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NO 163-164

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 163-164 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 163-164

May - June 2012


Post-Election Serbia


By Vladimir Gligorov

By declaring themselves pro-Europeans, opposition parties made a crucial U-turn in their strategy. Their strategic calculus was quite a simple one - neither more nor less can we be EU-oriented than you, Democrats. Besides, it costs us nothing. The same applies to all other strategies. As they are usually declarative, there is no reason whatsoever why not to take them over from you. Why not copy your slogans such as those about regional cooperation, fight against corruption and organized crime, social justice and, of course, state and national interests? These lofty goals being nothing but propaganda, why should we leave them to Democrats the more so since they are not even trying to achieve them? Democrats' failure was, therefore, guaranteed the same as voters' disappointment in them, all of which resulted in electoral defeat. The only alternative strategy in all this is to come up with an alternative that might put off even grudging voters.

An extra advantage of such a strategy is that it cannot confuse the opposition's electorate. Citizens looking forward to a political U-turn do not have to wonder whether the Socialists and the Radicals have changed their policies fundamentaly - for they know that all this is just a declarative adjustment. So, with this strategy you are not losing your voters while making it easier for people dissatisfied with their parties to deny them their vote this time. So in the election you make one step back - well, not exactly a small one - but a step that will be either invisible or considered a beginning of a forward motion.

Where are steering for after all? As one can tell at this point, this is a return to the policy pursued from 2004 and the then government till 2010 when the International Court of Justice issued its advisory opinion. Declaratively, our policy will be pro-European, but we shall be doing little to speed up accession to EU. Besides, the ruling coalition that has emerged is supported by Russia and Republika Srpska. At least at the beginning it will be faced with Brussels's and Washington's indifference. Both Brussels and Washington will first wait and see the exact policy a new government is after.

The above is evident in regional reactions to initial statements by the new President and political controversies of the Prime Minister to be. When it comes to the President, his statements were ascribed to his straightforward manners and inexperience. Leaders in the region expect him to be less straightforward in the time to come and resume his predecessor's declarative discourse. The level and quality of bilateral cooperation will, therefore, be the same and all pressing bilateral problems will be solved at the same, snail's pace. Similar pragmatism is expected of the new Prime Minister, regardless of his actual performance in solving accumulated economic and other problems.

International observers and domestic analysts alike are now usually assuming that against present obstacles the new government cannot make radical changes even should it want to. Besides, the great majority of domestic public believes that Democrats, Progressists and Socialists differ one from another quite superficially. International observers and domestic analysts alike, however, are pretty wrong in their assumptions. The thesis about "a step ahead" that was made and the course that cannot be changed is wrong and contrary to facts. A government can always take a different course - and this is what the new coalition plans to do, as far as we know. The only question is, will it be able to.

And this depends on the opposition in the first place - on the Democratic Party's ability to get organized as a true opposition. As things stand at the moment, this will not be easy. The incumbent party leadership bears the responsibility for the political strategy that was so easy for Progressists and Socialists to imitate. One can hardly expect this leadership to draw the line between Democrats and the parties about to form a government. This is why people who far from resemble politicians from the opposite side should take the helm of the party. Such people can be easily tracked down in parties with "inner" democracy that is manifest in ideological and political differences within them, let alone in different factions. According to official sources, there are no factions in the Democratic Party. Moreover, its outstanding officials do not seem eager to change anything in the party's ideology and policy.

Actually, there is always a risk that - like many times before - changes in the Democratic Party would only bring its policy closer to one propagated by Socialists and Progressists. There is always a risk of another mistake like the one that made it possible for all parties to declaratively opt for same policies. One can hardly expect a change in the leadership of the Democratic Party that would change its attitude towards fundamental ideological and political problems challenging Serbia's political scene for decades - the political scene at which a step back comes after each forward motion.

This is why the new government will not have to cope with some serious opposition from the very beginning. Even should it start restoring many aspects of the 1990s policy it would be able to travel long way before it runs into any serious opposition. This is so because the situation is similar to the one in late 1980s when the public capitulated to rhetoric and improbity. That was the time of general euphoria - now it's the time of resignation. But effects could easily be the same.

The developments in past seven or eight years prepared the terrain for this capitulation of the public. As the road to slavery is usually described, small losses of freedom lead to greater losses and then to a change of a regime. So it happens that what looks like one back step finally turns into permanent backward motion. The least obvious risk is the biggest risk.


NO 163-164

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