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NO 103-104

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 103-104 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 103-104

January - February 2007


Post-Electoral Mirror


By Slobodanka Ast

The past elections, the percentage of women in the republican parliament and their actual engagement in political life just mirror the overall situation in Serbia, her patriarchal political culture and lagging behind today's civilization.

Neglected, let down and deceived.This was how the great majority of the media summed up women's score in the parliamentary elections this year.

Statistically speaking, the newly constituted National Assembly of Serbia includes 20.4 percent of women, which almost doubles their previous representation and figures as the highest percentage ever since the establishment of multi-party parliamentarianism over here. Some were looking forward to a "U-turn" in the issue of gender equity given that most parties - either genuinely or just to pay lip service - had advocated bigger representation of women. Numerous non-governmental organizations had staged most effective campaigns, according to many, for women's greater participation in top politics. Public opinion polls had shown women's willingness to get politically engaged. Last but not least, Article 100 of Serbia's newly proclaimed Constitution provides, "The National Assembly shall secure equality in terms of gender and national minorities, in keeping with law." So the parliament that should have been composed of 50 percent of women is far from having one-third of parliamentary seats occupied by them. For the time being, women's representation is very high on electoral lists, rather than in parliamentary seats. Ever fewer women representatives are assigned policymaking offices.

The gender equality issue hardly brightens Serbia's bleak political landscape: out of 81 MPs from the ranks of the Serbian Radical Party only 13 are women; among the Democratic Party's 61 parliamentarians just 15 are women; the Democratic Party of Serbia - the New Serbia coalition has 47 seats out of which just 9 are assigned to women; the G17 Plus that has won 19 seats set aside 7 to women and boasts of being the only party that exceeded the recommended 30 percent of women's representation. Chroniclers could sarcastically remark that the G17 Plus is anyway a politically unique one-man show the short history of which rather brims with ruthless showdowns with disobedient MPs.

Out of 16 parliamentary seats the Socialist Party of Serbia assigned just two to women. The party leader, Ivica Dacic, jovially says that's 50 percent more than after previous elections - true, they had only one women MP at the time.

The LDP Coalition that has campaigned under the slogan "It depends on a women" allocated 30 percent of seats to women and thus met its promise. Those who were splitting hairs and accusing the Coalition of failing to meet its promise are anyway the people that seize every opportunity to box the ears of the youngest political grouping. Faced with criticism, the LDP Coalition issued a press release underlining it had not broken a single election campaign promise and would stick to all of them, including the struggle for gender equality in Serbia.

"Bearing in mind the Civic Alliance of Serbia's decision to merge in the LDP, our party has 9 MPs out of which three (33 percent) are women. Out of 15 MPs from the Coalition's electoral list, 27 percent (4) are women. All in all - except for two parties in the Coalition that have only one MP each and therefore were not in the position to comply with the constitutional norm - our Coalition has 31 percent of women parliamentarians. We believe the gender equality should be fought for day in day out in Serbia - and not only by the means of legal provisions but primarily through changing the old value system. We hope to retain good partnership in the matter with all non-governmental organizations concerned with women's rights, including 'the women's government'," says the Coalition's release.

THE USE OF WOMEN: The campaigns paying lip service to women's bigger participation in political life have always had a dark side: those women were once "alibi comrade," and nowadays they are occasionally used as "political mannequins" and "puppets on the string" obediently parroting the roles party bigwigs have given them. Thus some ladies' excursions to politics will be remembered by things unsuited for remembrance. This category is probably best exemplified by the case of Dr. Sandra Raskovic-Ilic: whether or not millions of euros for housing thousands of miserable refugees have been spent for the purpose while the said lady was in charge of the refugee issue has never been proved beyond doubt. One can't help feeling that the lady-doctor and secretary for refugees pocketed a fee of half a million dinars during "additional registration" of internally displaced persons for local elections in Kosovo. Should refugees seek comfort in the fact that the said amount was paid from UNHCR and OSCE vaults? Scores of photos showing Ms. Raskovic-Ilic in tour of refugee camps are still in files. Her outfits (especially the ecological one with a giraffe pattern), jewelry, hairstyles, etc. are there for all to see and symbolically testify that the said lady is either "lost in time" or sees herself as an offspring of the House of Windsor wondering in the mud and misery of Balkan refugee camps. When recalled from this demanding and responsible office she changed political sides and got herself another job - she was named the President of the Coordination Committee for Kosovo and Metohija. In any case, as a Democratic Party's turncoat she scored the best at her new party's, the Democratic Party of Serbia's, assembly.

But she remained the same in her new office: her inappropriate styling is still catching the eye, the same as her resolute silence about major everyday problems plaguing people in Kosovo, her belligerent statements and lecturing foreign representatives. It's more than obvious that the government has been deliberately using Ms. Sandra Raskovic-Ilic as a carrier hawk. A part of public opinion will never forgive her shameless insinuation that a political opponent was a drug addict -she would rather not comment it publicly, she said, since she was "a doctor" after all.

The Radicals too have their "Sandras." They appointed their famous "iron fist" Natasa Jovanovic, known for spilling water on parliamentarians, "head" of the team when they decided to send a "low-level" delegation to negotiate with the President of the Republic. The Radicals have opted for her (suited, I suppose, for having spilled water on the parliamentary speaker, Natasa Micic) and for the already forgotten, grotesquely styled actress Lidija Vukicevic, plus two other MPs who mostly served as their drivers. Women MPs did not bother to hide how exalted they were with their roles.

The Socialist Party of Serbia made a par excellence political move by placing on its electoral list Borka Vucic, Milosevic's oldest and one of the most reliable associates and treasurers. For the time being (and who knows for how long) she chairs the National Assembly. Major political developments could take place during her chairmanship. Watching Borka Vucic's self-complacent tirades about honor, patriotism and her grandfather was a pitiful sight indeed. One would expect at least more rationality and elementary decency from the old lady-banker taking into account the role she played during "ten bloody years." By placing her on their electoral list the Socialists messaged all and sundry: everything is the same, only He is gone.

Many questioned Ruzica Djindjic's common sense in the whirlpool of our political games. Did she really thought it wise to promise Serbia's citizens she would accept the premiership and then allow others to interpret her statement quite differently?

The European Movement in Serbia has animated the public with its "Women government" project: 30,000 readers of the Blic daily voted in 22 lady-ministers out of 161 candidates. Ruzica Djindjic was elected the premier of this unique and mostly symbolic women cabinet. But Dr. Zoran Djindjic's popular widow never showed up at the symbolic ceremony to mark the election. Why?

MEN'S REALM: Women themselves have to come to grips with all human and political dilemmas, and political parties' obvious marketing pirouettes and manipulation. This refers to women voters and the women on voting lists. The attempts to formally attain the women quota and then behind this "women screen" decide crucial matter on women's behalf but without their participation are also dangerous. As things stand today, one cannot but bitterly feel that women are not only unequal but also used and, moreover, willing to be misused in political games of all sorts.

The women government was supposed to exert positive pressure on the public opinion and political parties alike. As it seems, a part of public opinion has ridiculed this media project. Such attitude and overall neglect discourage women from partaking in political life.

The past elections, the percentage of women in the republican parliament and their actual engagement in political life just mirror the overall situation in Serbia, her patriarchal political culture and lagging behind today's civilization. Over here politics is still men's realm, a macho arena where males contest for power - financial power in the first place. Our political discourse reflects little concern for general well-being. Nationalistic and traditional values predominate at the beginning of the new millennium. This regime seems not to be bothered by the fact that law prescribes gender equality. The populist-radical mental attitude has promoted the rehabilitation of patriarchate and we still have covert and even overt misogyny most women seem not to be aware of. The public figure whose daughter - a public figure herself - Velimir Ilic has vulgarly insulted as a woman stands by Ilic and sings Christmas carols with him. Ilic would be nothing but a political zombie in any civilized country. But over here unprecedented primitivism of this "husbandry-politician" not at least bothers a father, let alone the government.

The above-mentioned lady-Radicals defiantly and proudly retold the press what they said to the President. Hardly were they aware that they had been humiliated as human beings by the very fact that they starred in the "low-level" political performance planned to humiliate a political opponent.

In many aspects Serbia lags behind not only Europe but also the region: the post-election mirror clearly reflects such bleak image.


Slobodanka Ast


NO 103-104

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