Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 May 2008
Issue No. 897
International
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

So who 'won'?

There appear to be no winners in Serbia's recent elections, bemoans Eric Walberg

Click to view caption
A couple cast their votes during general elections at a polling station in southern Serbian town of Nis. Serbs began voting on Sunday in an election that will show whether the lure of European Union membership outweighs their anger over the Western-backed secession of Kosovo

Sunday's elections in Serbia are being hailed as a victory for Europe, a defeat for the "ultra- nationalist" Tomislav Nikolic and his Radical Party. But the "For a European Serbia" alliance of President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party, the G17-Plus and three smaller liberal parties, over the Radical Party, the New Serbia Party and outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) does not bode well for anyone, including Europe. This will be another hung parliament.

The election itself, while attracting only 60 per cent of the electorate, was rigorously executed, including polling in Kosovo for its 115,000 registered Serbian voters, which the UN and Pristina insisted was illegal. "Holding Serbian local elections in Kosovo would contribute to the creation of parallel structures at the administrative level and as such they are unacceptable," Joachim Ruecker, the chief of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, said.

Kostunica campaigned in Serbian Kosovo where he told Serbs, "To preserve Serbia in Kosovo means telling the truth -- that it belongs to Serbia and the Serbian people. There is no nation in the world which would accept giving up its territory. After 11 May, we will need a new national, statehood government whose first task would be to respect the Serb message: Kosovo is Serbia."

"These elections are the first on all levels including local elections since 1999. We expect a huge turnout and that way will confirm our clear stand to the independent state of Kosovo and so- called NATO state," said Milan Ivanovic, the leader of the Serb National Council in Kosovo.

Serbia's elections were triggered by the collapse of a coalition of Kostunica's DSS with Tadic's Democratic Party (DS) over Kosovo. Kostunica branded his former coalition partners "traitors" for signing an accord on closer ties with the EU that he says is tantamount to recognising Kosovo. Velimir Ilic of the New Serbia Party called the Serbian president "the biggest traitor in the history of the Serbian people".

Europhiles say the voting showed they won a decisive victory, with the DS winning 37 per cent, vs 29 per cent for the Radical Party, 11 per cent for the DSS, and a surprising eight per cent for the late Milosevic's Socialist Party, which is now being courted by both camps.

If we take a broader view of the demise of Yugoslavia and its bloody aftermath, the picture is very different than the one painted by the Western media, which depicts a ruthless, sadistic tyrant, Slobodan Milosevic, and his henchmen slaughtering innocents who only wanted the shining Western ideals of freedom and democracy.

Since 1917, the West has done all in its power to destroy anything that vaguely looks like socialism -- with the sole exception of 1941-45. The Soviet Union was no tea party, but constant subversion and blockades certainly did not make creating a social welfare state out of the ashes of WWI any easier. By the time Yugoslavia came along, conditions were much better, despite the horrors of WWII, where the Serbs suffered terribly, to a great degree at the hands of their Croat neighbours.

This hotbed of family and clan warfare was miraculously turned into a peaceful, workable society by Yosip Broz Tito, a Croat. It would have served the world, in particular, Europe, well to do everything in its power to maintain the union, including Kosovo. But this was not in the interests of US empire or European "unity". The disintegration of Yugoslavia was planned with gusto in Bonn and Washington.

Of course, once the SU began to crack open, the demise of Yugoslavia was inevitable. Milosevic was merely the last gasp of the only alternative to Europe's New World Order, with NATO membership thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile, Serbian Europhiles such as Dejan Anastasijevic are lining up to join this Brave New World. On the eve of the election, he warned, "If Nikolic wins, he will be democratically elected, and the West will think Serbs have a bad soul, so they deserve to fester and self- destruct." No wonder he had two grenades thrown into his bedroom window last year.

And Nikolic himself? A closer look at the supposed pariah shows that he is perfectly responsible: "We'll cooperate with everyone, openly with friends but cautiously with those who show they are not our friends." His platform offered greater social protection, including subsidies for basic foods for his hard-pressed people. "They say if we win there will be no more capital coming into Serbia, but why wouldn't there be? Germany recognised Kosovo, but that does not stop us from cooperating with Germany." A Radical Party-led administration would not talk to the EU. "But we are open to all of its members, even those that recognise Kosovo." He emphasised that he would not resort to war. "Why should someone make us gain through war what is already ours?"

He campaigned on promises of fixed prices for bread and pensions for all, appealing to an electorate that feel they have gained little since the revolt in 2000 that overthrew Milosevic. He has fostered closer ties with Russia recently. In February, he visited Moscow, accompanied by Milosevic's brother and met now President Dmitri Medvedev. He praised the January deal in which Gazrpom, the Russian state energy company, gained control of Serbia's national oil monopoly.

He argues that Serbia should expand a free trade area with the Russian Federation that would encourage European countries and companies to use Serbia as a hub for trade between the EU and Russia. "Europe will make a mistake if it excludes us. It will push us to the other side. I would like both sides. I would like both Russia and Europe to have links here." Hmm. Could it be that Europe just might need Serbia every bit as much as Serbia needs Europe?

He is nobody's fool. This platform is creative, intent on turning Serbia into a centre of East- West trade, building a bridge where leaders like Sarkozy and Bush try to stoke Cold War fires. But then this is not at all what the EU and US had in mind when they bombed and isolated Serbia and tore apart the precious, peaceful, prosperous Yugoslav federation. Theirs was a plan of divide and conquer, to swallow up Serbia into the suffocating embrace of the EU and NATO, putting the finishing touches on the plan to turn a Europe of diversity into America's advanced fortress. It's as if one stubborn old widow in her bungalow is holding out against Walmart's plan to create a vast box store in a pristine mountain village and just won't be bribed into submission.

As for the Radical Party's slogan "No to Hague Tyranny", Nikolic, tongue in cheek, points out, "What is the difference between the current government saying it wants to cooperate and not cooperating, and us saying that we won't?"

Tadic vows that as president, he will never allow the nationalists to regain power. Nikolic retorted that this is in breach of the constitution and that there are "very clear possibilities of a coalition which does not include the DS." The nationalists' coalition has a few more seats than the Europhiles, with Ivica Dacic, the Socialists' leader now touted as the kingmaker. How ironic if he opts for the Europhiles -- the EU would then be beholden to Milosevic's heir for their permission to gobble up the last little Baltic confection.

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