I got a letter from a friend in Belgrade yesterday. My friend -- I'll call her Anna-- is Serbian, a lawyer, and thirty-some years old. She's an intelligent, lively and (I think) perceptive observer of the political scene there. If you haven't read this post about the elections in Serbia, what follows won't be that interesting. Me, I'm still fascinated by what's going on there, because Serbia seems like a country that's balanced on a tipping point. So. Here follow some of her comments, slightly edited, and my responses.
The problem with the Government is not only that DSS [Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia] and DS [the Democrats, Djindjic's old party] can`t get along, but also that G17 and DS can`t get along. True. At the moment, pretty much everyone hates the Democrats. Well, when they were the ruling party, they were pretty high-handed, and there really was a lot of corruption under them. And, of course, they're unpopular because they're blamed for high unemployment and poverty... which wasn't really their fault, but helps make them wonderful scapegoats. Actually G17 heavily attacked DS and the current Government before the elections.They started the famous Kolesar - Janjusevic affair and the whole story about false votes in the Parliament when the new Governor of NBJ was elected. I do not even think that after all of this they can sit still in the same room. Kolesar and Janjusevic were two high DS officials who were implicated in money laundering. Prime Minister Zivkovic (who took over after Djindjic was killed) defended them for weeks before accepting their resignations. The false votes story was... interesting. It took place last summer, after the old government fired the head of the National Bank of Serbia. There was strong opposition to this move in Parliament. So when the time came to vote on his replacement, the vote was very close. Afterwards, there were accusations that the government had used vote fraud -- for instance, by having one legislator enter the password and press "yes" for another DS legislator who was absent (and, in one case, actually in Italy). If I remember correctly, the DS and the government vehemently denied any wrongdoing... but then, shortly before the election, the DS made some sort of confession that, yes, they did engage in some vote fraud in Parliament, but it wouldn't have affected the outcome. Uh huh. Anyhow, there are indeed reasons for people to be annoyed with DS. The latest version on the possible structure of the Government is that DSS and G17 Plus and SPO/NS will form a minority Government, supported by DS. I`m not sure how such a mix could function for a week, not to talk about longer period, but this is a widely spread idea. Actually, Serbia's neighbor Croatia has exactly this sort of government -- one formed by a minority coalition, with one other party sitting outside the coalition but giving "silent consent". Croatia's Peasant Party occupies the outside position, the role that DS will (probably) fill in Serbia's new Parliament. Mind, it's not a perfect comparison, because the DS is much bigger than the Peasant Party. And in Croatia, the last government is firmly in opposition, not holding the balance between the new goverment and an empowered lunatic fringe. Still, it's an interesting parallel. DS would love to see DSS and Radikali forming the Government, but it`s unlikely to happen. Although I believe that many of the DSS supporters would not really mind such coalition, I think that Kostunica is aware that it would provoke the slow agony with deadly consequences for his party and he won`t go for it. Anna is quite right. (Although I think there has been some wishful thinking on the part of Serbian liberals here -- the idea being that a DSS-Radical coalition might act as a purgative, discrediting both parties and making things so bad they could only get worse. Not this time.) Actually, Kostunica would prefer to see the others forming the Government so that he does not have to take any responsibility for anything, but stay in his 3 bedroom apartment, play with his dog (no more cats) and be soooooooo clever. And wise. And honest. And clever. And wise. I agree. Kostunica has been very happy in the role of The One Honest Man, staying on the sidelines and holding the moral high ground. Being Prime Minister will make this impossible. I think he realizes this, which is why he wants to be President. (I note that if he wants to take strong action against corruption and organized crime, it won't be easy for him to keep living in that same apartment. Claudia and I used to live aroud the corner from him, and it's not a great security situation.) So, we`re still a nice country without the President, the Parliament and the Government, which, I believe, suits perfectly the majority of Serbs. Cause essentially we`re anarchists. And we like the chaos, it is always a good cover for the laziness. No comment... Talking about SPS being a descendant of Tito`s Communist Party, well, he certainly inherited some very valuable things like the infrastructure, property and network that used to belong to the party. He also learnt how to maintain that network and how to manipulate people. On the other hand, he never called for Tito`s time, he distanced himself from communists and became popular by presenting himself as an "honest nationalist". Which, of course, he wasn`t. Ideologically, he was neither a communist nor a nationalist. Just an ambitious, rigid dictator, obsessed with power and with no visions at all. Okay, point; I withdraw the comment. (And I agree with Anna's description of Milosevic, BTW.) His wife was often talking about greatness of communism, but her party July, as you know, was just a cover for a bunch of thieves, criminals and greedy mediocrities (she qualifies in all categories). Mrs. Milosevic is widely disliked in Serbia, even among defenders of the old regime. But liberals really hate her -- always did and still do now. Because no only was she a greedy, ruthless opportunist, but she just had no class; she was rather stupid, had no taste, and has always been much too pleased with herself. Slightly reminiscent of Elena Ceaucescu, although Mrs. Milosevic never had the opportunity to do quite so much damage. Her "July" party used to be the junior partner in Milosevic's coalition. Until October 2000, it received almost as much fawning media attention as the ruling Socialists, and got the same sort of thinly disguised government subsidies and special treatment. "July" disappeared without a trace in the last election, getting something like 0.1% of the vote. So there's that. Well, it`s fun to read your blog, although the part on kids sickness was rather sad then fun. I hope that everything is fine by now. It`s so frustrating when the kids get sick and expect you to help them, while in fact you`re not really able to do so. At least you can comfort them a bit. Thanks for the kind words. We really hope they don't get sick again any time soon!