ONE BACK STEP, THEN ANOTHER...
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
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
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
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.