The former PM became a new president, and the old president, Tomislav Nikolić, stepped down silently. The five years of the joint reign over Serbia marked the dramatic changes in political equilibrium with a new dominance of Realpolitik and Serbian Progressive Party. What can we expect in Vučić’s presidential term?
A SILENT PRESIDENT
First of all, Tomislav Nikolić was a model constitutional president of Serbian Republic. He was strictly clinging to the constitution, which prescibes that, as opposed to the Milošević’s times with French-looking constitution and strong presidential republic, a president now has to be something like a German or Italian federal president or a Queen of England. A symbol of unity. This unity, however, was severely challenged in the beginning when many in Serbia stated „Not my president“, just like in the USA now. For many it was strange to imagine less sophisticated Nikolić occupying the post of stylish and sophisticated smooth-talker, Boris Tadić, but in reality, Nikolić was silent and correct. His term was marked by the beginning of the end of the „Yellow-clan“ and the fall of Democratic Party, thus opening the road for Aleksandar Vučić as a party leader, who formed the parliamentary majority, later extending SNS-rule over Vojvodinian parliament. Nikolić was giving many medals to presidents of countries which refused to recognise Kosovo’s independence, and at least he was consistent in showing preference to perceived friends. Just like Putin always congratulates the presidents of all the ex-Soviet republics except Baltic ones, and he always expresses the congratulations for „the peoples of Ukraine and Georgia“. But, the history will judge „the silent president“ and he became more „simpatico“ to the general public at the end of his term.
THE SHIFT OF POWER
The Serbian political scene was always deeply marked by the rapid shift of power since the power was concentrated with the person, not the institution or the post. For instance, when Slobodan Milošević was the president of Serbia, it was the most important post, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was second-rate organisation. Zoran Lilić, federal president, was merely a figure. And when Milošević became the federal president, it became the most important function, while Milan Milutinović became a figure as Serbian president. Which probably created a shift between Đukanović’s Montenegro and the fall of the federal state, but it is completely another matter. When Boris Tadić was a president, the real power was in his hands. The same is to be expected now: we can expect that the presidential post will be the most influential „from the shadow“, since the power of personality of Aleksandar Vučić is beyond doubt. But the same shift happened in other democracies, like Russia (Putin shifting from presidential and PM functions) and Erdogan (the same thing).
Now the president is inaugurated and the consultations about the new PM have begun. But it is highly unlikely that many ministers will change, since Vučić has moved from the executive function to a ceremonial one, but he still wants the new government to continue precisely the same work he did in the last years. Yet, he proved to be clever mastermind in the complicated chess match between the world superpowers (USA, Russia, China, EU), nationalist and liberals, Church and citizens. He used to surprise us with some personal choices, the biggest surprise being naming of Ana Brnabić, the first openly LGBTQ-person on the high post in the goverment. No other so-called pro-European party was able to do so, and Vućić got the upper hand. Now, the country does not have problems in seeing her even as a new PM, which is a tremendous shift in mindset. If you think Vučić will be more conservative than the Democrats, you might be really really wrong. The other thing we can expect is the rather unfair picking on Tomislav Nikolić and his wife Dragica’s foundation in the media, since nobody dares to touch any subject when the incumbent president is ruling, but there is always an easy target to shoot at. As for president Vučić, the rumours are, as Minister Brnabić said, that the newly appointed PM would be an „ikebana“ or a decorative vase. But probably nothing big will happen. The direction of the government and politics will be the same, balancing between the personal solutions somehow „approved“ by big powers. There was a lot of fuss about the elections, but the result is going the be pretty much like: much ado about nothing, as the Bard said. Everything will be stable. Like it or not.