Our forefathers used to say that the worst thing is that he did not know. That he was beheaded already on the day of his inauguration. Today, when the state politics is more liberal, one could say that he was already withdrawn on the day of his election. The incumbent President of the Republic of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, has received a notice from the leadership of the ruling state party that they will not support him in his potential new presidential candidacy. Obviously, this was a big surprise for him. First of all, due to a series of public opinion polls, to tell the truth, nowhere published, which promised him big support for re-election. And also because of expectations that the party he founded will give him unconditional support. However, he has overlooked a crucial fact. Which is almost self-explanatory, or so it seems, that now several years after the first Nikolic’s victory in the presidential election, Serbia is too small for two leaders. Actually, he was probably convinced that his leadership is implied per se. However, earlier this week he was told that the ruling party will support Aleksandar Vucic, the Prime Minister because he is the only one and he could be the election winner.
In May 2012, Nikolic won the elections and defeated former head of state, Boris Tadic, by nearly two percent of the votes. He became the new head of state taking over very broad area of decision-making, left by his predecessor. And that was not implied per se. That literally was a succession of very influential Tadic, who could extend even very dull and ceremonial presidential powers. Among them, there were two that provided him great political power. Firstly, that the President directs the state or even controls the work of the government, and secondly, that the head of state appoints the Head of the National Security Council. Nikolic, who I have never met in person, has lost both tools over time. Practically, he has never had insight into the work of the Government, because after the elections of 2012, Aleksandar Vucic became Deputy Prime Minister in the Government formed by the election losers, Serbian socialists. So his subordinate. And who had, however, as soldiers would say, a formation problem. And exactly this problem is associated with other excess power. Through the Law on the Formation of the National Security Council, Tadic established constructive provision that the Secretary of the Agency for the coordination of all state intelligent services, subordinated to the Council, is chief of the cabinet.
Whereby Vucic, when he was appointed as the first deputy of the former Dacic’s government, knew that was a focal point of his actual power. Namely, Vucic has never been only a Vice President of the Government, as it was known, and he himself knew how to communicate in detail that his party is the one that has the parliamentary majority and the Government then represented only the result of pragmatic decision or an agreement with the Socialists.
Thus meaning that actually he is the one who decides. Therefore, with the two plans on how to get media support and support from key people in the industry he knew that he had to amend the provisions of Article 7 of the Law on the National Security Council immediately. Accordingly, the provisions which prescribed that the Secretary of the Agency for the coordination of all state intelligent services, subordinated to the Council, is chief of the Cabinet of the President of the country. So Nikolic’s.
He amended the provisions of the above mentioned article so that the said is appointed by the president of the country who could, just because of this legislative amendment, appoint Vucic for that influential and also fully operational function. Thereby a former Vice President of the Government resolved two problems. As the Secretary of the Agency of the intelligent services, and according to the position itself, he became a member of the National Security Council, whereby he also got insight into all the most confidential state documents. It was then he actually became the most influential Government man.
Nikolic probably did not want to see that. However, that was the first step towards the fact that today he can no longer be running for presidential re-election. When Vucic, after the re-election, was appointed as the Prime Minister, one of his first vows was that he would promptly resign from the position of the Secretary of the Agency for the coordination of intelligent services. Hence, both Nikolic and his closest associates in the cabinet of the President of the state expected that. Of course, that has never happened. Despite all positions, even as the Prime Minister, Vucic remained the Secretary of the Agency for Coordination of the intelligent services.
However, this was not Nikolic’s decisive step towards his own replacement.
At the end of May 2016, the Assembly was convened, the highest body of the party between two congresses, of the leading Serbian political party. Since the electoral victory Nikolic has not been the leader of the said, who as the President of the country left that position to his deputy, Vucic. After that meeting in May, it was evident that the party is being reformed. That the first father of the party, Nikolic, becomes somewhat redundant. They also took the post of Chairman of the Executive Board from his son. It was then when two voices were heard for the first time.
First the prevalent one, saying that it would not be good for the country upon the elections, taking place in less than a year, that a man, constantly in conflict and cohabitation with the Prime Minister was elected president. And then a very lonely voice, Nikolic’s voice, saying that an individual shall not rule Serbia. This meant that he and Vucic are a necessary match, that is, the said may not have sufficient Government support without him, so much a favourite among the people, as he would always point out.
And also saying that he does not see that anyone could perform this function better than he himself and it was precisely because of this that they are in daily contact with the Prime Minister and that he himself has enough energy and will to serve one more term. Namely, the country needs exactly the kind of Head of State he is. Nonetheless, he added a tiny note to all of this, I quote, God forbid that arrows should fly from Andricev venac to Nemanjina Street. From the building of the President of the country towards the building of the Prime Minister.
However, this was not the most important step towards Nikolic’s own demission.
The key to understanding the message, received by the current President of Serbia on Monday, 13th February of the current year, was his intention, despite the start and the flow of Brussels negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, to start writing a new political platform on Kosovo. Even then, during the first days of May 2015, it was clear that Nikolic’s associates were not able to prepare such a completely new and at the same time an acceptable plan in terms of negotiations. That it was most likely that this would be a document used by Belgrade to ask for new negotiations on Kosovo’s status, with the result of some kind of provincial autonomy. That this would be a paper that would be more suitable for the constitutional discussions in 1974 than in 2015. Totally unacceptable document both for the European Union and Pristina that would simultaneously be in complete contradiction with the signed and ratified Brussels agreement.
It was then Nikolic misjudged fatally that by inducing Kosovo sentiment he could re-activate Serbian electorate, thereby forming a new all folksy movement that would give him sufficient legitimacy and support for re-presidency. Therefore, he used to point out that as the President he would never sign the amendment to the Constitution which would determine different status of Kosovo. This was about completely wrong political assessments.
On Monday, he was told that a new candidate for state president is Aleksandar Vucic. And yesterday Nikolic was again deciding on running for re-election despite everything. On its own list, as a citizen.