After elections in 2020 Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has been handed a new mandate as prime minister-designate by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Given that the Serbian Progressive Party, which she is an official of, has a majority in the Serbian parliament on its own, there is no doubt that she will receive full support for her new cabinet and its mandate.
According to its Constitution, Serbia is a parliamentary democracy and the cabinet is in charge of creating and implementing policies meaning that the spot of prime minister is supposed to be the main position of power, and Ana Brnabic the most powerful person in the government. In reality, though, political power is concentrated in the hands of the Serbian president, who is also the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party.
In her first term (she was picked prime minister for the first time in 2017) she showed complete loyalty to Vucic and a readiness to carry out his will, which is definitely one of the main reasons for her reelection.
Explaining why he had chosen here as the prime minister-designate, Vucic said that Ana Brnabic “hasn’t catered to either foreign centers of powers or centers of power at home.” This was met with derision from opposition circles and the independent media due to the widespread belief that the prime minister and cabinet ministers are merely executors of the president’s decisions.
During the cabinet’s previous term, ministers regularly applauded Vucic’s decisions and made it clear that they were following his ideas. The prime minister occasionally publicly referred to him as “boss.” Therefore there was catering, but to the Serbian president who, according to the Constitution, is not vested with the power to control the cabinet and impose his stances and solutions.
Ana Brnabic officially joined the Serbian Progressive Party in 2019 meaning that she does not have a strong foothold in the ruling party and that her position is solely dependent upon the president that she publicly shows her loyalty to.
Due to the fact that she has no influence inside the party, Ana Brnabic is not in a position to threaten Vucic’s position “from the inside.” In addition, opposition politicians and the media not directly controlled by the government have frequently implicated her in malversations and corruption scandals, citing official documents.
The prime minister’s brother, Igor Brnabic, is the director of a company called Asseco, which, according to opponents of the authorities, during the prime minister’s two years in office was handed deals with the Serbian power company worth EUR40 million.
Though Asseco has announced a lawsuit, there is no proof of their denials in terms of paper evidence. A campaign was launched against Marinika Tepic, an official of the opposition Party of Freedom and Justice who voiced accusations against the prime minister.
Other acquaintances of Ana Brnabic have also become very successful since she took over in 11 Nemanjina Street. Namely, a consortium of companies which includes Slovenia’s leading Resalta company, headed by the prime minister’s former employer and U.S. businessman Mark Crandall, was given a long-term procurement job and the job of maintaining new LED public lighting in Nis, Serbia’s third biggest city.
An investigation conducted by the BIRN website at the end of last year showed that 24 cities and municipalities in Serbia had completed public procurements of LED lighting and that in 22 percent of the cases the same consortium won the tenders bringing it lucrative contracts worth over EUR50 million.
According to BIRN, this group of companies consists of people with ties to the top of the Hungarian and Serbian states.
The prosecution and other authorities have not publicly commented on this, at least not for now, and the whole issue hasn’t advanced from a media campaign. The pro-government media and certain officials have been minimizing the fact that the prime minister’s brother works in a company that landed jobs worth tens of millions of euros by decision of the government and the public companies that it controls.
Ana Brnabic is responsible for several firsts in Serbian political history. She is the first publicly declared gay person in the position of prime minister and the first woman to become prime minister in Serbia. In addition, her heritage is partly Croatian and she is known as the so-called “U.S. student,” which does not make her particularly popular with the nationalistically oriented majority in Serbia.
She was picked minister of state administration and local self-rule in 2014, which was a surprise of sorts. Not even traditionally oriented officials of the ruling bloc nor the opposition have used her sexual orientation against her, which could be attributed to the fact that she has enjoyed Vucic’s full support throughout her entire term.
On the other side, the prime minister has come under criticism from the LGBT community which accuses her of not doing enough to improve their position in society.
During her term as prime minister a new digital administration system was installed and the application of the Law on general executive procedures began. She has stressed that the transition to digital systems is a lasting priority for her.
She came to the helm of the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Administration from the portion of the NGO sector which had been closely cooperating with the state administration on questions like rationalization of and boosting the effectiveness of the administration. She also did a stint as president of the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED). Prior to that, in 2013, she served as vice-president of NALED’s executive board.
Brnabic was born in Belgrade in 1975, where she went to elementary school and high school. She obtained a degree from Northwood University in Michigan and went on to pick up a Master’s degree in business administration from Hull University in Great Britain (2001).
After that, she returned to Serbia and, over the course of several years, up until 2011, she worked for several different U.S. consultancies: Development Alternative Inc., The Urban Institute, Booz Allen Hamilton.
From 2002 to 2011 she worked for USAID, where she led numerous projects, mostly those that had the aim of contributing to the development of local self-administrations, utility companies and encouraging citizens to participate in decision-making.
Between 2007 and 2011, she was also deputy director of a USAID project for developing Serbia’s competitiveness and worked on founding sectoral busines associations such as the Association of Engineering Consultants of Serbia, the Serbian Film Commission, and the Serbian Association for Wind Energy.
In 2011 she was hired by the U.S. Continental Wind Serbia company and as of January 2013 she became the company’s director in Serbia. This company developed the wind park in Kovin, Vojvodina, an investment worth around EUR290m.
Prior to being appointed minister, Ana Brnabic found herself in the middle of a major political corruption scandal, when her colleague from Continental Winds Serbia, Lidija Udovicki (who happens to be the sister of Kori Udovicki, her predecessor in the spot of minister of state administration) complained that one of Aleksandar Vucic’s closest friends and relatives, Nikola Petrovic, the director of Elektromreze Srbije, had allegedly demanded a huge sum to allow Continental Winds to proceed with the wind generator job.
Ana Brnabic practically took the government’s side in the scandal, which was to deny that the respected official had asked for a bribe. She dismissed Lidja Udovicki’s claims and said that in the period that she claims she was exposed to “racketeering,” Udovicki was not in the position in the company that she claims she was.
According to an investigation by the KRIK network for investigating crime and corruption, Ana Brnabic is a very wealthy person who owns numerous properties in Serbia and Croatia, worth over EUR1m. Brnabic has also admitted that Finance Minister Sinisa Mali, who is implicated in a scandal involving the illegal demolition of buildings in the Belgrade Sava Mala quarter, is a friend from school.
She lives with her partner Milica and they have a son from in vitro fertilization.