Democratic Party
Демократска странка
Demokratska stranka
AbbreviationDS
PresidentZoran Lutovac
Deputy PresidentDragana Rakić
Vice-Presidents
Parliamentary leaderZoran Lutovac
FounderThe Founding Committee of the Democratic Party
Founded3 February 1990
Registered27 July 1990
HeadquartersNušićeva 6/II, Belgrade
NewspaperBedem
Youth wingDemocratic Youth
Women's wingWomen's Forum
IdeologySocial democracy
Political positionCentre-left
National affiliationSerbia Against Violence
European affiliationParty of European Socialists (associate)
International affiliation
Colours
  •   Yellow
  •   Blue
National Assembly
8 / 250
Assembly of Vojvodina
2 / 120
City Assembly of Belgrade
2 / 110
Party flag
Flag of the Democratic Party
Website
ds.org.rs

The Democratic Party (Serbian Cyrillic: Демократска странка, romanizedDemokratska stranka; listen, abbr. DS) is a social democratic political party in Serbia. Zoran Lutovac has led the party as its president since 2018.

DS was founded in 1990 by a group of intellectuals who sought to revive the Democratic Party, which was active in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Dragoljub Mićunović was the first president of DS until 1994 and under his leadership DS gained representation in the National Assembly of Serbia and took part in anti-government protests against Slobodan Milošević. After Zoran Đinđić's election as president of DS in 1994, DS was reorganised, he led the party into the Together coalition, and took part in the 1996–1997 protests, which occurred after the Electoral Commission invalidated local election results in cities in which the Together coalition had won. DS later led the Alliance for Change [sr], which became part of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) in January 2000. DOS won the 2000 Yugoslav general election, but Milošević, the president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and president of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), declined to accept the results, culminating in his overthrow.

DS assumed power in Serbia after winning parliamentary elections in December 2000 and Đinđić then became prime minister. Đinđić was assassinated in March 2003 and succeeded by Boris Tadić as president of DS. Tadić also became president of Serbia while DS was in opposition from 2004 to 2007, when it became part of a coalition government led by DSS. Tadić led DS to victory in 2008 when a coalition government with SPS was formalised. DS was defeated by the Serbian Progressive Party in 2012 and went into opposition. Dragan Đilas became the president of DS in December 2012; he was ousted as mayor of Belgrade in 2013 but survived an internal motion of no confidence in January 2014. He was succeeded by Bojan Pajtić in May 2014. Dragan Šutanovac became the president of DS after Pajtić's resignation in 2016. Šutanovac was then succeeded by Lutovac in 2018. Lutovac led DS into several opposition coalitions and boycotted the 2020 parliamentary election, causing a schism in the party. He successfully led DS back into the National Assembly in the 2022 election.

DS was a catch-all party in its early years, occupying the centrist and centre-right position. It supported the establishment of a market economy, denationalisation, and union rights. DS shifted to a centrist and socially liberal profile under Tadić and became the leading party of the pro-European bloc of Serbian politics. It shifted towards social democracy in 2013, and is now positioned on the centre-left on the political spectrum. Its supporters tend to be female, high school or university educated, tolerant towards diversity, socially progressive, and opposed to authoritarianism and nationalism. DS is an associate member of the Party of European Socialists and a member of the Progressive Alliance and Socialist International.

History

Formation

Dragoljub Mićunović in the National Assembly of Serbia in the 1990s
Dragoljub Mićunović served as the first president of DS, from 1990 to 1994

On 11 December 1989, a group of intellectuals—including anti-communist dissidents, liberal academics, poets, writers, and film and theatre directors—held a press conference announcing the revival of the Democratic Party (DS), at which they also released a written proclamation.[1][2]: 142  DS had existed in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia until 1945, when the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, later known as League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ),[3] came to power;[4][5]: 26  as such, DS claims that it was "re-founded" (obnovljena), instead of categorising itself as a new political party.[6] The original thirteen signatories of the proclamation of the Founding Committee included Kosta Čavoški, Milovan Danojlić, Zoran Đinđić, Gojko Đogo, Vladimir Gligorov, Slobodan Inić, Marko Janković, Vojislav Koštunica, Dragoljub Mićunović, Borislav Pekić, Miodrag Perišić, Radoslav Stojanović, and Dušan Vukajlović.[4][7][8] Their programmatic proclamation, named Letter of Intents (Pismo o namerama), attracted even more intellectuals who eventually joined DS.[1][9]

In 1989, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was still a one-party state; DS thus became the first opposition, non-communist party in Yugoslavia.[5]: 25 [10][11] With the disintegration of the SKJ that began in January 1990, its constituent republics, later including Serbia in July 1990, adopted multi-party systems.[12][13] DS organised its founding assembly on 3 February 1990 at the Belgrade Youth Center.[2]: 142 [4][9] The first presidency of the DS was contested between Čavoški and Mićunović, with the latter ultimately winning the position.[5]: 27  Ideological differences between the two existed;[5]: 27  Čavoški wanted the party to adopt a more nationalist and anti-communist rhetoric,[14][15]: 60  while Mićunović was viewed as a liberal.[16] Although Čavoški lost in the leadership election, he was elected president of the party's executive board; Pekić became the deputy president of the DS.[9][17]

According to Mićunović, Čavoški initially registered the party in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in March 1990 because Serbia had not yet adopted a law authorising a multi-party system.[17] DS was later registered in Serbia on 27 July 1990.[‡ 1]

1990–1993: the Mićunović years

After its establishment, the DS began publishing its newspaper, Demokratija (English: Democracy), and it also established the Democratic Youth, its youth wing.[18][19][20] Gligorov and Inić, who worked on the economic programme of the party, left DS also shortly after its formation due to ideological disagreements.[9][11][20] At its second assembly in September 1990, Mićunović was re-elected president of DS while Koštunica and Desimir Tošić [sr] were elected vice-presidents.[21] A month later, DS announced that it would take part in the 1990 Serbian parliamentary election.[15]: 73  This decision was opposed by Čavoški and Nikola Milošević, who advocated an election boycott instead.[15]: 73  Čavoški previously proposed that opposition parties should receive television air time, representation on electoral bodies, and for the campaign to last 90 days in total.[15]: 71  Čavoški and Milošević left DS shortly before the December 1990 election, claiming that fair electoral conditions had not been created.[9] They then formed the Serbian Liberal Party (SLS) in January 1991.[15]: 80  Đinđić succeeded Čavoški as the president of the party's executive board.[21] Despite winning 7 percent of the popular vote in the 1990 election, DS only won 7 seats in the National Assembly due to Serbia's new first-past-the-post electoral system, which favoured the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), the then-ruling and largest party of Serbia.[22][23]

Together with the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), DS organised mass protests in Belgrade in March 1991, demanding reforms of the Radio Television of Serbia (RTS).[24][25]: 44  The protests resulted into the release of SPO leader Vuk Drašković and the resignation of the RTS director.[26] After the break-up of Yugoslavia in early 1992, Serbia became a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[27][28] DS boycotted the May 1992 federal parliamentary elections and declined to accept the results, claiming that free and fair conditions had not been created for the election.[25]: 84–85 [29]: 1678  Instead of campaigning, DS preferred to organise anti-government protests to force the government to call new elections.[25]: 84–85  In June 1992, DS decided not to join the Democratic Movement of Serbia (DEPOS) coalition, which was created a month earlier.[9][21] Koštunica led the "DS for DEPOS" faction, which was in favour of joining DEPOS.[30] He left the party after DS decided not to join the coalition, claiming that Mićunović and Đinđić are in a "secret alliance" with SPS.[31] After leaving DS, he formed the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), along with Mirko Petrović, Draško Petrović, and Vladan Batić.[17][20][32]

After the mass protests, another federal parliamentary election was organised for December 1992.[29]: 1704  DS decided to take part in this election and it won 6 percent of the popular vote and 5 seats in the Federal Assembly.[29]: 1724 [33] DS then joined the government led by Milan Panić, the then-incumbent prime minister of FR Yugoslavia.[20] Simultaneously, in December 1992, general elections were organised in Serbia as a result of an October 1992 early elections referendum.[25]: 84  Although DS opposed the referendum, it participated in the election, winning 6 seats.[25]: 85–89 [34] In the presidential election, however, DS supported Panić, who placed second behind Slobodan Milošević, the leader of SPS.[25]: 89–90 [35]

In 1993, Đinđić asserted himself in the party and led its operations going into the 1993 parliamentary election.[11][17][36] Milošević ended his coalition with the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) in mid-1993 and turned towards DS for negotiations instead.[37] Mićunović claimed that there was a meeting between Milošević and DS, although Zoran Živković has denied that claim.[9][37] Đinđić invited several entrepreneurs to join DS during this period, which earned DS the nickname "yellow company" from its opponents.[9][20] Yellow being one of the official DS colours and the colour of Centromarket, a company owned by Slobodan Radulović, one of the entrepreneurs.[38] Shortly before the 1993 election, DS agreed that Đinđić should be their ballot representative.[20] He led DS under the "Honestly" (Pošteno) banner and visited over 100 locations in Serbia during the campaign period. Đinđić also said that he would retire from politics if DS won less than 20 seats.[17][39] The campaign was successful: DS won 29 seats in the National Assembly.[39][40] DS remained in opposition after the election, as Đinđić was unable to bring DS into the SPS-led government.[36][39][41]

1994–2000: the Đinđić years

Zoran Đinđić at the World Economic Forum in 2003
Zoran Đinđić led DS into several opposition coalitions before winning the 2000 elections under the DOS coalition

At a party congress on 25 January 1994, Đinđić was elected president and Perišić and Miroljub Labus were elected vice-presidents of the party.[21] Mićunović and Vida Ognjenović also resigned from their positions in DS during the congress.[9][21] Đinđić commented that "Mićunović's time has passed... Mićunović is no Tina Turner who sounds better now than when she was 30" (Mićunovićevo vreme je prošlo... Mićunović nije Tina Tarner pa da bolje zvuči sada nego sa trideset godina).[16] By contrast, Mićunović characterised the manner of Đinđić's takeover of DS as a "combination of Machiavellianism and a revolutionary technique" (spoj makijavelizma i revolucionarne tehnike).[42] During this period, Đinđić also benefited from discreet support in the Milošević-controlled state-run media.[16] After Đinđić became the president of DS, the party was reorganised and it moved away from Mićunović's "intellectualistic" approach.[43] In 1995, DS rejected Slobodan Gavrilović's proposal to reunite with DSS, while later that year, Mićunović left DS and then formed the Democratic Centre (DC) in 1996.[9][15]: 255 

In September 1996, DS formed the Together coalition with SPO and the Civic Alliance of Serbia (GSS) to take part in the federal parliamentary election and local elections, which were organised for November 1996.[29]: 1715 [44][45] DSS also took part in the coalition, although only at the federal level.[15]: 285  Together won 23 percent of the popular vote in the federal parliamentary elections; it also won local elections in key cities such as Belgrade, Niš, and Novi Sad.[15]: 286–287 [25]: 72  However, the Electoral Commission invalidated those local election results, which ultimately led to mass protests which were attended by hundreds of thousands of people in total.[25]: 79 [46] The aftermath of the protests resulted in Đinđić and Živković becoming mayors of Belgrade and Niš respectively, after the Electoral Commission recognised the results.[46] In September 1997, Đinđić was removed from office after losing a motion of no confidence that was staged by SPO.[25]: 125 

The Together coalition was dissolved shortly before the 1997 general elections.[47] DS, DSS, and GSS opted to boycott the election, while SPO did not because the government partially accepted their demands.[47][48][49] Čedomir Jovanović and Čedomir Antić, who led the Student Political Club during the 1996–1997 protests, joined DS in 1998.[50][51] In the same year, DS became part of the Alliance for Change [sr], a moderate opposition coalition.[25]: 233 [52] This coalition later became part of a wider alliance, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), which was formed in January 2000.[25]: 234 [52] Đinđić faced Slobodan Vuksanović at a party congress in February 2000, with Đinđić ultimately retaining the position of party president.[9][21] Živković and Gavrilović remained vice-presidents of DS and they were joined by Predrag Filipov and Boris Tadić.[21] Vuksanović left DS in October 2000 and formed the People's Democratic Party (NDS) in 2001.[9] Milošević, then-President of FR Yugoslavia, amended the federal constitution to provide for direct, rather than indirect, elections in the 2000 general elections.[52] DOS nominated Koštunica as their presidential candidate.[53] Koštunica faced Milošević in the presidential election, which he won in the first round.[25]: 245 [54] However, Milošević declined to accept the results, and the Electoral Commission reported that Koštunica had not won more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round and that a second round would be scheduled instead.[52][53] This culminated in mass protests, which led to the overthrow of Milošević on 5 October 2000.[52] The Electoral Commission published the actual results two days later, which confirmed that Koštunica had won in the first round.[55] Together with SPS and SPO, DOS agreed to organise a snap parliamentary election in December 2000, in which DOS won 176 out of 250 seats in the National Assembly.[25]: 271 [52]

2001–2004: Post-Milošević period

Official portrait of Boris Tadić from 2004
After the assassination of Zoran Đinđić, Boris Tadić was elected president of DS and president of Serbia in 2004

In January 2001, Đinđić was elected prime minister of Serbia; his cabinet was composed of 16 ministers.[56][57][58] Following the extradition of Milošević to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in June 2001, members of DSS left his cabinet.[58][59] DS also adopted its new programme, which marked the beginning of the party's shift towards the left.[21] DS nominated Labus, then the leader of a citizens' group, in the presidential election that was organised for September 2002.[60]: 81  The election proceeded to a second round, in which Labus placed second. However, the election was invalidated because less than 50 percent of registered voters turned out to vote, and another election was organised for December 2002.[60]: 24 [61] Labus subsequently became the president of G17 Plus (G17+), a think tank that he registered as a political party.[9][62] In the December 2002 election, DS initially stated that it could support Koštunica; DSS declined their support.[63]: 21  The December 2002 presidential election was also invalidated as a result of low turnout, and a third presidential election was organised for November 2003.[64]

Đinđić, who was opposed to organised crime, escaped an assassination attempt in February 2003.[65] Đinđić sought to tackle and reduce organised crime and corruption while he also previously introduced security measures due to the growing threats from paramilitary groups and organised crime.[66][67] One month later, on 12 March 2003, Zvezdan Jovanović, a member of the Serbian Mafia's Zemun Clan, assassinated Đinđić as he was exiting a vehicle in front of a government building.[68][69][70]

Živković succeeded Đinđić as prime minister of Serbia and as the acting president of DS.[21][71] In the 2003 presidential election, DS, as part of the DOS coalition, supported Mićunović.[72] He placed second, but the election was invalidated as a result of low (38 percent) voter turnout.[72][73]: 90  During his premiership, Živković lost confidence from the Social Democratic Party, after which he announced that he would not reshuffle his cabinet but call a snap parliamentary election instead; Nataša Mićić, the president of the National Assembly, confirmed that the election would be held in December 2003.[62][74]: 12  DOS then disbanded, following which DS nominated Tadić to represent its list in the election instead.[62] DS took part on a joint ballot list with DSS, DC, Social Democratic Union (SDU), and List for Sandžak (LZS).[74]: 19  The DS list won 37 seats in the National Assembly, out of which 22 went to DS alone, resulting in DS being in opposition.[62][74]: 19 

At the party congress in February 2004, Tadić and Živković nominated themselves as candidates for the presidency, with the former ultimately becoming the president on 22 February 2004.[21] Mićunović merged his party and returned to DS after Tadić's election as president of DS.[9][21] Otpor, an organisation which played a key role in the overthrow of Milošević, also merged into DS in 2004.[9][75]

The National Assembly amended the Law on the Election of the President of the Republic in February 2004, abolishing the 50 percent voter turnout requirement in presidential elections.[76] DS then nominated Tadić as its presidential candidate in the election, which was organised for June 2004.[77]: 5 [78] Tadić placed second in the first round, but won in the second round with 53 percent of the popular vote, defeating Tomislav Nikolić of SRS.[76] In December 2004, Tadić expelled Jovanović from the party for breaching party protocol; Jovanović formed the Liberal Democratic Party a year later.[9]

2005–2012: the Tadić years

The final convention of the Democratic Party in Belgrade during the 2012 election campaign
Tadić led DS into a coalition government with SPS in 2008, but was sent into opposition after the 2012 elections

During Tadić's first term as president of Serbia, he apologised to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia for Serbia's role in the Yugoslav Wars and pursued a pro-Western foreign policy.[79][80][81] He was reelected, unopposed, as DS president at the party's congress in 2006.[21] In late 2006, G17+ withdrew from Koštunica's government, which led Tadić to schedule a snap parliamentary election for January 2007.[82][83]: 23  DS chose Ružica Đinđić, the spouse of Zoran Đinđić, as their ballot representative, campaigning on continuing Đinđić's legacy and fighting against corruption.[82] DS also promised not to form a coalition government with SPS or SRS.[84] DS won over 900,000 votes,[85] and negotiated with DSS and G17+ to form a coalition government; Koštunica remained as prime minister and Božidar Đelić of DS was appointed deputy prime minister in his cabinet.[82] In December 2007, Oliver Dulić, the president of the National Assembly, announced that he had scheduled presidential elections for January 2008.[86] DS then nominated Tadić for reelection.[87]: 46  He again faced Nikolić in the second round of the election and was successfully re-elected.[87]: 19 [88]

Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia.[89] Kosovo's declaration of independence, as well as the issue of European integration, resulted in a political crisis between DS and G17+, on one side, and DSS on the other.[90] Koštunica embraced anti-Western positions and was a hardliner on the Kosovo issue; he blamed his coalition partners for "creating an unworkable rift in the government" during his resignation speech.[91][92][93] Koštunica also said that "he could no longer rule in a coalition with DS", which led Tadić to call snap parliamentary elections for May 2008.[94][95] Prior to the election, DS formed the For a European Serbia (ZES) coalition, composed of DS, G17+, SDP, SPO, the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), and the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV).[96]: 45  This coalition nominated Mićunović as their ballot representative and campaigned on continuing negotiations for the accession of Serbia to the European Union.[90] ZES placed first, winning 102 seats in the National Assembly; DS won 64 seats out of those 102.[96]: 142 [97] After the election, DS was excluded from government formation talks, and in June 2008, it entered talks with SPS to form a coalition government.[96]: 153–154  DS and SPS agreed to continue Serbia's accession to the European Union, work on fighting crime and corruption, and enact social justice reforms to help the vulnerable sections of the population.[96]: 154–156  DS and SPS formalised their cooperation after the election by signing a reconciliation agreement.[98] The new government was formed in July 2008, with Mirko Cvetković, an independent politician affiliated with DS,[99] serving as prime minister and Ivica Dačić, the leader of SPS, serving as deputy prime minister.[90]

The DS-led government was faced with the arrest of Radovan Karadžić, Kosovo's declaration of independence, and the global financial crisis, which caused low rates of economic growth.[98][100]: 11–13  The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), now led by Nikolić, organised mass protests in 2011, demanding that Tadić call snap elections;[101] Tadić complied, and called an election in March 2012 to be held in May of that year.[102][103] In April, however, Tadić announced that he would resign as president and that presidential elections would be held on the same day as the parliamentary election.[104] DS led the Choice for a Better Life (IZBŽ) coalition, which also included DSHV, LSV, the Social Democratic Party of Serbia, the Greens of Serbia, and the Christian Democratic Party of Serbia.[98][105] Dragan Đilas, the deputy president of DS and mayor of Belgrade, was chosen as the coalition's ballot representative. DS campaigned on economic recovery, emphasising attracting foreign investments and developing small business.[98] IZBŽ placed second, winning 67 seats, with 49 of those won by DS alone.[100]: 34 [106] In the presidential election, Tadić placed first in the first round of voting, but lost to Nikolić in the second.[100]: 22 [107]

Following the 2012 parliamentary election, SPS successfully formed a government with SNS, and DS went into opposition.[98][108] Đilas, who was re-elected as mayor of Belgrade, was positioned as a prominent candidate to succeed Tadić as president of DS.[109][110] An extraordinary party congress was called for 25 November 2012, with Đilas and Branimir Kuzmanović put forward as the only candidates to succeed Tadić as president of DS.[111] Đilas was elected president in a landslide and Tadić was awarded the title of a honorary president.[112][113] Additionally, Pajtić was re-elected as vice-president and he was joined by Nataša Vučković, Vesna Martinović, Dejan Nikolić, Miodrag Rakić, Goran Ćirić, and Jovan Marković.[114] Živković criticised the measure to award Tadić the title of a honorary president, which he described as a "rotten compromise between Đilas and Tadić", leading to him leaving DS.[115][116] After leaving DS, Živković announced the formation of the New Party (Nova).[115][117] As president of DS, Đilas ordered former government ministers to resign from the National Assembly.[118] This order received support from Tadić, but was criticised by Mićunović and Dušan Petrović, the former minister of agriculture, who refused to resign.[118][119]

2013–2017: Internal crisis

Petrović was expelled from DS in January 2013.[120] He subsequently formed a parliamentary group named Together for Serbia (ZZS), which was later registered as a political party.[121][122] Alongside Petrović, Vuk Jeremić, the former minister of foreign affairs, was expelled in February 2013.[123] Jeremić claimed that the party's decision was unconstitutional and filed suit in the Constitutional Court.[124] His appeal was rejected, after which Jeremić complied with the decision and left DS, although he kept his seat in the National Assembly.[125] DS also dropped to 13 percent support amongst the public, while SNS received over 40 percent support.[126] In September 2013, SNS filed a motion of no confidence against Đilas, resulting in his dismissal.[127][128] SNS cited DS' poor results and asserted that "DS lost legitimacy" as their reasons for the motion, while Đilas stated that "this is the beginning of a dictatorship and a one-party system" (smatra da je to uvod u dikatutru i jednopartijski sistem).[129] Thereafter, local boards of DS called for Đilas to resign as president of DS.[130] Tadić was accused of being the inspirer of the dismissal of Đilas and he planned to return to the post of the president of DS, which resulted the conflict between Đilas and Tadić to become more evident.[130] This resulted in an internal party motion of no confidence against Đilas, which he survived.[131][132] Đilas and Pajtić also suggested that an extraordinary congress should be held after the Belgrade City Assembly election, which was ultimately scheduled for March 2014.[132] Tadić left DS on 30 January 2014, citing his disagreement with party leadership.[133][134] Shortly after, Tadić announced that he would begin collecting signatures to register his new party, the New Democratic Party,[135] which later renamed the Social Democratic Party,[136] to participate in the snap parliamentary election, which was scheduled to be held on the same day as the Belgrade City Assembly election.[137]

DS announced that it would take part in the 2014 parliamentary election with Nova, DSHV, Rich Serbia, and the United Trade Unions of Serbia "Sloga" as part of the With the Democratic Party for a Democratic Serbia coalition.[138][139] The coalition only won 19 seats in the National Assembly; DS won 17 seats and Nova won 2.[140]: 77 [141] In the Belgrade City Assembly election, the DS coalition won 22 seats.[142] After the elections, an extraordinary congress was organised on 31 May 2014.[143][144] Pajtić faced Đilas and Pajtić was successfully elected to the presidency of DS.[145][146] Đilas subsequently resigned from his position as a member of the National Assembly and he left DS in June 2016.[147][148] Borko Stefanović, a vice-president of DS, left DS in December 2015, citing ideological differences, and then formed the Serbian Left (LS).[147][149] In March 2016, Nikolić called for snap parliamentary elections to be held in April 2016.[150] DS then formed the "For a Just Serbia" coalition with Nova, ZZS, DSHV, and Together for Šumadija.[147][151] The coalition won 16 seats in the National Assembly, 12 of which were occupied by DS.[152]: 10 [153] After the election, a party congress was organised for 24 September 2016.[154] Pajtić faced Dragan Šutanovac, Zoran Lutovac, and Srboljub Antić in the leadership election.[155] He ultimately lost to Šutanovac in the first round. Marković, Branislav Lečić, Nada Kolundžija, Goran Salak, and Tamara Tripić were elected vice-presidents.[156][157]

In January 2017, Šutanovac announced that DS would support Saša Janković in the 2017 presidential election instead of filing its own candidate.[158][159] DS also called for other parties to rally around Janković as a joint opposition candidate.[160] During the campaign, Janković used the infrastructure of DS to position himself as the leader of the opposition.[152]: 12  He placed second behind Aleksandar Vučić of SNS, winning 16% of the popular vote.[161] After the election, Janković stopped cooperating with DS and formed the Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) in May 2017.[152]: 93 [162] In preparation for the 2018 Belgrade City Assembly election, DS advocated for the opposition parties to participate on a joint list.[163] By the end of 2017, DS had announced that it would take part in a coalition with Nova, with Šutanovac as their mayoral candidate.[164]

2018–present: the Lutovac years

Zoran Lutovac giving an interview in 2020
Zoran Lutovac has been the president of DS since 2018

DS and Nova were joined by Tadić's SDS in January 2018, while the Green Ecological Party – The Greens also appeared on the ballot list.[165][166] However, the coalition did not win any seats as it only received 2 percent of the popular vote.[167][168] This led to the resignations of Šutanovac and Balša Božović, the president of the DS branch in Belgrade.[169][170]

In April 2018, DS announced that a party congress would be organised for 2 June 2018.[171] The leadership election was contested by Lutovac, Branislav Lečić, and Gordana Čomić.[172] Lutovac ultimately won the election. Nikolić, Aleksandra Jerkov, Dragana Rakić, Dragoslav Šumarac, and Saša Paunović were elected vice-presidents.[173][174] Lutovac announced that DS "must organise itself" and that DS would cooperate with the Alliance for Serbia (SZS), then a group in the City Assembly of Belgrade led by Đilas.[173][175] However, SZS was reorganised into a nationwide coalition in September 2018, which in addition to DS included ZZS, Sloga, LS, Jeremić's People's Party (Narodna), Dveri, the Movement for Reversal (PZP), and Healthy Serbia.[176][177] In internal DS deliberations, founding members Mićunović and Ognjenović, as well as Čomić and Šutanovac, were opposed to joining SZS.[178] After the physical attack on the leader of LS in November 2018, SZS organised mass anti-government protests.[179][180] And, in January 2019, DS announced that it would boycott the sessions of the National Assembly, the City Assembly of Belgrade, and the Assembly of Vojvodina, claiming that the bodies did not have legitimacy due to the government's obstruction of the parliamentary opposition by allegedly "violating the rules of Parliament, as well as laws and the Constitution".[181][182] DS also signed the "Agreement with the People", which stated that if fair and free conditions for elections were not met, it would boycott the 2020 parliamentary election.[183]

In February 2019, Lutovac and Tadić began discussing merging their parties to become "the main option for civic-democratic voters that will be able to integrate voters that are against Aleksandra Vučić" (glavna opcija za građansko-demokratske birače i koja će biti u stanju da integriše snage koje su protiv Aleksandra Vučića).[184][185] This decision was approved by both DS and SDS.[186][187] ZZS, led by Nebojša Zelenović, also joined the talks.[188] The merger was formalised as a union in May 2019 under the name United Democratic Party.[189] The merger was to be completed upon the relaxation of COVID-19 pandemic measures.[190] During the COVID-19 pandemic, SDS left the process, with Tadić later claiming that Lutovac allegedly put an end to the merger.[191][192] As part of SZS, in September 2019 DS announced that it would boycott the 2020 parliamentary election.[193][194] The decision to boycott the election received criticism from some DS members, such as Mićunović and Šutanovac, who stated that DS officials would in response create citizens' groups to encourage voting in the elections.[195][196][197] During a session of the party's main board in November 2019, Lečić, Jerkov, Božović, Radoslav Milojičić, and Slobodan Milosavljević left a meeting to attempt to break quorum after demanding a new leadership election.[198][199] Lutovac described the move as a coup d'état and claimed that Vučić was attempting to break up DS.[199][200] He also later claimed that a group inside DS was attempting to cooperate with Vučić.[201] After attending a session in the National Assembly in February 2020, Čomić was expelled from DS.[202] She was later featured on United Democratic Serbia's ballot list and became a government minister.[203][204]

DS' scheduled March 2020 party congress was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled for 21 June 2020, when the parliamentary election was also scheduled to be held.[205][206] During the party congress, a group of DS members left the congress to hold an alternate leadership election.[207] The congress continued on 28 June 2020; the dissatisfied group held its own congress in Belgrade, with Tadić in attendance, while Lutovac held the official party congress in Šabac.[208] Lutovac then expelled Lečić, Božović, Milojičić, and Milosavljević from DS.[209] The dissatisfied group then chose Lečić as the president. The Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government rejected Lečić's request to be recognised as the legal president of DS, concluding that Lutovac was its legitimate president.[210][211] Lečić then formed the Democrats of Serbia, which later merged into Tadić's SDS.[212][213]

During the conflict between the two DS factions, SZS was dissolved and succeeded by the United Opposition of Serbia (UOPS).[214][215] However, UOPS dissolved in January 2021 as a result of a dispute regarding inter-party dialogues on electoral conditions between Narodna and Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP)—the party led by Đilas.[216][217] DS organised a congress on 4 July 2021; Lutovac was reelected president and Rakić was reelected deputy president. Tatjana Manojlović, Nenad Mitrović, Miodrag Gavrilović, and Branimir Jovančićević were elected vice-presidents.[218] After the congress, DS, Narodna, SSP, and PSG announced that they would cooperate in the 2022 Serbian general election.[219][220] Their coalition was formalised in February 2022 under the name United for the Victory of Serbia (UZPS); they nominated Zdravko Ponoš of Narodna as their presidential candidate.[221][222] UZPS won 14% of the popular vote in the parliamentary election; DS won 10 seats.[223][224] Ponoš placed second in the presidential election, behind Vučić.[225] After the election, UZPS was dissolved, with Lutovac stating that it was only a pre-election coalition.[226][227] Shortly before the first constitutive session of the National Assembly on 1 August 2022, Narodna, DS, Do not let Belgrade drown, and Together nominated Lutovac for vice-president of the National Assembly.[228] He was successfully elected on 2 August 2022.[229] The Movement of Free Serbia, which was a part of the UZPS coalition, merged into DS in September 2022.[230]

After the May 2023 Belgrade school shooting and mass murder in Mladenovac and Smederevo, DS has taken part in the mass protests as one of its organisers.[231][232] In August 2023, DS, Together, and Serbia Centre signed a cooperation agreement.[233] DS became part of the Serbia Against Violence (SPN) coalition in October 2023, a coalition of political parties organising the 2023 protests.[234] SPN announced that it would contest the parliamentary, Vojvodina provincial, and Belgrade City Assembly elections, all scheduled for 17 December 2023.[235][236] Manojlović resigned as vice-president of DS after being revealed that she was not featured on the SPN electoral list for the parliamentary elections.[237] In the parliamentary election, SPN won 65 seats, 8 of which went to DS.[238]

Ideology and platform

Mićunović and Đinđić era

DS was a catch-all party during its early period and was composed of ideologically heterogeneous groups.[15]: 59–61 [16] It included the founders of the Praxis School, Mićunović and Đinđić, who were labelled liberals, as well as Čavoški, Koštunica, and Milošević, who argued for the adoption of a stronger anti-communist position inside the party.[15]: 60 [16] DS was also divided on nationalism, with members such as Gligorov and Inić arguing that nationalism should be solved within a common Yugoslav state, while members like Đogo favoured a Greater Serbian policy.[15]: 60  DS supported a mixed economy with a strong role of the market, but it also sought to implement reforms towards establishing a modern market economy and integrating Serbia into the European Community.[9][15]: 59 [239]: 80  DS adopted a "civic and centrist identity", and in its Letter of Intent of December 1989, it stated its support for the establishment of a democratic and multi-party system.[15]: 59 [239]: 80  Regarding Yugoslavia, DS supported federalisation and a pluralistic democratic order to guarantee human security and personal freedom and decrease ethnic conflicts.[15]: 59 

Political scientist Dijana Vukomanović has argued that DS has promoted liberalism in an economic and democratic sense since its formation, and noted that, in its 1990 programme, DS emphasised establishing a representative parliamentary democracy, and advancing human and political freedoms and civic rights.[240]: 92  By contrast, political scientist Vukašin Pavlović has noted that DS may be described as centre-right at the time of its formation in 1990, due to its founders' ideological positions.[2]: 143  Likewise, Metropolitan University Prague lecturer Marko Stojić has described DS in its founding era as centre-right because its programme advocated a liberal market economy and minimal role for the state.[241]: 62  Political scientist Vladimir Goati has positioned the 1990s DS on the moderate right, noting its support for private property rights and the omission of the regulatory and redistributive functions of the state from its 1992 programme .[25]: 66  Goati has also categorised the party as liberal-democratic, explaining that after 1993, DS began to use less anti-communist rhetoric compared with other opposition parties.[25]: 103–104  In 1991, then-Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden described DS as a "moderate, opposition" party,[242] and in a 1999 report, BBC News described DS as centrist.[243] Scholar Slaviša Orlović has noted that the party "provide[d] a balance of goals of the right and left political traditions".[2]: 156 

Political scientist Slobodan Antonić has stated that although DS was formed as a civic party—in its 1992 programme, DS identified itself as a "civic, national, liberal, and socially responsible"[2]: 156 —it had a "nationalistic phase" in mid-1990s, supporting the "modernisation of the country" as well as the self-determination of Serbs,[2]: 156–157  but that, soon after, it returned to civic positions.[244]: 57  Additionally, political scientist Jovan Komšić has noted that DS moderated its stance on nationalism after the 1995 Dayton Agreement, thereafter focuseing on the "democratisation of Serbia".[2]: 156–157  Goati has described DS as an anti-system party because it opposed the 1990 constitution.[25]: 41 

Under Đinđić, DS shifted to more pragmatic and flexible approaches and principles, becoming the leading anti-Milošević party after 1998.[43][239]: 91 [245] Đinđić has been described as a pro-Western reformist and a technocrat.[69][70] DS advocated for denationalisation and free mass distribution of shares, and established the Centre for Privatisation.[240]: 93  However, DS also supported the right to work, trade union rights, social security, and the fight against unemployment.[240]: 93  DS described these economic positions as "people's capitalism", but DS dropped these positions after coming to power in 2001, when it began promoting neoliberalism.[240]: 94  DS was also associated with the "shock therapy", group of economic policies.[2]: 170  DS supported policies that would bring Serbia closer to the West and reintegrate Serbia into the international community. DS also supported the extradition of Serbian citizens that were indicted by the ICTY.[241]: 45–46 

Tadić era

Democratic Party officials celebrating Serbia recieving candidate status for European Union membership
DS officials at a gathering dedicated to Serbia gaining candidate status for European Union membership

Despite trying to position itself as a social democratic party after Đinđić's assassination, Vukomanović has argued that the leadership of DS did not "dare to take a decisive step towards the left".[2]: 170 [240]: 98  Political scientist Zoran Stojiljković has noted that, instead, it shifted towards social liberalism.[246]: 144  On the other hand, political scientist Zoran Slavujević argued in 2003 that, at the time, DS "was still positioned between the centre and centre-right".[246]: 166  Others have described DS under Tadić as centrist, and as associated with liberalism and social liberalism.[2]: 92–93, 114 [5]: 25, 450 [247][248]

Tadić has been described as a liberal, a label he accepts.[249] During his leadership, he was considered to be popular amongst businessmen due to his support for the accession of Serbia to the European Union.[78][250] Despite being supported by liberals, DS would occasionally position itself as a "state-building party of the centre-left".[2]: 115  During Tadić's tenure, DS was the leading party of the liberal and pro-European bloc,[83]: 14  but it also promoted privatisation to accelerate Serbia's economic development.[83]: 61  Stojić has noted that DS' programmatic shift towards social democracy began in 2007, but while in government, DS did not pursue a social democratic agenda.[241]: 63 

DS under Tadić has been described as internationalist[251] and pro-Western.[94][252] Although it also declared itself in favour of military neutrality, DS expressed sympathy for, and its government ministers cooperated with, NATO.[2]: 64 [253] DS also believed that the political status of Kosovo should be solved via diplomacy,[83]: 59  although it did not adopt a clear stance on the issue following Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008.[87]: 5  Under Tadić, DS took a balanced approach towards foreign relations; for example, a year after Kosovo's declaration, Tadić hosted U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for talks.[254] Shortly before the 2012 elections, Serbia received candidate status for European Union membership.[255]

To attract ethnic minority voters, DS exploited the cultural-ideological cleft in Vojvodina, seeking to attract voters from minority interests parties,[2]: 23  and promoted regionalism.[256] DS also advocated improving the standard of living and balanced regional development,[83]: 59–60  and proposed the creation of an independent body that would implement anti-corruption measures in the judiciary.[83]: 64 

Post-Tadić era

After 2012, DS shifted further to the left and began identifying itself as social democratic,[5]: 25 [257]: 8  a description which has since been accepted by scholars and political observers.[241]: 61 [258][259] Stojić has categorised DS as social democratic and as a party with a "liberal legacy".[241]: 62  As of May 2023, DS has been described as being on the centre-left of the political spectrum.[260][261][262] By contrast, Dušan Spasojević, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade, has described DS' social views as being orientated towards the left.[263] The current leader of DS, Zoran Lutovac, describes himself as a leftist.[264]

DS has served in opposition to SNS since 2012.[265] It has been critical of the government's stance on Kosovo,[266][267] although it has supported the 2013 Brussels Agreement.[268] In an interview, Šutanovac has described the Kosovo issue as a "not an everyday political problem".[269] During the North Kosovo crisis in 2023, DS has voiced its opposition to the Ohrid Agreement, with Lutovac claiming that "the agreement does not respect the interests of Serbia and the rights of Serbs in Kosovo" but also because DS "does not want to give Vučić legitimacy for what he did".[270]

When Đilas led DS in opposition to SNS during the 2014 election, he pledged to provide free textbooks for students and full salaries for pregnant women, increase wages for healthcare workers, and help pensioners.[140]: 16  DS is opposed to jadarite mining and it was one of the signatories of an agreement on the prohibition of exploration, exploitation, and processing of lithium in Serbia in October 2021.[271][272]

DS has declared itself to be "the bearer of the most progressive ideas"; it is in favour of protecting workers, minorities, and the environment, and it supports guaranteed rights to healthcare, education, and pensions.[5]: 32–33 [‡ 2] In 2014, the Gay Straight Alliance, an association that promotes LGBT rights in Serbia, described DS as the "most positive party towards the LGBT community".[273] DS has condemned violence against the LGBT community and in August 2022 it supported hosting 2022 EuroPride in Belgrade.[274][275] It has criticised the attacks on the Pride Info Centre in Belgrade.[276]

Demographic characteristics

Before the federal parliamentary election in December 1992, a majority of DS supporters preferred a citizen state (građanska država) over a nation state (nacionalna država).[25]: 64  According to political scientist Dragomir Pantić, supporters of DS in the 1990s shared similar characteristics with supporters of DSS, GSS, and other minority parties.[2]: 32  DS supporters were young and urban, and they came from the middle and upper classes.[2]: 32  Public intellectuals, technicians, and those who worked in the private sector were also supporters of DS.[2]: 35  After 2000, DS voters professed liberal-democratic values; they were also less religious, opposed to authoritarianism and centralism, and supportive of political reforms.[2]: 32–35  Political scientist Ilija Vujačić, however, has argued that DS supporters in the 21st century skewed more towards the political centre.[277] In 2007, political scientist Srećko Mihailović noted that a majority of DS supporters identified with the left—18% with the far-left, 22% with the left-wing, and 25% with the centre-left—while 18% described themselves as centrist.[278]

According to a 2005 opinion poll, 66% of DS supporters stated that Serbia should rely on the European Union for Serbia's foreign policy.[279] In opinion polls conducted before the 2008 elections, a majority of DS supporters declared themselves to be pro-European.[96]: 13 

In 2012, a majority of DS voters were female, below 50 years old, and possessed a high school or university diploma.[100]: 84–86  DS supporters were mostly workers, technicians, officials, and dependents.[100]: 87  In 2014, 80% of DS supporters were female, 60% of supporters were under 50 years old, and a majority of supporters held either a high school or university diploma.[140]: 104  In 2014, most DS supporters were tolerant of diversity and they rejected authoritarianism and nationalism.[140]: 104  By 2016, most DS supporters were younger than 40.[280] November 2020 research conducted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation found that supporters of DS viewed themselves as socially progressive.[257]: 14 

Organisation

As of May 2023, DS is led by Zoran Lutovac, who was elected president in 2018.[173] At the party congress in 2021, Lutovac was re-elected president and Rakić was elected deputy president; Jovančićević, Gavrilović, and Mitrović currently serve as vice-presidents.[218] Lutovac is also the party's parliamentary leader in the National Assembly.[281]

DS has its headquarters at Nušićeva 6/II in Belgrade.[282] DS previously published a newspaper, Demokratija, from 1990 to 1998.[283] Since July 2021, the party has published the newspaper Bedem.[284][‡ 3] Its youth wing, the Democratic Youth, has been led by Stefan Ninić since February 2022.[285] DS also operates a women's wing, called Women's Forum.[286] DS membership is open to every adult citizen of Serbia who is not a member of another party organisation.[5]: 56  In December 2010, DS reported that it had 185,192 members;[21] by 2013, it reported having 196,673 members.[287][‡ 4] However, only 18,459 DS members had the right to vote in the 2016 leadership election.[287]

DS has city, local, and municipal branches, as well as a special branch in Vojvodina.[5]: 58–59  DS has an assembly, a main board, a presidency, an executive board, a statutory commission—which includes the centre of departmental committees and the centre for education—a supervisory board, a political council, and an ethics committee.[5]: 59 [288][289] DS also operates the Foundation for Improving Democracy "Ljuba Davidović".[290] The main board is the highest body of DS; the president of DS represents and manages the party.[5]: 61–63  As of May 2023, ten political parties, this being the DC, DSS, now known as the New Democratic Party of Serbia,[291] G17+, LDP, Nova, NDS, LS, SLS, SDS, and ZZS, were formed as splits from DS.[292]

International cooperation

DS has been a member of the Socialist International since 2003, and in December 2006, it became an associate member of the Party of European Socialists.[2]: 36 [293] According to Doris Pack, a German politician and close friend of Đinđić, Đinđić made the decision to apply to become an associate member of the Party of European Socialists; Zoran Alimpić, a senior DS official, stated that the decision came as a surprise to senior DS officials.[241]: 63  DS is also affiliated with the Progressive Alliance.[258][294] Its youth wing is a member of the Young European Socialists[295][296] and a full member of the International Union of Socialist Youth.[297] In the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, DS was associated with the Socialist Group.[298]

In 2014, Pajtić—with Sergey Stanishev, then-president of the Party of European Socialists, Victor Ponta, then-leader of the Social Democratic Party of Romania, and Zlatko Lagumdžija, then-leader of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina—met with Li Yuanchao, an official of the Chinese Communist Party, to discuss economic relations between China and Europe.[299] In 2017, Šutanovac met with Zoran Zaev, the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, to discuss regional cooperation, Serbia and North Macedonia's integration into the European Union, and cooperation inside the Party of European Socialists.[300][301]

List of presidents

# President Birth–Death Term start Term end
1 Dragoljub Mićunović Dragoljub Mićunović in the National Assembly 1930– 3 February 1990 25 January 1994
2 Zoran Đinđić A cropped image of Zoran Đinđić with Bill Gates 1952–2003 25 January 1994
12 March 2003
(assassinated)
Zoran Živković
(acting)
An image of Zoran Živković at Medija centar 1960– 12 March 2003 22 February 2004
3 Boris Tadić An image of Boris Tadić in 2010 1958– 22 February 2004 25 November 2012
4 Dragan Đilas An image of Dragan Đilas in 2013 1967– 25 November 2012 31 May 2014
5 Bojan Pajtić An image of Bojan Pajtić in 2015 1970– 31 May 2014 24 September 2016
6 Dragan Šutanovac An image of Dragan Šutanovac in 2016 1968– 24 September 2016 2 June 2018
7 Zoran Lutovac An image of Zoran Lutovac in 2020 1964– 2 June 2018 Incumbent

Electoral performance

Parliamentary elections

National Assembly of Serbia
Year Leader Popular vote % of popular vote # # of seats Seat change Coalition Status Ref.
1990 Dragoljub Mićunović 374,887 7.78% Increase 3rd
7 / 250
Increase 7 Opposition [302]
1992 196,347 4.42% Decrease 4th
6 / 250
Decrease 1 Opposition [303]
1993 497,582 12.06% Steady 4th
29 / 250
Increase 23 Opposition [304]
1997 Zoran Đinđić Election boycott
0 / 250
Decrease 29 Extra-parliamentary [305]
2000 2,402,387 65.69% Increase 1st
45 / 250
Increase 45 DOS Government [306]
2003 Boris Tadić 481,249 12.75% Decrease 3rd
22 / 250
Decrease 23 DS–GSSSDULZS Opposition [307]
2007 915,854 23.08% Increase 2nd
60 / 250
Increase 38 DS–SDPDSHV Government [308]
2008 1,590,200 39.25% Increase 1st
64 / 250
Increase 4 ZES Government [309]
2012 863,294 23.09% Decrease 2nd
49 / 250
Decrease 15 IZBŽ Opposition [310]
2014 Dragan Đilas 216,634 6.23% Decrease 3rd
17 / 250
Decrease 32 DS–DSHV–NovaBS Opposition [311]
2016 Bojan Pajtić 227,589 6.20% Decrease 5th
12 / 250
Decrease 5 DS–Nova–DSHV–ZZSZZŠ Opposition [312]
2020 Zoran Lutovac Election boycott
0 / 250
Decrease 12 SZS Extra-parliamentary [313]
2022 520,469 14.09% Increase 2nd
10 / 250
Increase 10 UZPS Opposition [314]
2023 902,450 24.32% Steady 2nd
8 / 250
Decrease 2 SPN TBA
Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on MediaWiki.org.

Presidential elections

President of Serbia
Year Candidate 1st round popular vote % of popular vote 2nd round popular vote % of popular vote Notes Ref.
1990 Did not participate
1992 Milan Panić 2nd 1,516,693 34.65% Supported Panić [315]
Sep 1997 Election boycott Election annulled due to low turnout
Dec 1997 Election boycott
Sep–Oct 2002 Miroljub Labus 2nd 995,200 27.96% 2nd 921,094 31.62% Supported Labus; election annulled due to low turnout [316]
Dec 2002 Did not participate Election annulled due to low turnout
2003 Dragoljub Mićunović 2nd 893,906 36.67% Election annulled due to low turnout [317]
2004 Boris Tadić 2nd 853,584 27.70% 1st 1,681,528 53.97% [318]
2008 2nd 1,457,030 36.08% 1st 2,304,467 51.19% [319]
2012 1st 989,454 26.50% 2nd 1,481,952 48.84% [310]
2017 Saša Janković 2nd 507,728 16.63% Supported Janković [320]
2022 Zdravko Ponoš 2nd 698,538 18.84% Supported Ponoš [321]

Federal parliamentary elections

Year Leader Popular vote % of popular vote # # of seats Seat change Coalition Status Notes Ref.
May 1992 Dragoljub Mićunović Election boycott
0 / 136
Steady 0 Extra-parliamentary
1992–1993 280,183 6.32% Increase 4th
5 / 138
Increase 5 Opposition [25]: 213 
1996 Zoran Đinđić 969,296 23.77% Increase 2nd
22 / 138
Increase 17 Together Opposition Coalition Together won 22 seats in total [25]: 214 
2000 2,040,646 43.86% Increase 1st
58 / 138
Increase 36 DOS Government DOS won 58 seats in total [25]: 269 
2,092,799 46.23% Increase 1st
10 / 40
Increase 10 DOS Government DOS won 10 seats in total [25]: 270 
Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on MediaWiki.org.

Federal presidential elections

President of FR Yugoslavia
Year Candidate 1st round popular vote % of popular vote 2nd round popular vote % of popular vote Notes Ref.
2000 Vojislav Koštunica 1st 2,470,304 51.71% Supported Koštunica [25]: 269 

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