On Sunday, Dec. 17, Serbia will hold early parliamentary and partial local elections. These early December elections were declared in response to increasing political pressure from both domestic critics and the international community, amidst political and social divisions within Serbia, coupled with regional tensions.
Ahead of this important electoral process, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) provides Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Elections in Serbia: Early Parliamentary and Partial Local Elections.
Additionally, visit IFES's Election Guide for the most comprehensive and timely verified election information available online.
For more information and details, please find the full FAQs in PDF format.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The Republic of Serbia will hold early parliamentary and local elections on Sunday, December 17, 2023. Parliamentary elections will take place nationally, while local elections will be held in 65 of the country’s 166 municipalities and in the Vojvodina region for the Province Assembly. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. in 8,273 polling stations across the country and for a 13-hour period ending no later than 8 p.m. Serbia time at 81 sites abroad in diplomatic and consular missions of Serbia.
Originally scheduled for 2026, elections were called by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, after the National Assembly was dissolved on November 1, 2023. Mayors in 65 municipalities, including the City of Belgrade, resigned from their positions, paving the way for early local elections in these municipalities.
Preparations are taking place within a timeframe of just over six weeks. The elections are being held amid deep political and social polarization as well as domestic and regional tensions. Two mass shootings in Serbia this year sparked widespread public protests against the government. In the aftermath, the Minister of Education resigned. Simultaneously, escalating tensions between the Serbian government and Kosovo was exacerbated by a violent attack in village Banjska, in a northern municipality of Zvecan in Kosovo, on September 24, in which a Kosovo police officer was killed.
Serbia holds European Union (EU) candidate status and has been negotiating EU accession since 2013. The EU Commission recently released its annual country report on Serbia, which outlines reforms and steps needed for Serbia to continue toward accession. While the report discusses judicial reforms and policies on fighting organized crime as important steps, it outlines the “urgent” need for Serbia to align with EU foreign and security policy — in particular, the need to commit to normalizing relations with Kosovo.
For these elections, all 250 seats of the National Assembly will be open. There will be 18 candidate lists for the parliamentary elections. Citizens in the 65 municipalities holding early local elections will vote for their municipal assemblies. At the same time, citizens in Vojvodina region will elect 120 representatives to the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina.
The 250 members of the National Assembly are elected for four-year mandates. Those members represent a single nationwide constituency, are elected through a closed list, and are awarded seats through a proportional system. The threshold for candidate lists to participate in the distribution of mandates is 3 percent of votes cast. Lists representing national minorities are exempted from this requirement.
Local elections also award seats through a proportional representation system. Eligible voters cast ballots for electoral lists of registered candidates that political parties, coalitions of parties, or citizens’ groups can submit.
Any citizen who is eligible to vote can stand in parliamentary and local elections. Lists of candidates for parliamentary elections must collect at least 10,000 notarized signatures of voters. For local elections, the number of required signatures varies based on the number of eligible voters in the municipality. Three kinds of groups can submit lists: a political party that is on the Register of Political Parties, a coalition of political parties, or a group of citizens. Electoral lists for national elections must be submitted directly to the Republic Election Commission (REC), both in writing and electronically, no later than 20 days before Election Day.
Parties are financed through donations, loans, membership fees, and state funding. Candidates can finance campaigns from their own funds and donations but not from foreign, state, public, or anonymous sources or from non-profit and charitable organizations or trade unions. While there is no campaign expenditure cap, an individual’s annual donations may not exceed 10 average monthly salaries, while a legal entities’ cannot exceed 30. In September 2023, the average gross salaries and wages amounted to 85,066 RSD (approximately $780).
Parties can secure private funding through loans from banks to cover daily operations and campaign expenses, in accordance with Serbian law, or use membership fees for a regular source of income for campaign expenses.
Parties can receive state funding from the Republic of Serbia, the autonomous province of Vojvodina, local governments, and organizations founded by them of up to 0.07 percent of the state budget, the autonomous province budget, and/or the local government budget. For early elections, 20% of specified funds are equally distributed among registered candidates using public sources, while the remaining 80% is allocated based on the number of won seats, regardless of funding sources.
The Republic Election Commission (REC) is the national-level election management body (EMB) in Serbia. The REC, Local Election Commissions (LECs), and Polling Boards have standing and expanded compositions. In its standing composition, the REC is comprised of a chairperson, 16 members, and a deputy for each member. In its expanded composition, the REC’s composition includes one representative of each submitter of the accepted candidate lists, each of whom has a deputy.
General responsibilities of the REC include ensuring that the national elections run effectively and within the law, organizing and delivering election materials and instructions for lower-level EMBs, conducting training for all levels of election administration, defining the locations of polling stations, approving electoral lists, and leading voter information efforts. The REC oversees the electoral process at the national level, and LECs provide oversight at the Local Self-Government level.
Polling Board members are appointed 10 days before Election Day. The number of Polling Board members in national elections is determined by a parliamentary group’s representation in the National Assembly on the day of the decision. In its standing composition, each Polling Board has a president and two members, plus a deputy for each. In its expanded composition, each certified candidate list may nominate one member and a corresponding deputy.
Serbian law requires a gender quota of at least 40 percent as a prerequisite for the registration of a list, with at least two of every five candidates on a list from the less represented sex.
Voters with disabilities may request mobile voting outside of polling stations if the relevant LEC is notified at least 72 hours before voting begins, or the relevant Polling Board is informed no later than 11 a.m. on Election Day. Individuals with disabilities who can reach and enter a polling station may request the help of an assistant of their choosing. Polling Board members are required to report this assistance in the official polling station minutes.
To allow for the equal participation of minorities, political parties of national minorities and coalitions consisting of the political parties of national minorities must collect 50 percent of the support signatures needed for a majority list. In the distribution of mandates, these parties receive an increase of 35 percent if their share of votes is under the 3 percent threshold. Ballots for voters from national minority groups will be printed in their language following the Serbian text if the relevant municipality recognizes that minority language.
Within 96 hours after the close of polls, the REC will publish the general elections report for all polling stations. It will list the number of voters entered on the electoral roll and the number who turned out; the number of ballot papers found in ballot boxes, the number of valid and invalid ballot papers, and the number of votes received by each candidate. The deadline may be subject to change if the results of the election are disputed.
The results will be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia.
Election disputes are adjudicated by LECs in the first instance and the REC and Administrative Court of Serbia in the second and third instances of the process, respectively. Candidates, parties, and voters have three legal remedies to protect election rights. They may:
- Request the annulment of voting at a polling station;
- Enter an objection; or
- Lodge a complaint.
Any electoral list submitter or voter can file a request with the relevant LEC to annul voting results due to irregularities at a polling station. Election participants may only file requests at their registered polling places within 72 hours of the polling station’s closing. The LEC must issue a decision on the request and publish it online within 72 hours of receipt. Appeals of an LEC decision to the REC and subsequent appeals of an REC decision to the Administrative Court can be filed within 72 hours of the respective decision. Both the REC and Administrative Court must issue a decision and publish it online within 72 hours of receipt of an appeal. Only election participants have the right to file an objection to or a complaint on the decision of the LEC or REC. If the REC upholds a complaint, the decision or act is annulled. If it does not issue a decision within the specified timeline, the complaint is upheld.
Constitution of the Republic of Serbia
Law on the Election of Members of Parliament
Law on Local Elections
Law on the Unified Electoral Roll
Law on Financing Political Activities
Law on Administrative Disputes
Republic Election Commission Website
Instruction for Implementing the Law on the Unified Electoral Roll
Rules of Procedure of the Republic Electoral Commission
OSCE/ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) began providing democratic assistance in Serbia in 1997 with the engagement of a number of key governmental actors and nongovernmental stakeholders to support efforts to reform and strengthen the electoral process. IFES currently implements a series of activities focused on supporting the professional development of election administration and anti-corruption oversight bodies in Serbia. Building the capacity of domestic institutions, IFES supports the Republic Election Commission to organize and conduct elections and the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption in Serbia to fulfill its election oversight mandate in accordance with the law and international standards. IFES also supports local civil society and media to build their capacity to monitor, report, and advocate on electoral corruption challenges and to deliver targeted voter education to empower marginalized communities to participate in the electoral process.
These FAQs reflect decisions made by the Republic Electoral Commission of the Republic of Serbia as of the publication date, December 13, to the best of our knowledge. This document does not represent any IFES policy or technical recommendations.
These FAQs are made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The information herein is provided by the author(s) and does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.