CONSTITUTION OF OLCHOCRACY
By Nikola Samardzic
Serbia presently suffers from political schizophrenia that somewhat
touches on the confusion, real or imaginary, of her epic hero, Marko Kraljevic. Feeling
helpless and with nothing better to do this temporarily rebellious vassal set himself to
demolish the Sultan's road. As it turns out, he was actually after better nestling
himself in the arms of his mother to whom he appears to be pathologically close and the
Sultan who is still his master. Serbia's ruling elite behaves about the same. As if when
deciding to ignore democratic principles and impose yet another political Frankenstein it
felt the need to establish a kind of political balance of institutions, the society and
the international community. In this context, constitutional procedure and the very text
of the Constitution stand for a point of agreement between the minority government left
without parliamentary support, the raving Parliament immerged in the vulgarity of
populism, the oligarchy nostalgic for the era of mass plunder and mass crimes, and the
developed world seeing this milieu of cohabitation President Tadic opted for in a weird
attempt to bring closer and reconcile the messages of October 5, 2000 and March 12, 2003
as the shortcut to peaceful and tame Serbia.
Whereas October 5, 2000 turned all constitutions passed in the
authoritarian epoch senseless, on March 12, 2003 the Premier's assassins proclaimed the
new populist, concentrative policy, a state-church-nomenklatura "symphony" and coming
true of Serbian fascism often offhandedly seen as a marginal and insignificant phenomenon.
It is only logical that such context resulted in the ongoing quasi-legal constitutional
procedure contrary to the reality that annulled the "old," authoritarian constitution.
It was not only by chance that the new draft constitution emerged from
the agreement with the policy responsible for aggression and crimes, mass violation of
human rights, and persecution and murders both of political opponents and its own
dissenters. If this policy's overwhelming presence in the parliament reflects popular
will, one shall bear in mind that the parliament's very composition mirrors transitional
traumas, national frustration, social insecurity and, perhaps, political irresponsibility.
But that's another story. What matters now is that the parliament has missed the
opportunity to become a political avant-garde. Instead, it became a stage for the basest
political passions and under-the-counter dealing. The draft constitution is just a
transparent veil covering the continuity that makes Serbia an unfinished state potentially
dangerous for its own citizens.
Oligarchic rule in a country isolated from the developed world resembles
slavery. Was such fundamental absence of political freedom on President Tadic's mind as
he spoke in favor of this weird constitutional abolitionism? Were freedoms for all
minorities and alternatives on his mind? True, he referred to the absence of democratic
procedure that implies the widest possible public debate. But he spoke up too late.
The new constitution is a despicable proclamation of a new political
slavery resulting from involuntary consent and the compromise that relativizes freedom and
non-freedom, individual rights and collectivistic delusions, life and death. Political
crypto-slavery derives from the majority's fear of an open society and market, economic
and political competition, but also of ruling elites that are, consciously or
instinctively, seen as permanent threats. This political slavery is probably just symbolic
and temporary. Serbia will probably get rid of it and thus partially liberate herself from
the worst political and human shortcomings of her own once her majority becomes capable of
coming to grips with its earlier decisions, its true advantages and disadvantages, and
upcoming challenges. By voting for the constitution of continuity, i.e. the one mirroring
its authoritarian and criminal past, Serbia will most probably confirm that she has to
hide herself behind the authoritarian, arrogant state out of fear of both the past and the
But unshackling is usually risky and uncertain.
In any case slavery implies discrimination. The constitutional procedure
has excluded an entire ethnic community, Kosovo Albanians, Serbian officials have been
treating with contempt and disrespect. On the other hand, the constitution anticipates the
territory they live in as the majority and future status of this territory that is being
negotiated with Serbia's consent and participation.
If the parliament's predominant discourse turned its democratic
legitimacy senseless, the "purchase" of MPs, pressures, under-the-counter dealings
and, in particular, non-acceptance of G17 ministers' resignations made it illegitimate.
In other words, it executed a coup d'etat in tandem with the government. Occasional
reshuffles of the parliamentary structure adjusted citizens' electoral will to the
government's needs and, sometimes, to the needs of certain tycoons.
Be that as it may be, in the past six years Serbia failed to pass a
democratic, liberal and pro-European constitution. Undemocratic parliament and
authoritarian, corrupted government were neither ready nor willing for it. Particularly
cynical are the arguments grounded on citizens' ignorance and attractiveness of the
authoritarian, populist, "husbandry" policy unmoved by neo-liberal extravaganza. If
citizens are still considerably attracted by the policy of violence and crime, all
post-October 5 governments could have constitutionally removed it from the parliament. It
is not only by chance that the draft constitution is in every respect a compromise with
such policy and the values behind it. The ongoing constitutional procedure is actually a
quasi-legalist substitute for the sequence of events that never took place. Ever since
October 5 the interest group favoring Vojislav Kostunica has had less and less common
ground with other partners and more and more good will for the Radicals and the
Socialists. It has been advocating pseudo-legalism as continuity, and the basest political
motives as untouchable popular will.
It's hard to imagine the turn of events after January 2001 had the
then parliament seemingly democratic by its majority seized the opportunity of still
revolutionary climate to annul the "old" and proclaim a new constitution. It's
particularly hard to imagine that in the light of the series of coups that has been
marking ever since the rule of Kostunica & Co. ("purchase" of MPs, non-acceptance
of resignations by the vice-premier and ministers from the G17 Plus, etc.).
By comparison with the state of affairs and actual needs, and, in
particular, the attained freedoms, the draft constitution restricts the rights of
territorial and city autonomies. Lawmakers invoke in vain "the highest European
standards" (as if there were higher and the highest standards). A European, democratic
and liberal constitution would have been shorter, more concise and clear-cut, it would
have paved a "European" way to Serbia's statehood and sovereignty and it would have
transferred statehood properties to Vojvodina, the rest of Serbia, local autonomies and
cities. The constitution's invocation of human and civil rights is of no avail - for,
those rights are suffocated by authoritarian breath of the same centralism that has
already demolished two Yugoslavias.
The provisions dealing with human rights are particularly disputable.
For, instead from international conventions, those rights are derived from the very
constitution, itself a product of political agreement and prone to adjustment to any
future political realities. Definition of Serbia pinpoints her national character as if
Serbia has not traveled her national way in the past 200 years. Instead of providing
individual rights and freedoms, and the rights and freedoms of territorial communities,
this constitution provides collectivism and discrimination. It even fails to consequently
provide division of power.
Even well-intentioned criticism - voiced by experts and analysts,
whose democratic motives are not open to question regardless of the fact that they have
nestled themselves in the warm rot of today's cohabitation - indicate the
constitution's serious shortcomings when it comes to democratic expectations, standards
and needs. Democratic values do not solely relate to a formal freedom of choice. They
imply development of civil individualism, they encourage dialogue on fundamental issues
and cherish political egalitarianism. The parliament and the government were directly
insulting citizens with their arrogant referendum campaign. The President was doing the
same with his offhandedness and incompetence. The Premier has violated, among other
things, the autonomy of the University by exerting pressure on the Rector and deans, who
have no competence whatsoever in the constitutional procedure.
Reluctant, hostile and indisposed to reconsider the recent past,
Serbia's ruling elite, i.e. the oligarchy of the politicians escaping democracy, the
secret police escaping the law, the secret army escaping the state, the tycoons escaping
justice and the church escaping Christianity, was neither able nor felt the need to offer
a constitution that clearly charts a European and democratic future. It offered an
authoritarian, arrogant and isolationist constitution. Isolationism saves it the trouble
of learning from the experience of others that might introduce new ideas, inspire new
hopes and awaken new optimism. Even curiosity leads to freedom, Serbia's sole, realistic
and collective need that implies discontinuity with politics and the ruling elite. This
will also make it possible to understand Serbia's need for a new identity. At least,
travelers make up the biggest nation in the world.