A great celebration is taking place today in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital. The first guests arrived already a few days ago, the last guests are arriving today. The reason of all journeys and congratulations by those who couldn’t come is only one. New President of State, Aleksandar Vučić is assuming office.
Months before that, most likely in the first days of January this year, he reached two mutually connected decisions. Both were, along with the instant applaud and approval of the loyal supporters of the then Prime Minister and the leader of the strongest party, subject to more or less hidden opposition, reproaches and protests. But also dismay and almost public announcements of a political rebellion. Regardless of all, or due to such protests, though they were not resolute or long-lasting, Aleksandar Vučić reached both decisions without great disturbance or consultations or seeking allies. He simply decided. And he also had all required political power. At the same time, he demonstrated again that he is the only man in the country who can and dares reach essential political decisions. At first, it was his decision to be the candidate in the presidential election almost immediately after the formation of the cabinet of his government. And then he reached the decision to nominate Ana Brnabić as new PM designate. The rebellion was first announced by the then President Tomislav Nikolić. Doing so, he first referred to his reputation as president and then immediately repeated that he and Vučić had an obliging agreement and a promise that Nikolić would be able to run as a candidate for president again. Whereby he forgot that it was exactly the Prime Minister and the leader of the strongest political party who was reiterating in the late autumn last year that, because he carried the burden of important statesman decisions, he had no time to think about who could be his party’s candidate in the presidential election. And he forgot that the same party that he had established conducted a number of opinion polls that showed that the chances for his re-electoin were slim. Anyway, after a night’s sleep and following a number of news on irregularities regarding the finances of the humanitarian foundation led by his wife, he no longer resorted to protest words – he changed those words into a request that his long-time party colleague, Vučić, understands his wish to be re-elected. Yet, he oversaw, of course, that there are no promises or obligations in politics that could be kept for a long time and he primarily failed to notice that, in the party he had established, he remained as a guest, and nothing more than that. That in the years after he, as the President of State, in a gesture of political correctness withdrew from the post of the head of the biggest parliamentary party it happened to him literally. Immediately after that, even his last supporters from the party hurried to express their loyalty to Vučić. The political opposition failed to take advantage of this really tiny crack in the ruling party. They simply neither knew how nor wanted to agree on potential joint presidential candidate. Vučić won with vast majority in the first round. And, above all, he showed that he alone controlled all the mechanisms required for ruling.
Occasional generosity is also a part of that.
So, only a few days after the victory he appointed Nikolić as coordinator for economic relations between Belgrade and China and Russia and gave him a new office.
After Vučić’s election victory, protests of the opposition and a part of public followed, along with warnings about media non-freedoms and too big power of the President. But it was too late. Time simply could not be turned back for several months or years to change the then prevailing opinion that there was no need to reach agreement on a joint opposition presidential candidate.
After that, acting in the capacity of the President of the State, Vučić decided to appoint Minister Ana Brnabić as new PM-designate. And it was not surprising. Regardless of all the news, which were not mere speculations, that Vučić had made a deal during the election campaign already with the leader of the coalition partner and Minister of Foreign Affairs, but, above all, a skilful politician Ivica Dačić on mutual support. The agreement was that Dačić’s Socialist Party does not have its own candidate in the presidential election, but that it supports Vučić unconditionally and actively and with its complete party infrastructure. After being elected President, he was supposed to leave the PM post to Dačić. Regardless of the fact that today, as is the case with all political obligations of the kind, the memory of the real contents of the agreement largely pales, it was clear that Vučić could not appoint the strong leader of the ruling coalition party as the Prime Minister. Thus he would additionally increase his factual influence and get a potential competitor. And that would essentially be opposed to the reasons for his presidential candidacy. With the goal to have all political strength and decision-making power in one place – that of the President of State.
Therefore, Vučić knew all the time that the only choice he was left with was politically weak Minister Ana Brnabić, without any party connections. A respectable woman with excellent international education and the reputation of successful ministerial work, yet, fully dependent on the political will of the ruling party and the ruling coalition. Therefore, without a true opportunity to form a new or changed government. She is left only with the promise of Vučić’s unreserved support to her work. At the same time, it is also a sort of his warning to all members of the ruling party and coalition who have a different opinion, that potential vote against Brnabić would also mean their political removal. That could be perceived, also, as a sort of Vučić’s announcement of greater unity of the ruling coalition and a new call to the part of the opposition to support Brnabić.
That is precisely what the problem of the new Prime Minister is connected with. Namely, soon after, Vučić issued a release that the PM post will soon be split and that Brnabić will be in charge more or less of economic issues only and the negotiations with the international financial institutions, and that all Government’s political activities will be assumed by Foreign Minister Dačić. At the same time, it only confirms that literally all decisions, both those more and less important ones will be reached at one place only.
In the new cabinet of the President of State.
That means, also, that the place for making key decisions on negotiations with the European Union and delicate talks in Brussels-Belgrade-Priština triangle will move from the Government to the Presidential Palace. Thus Vučić completed his conquest of power, bringing together complete political, security and decision-making power in one place.
His new office.