I.n Serbia is raging a power struggle within the ruling party that dominates the country, in which it is all or nothing for those involved. The past few years in the Balkan state have been characterized by a steady expansion of the supremacy of President Aleksandar Vučić. The dominance in parliamentary elections last June reached its peak for the time being, when Vučić’s “Serbian Progressive Party” won 188 out of 250 parliamentary seats. With their long-term partner, the Socialist Party of Serbia, the “progressives” even got 220 seats. The remaining seats were won by ethnic minority MPs and an irrelevant faction. The opposition failed to make it into parliament.
Correspondent for Southeast European countries based in Vienna.
Domestically, now with no serious opponents, the winners seem to get into an increasingly sharp conflict among themselves. The core is a power struggle between the President, who also determines the day’s politics, and one of his long-term companions, the former Minister of the Interior and current Minister of Defense Nebojša Stefanović.
As Minister of the Interior, Stefanović was a loyal follower of Vučić for a long time. Stefanović also survived affairs over his partially plagiarized doctoral thesis, dubious arms deals by his father (who has since died of Covid-19) to the detriment of the state or the role of the police in the illegal nightly demolition of buildings in Belgrade city center because of his loyalty to the actual ruler of the Landes seemed beyond doubt.
Fight behind the scenes
But that is the past. While there is still peace on the outside and Vučić expressly praises his former Sputnik, the president and the minister fight behind the scenes. For weeks, television stations and newspapers, which are always in line with the president, have portrayed Stefanović as a traitor or criminal who promoted the mafia and planned the overthrow or even the murder of the head of state. From those around the president, it is said that behind Vučić’s back, Stefanović began to contact foreign embassies in Belgrade and to throw fabricated incriminating material against him and his family.
Stefanović claimed that Vučić’s eldest son was making common cause with criminals from the background of football hooligans. However, there are actually recordings of stadium visits that show the son with men from this milieu. But the story of how these pictures came about is completely different, say advocates for the head of state. The criminals took the selfies with the president’s son on instructions from Stefanović, who had planned for a long time to put pressure on the father with such pictures. That doesn’t sound too plausible, however, because some of the pictures have been around in public for a long time, but were not condemned by the president when they appeared.
Well-informed supporters of Vučić, however, insist that Stefanović has been trapping the president for at least two years. When the police discovered an illegal marijuana plantation not far from Belgrade, Stefanović assured the arrested owner of impunity if he stated that he was in contact with Vučić and his brother Andrej. It is true that Vučić once met the owner of the drug plantation, but that was a fleeting encounter on a trip abroad to Moscow that was not initiated by the presidential apparatus.
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