A large structural problem of this society and this political system is that you have voters that are semiliterate, misinformed, crazed by these bought-off media and their propaganda. Then they still make a decision and vote for some candidate. And then the party comes and says – no, we don’t like that candidate that you voted for, you’ll get another one instead. And those who finance those parties take part in making these decisions, and yet we don’t know who these people are. These people provide power that the leader of the party enjoys, because he obtains the funds to support the party in that way. And then you have the coalition partners with their secret agreements and agenda, who also have their demands, and what you get in the end has nothing to do with the basic electoral process. And that is in the end what’s left of “the will of the people”.
I think it was clear from the start, and that is why there was no reason for euphoria after the elections, that Serbia is a divided country. We know how it is divided and why it is divided. It’s a surprise in some degree that this democratic or pro-European option won more than what was expected and that the other side won less than what was expected, and I think that can be attributed to two things. One is the offer for signing the EU agreement and this Fiat that came to Kragujevac to materialize the results right away, and the other, the one that is more important in my opinion, and the one that no one mentions, is the fact that this other patriotic-hysterical side had shot itself in the foot. They thought, probably in accordance with their firm belief, that this was the winning card and then they scared people off with their inflexibility and madness. I think there were people among the Radicals and DSS supporters who did not go out to vote. In that sense the process of forming the government is being led in a way which, so to speak, ignores the election results.
This is a deep crisis. First of all because Serbia is so divided and secondly, the crossroad that we are standing at right now is so significant. It comes down to the ratification of the EU agreement, that is, whether 126 deputies will be secured for it or not. The ratification of the agreement puts us on the railway track on which we will slowly glide toward the European Union, at a pace we are capable of. And in addition to that, the other side will be discouraged. If we don’t succeed in ratifying the agreement, it will be perceived as a crushing defeat of the pro-European line. There is a huge loot to be gained, the stakes are high and that creates a feeling of great uncertainty and dramatic instability.
We hear the same thing from both sides – if you form a government, you should know that just won’t fly. One side is talking about demonstrations, street protests, Boris Tadic says – I will not allow… by all democratic means, and the other side says – treason, enemies! The stakes are raised to an insane level, but it seems to me to be with good reason. The state is in a great political crisis.
From the viewpoint of Boris Tadic and the pro-European option, this dilemma is identical to the one that existed on October 5th, and that was – will we try to draw the line now, to completely defeat Milosevic’s regime and pay a huge price, the price of human lives if necessary or whether we’ll make what Djinjic used to call a rotten compromise and then try to get out of it by other means, through a long-term process. And then they decided on the second option. But now we are in the same position again, where it is again debated whether to make all those compromises to get hold of that EU Association Agreement, for the price of holding a new election and the price of Boris Tadic not giving anyone mandate to form a new government and the price of street protests, as Micunovic said.
Ceda Jovanovic says – protests, those who are protesting in Belgrade say they will never hand over Belgrade to the Radicals. Wait a minute, I understand that, but do they understand what that means – that means a direct conflict, a physical conflict if necessary, because the stakes are so high that we can no longer play nice. Or it will be the same rotten compromise all over again. The dilemma is the same, and with the same people involved, because now you are to form a coalition with the red and black option, or with its red part, that is. And now you can see this vast discomfort which exists there and this unbelievable effort that Tadic is putting in to somehow justify morally his decision to make this rotten compromise by explaining to us that SPS is reformed, that their true interest is to be with him and that he will grant a pardon to them all, we will all pardon them. He goes as far as to speak of a national reconciliation, which is something he absolutely has no authorization to talk about, but he thinks it is something gracious and nice.
And this other side, which felt that weakness of his, because I think that he is leading those negotiations very clumsily, this other side says – yes, yes, all right, but we want to rehabilitate Milosevic’s family, and Seselj says – let’s rehabilitate Zvezdan Jovanovic, and then Toma Nikolic says – we will stop cooperating with The Hague. Now they are asking them for an arm and a leg, as the economists would say. Is that what you want?! OK, but it’s going to cost you. Boris Tadic should calmly wait for the negotiations between the SPS and the DSS and the Radicals to end, and then offer them whatever he is going to offer them behind closed doors, and not to increase their appetite this way. He had increased their appetite tremendously. And I think that will not go smoothly and that the outcome is unpredictable.
They also think this is a decisive moment, and that it is as Milosevic would say – the year of disentanglement. There is a great danger that whoever wins, both sides are aware of that, will try to capitalize on their victory. I would not dismiss the option of, I won’t say civil war, but some form of violence, because the positions are irreconcilable. There is no center; those are two extremely different and polarized agendas, which do not go together and which developed a real hatred and aggression for one another. It is somewhat alarming all together.
Tadic could have said this – the circumstances are such that we have to make a morally hideous decision, but the benefit from it is so great that we will make this difficult choice and act that way. But no, he is trying to paint a pretty picture of the SPS. Room should have been made for people to give their moral judgment about it. Vesna Pesic wrote a fine piece on Djindjic’s famous story – if you want morals, go to church. She made a good point that it does not mean that Djindjic was an amoral man, but that he was able to separate morals from the need to have efficient policy making. And that is why I have great respect for the job of a politician or a statesman, because they have to make very difficult decisions, to which they themselves may at times be morally opposed. But they take care of a great number of people and of their future, and they will decide, even at a price of moral compromise, to make a choice.
It is wrong of Boris Tadic to speak of a national reconciliation now and to grant amnesty to the SPS, in a situation in which the entire society is standing on the edge of a cliff. Hold on, you don’t have to be ashamed of what you think – this will be ugly now, but it is still necessary.
On a partisan level there is something that is subject to punishment by law in a developed political society. What is being made is partisan politics, which means that my goal is to extort the decisions which are good for my party only, and more importantly, which are damaging to my opponent. No one cares about the society’s best interest. That naturally happens in other countries too, but as soon as it is recognized, it is publically condemned and punished in the elections. That means – you are carrying out destructive politics in your own particularistic, selfish, partisan interest – well, that will not stand. In the U.S. carrying out partisan politics is the worst thing someone can be accused of doing. And here people even think – well of course, I can do anything in the interest of my party, what do I care if it is harmful to the society, that’s not my job.
That is the attitude that the Radical Party had while they were the opposition – well of course, we’re fighting for power, we will not vote in favor of any laws, we are opposed to everything. It is typical partisan politics, which we neither recognize – being an underdeveloped and politically illiterate society – nor do we condemn or punish it in any way. And there is something very asocial here, that he who acts that way does not even see that it could be bad for him, that it could be recognized as something that demands condemnation. No, he does not recognize it at all, because his starting ground is – everyone is doing it. And he thinks that’s what politics is.
Peščanik, radio b92, 23.05.2008.
Translated by Ivica Pavlovic