It goes without saying that the Pride Parade has nothing to do with what happened on the streets of Belgrade at the borders of the zone secured by the police. Thus, the statements of the government representatives and opposition parties should not be viewed from the perspective of the Parade. If we nonetheless try to understand them in this context, thus linking them to the request for respect of universal human rights, all of these statements become meaningless.
What is the public debate, which started on Sunday afternoon about, then? Simply put, the question whether force was used legitimately in Belgrade is being asked by many. The government representatives claim that they have been protecting the state, thus not the universal human rights, while the representatives of the opposition explain that this government has lost its legitimacy and thus has no right to use force in order to protect itself.
The tradition of deposing governments in Serbia goes in favor of the arguments of the opposition. None of the opposition representatives missed the chance to say that, less than a week ago, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the violent overthrow of Milosevic’s regime. The fact that the use of force by the authorities at that time was illegitimate is rightfully pointed out. And, at the end, the question is: what is the difference between the former and the current regime?
And really, what is the difference? The government representatives are either unable or are avoiding to answer this question. They say they are protecting the system, but the opposition answers that the system is not legitimate. The say they are protecting the institutions of the system, but the opposition answers that these institutions are misused for personal interests. The government claims that it was elected through a legitimate procedure, but that was also the argument, not an entirely arbitrary one, of Milosevic’s regime.
Therefore, both parties are appealing to legalistic arguments of continuity, which are best characterized by the Minister of Interior Affairs Ivica Dacic himself. In this exchange of arguments, the current government is sure to lose. It is currently doing the same thing that the President of the Democratic Party of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica did when he claimed that the biggest legacy of October 5th was in gaining power that can be overturned on elections, thus not on the streets. (I cannot explain how is it possible to say such a thing given the fact that the Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated).
In the same manner as Kostunica, this government explains that Milosevic’s regime was toppled because it usurped/ the democratic will of the people, deprived democratic institutions of their meaning and economically destroyed Serbia. Simply put, the same as Kostunica, this government claims that Milosevic had to fall because he harmed the citizens of Serbia. But, based on the same argument, the current government must fall as well.
Does this government have another option? Of course it does. It needs to make a clear distinction between itself and the regime from the nineties. This difference must have the capacity to make this government legitimate, while at the same time, making Milosevic’s regime illegitimate. None of the above-mentioned differences have that capacity, and the opposition is aware of this fact and is using it skillfully, while the government simply has the problem of managing this situation. So, does this difference exist? The answer to this question is painfully simple and equally unpleasant for all citizens of Serbia.
Milosevic’s regime was illegitimate because it was deeply involved in atrocities which have been proven, and the direct perpetrators of these crimes already convicted. This made any use of force in the protection of that regime illegitimate. It also made any violent attempt to overthrow it legitimate. Finally, it is the only basis that the current government, which luckily for us is not yet involved in similar atrocities, can use to build its legitimacy, in addition to meeting procedural conditions.
However, in order to do this successfully, the government must have a clear standpoint on the atrocities from the nineties. Passing the Resolution on Srebrenica is one of those attempts to take a clear standpoint. This resolution is as clear as the current government is successful in defending its legitimacy. Furthermore, in addition to not being able to clearly articulate its standpoint, this government is actually endorsing the continuity which is working against it. The participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic in the electoral campaign of Milorad Dodik (with the statement that Republika Srpska is the pride of the Serbian nation), hand in hand with Svetlana Raznjatovic, is a move which goes absolutely in favor of the opposition.
(We will set asside here the reasonable doubt that Dodik is violating the electoral procedure and thus depriving the legal order of its meaning, which is considered here to be a sufficient reason for a violent overthrow of a regime. It is just another in the long line of issues which shows the real face of the alleged principled views of Serbian politicians).
Until a clear detachment from the atrocities committed in the nineties is articulated and institutionally supported, and as long as the arguments from the arsenal of alleged defense of the Serbian collective identity and national interest are readily used in every crisis, the question of authority in Serbia will remain the simple question of who is stronger, and force will be the only argument for the takeover of power. Yet another opportunity for the government to clearly show its support for universal human rights and values, thus legitimizing its actions, was missed on Sunday. On Sunday, the only thing that happened was that Tadic came out stronger in the showoff of force between the government and the opposition. And that is all that happened on October 10th 2010.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic
Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016) i „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016).