A lot has been said, both on Pescanik and other media, about the number of protestors at both protests. A lot of arguments were given on who actually won, the opposition or the government; who had more people; how those numbers are to be counted and understood. The opposition admits that Vucic’s counter-protest had at least several times more people than their protest. No doubt that Vucic’s (counter-)protest was more impressive and that, as such, it accomplished its goal: to show that Vucic is the ruler of Serbia and that the opposition is irrelevant and powerless to stand against him.
We could speculate for hours on why Vucic needed this counting, but the answer to this may not be far. Vucic is very competitive. As Marko Djuric, his protégé said, we beat the Albanians with a score of 5:0 in Brussels. It’s like he beat a ten-year-old boy in basketball with a score of 5:0. When he talked about Vulin’s and Vesic’s hunger strike, he said: we would have lasted longer than the opposition. Vucic insisted that his protest would be 10 to 15 times bigger than the opposition’s. You won’t storm the parliament, we will, you won’t storm local parliaments, we will lock ourselves there, we make sandwiches and look into the future, you push us back to the past.
Even if we forget about Vucic’s obsession with competition for a minute, it is more difficult to swallow his vindictiveness, which never fails. This became evident when he forbade his associates to appear on Utisak nedelje, a TV show whose concept implies a discussion of different opinions. Anyone who is part of the government, close to the government, or just one of its toothless critics was forbidden to appear on Olja’s show. The goal is revenge against N1 and to destroy Olja Beckovic’s show which came back on television without his permission and still managed to be the best and most popular. Its competitor on Pink TV, a demonstration of ridiculous parallelism attempting to destroy the very concept of debate forever, is failing. And he personally forbade Olja’s show. How is he going to take it? I think he can’t, so he’s now using all his personal power, threats, cancelations and bans to destroy the show and defeat Olja Beckovic and N1.
Now, let’s go back to the numbers at the protest and counter-protest. If we know the state of things, does it make sense to compare pure numbers, as the government insists, or do we have to take into account the meaning of those numbers, as the opposition suggests. We have to keep in mind that the people at the counter-protest largely had to be there. The majority of them were blackmailed or threatened, their jobs or other benefits held for ransom, which is why these numbers don’t have the same meaning. The number of people who were forced to come to the counter-protest can’t be compared with the number of citizens who came to the protest of their own free will, fighting the government’s attempts to prevent them from reaching Belgrade.
This logic, however sensible it may sound to some, isn’t right. Vucic didn’t build his authority on the law, free will, and free choice, but on pure power (the ability to force other people to act as he wishes). As long as that power works, as long as those who have to do as he says continue to do so, he will stay in power. And, which is even more important, this is exactly how he wants to rule. He’s no Emmanuel Macron, who charmed the French people for a while before they very quickly un-charmed themselves and demanded a replacement. Vucic counts on his pyramid of power, which he has built so diligently and carefully. His rule is based on power, not free will. He gives and takes away jobs, doesn’t respect institutions, deconstructs Belgrade, controls the media, gives privileges, supports corruption and organizes criminal public and secret groups which are the actual pillars of his power. He also has a bunch of funny characters for his own amusement, like Vulin, Vesic, Nesa and Brnabic, whose role is to shock and irritate the (free) citizens, something he also likes to do personally ad nauseam. As long as you’re shocked by the actions of Vulin the soldier, he’s safe. But, if you show a photo of Zvonko Veselinovic and his brother Andrej, or point your finger publically at Milan Radojicic as a suspect in Oliver Ivanovic’s murder, the way Rada Trajkovic did, his goons are already after you. The true source of his power is in the metal rod and the bullet; the latter is a last resort, of course, but it’s there. He doesn’t care about Serbia, the Serbs, Kosovo, or Russia, only about his own power. And that is why it’s important for all those people at his (counter-)protest to have to be there. This is exactly what he wants. The opposition can keep the free will of the citizens – he has no use for it.
Translated by Marijana Simic
Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).