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NO 117-118

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Helsinki Charter No. 117-118

March - April 2008

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By Vladimir Gligorov

Five years after the assassination of Zoran Djindjic we still wait for an answer to the question, "Why was he murdered?" Executioners were tried but the motives behind the murder were not asserted. As if the murder itself was the goal rather than means. One can hardly accept that even had not his murder been a political one. And one should the more so expect the stronger pressure from the public to have revealed the goal of the political murder. In this context the Serb public attitude corresponds with the deeply rooted one towards political murders. Objectively, such attitude could lead to very bad moral and political consequences, to put it mildly. Therefore, the fifth anniversary of Djindjic's assassination is the opportunity for a red alert.


Why was Djindjic murdered?

In the absence of a well-argued explanation of motives, all one can do is draw conclusions from consequences. Those who profited from the murder could have a motive. In a way, this seems to be an explanation resting of a conspiracy theory. True, but any political murder is an outcome of a conspiracy - by the way it has been executed and because a murder is a mean for attainment of political goals. The same refers to all murders but in the case of political murders circles of accomplices are larger and always beyond executioners themselves.

Of course, those who eventually did not profit from the murder could also have a motive. As political consequences cannot always be kept under control the people who profit need not be the same as those whom expected profit has motivated to order and execute an assassination. Complots can fail even when an assassination is a successful one as it was in the Djindjic case. This indicates that motivation could be known without knowing anything about those actually motivated. Though the domestic public is aware of the motivation it additionally sobered up not long ago when a Russian journalist explained in a talk show his perception of the Djindjic murder: Djindjic was a traitor and got well-deserved punishment.

Ostensibly, this statement again confounds goal and means. The murder was not a punishment but the means for attaining a political goal. The instrumentality of this murder becomes obvious in a political context. Djindjic's policy was helming the country in the direction it should not take in conspirators' view. Terms "treason" and "traitor" indicate the assessment that his /Djindjic's/ policy could have been a successful one. Unless Djindjic's policy is curbed, some were saying publicly before the murder, it could reach a point of no return or a point when it would be impossible to take some other, alternative course. So, that's the motive for the murder - to put an end to this policy.

But all this still does not imply a murder. There are other political means as well. The above-mentioned Russian commentator suggests it makes almost no difference: the bullet was a well-deserved one, so no need to bother with more complicated, political means. To all appearances, however, the conspirators believed those other means were not available to them or would be too much risky vis-a-vis success. Elections are, no doubt, the means for a change of policy. But, as things stood at the time, they were not exactly promising unless held in extraordinary circumstances.

Such reasoning leads to calculation: we shall either attain our goal by seizing power in the aftermath of the assassination or after the elections in which the electorate would vote for stability. As it seems, that was the motivation for Zoran Djindjic's murder and the reason why he was murdered after all. The police, the prosecution and the court should have considered that motivation and detect the people involved in this political and criminal enterprise. They've done nothing of the sort five years after the murder and there are no indications whatsoever that they are doing anything in this regard.


What was accomplished by this murder?

Anniversaries are the occasions for speculation about what would happen had things worked the way they never had. This can hardly produce a rational answer. However, rational discussion of this political murder is possible.

The main goal has been attained: continuity of the policy dating back in mid-1980s has been maintained. The crucial threat of Djindjic's rule was "a treason," i.e. break-up with that policy. As time went by, it was more and more obvious that one by one characteristic of that policy would be abandoned, the policy in which so much was invested both politically and financially. At some point the red line would be crossed, and the entire political, intellectual and financial elite would be faced with ultimate defeat and great losses. Moreover, the time was running too fast or it just seemed so to those publicly calling for Djindjic's removal, this way or another.

The murder put an end to such a course of events. In this sense, it was successful. The decapitated Serb government managed to track down and arrest direct executioners or some of them, but did not manage to remain in power. A new political constellation - manifested in several different coalitions and combinations - broke up with the "policy of treason" and resumed the "patriotic" one. What roles personal and partisan interests played in all that, how much fear and opportunism had to do with everything - remains to be investigated. Social sciences in Serbia are not yet concerned with those issues; probably because the government has successfully imposed other hot topics - metaphorically and literally.

No doubt that the major product of that policy was the 2006 Constitution, which also formally blocked the policy of discontinuity. All individuals and parties making political progress since 2003 have participated in its drafting and adoption. The Constitution stamped the discontinuity with the policy Djindjic symbolizes nowadays and reestablished the continuity with Slobodan Milosevic's policy.


What was not accomplished by this murder?

The history of political murders shows that they do not lead to stability. A change of a regime is feasible, the same as a political U-turn. However, the case of Serbia also testifies that those changes do not result in stability. Stability is a by far more important criterion than some patriotic one such as the safeguard of the state union, defense of Kosovo or national dignity. The truth is that the state union has failed, that Kosovo became independent and the country, incapable of facing up the crimes committed on its behalf, including the unsolved murder of the Premier, cannot expect to restore its dignity.

But those are not key motives of the people in power. Their major object is to seize and maintain power, and that implies stability. However, there is no political stability in Serbia. The first government after the 2003 elections was a minority one and remained in power for three years only due to a bigger instability threatening the country in the event of its fall. The government formed after the 2007 elections did not actually have a single day of stability. And it remains in power by perpetually producing the threats of an even bigger instability, which nowadays implies a possibility of serious social conflicts as well.

All those who ideologically support this restorative regime should be aware of that. The intellectuals among them are well aware of the lessons from both world and Serb history, testifying that assassinations of leaders destroys legitimacy rather than secures stability and efficiency of governance. Parroting about being patriots and a hue and cry against traitors are of no avail. It will become clear at some point that all that propaganda about treason is nothing but an acknowledgment of their own shortcomings.


Towards the 10th anniversary.

It's become clear, five years after the murder, that the entire political elite emerging from it has found itself in a blind alley. Given that everything developed in an unnatural way and that they maintained power by tricks rather than deeds and popular support, it is only logical that they are seeking unnatural ways to remain in power. The party that profited the most from the Djindjic murder, the Democratic Party of Serbia, will hardly play a key political part after the elections. The party that could win the elections, the Serbian Radical Party, will be hardly capable of ruling - it would have to cope with difficult economic situation and would be looking for allies in both the East and the West. As for the Democratic Party, it is incapable of formulating a program resting on the support for discontinuity with the policy pursued since the Djindjic assassination, because it has actively contributed to creation and strengthening of that very policy. How possibly can it call for the break-up with the goals laid down in the new Constitution and numerous resolutions when it has coauthored them?

Be it as it may, in five years from now on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Djindjic assassination, discontinuity shall be established and Serbia shall resume the path abandoned in 2003. Just ten years, one human life and the sum and substance of public moral will be lost.


NO 117-118

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