Professionals Know Why, photo: Predrag Trokicic
Professionals Know Why, photo: Predrag Trokicic

If the reader thought that the title refers to the opposition parties that decided to participate in the elections and whose members, together with all their supporters, could fit in a couple of buses, they were wrong. The bus from the title is a metaphor for inconsistency and absurdity. It is meant to say that all those parties that were in favor of boycott before the pandemic, and decided to go to the polls after the pandemic, are inconsistent and absurd. Let’s explain the bus first, and then the absurd decision to participate in the elections.

If they were worried about the idiotic decisions about public transport during the day yesterday, the people of Serbia could relax by the evening: none of the proclaimed rules were valid anymore. The Crisis HQ downgraded from instructions for behaviour in public transport, to mere suggestions, most probably under the strong onslaught by Vucic. As of this morning, as many people as the vehicle can bear can enter. Masks – no. Gloves – no. Distance – no.

Until last night, the rule was: only employed people are allowed to enter the bus, with masks and gloves. Every other row in the vehicle will be available for sitting. The distance between standing passengers must be 2 meters. All in all, between twenty and fifty people per vehicle. In addition, the summer (meaning: reduced) number of vehicles will be on the streets. This is what transportation under Covid-19 looks like. In order to prevent bloodshed at the bus stops between potential passengers for a seat on the bus, the regime introduced passenger selection.

It is true that these measures are discriminatory, but if the pandemic is to be taken into consideration – they are justified. Only with such measures inside the vehicles is there any sense to the red dots at all the stations, at a distance of about a meter, where people would have to stand while waiting for the bus. Even for an observer from Mars, taken all together, it seems utterly idiotic: to abolish transportation or to maintain it under such measures is exactly the same. It would be just another brick in the facade that hides the blatant incompetence of this regime.

But, since there is no reason to keep the illusion anymore, because the regime is now in the mode of brute force, Vucic announced last night that public transport will function as before the pandemic, with the same number of vehicles, and without any measures for behavior and number of passengers inside the vehicles. Out of all previous measures, only the red dots at the stations remained. But the problem is not those unfortunate dots – the remains of attempts to pretend that something is being done. The problem is in the treatment of the pandemic by the regime led by Vucic.

To put it quite simply: What kind of virus can go from being the “most ridiculous” to being the “most frightening,” and then back to ridiculous, at the push of a button by Vucic? Or, for those who like morbid associations: what kind of virus goes back and forth between filling graveyards and filling buses? Just as the state of emergency was introduced without any good reason, with the abolition of basic rights of the citizens of Serbia, now, without any good reason, we are to go back to so-called normalcy – Vucic’s normalcy, that is.

In other words, just as it did not know how to enter this crisis, this regime does not know how to get out of it, while preserving at least an illusion of sense. All those long curfews were broken to pieces by last night’s decision to abolish all the rules for behavior in public transport. It also shows that there are no experts in the crisis HQ, only Vucic’s cronies. In the end, silly doctor Nestorovic will prove to be a measure of competence, dignity, and consistency among doctors in Serbia.

Cheers to us, Serbia with Nestorovic as a role model. Cheers to us and our politics, with the opposition parties now rushing to the elections. Because, here’s the thing: what has changed for the better in the past six weeks in Serbia regarding political and media freedoms, the functioning of institutions (including the crisis headquarters, of course) and guarantees for free and fair elections? Those from the opposition who advocated the boycott and are now saying that they will participate in the elections would have to explain what has changed.

There is, of course, no explanation; none of the turncoats even tried to offer one, let alone say something meaningful. Because there are simply no meaningful reasons to change one’s mind. All the good reasons, enough to boycott the elections, which were valid before the pandemic, are still valid today, and much more so, if that is even possible. The media in Serbia weren’t liberated during the crisis (on the contrary, they are even worse off); the institutions didn’t get better (on the contrary, they were almost entirely absent); the opposition didn’t do anything to be able to control the elections (on the contrary, it did nothing at all).

As for the last argument, it is not a criticism of the opposition. Under the emergency bans, with the media completely trapped and institutions shut down (including the judiciary), the opposition could do nothing. But how will these couple of weeks before the elections make up for six weeks of inactivity in conditions that are even worse than before the pandemic? What guarantees that it will be able to control the elections does the opposition have today which it didn’t have before the pandemic? In addition, while the regime intends to cram as many people as possible into public transport vehicles, the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people is still in force.

If it wants to go to the polls, the opposition should tell us: how will it organize the campaign, given the ban on gatherings; how will they collect signatures, given the same ban; how will they communicate with their supporters, through which media, because with the ban on gatherings there will be no other way; how will they run the campaign in the field, door to door, in the immediate aftermath of the traumatic experience with the pandemic; how will their supporters vote, with the ban on gatherings and the threat of infection still hanging over everyone’s heads?

I believe that there are no good answers to these questions, so the opposition that now wants to go to the polls is in fact sending us a message that, for them, the elections are the same as for Vucic – if they can be used for some small benefit to them, great. On top of that, it turns out that Covid-19 is also the same for them as for Vucic. If it can be used for some small benefit… That is a terrible message to send. It is the same as telling people that, for Vucic to fall, it is enough for them to bang some pots on their terraces. No amount of noise in the world has ever overthrown a dictatorship.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 15.05.2020.

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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), „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016), „Fantastična škola“ (2020) i „Srbija u kontinuitetu“ (2020).

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