Ivica Dačić, Speaker of the National Assembly and leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, holds that it makes sense for the ruling coalition to run on the same electoral list in the upcoming presidential, snap parliamentary, and city council elections. In his interview with Kurir, Dačić explained that the Serbian Patriotic Alliance merging with the Progressive Party does not affect the future arrangements between the Progressives and the Socialists.
Will the merging of the SPA with the Progressives bring down the Socialist Party leverage?
"Since the very beginning, I have only discussed the relations in our coalition with Aleksandar Vučić, because we are the presidents of two of the biggest parties and have never discussed our mutual relations in these terms. There is no leverage there, or any kind of political market value. We have discussed our fight for the goals and values that we share, and we are still in favour of it. The most important issue now is what Serbia will look like beyond 2022, after the elections, as well as how we can work towards the goals laid down in the 2025 Plan, related to the future of Serbia. Given that it is expected that the opposition will unite – they have announced it, as has the European Parliament – it makes perfect sense to address this and put forward some guidelines for the ruling coalition's response to that challenge. What the response should be given what lies ahead – pressures geared towards the recognition of Kosovo, pressures to align our foreign policy with the EU positions, the situation in the region, the condition of the Serbian people in Croatia and the Republic of Srpska. I think that this response should include the ruling coalition acting together in the political events that lie ahead."
So, the merger doesn’t bring down your leverage?
"There is no leverage there, Vučić and I don't discuss leverage. I think that us acting together hikes up our common value in the Serbian political scene. If you have unification on one side, it makes sense to expect joint action on the other."
And if all of you in the ruling coalition were to come together before the elections, is it possible that you would win less because of Šapić, or do you think there's no connection there?
"The two aren't in any way related. We have never discussed in advance who gets what – which ministerial or managerial positions. Let me reiterate – that has never been the topic of our conversations. The topic here is whether the concept is acceptable or not. Anyone who reacts negatively to this, anyone who responds to what I'm proposing in a way that suggests the Socialist Party has problems and that we're trying to save ourselves by 'piggybacking' on the Progressives, is no more than a political ignoramus. The Socialist Party doesn't have a political problem – we have never won less than 5 percent of votes in our history. This is really about us not wanting to help our political opponents by splitting votes – we want to pool them together instead, through cross-endorsement."
You have mentioned cross-endorsements with the Progressives for the presidential, parliamentary, and city council elections. Given that Šapić is rumoured to be a potential mayoral candidate for the Progressives, is he acceptable to you?
"Not a problem. If that is the Progressive Party's decision, we will welcome it."
What if the Progressive Party decides not to ask for your cross-endorsement in nominating the presidential candidate? Does that change your concept?
"Let me reiterate to avoid being misunderstood as saying that that we're imposing ourselves on someone or that we're afraid of something – we have always run separately; last time, we had one cross-endorsement, and we had agreed on this. I think it makes sense that we have that sort of agreement in place now as well. It's not a topic that needs to be addressed, and it has never been an issue in any conversation that I have had with Vučić."
Once the upcoming snap parliamentary election is over, will you be returning to government?
"I'm not thinking about that at all. It depends on the future agreements with Vučić."
What are your thoughts when you read about what your party officials – Bajatović, Zagrađanin, Ružić – are claimed to be linked to?
"I have said many times that whoever holds a public office must be careful at all times. If someone uses their public office for personal material gain, they will have to deal with me, as well as the law. Of course there is no money-making juggernaut. As a party, we don't have a system, or any mechanisms that might resemble a juggernaut."
So, Bajatović's enormous salary isn't used to support your party?
"That's not a party matter, that is a state matter. Everyone has roles to play. I'm against attacking people without any reason. Everyone's assets should be looked into. My assets have been the same since 2008, I only have an apartment. I haven't changed anything since I took power."
Are you a laughing stock for your party colleagues living in 5,000-sq-foot houses?
"I'm not anyone's laughing stock. My party colleagues respect me as president and a conscientious public official. And I respect them as long as they behave decently and responsibly in discharging their duties."
So, no wisecracks then? Like, "Our boss is totally on the breadline"?
"None. Look, I think there's a myth surrounding this. Perhaps there was a time when some people in the Socialist Party had financial clout, but a lot of time has passed since then, and things have changed. I'm certainly not on the breadline, but since I took power, I haven't misused it for personal material gain or to increase my assets."
On the dialogue with the opposition
'We are constructive, but… '
Where is the dialogue with the opposition headed?
"A dialogue isn't a wishing well. We are constructive, but if someone thinks that the dialogue is a way to take power without elections and popular support, they are headed in the wrong direction."
On the "pimping" scandal
'Our party rating isn't down over Palma. I'm not going to Greece with him'
Has the scandal involving Dragan Marković, i.e. the allegations of paedophilia, procurement, and blackmailing of women, affected the approval rating of the Socialist Party-United Serbia Coalition? Have you done a ratings poll?
"We never do rating polls, we use the ones that are already available. I don't think there's been a substantial impact."
What is your take on the scandal?
"As I've said many times, no private individual should be involved in this, only the authorities. The campaign mounted against Dragan Marković Palma is politically motivated."
Will you accompany him to Greece in early June?
"Because I'll be on an official visit to Russia."