Although Serbia has the formal characteristics of a democracy, over the past decade it has in practice ceased to be one. Today, Serbia does not meet the criteria to be categorized as a democratic society. The study shows negative trends in all areas that are important for democratic functioning. Above all, what makes this obvious is the absence of the minimum precondition for a democratic order - free and fair elections.
Inequality in the electoral process and the advantage that the ruling parties have during the elections are then transferred to the most important political institutions and the relationship between different branches of government. The domination of the executive and the president significantly distorts the constitutional order and the principles of the rule of law, while completely marginalizing the parliament. Inequality of actors can also be seen in the party system, which is characterized by the predominant position of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party and the atomization of the opposition. It is especially worrying that the negative political trends are spilling over to other spheres of society.
Hence, we have media that is strongly influenced by the executive, and a civil society that is falling out of its (traditionally already weak) roles - representative and control. At the same time, growing social inequalities are preserving the existing power (dis)balance in society and making political competition more difficult. Finally, the international influence provided incentives for the democratization of society in the past. That influence is now focused on the regional stability issue and cooperation with the EU in crisis situations, thus occasionally encouraging undemocratic tendencies.
What is especially worrying is this synergistic effect of negative trends in all the pivotal areas, as well as the fact that it is nearly impossible to find trends that positively influence the state of democracy. In other words, a re-democratization of society is possible to achieve only through extraordinary effort of citizens, civil society organizations, political actors and institutions. On top of that, favorable international and regional conditions and incentives are necessary.show less
Always standing by democracy
As a civil society organization dedicated to developing the political culture and civic activism, at the very core of CRTA’s mission and all our efforts lies a tireless fight for advancing democracy in Serbia. Through “Undermining Democracy”, we wanted to take a deeper look at the decade behind us, recognize the crucial moments that shaped, or are to this day shaping the reality we live in, and, as much as possible, offer a roadmap for strengthening democratic institutions and forces in our society.
At the same time, this was an opportunity to engage more actively with academic scholars, with whom we share our dedication to facts, collecting and verifying relevant data, critical thinking about our surroundings, and interpreting events that direct socio-political developments.
“Undermining Democracy” is the result of a two-year long research, and our intention to answer several questions: what is happening to democracy in Serbia, how has the previous decade altered its various aspects, and how can we fix it? Searching for these answers is not easy, and usually not optimistic either, but it is necessary if we genuinely want to leave in a better and more just society.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the authors whose articles explain and lead readers through key points of democratic processes in Serbia; to our reviewers, who significantly contributed to the quality and the precision of this publication. Additionally, this is an opportunity to thank the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands for their support and cooperation throughout the years.
The fight for democracy needs to be permanent, which we can see through challenges faced by societies at a much higher level of democratic culture development than in Serbia. I hope that this publication will be a tool in the hands that are protecting democracy in our society, and that it will serve as a reminder to never take our rights and freedoms for granted, but to pursue them every day, and defend them without compromise.show less