Next Serb Government Among Most Gender-Balanced In the World


Serbia’s proposed new-look government is among the world’s most gender balanced, with women named to half of ministerial posts.

The lineup, announced Sunday, propels the Balkan country to the brink of the global top 10 for gender equality -- an issue that has typically been higher on the agenda of western European countries. Still, critics say that even with the appointments, President Aleksandar Vucic will call all the shots and women remain under-represented in local politics.

Serbia was already something of an outlier.

Vucic selected openly gay Ana Brnabic as the country’s first female prime minister in 2017. The post of parliament speaker was also held by a woman, just as was the central bank, led by Governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic. Almost two-fifths of the legislature’s 250 seats are held by women, nearing a representation target set before the June general election.

After a resounding victory in that vote, Vucic called for a “revolutionary” change as he announced Brnabic’s re-appointment.

“Thus we’d represent our country in the best possible way and show, not in words but with action, how gender equality works in practice,” he said.

Brnabic raised the proportion of women in the government up from a fifth. Some of the new arrivals include women leading ministries for economy, justice, energy and mining, environmental protection, labor, culture and human rights. Parliament is expected to approve the cabinet in the coming week.

Vucic’s opponents say loyalty trumps gender in a country that’s dominated by his Serbian Progressive Party.

With the shifting gender balance of the new parliament and government driven by the president, rather than by Brnabic, there’s “every reason” to question whether it will bring “essential change” in equality, said Tanja Ignjatovic of the Autonomous Women’s Center in Belgrade.

“In Serbia, women remain under-represented in local governments -- as heads of municipalities or mayors,” Ignjatovic said. “Very few of them are in the diplomatic corps and there are hardly any in security affairs.” Out of 174 municipalities in Serbia, 20 are led by women.

Vucic has countered that women are “equally competent, even more competent to perform the most important state jobs.”

The main drive of Brnabic’s government has been to advance Serbia’s plan to join the European Union this decade. At the same time, the country has been locked in a standoff over its refusal to recognize its neighbor Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, a decade after the two sides fought the last war in the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Brnabic at the party headquarters on Sunday, Vucic said that the new government will continue current policies.

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