Maybe it’s too much to expect the people who wholeheartedly destroyed one state and suppressed its citizens – to respect another state and its citizens, even if they are their leaders. The SNS (Serbian Progressive Party) now is like the SRS (Serbian Radical Party) before – an antisystemic party. For the SNS, institutions and procedures are only instruments for achieving particular party or personal interests (which are often presented as “national”). This is why a conflict with the institutions of Ombudsman and Commissioner for information of public interest was inevitable. The party and individuals which identify themselves with the state, destroy the legal state by default. This is convincingly illustrated by the debate of the parliamentary board for the control of secret services held on January 28th, 2015.
The members of the board from the SNS entered this debate with only one goal – to disqualify the person who, acting as the ombudsman, was trying to impose control over the military police and military security agency. Sasa Jankovic was supposed to be presented as an overpaid and ruthless person (because he doesn’t care about the feelings of Andrej Vucic’s daughter!), who is “ruining the credibility” of the institutions. However, all this is irrelevant (like the fact that an SNS MP spoke to the ombudsman from the parliament rostrum as a “mother, daughter and woman”!). Because, even if the claim that Jankovic is overpaid and hostile towards the state was true, and it isn’t, he, acting as the ombudsman, has asked a number of relevant questions. Questions which the defense minister and his subordinates must answer (coherently), instead of evoking uncoordinated laws and threats of criminal prosecution.
Once again, we received no answers, and the board reached conclusions which correspond to the will of the parliamentary majority. According to the well-established principle, as far as the SNS is concerned, the debate ends here. They will probably say that an appropriate institution, following an appropriate procedure, has reached a decision which will, in the future, be the only relevant and binding measure of “reality”. To tell them that it is a decision they themselves have reached by abusing the institution and procedure, by imposing the will of the majority in order to get what they want, and which has absolutely nothing to do with reality – may not be completely in vain. Because they really do care about hiding their violent political nature under the cover of institutional and procedural objectivity, so any attempt to point out that they are caught in a conflict with reality irritates them and brings them to tears. Hence the control of the media and prohibition of the freedom of speech in the parliament: all holes through which reality may leak in must be closed.
Since the 2012 elections, the SNS has been promising to implement everything the parties which were in power after October 5th, 2000 failed to do. The argument goes like this: in more than 10 years, the parties of the DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia) failed to fulfill the promises from the agreement they made with the citizens during the campaign for the September 24th, 2000 elections; the SNS will now fulfill those promises in their stead. That way the SNS presents itself as a true heir of the October 5th program for reconstruction and development of Serbia (and not only the program, but the people who failed to implement it). Three years later, the SNS’s performance should be evaluated: negotiations with Kosovo are at a standstill; the path to the EU is blocked; the economy is worse than in 2012; the last remains of the legal state are being destroyed. Still, we should be fair and say that the legacy of October 5th – which the SNS is trying to use today – is far from homogenous.
The period from 2000 to 2012 was clearly marked by at least two widely popular political currents. One could be defined as continuity with the nineties, and its most far-reaching effects were the murder of the prime minister in 2003 and the 2006 Constitution. The other current was apparently crushed trying to impose discontinuity with the politics from the nineties. The 2003 assassination and the 2006 Constitution were its biggest defeats. But, it was not completely ineffective. In an attempt to build up a legal state, it established some vital institutions, two of which are important for our story – Ombudsman and Commissioner for information of public interest. The current government’s attitude towards the ombudsman and the commissioner illustrates the real attitude of the SNS towards the ideas which were (at least declaratory) the foundation of the changes from October 5th.
The SNS is undoubtedly a party of continuity with the nineties and with the 2003 assassination (or at least the politics which were behind it), as well as with the defenders of the 2006 Constitution. If there were any doubts in 2012, things are so clear in 2015 that there is no room for doubt. Both the ombudsman and the commissioner are institutions meant to protect the legal state: the attack against them currently headed by the ministers of “the force” (i.e. the defense and the police), with the strong support from their party colleagues inside the parliament (which erases the border between the legislative and executive power) is an attack against the legal state. (The appointment of the new manager of the publishing house Sluzbeni glasnik points in the same direction. There have been worse politicians and bigger pests than her since 2000, but the career of the former spokesperson and former vice president of the Democratic party is the embodiment of the compromising politics of continuity with the nineties. This decision clearly shows which of the two paths of Serbian politics the current government has chosen and, therefore, deserves this remark in parenthesis).
Faith in an institutional illusion demonstrated by the ruling party could be touching and even cause sympathy. The SNS is like a child who thinks that nobody can see it if it covers its eyes. The trouble is that we should be dealing with mature adults here, not with children (not even the daughter of somebody’s brother).
Translated by Marijana Simic
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).