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Serbia - Government

In March 2002, the heads of the federal and republican governments signed the Belgrade Agreement, setting forth the parameters for a redefinition of Montenegro's relationship with Serbia within a joint state. On February 4, 2003, the F.R.Y. parliament ratified the Constitutional Charter, establishing a new state union and changing the name of the country from Yugoslavia to Serbia and Montenegro.

On May 21, 2006, the Republic of Montenegro held a successful referendum on independence and declared independence on June 3. Thereafter, the parliament of Serbia stated that the Republic of Serbia was the continuity of the state union, changing the name of the country from Serbia and Montenegro to the Republic of Serbia, with Serbia retaining Serbia and Montenegro's membership in all international organizations and bodies.

On 30 October 2006 a majority of voters approved a new constitution, which declared predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo province an "integral part" of the country. Preliminary results show around 51.5 percent of the voters backed the constitution, despite international concerns it could create tensions. The government in Belgrade claims the new constitution, which is backed by major parties and the Orthodox Church, consolidates democracy and the rule of law in the Balkan country. The new constitution was a major victory for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, sending an signal: that Serbs would not easily accede to the loss of Kosovo. Before it was presented to parliament, the constitution was endorsed by the leaders of Serbia's four major parties: President Boris Tadic's Democrats, Mr. Kostunica's Serbian Democrats, the Socialists, and the nationalist Radicals.

The constitution replaces the one drafted by former leader Slobodan Milosevic in 1990. Some observers saw the new document as deeply flawed, and would allow for abuses of power, for example in the judiciary. The new constitution states that the judiciary independent, but in actuality it is completely under the control of the governing parliamentary coalition. It opens up the way for a parliamentary dictatorship. The new constitution declares Serbia to be the homeland of the Serbian people and all its citizens. It also says the official script is the Cyrillic alphabet, which is not used by Serbia's ethnic minorities.

The national legislature of Serbia is a unicameral assembly of 250 deputies elected through general elections for a term of four years. The deputies in the National Assembly elect the Government of the Republic of Serbia, which, together with the President of the Republic, represents the countrys executive authority. The Judiciary is nominally independent. The President of the Republic is elected for a term of 5 years by direct election and has important powers under the Constitution. The President is not a member of the National Assembly or the government.

Rather than serving as an effective counterweight to the executive branch, Serbia's parliament is so plagued by inefficiency and internal divisions that it has become an obstacle to the country's reform efforts and European Union aspirations. After the 2008 election, the governing coalition's narrow majority allowed small parties to extract concessions in return for support of crucial pieces of legislation, the rules of procedure create wide leeway for members to obstruct the agenda, the electoral system creates complete subservience to party leaders rather than accountability to voters, communication within the governing coalition and with the opposition is lacking, and live television broadcasts of the sessions encourage members to grandstand for the audience at home. Articles 225 and 226 of the Parliament's Rules of Procedure (ROP) essentially allow MPs to debate on any subject they want, at any time they want, and as many times as they want. The Parliament also suffers from a lack of experienced and knowledgeable committee staff.

The President of the Republic is elected at direct elections, by secret ballot. The term of office of the President shall last five years, and begin from the day of taking of the oath before the National Assembly. The President of the Republic shall express state unity of the Republic of Serbia and represent the Republic of Serbia in the country and abroad. The President of the Republic shall propose to the National Assembly a candidate for Prime Minister whenever a new Government is elected and shall be obliged to propose the candidate who can ensure election of Government. The President of the Republic may return a promulgated law to the National Assembly for reconsideration if he/she considers that the law is not in line with the Constitution or that it is in contravention of the endorsed international treaties or the generally accepted rules of international law or that the law was adopted without respecting the procedure stipulated for the adoption of laws or that the law does not regulate a certain area appropriately.

Since 2008, the Serbian judicial system has been engaged in a protracted process of reform, which has included challenge after challenge to various efforts to restructure the judiciary and to review the appointments of all judges and prosecutors. That continued to cause confusion and uncertainty in the judiciary. This protracted process began in December 2008, when the National Assembly approved a package of judicial reform laws that included laws on the High Judicial Council, on the State Prosecutors' Council, on the Public Prosecutor, on Judges, and on the Organization of the Courts. The laws created a new network of courts and prosecutors' offices intended to improve the efficiency of the judiciary. The new legislation also created High Judicial and State Prosecutors' Councils, which are now responsible for the selection, discipline, and dismissal of judges and prosecutors, and for administrative oversight of the courts.

In July 2012, the Constitutional Court began to render a series of decisions that eventually will invalidate the entire re-election review process. The Constitutional Court has invalidated all of the review decisions it has so far addressed, holding that that the Council review process did not meet the standards of due process. The Court ordered the two Councils to reinstate virtually all of the individual judges and prosecutors who had not been re-elected.

The whole territory of Serbia comprises a single electoral district. (The Government of Serbia includes Kosovo in this territory.) The Constitution stipulates that elections must be scheduled to end no later than 60 days from the day they are called. The Constitution empowers Parliament, with the support of at least 60 deputies, to entertain a vote of no confidence in the government. A request for a vote submitted, Parliament must discuss the proposal for the vote of no confidence at its next session, and no later than five days from submission of the request. Parliament must discuss and vote on the proposal. A simple majority passes the proposal and obligates the President to initiate proceedings for the formation of a new government. As in the case of the PM's resignation, if the Parliament fails to confirm a new government within 30 days from voting no confidence, the President must dissolve the Parliament and schedule parliamentary elections. Elections must conclude no later than 60 days from the dissolution of Parliament.

A total of over 20 political parties or coalitions have run in recent parliamentary elections, including 10 from minority communities. Each electoral ticket can submit a list of up to 250 candidates, and the electorate votes for one specific party list by secret ballot. A ticket must gain at least 5% of the total turnout to receive any seats. Minority parties only require 0.4% of the vote to obtain a seat in parliament. Parties then choose which candidates from their lists will fill the seats they win. The Republican Electoral Commission (RIK) announces results. Afterwards, the Parliament convenes after the parties and the RIK confirm at least two-thirds of MPs. Parliament must convene within 30 days of the certification of election results and begin the process of forming a new government. The installed Parliament then has 90 days to confirm a government.

In terms of administrative and territorial division, the Republic of Serbia is divided into provinces, regions, administrative areas, the City of Belgrade, cities and municipalities. The territorial organisation of Serbia includes five regions (Belgrade region, Vojvodina region, Sumadija and western Serbia region, eastern and southern Serbia region and Kosovo-Metohija region). They include the City of Belgrade as a separate territorial unit established by the Constitution and law, and 29 administrative areas, 23 cities, 28 urban municipalities, 150 municipalities, 6,158 villages and 195 urban settlements. The Republic of Serbia has two territorial autonomies, AP Vojvodina and AP Kosovo-Metohija.

The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina makes up 24.4% of the territory of Serbia or 21,588 square kilometres. Novi Sad is the administrative, economic and cultural seat of the province. Vojvodina consists of seven administrative areas, six cities, two city municipalities and 39 municipalities as well as 467 settlements and 52 city settlements. Administrative areas include Backa West (seat in Sombor), Banat South (seat in Pancevo), Backa South (seat in Novi Sad), Banat North (seat in Kikinda), Backa North (seat in Subotica), Central Banat (seat in Zrenjanin) and Srem (with seat in Sremska Mitrovica).

The Statute of Vojvodina, which is the basic legal act of the province, permits, besides the Serbian language, the official use of four other languages of the largest national minorities: Hungarian, Slovak, Rumanian and Ruthenian. In addition to language, the population differs in religion so that Serbs, Montenegrins, Rumanians, Roma, Macedonians and Ukrainians are mainly Orthodox. Hungarians, Croats and Ruthenians are primarily Catholic while Slovaks are chiefly Protestant. There is also a number of Muslims and other smaller religious communities.

The territorial order of the Republic of Serbia is regulated by the Law on Territorial Organization and Local Self-Government, adopted in the National Assembly on July 24, 1991. Under the Law, the municipalities, cities and settlements make the bases of the territorial organization. By its Enactment of 29 January 1992, the Government of the Republic of Serbia defined the state administration affairs that shall be run by the competent Ministries out of their seats, within the districts as regional centers of state authority. The Republic of Serbia is divided into 29 districts:

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Page last modified: 20-09-2013 19:03:27 ZULU