In 2003, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) became the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro - a loose federation giving each of the participating member states the right to break away from the state union after a 3-year period following a referendum.
On 21 May 2006 Montenegro had a referendum on independence which was supported by a majority of 55.5% and declared itself independent on 3 June 2006. On 5 June 2006 Serbia – in accordance with the Constitutional Charter of the State Union Article 60 – declared that it was the successor state to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
In October 2006 Serbia adopted its current Constitution.
Generally, Serbia is a republic, secular state based on the rule of law exercised through free and direct elections, principles of democracy, independent judiciary and commitment to European principles and values.
The system of government is based on the division of powers into legislative (National Assembly), executive (Government) and judiciary (Courts) branches. The Constitution also secures a broad spectrum of human rights and freedoms, prohibits discrimination, promotes gender equality, protection of national minorities etc.
Serbia has two autonomous provinces found in the North (Vojvodina) and in the South (Kosovo and Metohija – see the special section below). Serbia is divided into 29 districts and 190 municipalities (opštinas, singular – opština). The Serbian language and Cyrillic script is the official.
The legislative power belongs to the National Assembly which consists of 250 deputies elected for four years by direct elections by secret ballot.
It inter alia adopts and amends the Constitution, enacts laws and other general acts, calls for referenda, decides changes on borders of Serbia, ratifies international contracts and gives previous approval for the statutes of autonomous provinces. Also, it elects the Government and appoints and dismisses judges, public prosecutors and a number of government officials.
Decisions are as a general rule made by means of majority vote at the session at which the majority of the deputies are present, but a number of listed issues must be decided by means of majority of all deputies.
The right to propose laws belongs to every deputy, the Government, assemblies of autonomous provinces or at least 30,000 voters. Also, the Civic Defender (resembling an “Ombudsman”) and National Bank of Serbia may propose laws falling within their competence. Referenda shall be held upon the request of the majority of all deputies or at least 100,000 voters. Proposals to amend the Constitution may be submitted by at least one third of the total number of deputies of the National Assembly, the President of the Republic, the Government or at least 150,000 voters, and shall be adopted by a two-third majority of the total number of deputies of the National Assembly.
The President may dissolve the National Assembly upon proposal of the Government.
The President is elected in direct elections for a period of five years. No one can be elected President more than twice. The President inter alia proposes candidates for the Prime Minister and promulgates laws. If the President refuses to promulgate a law passed by the National Assembly, he shall return it with a written explanation. If the National Assembly decides to vote again, the law shall be adopted by the majority vote from the total number of deputies.
The President may be dismissed for the violation of the Constitution upon the decision of the National Assembly. The Constitutional Court shall decide on the violation of the Constitution.
Executive power is held by the Government, which consists of the Prime Minister, one or more Vice Presidents and Ministers. It executes laws, adopts regulations for the purpose of law enforcement, proposes laws to the National Assembly etc.
The Prime Minister is proposed by the President to the National Assembly, which – simultaneously – votes for the Prime Minister, members of the Government and the Government’s Programme.
The National Assembly may pass a vote of no confidence in the Government, after which either a new Government shall be formed or the National Assembly dissolved.
Judicial power belongs to the courts. The courts comprise the Constitutional Court, courts of regular competence (138 municipal courts, 30 district courts and the Supreme Court of Serbia) and courts of special competence (17 commercial courts and The High Commercial Court).
Justices for the Constitutional Court (15 justices) are appointed for 9 years. Other judges have permanent tenure, except for the first time elected (3 years). They all enjoy independence and immunity.
The Constitutional Court protects constitutionality, legality and human and minority rights and freedoms. They decide on inter alia compliance of laws and ratified international treaties with the Constitution, conflicts of jurisdiction and electoral disputes.
The High Judicial Council (11 members) provides and guarantees independence and autonomy of courts and judges. The Council inter alia appoints and relieves judges. Also, the State Prosecutors Council (11 members) provides for and guarantees the autonomy of the Public Prosecutors and Deputy Public Prosecutors.
Posted: November 2007.
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