Democratic Party (Serbia)
|Deputy president||Gordana Čomić|
|Founded||February 3, 1990|
|Preceded by||Democratic Party (Yugoslavia)
(not legal predecessor)
|Youth wing||Democratic Youth|
|Membership (2013)||196,673 |
|Political position||Centre to Centre-left|
|International affiliation||Socialist International
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists (associate)|
|Assembly of Vojvodina|
|City Assembly of Belgrade|
|Politics of Serbia
The Democratic Party (Serbian: Демократска странка, ДC / Demokratska stranka, DS, listen (help·info)) is a social-democratic and social-liberal political party in Serbia. It is the major centre-left party in Serbia, and is the third largest party in the National Assembly and the official opposition party. The Democratic Party is a full member of the Socialist International, the Progressive Alliance, and is an associate member of the Party of European Socialists.
The party was officially founded on February 3, 1990 by a group of Serbian intellectuals as a revival of the original Yugoslav Democratic Party. It was one of the main opposition parties to the presidency of Slobodan Milošević during the 1990s. Democratic Party joined the Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition in 2000, and became part of the new coalition government after the 2000 parliamentary election. Zoran Đinđić, then president of the Democratic Party, became the Prime Minister of Serbia in January 2001, but was assassinated in 2003, and the Party lost the power at the parliamentary election later that year. New president of the Democratic Party, Boris Tadić, won the 2004 presidential election, and the party returned to power after the 2007 and 2008 parliamentary elections. Tadić was reelected in 2008, but both him and the Party lost the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, so the Democratic party became opposition party once again. Dragan Đilas, then-Mayor of Belgrade was elected new party president after the 2012 elections. After the disappointing results in the 2014 election, Bojan Pajtić, President of the Government of Vojvodina replaced Đilas as the party president.
On 11 December 1989, a group of Serbian intellectuals held a press conference announcing the revival of the Democratic Party, which had existed in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia before it was banned by the communists following World War II.
The diverse group featured intellectuals with accomplishments in various social arenas and/or distinguished academic careers. Some were attracted to politics by what they perceived to be the unsatisfactory national position of ethnic Serbs and Serbia as a constituent republic within the Yugoslav federation, while others felt that activity in a political party could help address the perceived deteriorating state of democracy and human rights in SFR Yugoslavia. Up to that point in time, the former primarily acted through the Serbian Writers Association (Udruženje književnika Srbije) while the latter channeled their activities through the Social Sciences Institute (Institut društvenih nauka) and the Philosophy Club (Filozofsko društvo). Sprinkled throughout the newly assembled group were also some surviving members of the pre-World War II party. Though the grip of the Communist League (SKJ), the only constitutionally allowed party in Yugoslavia's one-party political system, was not nearly as strong as it once was, DS members still feared the authorities' reaction to the party's creation.
Even before the founding conference was held, differences over the Kosovo issue surfaced. The party presidency was contested between Dragoljub Mićunović and Kosta Čavoški, two of DS' most prominent members. At the DS founding conference on 3 February 1990, Mićunović was elected president while Čavoški became the Executive Board (Izvršni odbor) president. Desimir Tošić and Vojislav Koštunica were named vice presidents.
Under Mićunović, DS did not have strong leadership, as the longtime university professor preferred an intellectual approach to a rigid party structure.
DS members participated in the first anti-government protests in 1990. Čavoški resigned his post as the party's executive board president on 29 September 1990; Zoran Đinđić got named to the post.
At the parliamentary elections on 9 December 1990, the party was on the ballot in 176 of 250 electoral districts, getting 374,887 votes that translated into 7 assembly seats.
Only several days prior to the elections, Čavoški left DS thinking that the conditions for a free and fair elections were not yet present in Serbia. Other DS members like Nikola Milošević, Vladan Vasilijević, and film director Saša Petrović accompanied him. By January 1991 they formed the Serbian Liberal Party (SLS), a conservative liberal party that favoured a monarchy instead of a republic and pushed for the rehabilitation of the politically-persecuted Serbs that were sentenced, exiled, or executed by the post-World War II communist Yugoslav authorities. SLS also wanted the Serbian government to set up an office whose job would be to comprehensively work on collecting, marking, and commemorating the Serbian victims of the Balkan Wars, World War I, and World War II. Čavoški's lasting legacy in the party was that its party program stated until 1997 that "DS is working towards the re-unification of Serbian lands".
On the other hand, DS had a very liberal economic program courtesy of economists Vladimir Gligorov and Slobodan Inić who were able to push it through as party policy, despite being in minority, because most other members were not really concerned with economic matters. Both Giligorov and Inić left DS when the party decided to throw its support behind Prince Tomislav Karađorđević at the FR Yugoslavia 1992 presidential elections.
At the 1992 parliamentary elections on 27 April (scheduled early due to disintegration of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and formation of the new state entity Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), DS fared poorly with 196,347 votes, down by almost two hundred thousand, giving the party only 6 assembly seats. Later that year in July, a much more serious fragmentation of the Democratic Party occurred when a large group led by Vojislav Koštunica left to establish the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). Overnight, DS lost 40% of its membership, including such prominent members as Mirko Petrović, Đurđe Ninković, Vladeta Janković, Draško Petrović and Vladan Batić. The immediate issue behind the split was their dissatisfaction over the DS decision not to enter the DEPOS coalition. A deeper cause was differences over the handling of the so-called national question that had been brewing within DS for quite some time.
This is when the energetic 40-year-old DS founding member Zoran Đinđić began to assert himself at a time when DS was burdened by dwindling membership, only 6 MPs in the assembly and unclear political positions. Though Mićunović was still formally president, Đinđić increasingly became the face of DS. By summer 1993 Đinđić aggressively set about implementing his vision. His primary concern became establishing strong party infrastructure on the ground through a network of municipal branches that answered to party central in Belgrade. Zoran Živković, future short-time Serbian Prime Minister, who was at the time a DS member in the local Niš branch put it as follows:
|“||Đinđić decided to transform this group of well-mannered people who spend their time pontificating on the events happening around them into a big political entity. He decided that the party which already had a brain should get a body and some muscles.||”|
Đinđić got his first chance to gauge the results of his approach before he formally became its president. In October 1993, Serbian president Slobodan Milošević dissolved the parliament, scheduling a parliamentary elections for 19 December 1993. As a result DS main board met twice that month, on the 16th and 30 October, deciding that Đinđić rather than party president Mićunović will lead the election campaign. Supported by a carefully crafted media and marketing campaign featuring memorable "Pošteno" slogan, DS recorded its best result to date with 497,582 votes, giving them 29 assembly seats. However, despite improvement over previous elections, the party was still well behind Milošević's SPS, DEPOS coalition (headed by Vuk Drašković's SPO), and Vojislav Šešelj's SRS.
Ahead of the December 1993 parliamentary elections DS was in advanced negotiations with SPS about forming a coalition between the two parties. Following the summer 1993 disintegration of SPS' coalition with SRS, Milošević turned to DS. Opposed by party leader Mićunović, the idea of a coalition with Milošević found a more receptive audience among some other DS members, including Đinđić. The issue of the DS' coalition negotiations with Milošević is still controversial with certain DS members such as Zoran Živković denying that they ever took place. Others like Mićunović and high-ranking member Goran Vesić claimed they had indeed taken place.
The new balance of power within DS led to an early party conference. At the party conference on 5 January 1994 in Belgrade, Đinđić became president, pushing out personal political mentor Mićunović who was forced into resigning as the local party branches turned against him. The (in)famous quip uttered at the conference by 41-year-old Đinđić about 63-year-old Mićunović was: "Mićunović's time has passed.... He's no Tina Turner who sings better now than when she was thirty". In his embittered speech at the conference during which he resigned his post, Mićunović characterized the manner of Đinđić's takover of DS as the "combination of Machiavellianism and revolutionary technique". In this internal party showdown with Mićunović, Đinđić also benefited from some discreet support in the Milošević-controlled state-run media. Though many DS members didn't like the way this transfer of power was executed, symbolically referring to it as "oceubistvo" (patricide), many others such as founding member Gojko Đogo found benefits in Đinđić's agile approach:
|“||Mićunović is without any doubt a man of tolerance, but he is not able to mobilize those around him into action and as a result the party stagnated under him. When Đinđić realized this, he made a clean break, cut Mićunović out and began to mold the DS party into a well-oiled enterprise.||”|
Following Mićunović's resignation, party vice-president Vida Ognjenović also resigned. Getting in alongside new party president Đinđić were new party vice-presidents, Miroljub Labus and Miodrag Perišić, while Ivan Vujačić became the new overseeing board president. Ljiljana Lučić became new executive board president and Srđa Popović became the president of the party's youth wing.
Đinđić managed to quickly move DS away from what he occasionally referred to in derisive terms as the "debate club" towards a modern and efficient organizational structure that functioned according to a business management model. On 12 May 1994, the party's main board met to discuss the decision by the two DS members, Slobodan Radulović and Radoje Đukić, to enter the SPS government of Mirko Marjanović. Both were expelled from DS, while the party's political council president Slobodan Vučković resigned. Another early party conference was called and held on 25 June 1994 in Novi Sad; this time the party elected its all new political council with Radomir Šaper as the new council president.
The following year, on 15 April 1995, regular party conference was held and Đinđić got re-elected as party president. Labus and Perišić stayed vice-presidents while Slobodan Gavrilović and Zoran Živković became vice-presidents as well. Disappointed and marginalized ever since his resignation from the position of the party president 14 months earlier, Mićunović left DS after this conference, founding non-governmental organization Centre for Democracy that eventually transformed into Democratic Centre (DC). Others that followed him to DC were Desimir Tošić, Vida Ognjenović, Bora Kuzmanović, as well as many other prominent, though mostly older, DS party members. Mićunović offered the following as his view of the events of the period:
|“||After his row with Šešelj, Milošević offered me co-operation because he wanted to make a coalition with DS after SPS' coalition with Šešelj's SRS broke apart. Among the things he was offering me was the position of FR Yugoslavia's ambassador to the UN, all of which I flatly rejected. After my refusal, he turned to some other people in DS. I realized that my rigid stance on this issue doesn't have a clear support within the party and that DS wants to shed its election loser image by trying a different, more flexible approach. I didn't want to stand in the way of this wave of pragmatism that Đinđić pushed within the party. After the elections, Milošević continued pursuing Đinđić because he wanted to form a government with DS. Đinđić himself told me Milošević offered him the Prime Minister position in the new government. I strongly advised him not to take it. Seeing that SPS had 123 MPs and we had 29, I was convinced that Milošević would use him and dump him like he did with Dobrica Ćosić and Milan Panić a few years earlier. Despite my protestations Đinđić wanted to take the offer, telling me that he can outfox Milošević from within. In the end no government was formed with DS. Four years later, in 1998, Đinđić told me Milošević ended up offering him only the deputy prime minister position as the deputy to SPS' Mirko Marjanović instead of the promised prime ministerial role. Đinđić refused, so Milošević then went to Slobodan Radulović who accepted.||”|
Though a much better organized party under Đinđić, DS still experienced trouble formulating a clear stance on the national question. Đinđić's own actions perhaps made a good illustration of this seemingly confused standing on both sides of the issue. Đinđić basically refused to acknowledge the national question as a real issue, making not a single mention of the Serbs living in other parts of the former Yugoslavia in his book Yugoslavia as an Unfinished State. At the same time he maintained close links with Bosnian Serb war leader Radovan Karadžić, visiting him at Pale in February 1994 while American forces threatened to bombard Bosnian Serb positions. This seeming flip-flopping on the national issue was effectively used by DS' political opponents and Đinđić's critics across the political spectrum.
As the Bosnian War ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord in November 1995, in addition to his grip on power domestically, Milošević enjoyed stable support from the international community that recognized him as the "peace and stability factor in the Balkans". The next chance to dent his armour came at the November 1996 municipal elections, which the DS entered as part of an opposition coalition called Zajedno featuring SPO, DSS, and GSS. Democratic Party (at the time with a total of only 7,000 members across Serbia) joined Zajedno against Đinđić's personal wishes as he got outvoted on three separate occasions when the decision was discussed internally. Following opposition victories in key Serbian cities such as Belgrade, Niš and Novi Sad, Milošević refused to recognize the results, sparking three months of peaceful protest marches by hundreds of thousands of citizens. Under pressure, Milošević acknowledged the results and on 21 February 1997 Đinđić got inaugurated as the mayor of Belgrade.
Later that year Đinđić made a bold decision to boycott the parliamentary elections on 21 December 1997, thus breaking up the Zajedno coalition.
In 1998, most of the student leaders of 1996-97 street protests (gathered around an organization called Studentski politički klub (SPK)) joined DS. This included leaders such as Čedomir Jovanović, Čedomir Antić, and Igor Žeželj joined the party.
Milošević's fall in October 2000 occurred after further street protests. The Democratic Party was the largest party of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia block that won 64.7% of the votes in the December 2000 elections, getting 176 of 250 seats in the Parliamentary Assembly. In 2001 Đinđić was appointed Prime Minister of Serbia at the head of the first post-Milošević government on January 25, 2001.
Tadić contended in the 2004 Serbian presidential election in the same year, and won it while Democratic party was still in opposition in parliament.
In the 2007 parliamentary election, the coalition surrounding the Democratic Party received 915,854 popular votes or 22.71%, and thus won 64 out of 250 seats in parliament. Three of its seats went to the Sanjak Democratic Party, which formed a club with DS under Dušan Petrović as president and Milan Marković as vice-president. DS became a part of new parliamentary majority, its members took 11 out of 25 ministerial position, as well as financial minister Mirko Cvetković, who was proposed to that position by this party, although not a member.
Tadić was re-elected at the 2008 Serbian presidential election.
In the 2008 parliamentary election, the pro-European bloc led by DS received 38.5% of the popular vote, translating into 102 seats in the Serbian National Assembly, making it the largest party bloc in parliament, as well as the leading party in the new majority, with non-partisan Cvetkovic as prime minister. The party also received three seats in the Community Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija, but refused to sit until the situation in Kosovo stabilized.
In the 2012 parliamentary election, the Choice for a Better Life coalition gathered around the Democratic Party received 22.11% of the popular vote, but does not participate in current parliamentary majority. During the same election, Tadić lost his reelection bid. As a consequence of this, an extraordinary party assembly session was held on 25 November 2012 and Tadić was replaced as party leader by his main opponent Dragan Đilas, mayor of Belgrade. Tadić was, in turn, elected to be the party's honorary president.
At the party conference on 25 November 2012 in Belgrade, then-Mayor of Belgrade and deputy president of the party Dragan Đilas was elected president. For the first time in the party's history, the number of vice-presidents was increased from 5 to 7, and the function of honorary president was established. The new vice-presidents were Miodrag Rakić, Nataša Vučković, Dejan Nikolić, Vesna Martinović, Jovan Marković and Goran Ćirić, while Bojan Pajtić was re-elected as vice-president. Boris Tadić was appointed by acclamation to the new post of honorary president, and Dragoljub Mićunović was re-elected president of the political council.
On 27 December 2012, the party's main board decided that all the ministers who served in the former government should resign as MPs. Most of the former ministers agreed to resign as MPs. Unlike other former ministers Goran Bogdanović, Božidar Đelić and Dragan Šutanovac were allowed to stay MPs under the claim that the party needs them in parliament. Milan Marković left the party after resigning as MP. Dušan Petrović and Vuk Jeremić refused to give up their parliamentary seats.
Due to their opposition, the party's executive board decided to expel Petrović on 31 January 2013, and Jeremić on 14 February 2013. After the decision to expel him, Jeremić filed suit at the Constitutional Court, claiming that the party's decision is unconstitutional. After the rejection of the appeal by the Constitutional Court, Jeremić complied with the decision and left the party but kept his parliamentary seat.
During this period, the party leadership considered that the party should support the current government in resolving the Kosovo issue.
On 30 January 2014, the honorary president of the Democratic Party, former party leader and former President of Serbia Boris Tadić left the party. He was a member of the party since its re-founding in 1990. Others that followed him were Jelena Trivan, Snežana Malović and vice-president Miodrag Rakić, as well as a number of MPs and former ministers. They founded a new party called the New Democratic Party.
In the 2014 parliamentary election, the Democratic Party made a coalition with the New Party, Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina, Rich Serbia and United Trade Unions of Serbia "Unity" under the name of "With the Democratic Party for Democratic Serbia". This coalition won 6.03% of the popular vote and 19 MPs, out of which DS received 17. After the end of the parliamentary election, Dragan Đilas announced an extraordinary party assembly session and ran for re-election as the president of the party. His opponent was deputy president Bojan Pajtić.
At the party conference on 31 May 2014 in Belgrade, the President of the Government of Vojvodina and deputy president of the party Bojan Pajtić was elected president. Borislav Stefanović, Nataša Vučković, Goran Ješić, Maja Videnović and Gordana Čomić were elected vice-presidents, while Dragoljub Mićunović was re-elected president of the political council.
Presidents of the Democratic Party (1990–Present)
|#||President||Born-Died||Term start||Term end|
|1||Dragoljub Mićunović||1930–||3 February 1990||25 January 1994|
|2||Zoran Đinđić||1952–2003||25 January 1994||12 March 2003
|1960–||18 March 2003||23 February 2004|
|3||Boris Tadić||1958–||23 February 2004||25 November 2012|
|4||Dragan Đilas||1967–||25 November 2012||31 May 2014|
|5||Bojan Pajtić||1970–||31 May 2014||Incumbent|
|Year||Popular vote||% of popular vote||Overall seats won||Seat change||Notes||Government|
|1997||Election boycott||Election boycott||29||opposition|
|2014||216,634||6.03%||32||Coalition with NP||opposition|
Major positions held by Democratic Party members:
|President of Serbia||Years|
|President of the National Assembly of Serbia||Years|
|Prime Minister of Serbia||Years|
|Mayor of Belgrade||Years|
|President of the Government of Vojvodina||Years|
*Non-partisan but DS nominated
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