Dusan Pavlovic writes on his blog that the government led by Vucic is actually an outgrowth of the post-October 5th Serbia. I have written on several occasions how Vucic has taken over, perfected and strengthened the system of partocratic corruption, which has been established, in its developed form, after October 5th. This does not mean that there are no differences and specificities which distinguish Vucic’s interpretation of that system. His interpretation is more repressive and mendacious, because he personally stems from a different “school of thought” than his predecessors. Another reason is the fact that this system has reached decadence. There are no more resources to feed it.
The characteristics of the post-October 5th Serbia, precisely and meticulously explained by Dusan Pavlovic, can be summed up in one sentence – “that the ideas of October 5th have come to the end of their lifespan”. He believes “that the idea which guides the opposition should be completely new, and have nothing to do with October 5th. If the opposition fails to realize this, Nebojsa Krstic and Cedomir Jovanovic will remain its main protagonists.”
This is a far-reaching conclusion. In order for the opposition to become a relevant political factor, it is obviously necessary to draw a line at some point – and start in a new direction. There is no point referring to some or other “fundamental principles” of October 5th anymore, nor looking back at the “glorious days” with longing – the glorious days which, from the current perspective, appear to be unreachable. Today, there is no political figure capable of removing Vucic from power. This is why we should discuss October 5th one more time, in order not to repeat our mistakes, or underestimate its achievements.
The most important achievement of October 5th is summarizing the consequences of the bombing of Serbia. We are talking about a spontaneous, internal realization of Serbian citizens regarding the regime under which they lived. We should not fool ourselves that this realization was comprehensive and critical; in particular regarding nationalism and the wars of the nineties. What I am talking about is a realization which was formed while the bombs were falling, because it had to answer the question “how is it possible that this has happened to us”. This absurd situation has given birth to the strong realization that the country shouldn’t, under any condition, turn against the international community and the West once again. Serbia returned into the international community, and, since October 5th, has been implementing an undoubtedly peaceful politics, which has never been challenged by the authorities, until this very day.
The establishment of electoral democracy, accompanied by its postulates about a certain level of the freedom of thought and respect of human rights has been considered as the biggest achievement of October 5th. It turned out that this achievement has, during these 15 years, practically completely evaporated. The assumption that democracy can survive long-term without liberal (constitutional) democracy was faulty. The protagonists of October 5th failed to understand the change of regime as gestalt, a whole to replace the previous whole. They failed to draw a line and set up a constituent assembly, which would signify simultaneous changes in all parts of the system. Instead of republican ideas, only adjustments of the world view have been implemented (like the introduction of religious education in schools). Later on, with the revival of the Kosovo myth, the new Mitrovdan constitution was passed, defining Serbia not as a country of its citizens, but instead, as the country of the mythic Serbian nation and other citizens. This constitution symbolized an inglorious end to the idea of October 5th.
The October 5th strategic ideas about how to change the government no longer apply. Any form of mechanical merger of opposition parties into a unified coalition isn’t possible today. The Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), which consisted of 18 parties, is no longer possible. Recent attempts to try the old ways by unifying the opposition were strained and unsuccessful. The point of Pavlovic’s claims about the October 5th ideas being outlived mostly pertains to the discreditation of its protagonists, in particular those who were in power, due to their loss of credibility. Being (or not being) “a true opposition leader” is no longer sufficient criteria, instead, it is the credibility to bring new ideas and a new form of action.
And now we have reached the key issue: what tasks is the opposition facing today? I believe that the problem is the same: change the system, because nothing of the current system is worth keeping, apart from the continuity in solving the Kosovo issue. And this too is debatable, since the Vucic-Dacic duo, while solving the issue of Kosovo, has obtained foreign support to suppress internal freedoms without objections.
Do we have new and politically mobilizing ideas, capable of unifying citizens to participate in new elections? I believe that we don’t, which does not mean we do not have decently written party programs. For the most part, they speak of changes which include the establishment of standards existing in regulated developed countries. The best such program is offered by the Dosta je bio – Restart movement. The program is concise and well written, based on the ideas of transparency, rule of law, control of funds (how much is spent and on what), regulatory institutions, the market and social protection. This is a good situational program, created in order to urgently solve problems without leaving anyone specific holding the bag. This means that the program is, for the most part, ideologically balanced.
What do these programs lack, and why aren’t they being read?
What they lack is a broader world view, which allows political interpretation. What do you speak about, when you don’t speak specifically about economy, subsidies, gray economy, contracts, etc? In a recent public appearance, Sasa Radulovic was very convincing in his expert style, but he deviated from that by saying that his movement is neither the left nor the right, but a movement of decent people against stale and corrupt elites. The idea is a very good one, regardless of the fact that it was taken over from the Spanish movement Podemos. In a depressive form, it is most similar to the position of our “white votes”, that revolt against “the corrupt elites”. The problem lies in the fact that this attractive and disheveled standpoint isn’t well-developed, and does not fit the persona of Sasa Radulovic, who is the very image of an excellent minister.
The opposition lacks strategic ideas how to come into power. In the past, the governing power changed, in practice, via the president, since gaining parliamentary majority was mostly blocked by the electoral system. How will that change, is the opposition willing to participate in the next elections under the same circumstances, or should an offensive be immediately undertaken to amend the laws and the current conditions? The key issue is how to strengthen the opposition, in order for it to be able to fight for these conditions, and stand a realistic chance on the elections. At the moment, we have several weak political parties, and only one of them – DS, is over the electoral threshold. The test question on their chances to gain strength is the following: do opposition parties (NS, Dosta je bilo, DS and maybe some other) have their president by default? It appears to me that Zivkovic is a president by default of the New Party (NS), Radulovic ditto for Dosta je bilo, while only the Democratic Party (DS) does not have a president by default – but, at the same time, has other problems.
If the situation is such that presidents by default still thrive, then we have not moved much from old ways and ideas. My proposal for the opposition parties is to unite into one party with one program, which is not a difficult matter, since these parties are similar. With political additions, the program offered by Dosta je bilo could be adopted. However, the key issue is whether these parties would be capable to call on their voters, supporters and citizens, respecting free and open competition, to decide who the new leader will be. Or the parties will open up and accept that fully democratic elections will determine who the party leader will be, and who will be nominated for president and prime minister.
Here is the proposition how to begin. This would be a new approach. I believe that this would be a way to mobilize citizens, something we are desperately lacking at the moment.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic
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).