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Democratic Party
Демократска странка
DS1
Leader Vuk Jeremić
Deputy president Srđan Miković
Vice-presidents Nebojša Lekić

Slobodan Vučković
Vuk Purić

President of the Executive Board Efendija Šokčić
Secretary-general Dragan Đokanović
Founder The Founding Committee
Coalition Democratic Opposition of Serbia
Founded 1989
Headquarters Belgrade
State Serbia
Youth wing Democratic Youth
Student wing Student Coalition for Democracy
Membership (2022) 372,531
Ideology Conservatism

Social democracy
Social conservatism

Political position Social: Centre-right

Fiscal: Centre-left

National Assembly
20 / 250
Official colors Blue, yellow

The Democratic Party (Serbian: Демократска странка, ДС, DS) is a political party in Serbia. It is described as a conservative and social democratic party. With 20 seats in the National Assembly, it is the largest opposition party in Serbia. It is also the leading party of the electoral coalition called Democratic Opposition of Serbia.

HistoryEdit

Re-establishmentEdit

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 getting banned by the communists following World War II.

Featuring a diverse group of intellectuals with longtime track records in various social arenas or distinguished academic careers, some of them were motivated into political action by what they perceived to be 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 concerns about what they thought to be deteriorating state of democracy and human rights in the country. Up to that point in time, the former primarily acted through the Serbian Writers' Association (Удружење књижевника Србије) while the latter channeled their activities through the Social Sciences Institute (Институт друштвених наука) and the Philosophy Club (Филозофско друштво). Sprinkled among the members of the newly re-established party were also some surviving members of the pre World War II DS party. Though the grip of the Communist League (SKJ), the only constitutionally allowed party in Yugoslav one-party political system, was not nearly as strong as it once was, DS members still feared the authorities' reaction to the announcement of the DS party creation.

Even before the founding conference was held, some differences of opinion over the Kosovo issue surfaced among the members. The party presidency was contested between Dragoljub Mićunović and Kosta Čavoški who were two of DS' most prominent and active members at the time. At the DS founding conference on 3 February 1990, Mićunović got more member votes and became president while Čavoški got named to the post of Executive Board (Извршни одбор) president. Borislav Pekić, a prominent literary figure and one of the original founders, was named Vice President.

Mićunović leadershipEdit

Under Mićunović, DS was not a party with strong leadership as the longtime university professor preferred the relaxed intellectual approach to the rigid internal party structure.

DS members participated in the first anti-government protests in 1990. At the parliamentary elections on 9 December 1990, the party was on the ballot in 176 of 250 electoral districts, getting 674,887 votes that translated into 7 assembly seats. Only several days prior to the elections, Čavoški left DS to form the Serbian Liberal Party (SLS). Other members like Nikola Milošević and Vladan Vasilijević left with him as well. Čavoški's lasting legacy in the DS was its national program as the party program stated until 1997 that "DS is working towards the re-unification of Serbian lands". Still, 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 official party policy, despite being in minority, because most of the other members didn't really concern themselves with economic matters. Both Giligorov and Inić later 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 296,347 votes, down almost two hundred thousand votes compared to the previous election, 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 the party and established 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, Vladan Batić, etc. The immediate issue behind the split was their dissatisfaction with the DS decision not to enter the DEPOS coalition, however it also had a deeper cause as differences over the handling of the so-called national question 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 a lot more within the party at a time when DS was burdened by various issues such as: dwindling membership following the departure of Koštunica's group, only 6 MPs in the assembly, and furthermore unclear political position. Though Mićunović was still formally president, it was Đinđić who was increasingly becoming the face of DS. By summer 1993 Đinđić had a clear personal vision of the party's future direction and aggressively set about implementing it. His primary concern became establishing strong infrastructure on the ground through a network of local municipal branches that answer to party's central in Belgrade.

Đinđić got his first chance to gauge the results of the new party approach even before he formally became its president. In October 1993, Serbian president Slobodan Milošević dissolved the parliament, scheduling the new parliamentary elections for 19 December 1993. Supported by a carefully crafted media and marketing campaign featuring memorable "Pošteno" slogan, DS recorded its best result to date with 797,582 votes, giving them 29 assembly seats. However, despite tremendous 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 pre-electoral 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 emerging 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 admitted to them taking place.

Đinđić leadershipEdit

At the party conference in January 1994, Đinđić became the new party president, completely pushing out Mićunović in the process. Though many members didn't like the way this transfer of power was executed within the party, symbolically referring to it as "oceubistvo" (patricide), many others such as founding member Gojko Đogo took some positives from the new approach introduced by Đinđić.

Đinđić worked hard to move DS away from what he himself occasionally referred to in derisive terms as the "debate club" towards a modern and efficient organization that functions according to the management model of a capitalist company. Mićunović soon left DS, founding a non-governmental organization Center for Democracy that eventually transformed into Democratic Centre (DC). Others that followed him to the DC were Desimir Tošić, Vida Ognjenović, Bora Kuzmanović, as well as many other prominent and respected DS party members. Though a much better organized party under Đinđić, DS still experienced trouble formulating a clear stance on the national question in the former Yugoslavia. Đinđić's own actions perhaps made a good illustration of this seemingly confused standing on both sides of the issue. On one hand Đinđić basically refused to even acknowledge the national question as a real issue, making not a single mention of the Serbs living outside of Serbia in other parts of former Yugoslavia in his book Yugoslavia: The Unfinished State while on the other he maintained close links with Radovan Karadžić, the war leader of Bosnian Serbs, even visiting him at Pale in February 1994 when American forces threatened to bombard Bosnian Serb positions. This seeming flip-flopping on the national issue was often effectively used by DS' political opponents and Đinđić's critics on all sides of the political spectrum.

As the Bosnian War ended by the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord, in addition to his grip on power domestically Milošević enjoyed a stable support from the international community that recognized him as the "peace and stability factor in the Balkans". Next chance to dent his armour came at the November 1996 municipal elections, which the DS entered as part of an opposition coalition featuring SPO, DSS, and GSS. Democratic Party (at the time with a total of only 10,000 members across Serbia) joined Zajedno despite Đinđić's personal opposition to the move as he got outvoted on three separate occasions by other party members 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 huge three month long peaceful protest marches by hundreds of thousands of citizens. Milošević caved in and acknowledged the results and on 21 February 1997 Đinđić got inaugurated as the mayor of Belgrade.

As the parliamentary elections got called for 21 December 1997, Đinđić made a bold and gutsy decision that DS will boycott them thus breaking up the Zajedno coalition.

In 1998, most of the student leaders of 1996-97 street protests (gathered around an organization called Students Political Club - Студентски политички клуб (SPK)) joined DS. On this occasion future prominent members such as Čedomir Jovanović, Čedomir Antić, and Igor Žeželj joined the party.

The fall of Slobodan Milošević in October 2000 occurred after street protests by hundreds of thousands of citizens. Democratic Party was the biggest party of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia block that won 64.7% of the votes in 2000 elections held in December 2000, getting 176 of 250 seats in the Parliamentary Assembly. In 2001 Zoran Đinđić was appointed the Prime Minister of Serbia at the head of the first post-Milošević, post-Communist Government of Serbia sworn in on 21 January 2001. The Democratric Party has never been out of power since the overthrow of Milošević.

In 2003, Zoran Đinđić, the incumbent Prime Minister of Serbia and president of the Democratic Party, was assassinated. Boris Tadić was elected new president of Democratic Party in 2004.

Tadić leadershipEdit

Boris Tadić contended in the 2004 Serbian presidential electioninthesameyear, and won it while Democratic Party was still in opposition in parliament. In the 2007 parliamentary election, the coalition gathered around the Democratic Party received 22.71% of the popular vote, 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.

Boris Tadić was re-elected at the 2008 Serbian presidential election.

In the 2008 parliamentary election, the pro-European bloc led by the DS received 38.5% of the popular vote, translating into 102 seats in the Serbian National Assembly, making it the largest political party bloc in parliament.The party also received three seats in the Community Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija, but refused to sit in the assembly until the situation in Kosovo stabilized.

In mid-2011, the DS-led government was overthrown by the coalition led by the Serbian Progressive Party. The SNS-led coalition constituted the new National Assembly, which resulted in the DS-led coalition losing 50% of the parliament seats, thus falling from 102 to 51 MPs, with DS left with only 32 MPs.

When the civil war between the new government and the former SRS, the Democratic Party called for peace and began protesting in larger towns in Serbia - most notably in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac, and Zaječar. On the largest protest in Belgrade, in May 2012, Boris Tadić was shot and killed by an unknown assassin. After his death, Dragan Đilas became the acting president of the party. His presidency was short, since he was killed on another protest only about a week after the assassination of Tadić, presumably by the same assassin. After a month, Vuk Jeremić took over as party leader.

Jeremić leadershipEdit

Vuk Jeremić represented the conservative and traditionalist branch of the party, and started changing party policies straight away to match his conservative views. Many important party members, including the vice presidents Dragan Šutanovac, Dušan Petrović, and Bojan Pajtić, and the party founder Dragoljub Mićunović, didn't agree with Jeremić's radical policy changes, so they left the party and the Serbian political life in July 2012. Jeremić removed most of the former high-ranking party officials, removing the remnants of the former centrist and liberal leadership and electing right-wing conservative local party officials, including Srđan Miković and Slobodan Vučković.

During the rest of the civil war the Democratic Party organized a few major anti-war rallies, though the constant protests ceased. After the war, Serbian Radical Party was formed again and constituted the National Assembly, with all the 250 MPs belonging to SRS. Democratic Party demanded the new presidental and parliamentary election, so the people could choose their National Assembly, instead of "catch-all partisans fighting in the Parliament for their positions".

The Democratic Party formed a coalition with the Democratic Party of Serbia for the 2014 parliamentary election called Democratic Opposition of Serbia (like the 2000 coalition), and won 13.5% of the popular vote and 39 seats in the parliament. Vuk Jeremić won 13.2% at the presidential election held the same year.

The coalition contested in the 2018 elections, receiving 14.8% of the vote, but losing 1 seat in the parliament due to the large number of minority coalitions contesting. Vuk Jeremić won 14.2% of the popular vote in the presidential election.

In the 2022 parliamentary election, the coalition again contested and received 14.5% of the popular vote, taking back the seat lost in 2018. Vojislav Koštunica ran for president on behalf of the coalition, receiving 14.9% of the vote.

Notable membersEdit

  • Vuk Jeremić, party leader, Minister of Foreign Affairs 2007-2011

Former membersEdit

  • Vladan Batić, became a member of the Democratic Party of Serbia

Electoral resultsEdit

Democratic Party election results
Year Seats in Assembly Seats won Seat change Popular vote % of popular vote Notes
1990 250 7 +7 674,887
1992 250 6 -1 296,347 4.16%
1993 250 29 +23 797,582 11.57%
2000 250 176 (45) +163 (+16) 4,502,387 64.7% Part of DOS
2003 250 37 (23) -8 (-22) 861,249 12.58% In coalition
2007 250 64 (60) +27 (+41) 1,415,854 22.71% In coalition
2008 250 102 (64) +15 (0) 2,390,200 38.42% Part of ZES
2014 250 39 (28) -46 (-36) 1,305,830 13.54% Part of DOS
2018 250 38 (28) -1 (0) 7,674,502 14.80% Part of DOS
2022 250 38 (20) 0 (-8) 7,128,757 14.51% Part of DOS

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