Politics

Green-left coalition Moramo enters Serbian parliament

Although the Green-left coalition Moramo faces many challenges, its consolidation as a political force marks a new era in Serbian politics.
The Serbian national parliament and Belgrade City Council have a new force to reckon with: the green-left coalition, Moramo. It has been a rocky and uphill road for the authentic green-left option in Serbia. Nevertheless, it represents a win for the left in a political scene dominated by shades of right-wing ideology.
The Serbian national parliament and Belgrade City Council have a new force to reckon with: the green-left coalition, Moramo. It has been a rocky and uphill road for the authentic green-left option in Serbia. Nevertheless, it represents a win for the left in a political scene dominated by shades of right-wing ideology.

The Moramo coalition includes Ne Davimo Beograd (NDB), the protest movement against corrupt investors' horrendous urbanistic development project on the Belgrade waterfront.  This movement has since evolved into a viable political alternative by restoring citizens' rights to the city and nation, including their right to meaningful participation in political life. 

The NDB movement struggled with enthusiasm and commitment for eight year and exhausted every activism tool in the book, including civic disobedience actions, protests, campaigns, and institutional mechanisms. When the struggle against the plunder of public interest did not bring concrete results, the movement decided to run for the Belgrade city elections in 2018 so they could fight from within the institutions. After winning almost 30,000 votes but not passing the election threshold, NDB focussed its efforts on organising the community around green, left and feminist values, and the principles of participatory democracy. To enable this, NDB created a structure allowing anyone who wished to do so to join the struggle for a just, green city of solidarity. As a result of the membership campaign, the movement grew to almost 4,000 members, and joined the opposition’s boycott in the next local and parliamentary elections of 2020, aiming to delegitimize the existing government and protest the unfair electoral system.

As the NDB movement grew and became more relevant politically, so did the challenges.  Wedged between the ruling party discrediting NDB through threats, smear campaigns, and lawsuits, while facing the pressures of a traditional opposition party coalition that merges all political organizations regardless of their programs, goals, and ideologies. NDB adhered to its principles and insisted on forming coalitions with parties with similar ideological backgrounds. That was the only way to not alienate voters further and to offer them an option of voting "for" rather than "against." 

Therefore, NDB started cooperating with the former mayor of Šabac and his party which has been recognized for introducing participatory, green, and left policies on the local level. Subsequently, movements such as Ecological Uprising, Political Platform Solidarity, A Choice for Our Municipality, and the Roma Forum of Serbia also joined the coalition. This created the grounds for running a green-left coalition in the upcoming election. Serbia held a triple election on 3 April 2022, which included regular presidential elections, regular elections on the local level for the City of Belgrade, and snap parliamentary elections. The coalition was named Moramo (We must!) in a nod to the green left coalition Možemo (We can!) which recently won the city elections in Zagreb. 

The Belgrade elections drew the most attention as, for the first time in eight years, there was an opportunity to change the local government, which was an overwhelming desire among the voters and opposition. 

The NDB was in charge of the Belgrade political campaign that aligned with the values of our movement. It was a community-based campaign encompassing over 300 local events, with and for the people of Belgrade, such as local stands and actions, programmatic panels, and neighborhood discussions. The coalition highlighted topics such as green policies on clean air and energy efficiency, sustainable public transport, fair and accessible education, labour and women's rights, decentralization, citizen participation, and stopping corrupt and damaging public contracts and projects. This was followed by an intense social media campaign run in different formats, such as conducting an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, that allowed citizens to interact with electoral candidates. 

The campaign and years of bottom-up political organizing finally brought solid results when the Moramo coalition won 10.8% share of votes in Belgrade city elections, winning 13 mandates, thus tripling the number of votes from the last elections and becoming the second most powerful political actor in the City Council. On the parliamentary level, the Moramo coalition won a 4.7% share of votes and 13 mandates. The struggle to determine the results on the national level was a four-month long process, finally resulting in parliament constituting early in August.

On both city and national parliament level, NDB and the coalition partners are using all available resources and time to challenge the ruling government. So far, it has continued to be a power struggle as the ruling coalition is narrowing the space for meaningful political debate and engagement. Parliamentary sessions on both levels are scheduled at the last minute, swamping MPs and  local councilors with thousands of pages of material in order to mask bills and decisions in plain sight. However, over the years of struggle on the street, the activists turned politicians have gained resilience, enormous energy and the dedication to push back against the corrupt doings of the ruling class. So, the struggle once fought with placards and megaphones now takes the floor with arguments and proposals informed on the ground by real life problems of citizens. 

There is still no certainty of what the government will look like, as the traditional ruling coalition is faced with the challenge of the Socialist Party of Serbia’s (SPS) sharp opposition to introducing sanctions against Russia. Whether Serbia will align its foreign policy with Europe’s common foreign and security policy or will avoid introducing sanctions against Russia, previously seen as a key ally when it comes to the issue of the Serbia-Kosovo conflict, remains to be determined. 

Another challenge that lies ahead for the Moramo coalition is positioning itself constructively and realistically towards geopolitical developments, keeping in mind that Serbia is almost completely surrounded by NATO countries. While Serbia aims to be a European Union (EU) member state, it has to remain critical towards the fact that the EU has for many years turned a blind eye to a criminal and autocratic regime that has captured the Serbian state and society. 

Furthermore, as big geopolitical issues will dominate the political narrative, there will be very little space to put forward the topics that the Moramo coalition has set out to achieve. It will be hard to prioritize better education, labour rights and living wage, good and accessible healthcare, energy efficiency, and other topics burdening Serbia's citizens if geopolitics dominate the political debates.

International solidarity and support from our green and left allies worldwide have helped inform our program and values and, most importantly, positioned us as a newly emerging green-left political force in a very hostile environment. This support has been crucial and it will continue to be essential for us in the difficult years ahead. Finally, the left has a voice in parliamentary opposition and as the strongest opposition in the Belgrade city council. This voice will be relentless and fearless and, in the years ahead, we need to be wise to strengthen our position and voters' trust. Despite many challenges, the dawn of a new political era in Serbia is inevitably upon us.

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Author
Natalija Simović
Date
27.10.2022

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