provincial government in order to ensure implementation of the procedure for calling new provincial elections.

Ahead of Thursday's session of the provincial assembly, which tabled the SNS initiative, SNS deputy leader and whip in the provincial assembly Igor Mirović said that the current majority in the Vojvodina assembly had lost its legitimacy, which was confirmed in Sunday's by-elections, stressing that there was a number of reasons to call the elections.

“We are aware that there are no formal conditions for calling provincial elections, but we would like to open a dialogue on the complete loss of the provincial government's legitimacy,” Mirović said, adding that the early elections in Vojvodina could be held in the coming six months or one year.

“The initiative for early provincial elections stemmed from the last year's decision of the Constitutional Court of Serbia to challenge the law on provincial competencies, and thus a constitutional framework for the last provincial elections and a great number of scandals that were concealed and about which citizens did not know”, he told reporters.

Mirović underscores that the Democratic Party (DS), which leads the ruling coalition in Vojvodina, financed its election campaign by a loan of the Development Bank of Vojvodina (RVB) although it knew that the bank was experiencing business problems, about which citizens were not informed.

“Ahead of the last elections, the Vojvodina government distributed RSD 180mn goods from the provincial stocks to citizens, and thus the DS misused that provincial institution,” he noted.

The by-election results in Apatin, Zrenjanin and Srbobran are the latest evidence that the current provincial government has lost its legitimacy, which suggests that the will of Vojvodina citizens has changed, and that is a reason enough for new elections in the province, reads the SNS request calling for the early provincial elections.

The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) have announced that they will back the SNS initiative, while representatives of the ruling coalition in the province, which comprises the DS, League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV), Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM) believe that there is no reason for early provincial elections and stress that the coalition is stable.

The Vojvodina assembly speaker said on Thursday that he had received a request of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) for early elections in Vojvodina, but that he was still of the opinion that there was no reason for that.

Pastor, who received the SNS request for early provincial elections just before today's parliamentary session, told a press conference that no element from the request brought into question the stand he had been speaking about publicly in recent days.

He says that the calling of elections was defined by strict rules and that he did not see any element that would point to the need for the early elections.

DSS Provincial Committee President Branislav Ristivojević stated on Thursday that the government in Vojvodina had no legitimacy, adding that the results of the recent by-elections in this autonomous province were only a consequence of the fact that it had lost its legitimacy.

Ristivojević said ahead of the session of the provincial parliament that the DSS welcomed the fact that other opposition parties in the Vojvodina assembly had joined the DSS last year's request for early provincial elections.

“The DSS called for early elections immediately after the decision of the Constitutional Court of Serbia declaring a part of the Law on Establishing Jurisdictions of Vojvodina unconstitutional,” he told reporters, adding that the Vojvodina Statute would soon be declared unconstitutional and that all that raised the issue of legitimacy of the current ruling majority in the province.

“The citizens have realized that the current provincial government is misleading them, and they have showed this at the by-elections given that the representatives of the ruling majority have lost in all three constituencies,” Ristivojević stressed.

Pajtić pointed out that the DS and its coalition partners had a stable majority in the assembly, adding that the Democrats in the additional election “almost doubled their results in constituencies that traditionally voted for our political opponents”.

DS whip in the Vojvodina assembly said that the ruling majority was stable and that there was no reason to call early elections.

“The SNS’ request is mocking the citizens’ will. The majority in assembly is stable and has 76 assembly members. The by-elections last week did not change anything, expect the fact that the SNS won one assembly member and the SPS lost one,” he said.

LSV whip Branislav Bogaroški also believes that the majority in the provincial assembly is stable and that there is no need to call early elections.

Vojvodina's provincial electoral commission forwarded to Vojvodina's parliament on Tuesday the report on the results of by-elections in Apatin, Zrenjanin and Srbobran in order to verify the MPs' seats.

Dragan Rastović, a candidate of the Socialist Party of Serbia-Party of United Pensioners of Serbia-the United Serbia-the Social Democratic Party of Serbia (SPS-PUPS-JS-SDPS) coalition was elected assembly member in Apatin by the plurality voting system, while Darko Bađok and Živko Nastić, candidates of the SNS-led coalition, were elected in Zrenjanin and Srbobran.

The Vojvodina assembly has a total of 120 seats, half of whom are chosen by the proportional system, while the other half is elected by the plurality voting system.

The ruling majority in the provincial parliament comprises the DS with 58 seats, the LSV with ten seats, the SVM with seven and the LDP, which has one seat. The opposition includes the SNS with 23 MPs, SPS-led coalition with 12 seats, the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) with five and the DSS with four MPs.