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European issues at the Serbian 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections

Open Panel

Abstract

Unlike other CEE states where ‘it is difficult to think of any parliamentary or presidential election where European integration has played a major role in determining its outcome’ (Szczerbiak, Taggart), European issues are considerably salient in Serbia in spite of a long-term prospect of Serbian EU accession. These issues are widely used by parties as a topic of political contestation, given a polarization within a society between those in favor and against Serbian EU membership. This relatively new issue is almost perfectly subsumed into the deeply rooted social cleavages on the national vs. civic axis. Given the ambiguous role the EU have had over the last two decades in the former Yugoslav states, parties employ either pro or anti EU rhetoric, stressing certain aspect of EU involvement, in order to get more votes. The article looks at the way European issues have been channeled into party politics and how European integration has played out through Serbian party systems as a political issue. It specifically aims to explore the role of European issues at the Serbian 2008 parliamentary and presidential election. The issue of Serbian EU membership was the single most important issue during the campaigns, as the elections were widely perceived as a referendum on EU membership, while the EU exerted a significant influence on the elections results. The article aims to help us to understand how parties and presidential candidates use European issues in election campaigns and to draw general conclusions about the impact of European integration on national party politics in the context of a potential candidate state.