Election 2008 in Serbia
Whose election was it anyway?
Author: Bojan Ratkovic
Date of publishing: June 17, 2008
On May 11th, 2008, Serbia held parliamentary and municipal elections throughout the country in what was dubbed yet another historic crossroads between East and West, past and future, isolation and European integration. The former ruling coalition collapsed after disagreements over European Union (EU) membership and the sensitive Kosovo question led to bitter divisions within the government. President Boris Tadic’s pro-EU bloc believes that pursuing EU membership ought to be Serbia’s top priority, while his former coalition partner, Premier Vojislav Kostunica, wishes to condition EU membership with assurances that the union will recognize Serbia’s legal borders, which would include its breakaway Kosovo province.
Following a unilateral declaration of independence made by Albanian separatists in the southern Serbian province this past February, preserving Serbia’s territorial integrity has become the most pressing issue for many powerful political currents in the country, including Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the opposition Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Tadic and his allies, on the other hand, continue to pursue a “European Union has no alternative” policy.
Heading into the elections, all polls showed the opposition SRS in the lead, as was expected due to the fact that 20 of the 27 EU member states recognized Kosovo’s illegal independence. The Western media went into full panic mode, again, warning of the damage that the collapse of the so called “anti-Milosevic” coalition could cause to Serbia’s Euro-Atlantic integrations. The SRS was portrayed as “ultra-nationalist” by Western media (one presumes because simply “nationalist” doesn’t sound frightening enough) and as Milosevic loyalists, who represent the dark and war torn 1990’s, while the pro-EU bloc was deemed to represent a bright and prosperous European future.
The usual suspects, from EU’s Javier Solana and Dmitrij Rupel to the U.S. ambassador to Serbia, Cameron Munter, underlined and then underlined again their “hopes” and “wishes” for Serbia to elect a “pro-European” government, meaning of course Tadic and co. (This isn’t the first time the U.S. and the EU publicly take sides in a democratic election in Serbia. In fact, they have done so in all Serbian elections since Milosevic.) Thus the battle lines were drawn and Serbia headed into the elections as polarized and as divided as ever.
A “pleasant surprise”
Less than two weeks before Election Day, with all party campaigns in full swing, the EU made the stunning decision to offer Serbia the long awaited Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA); a move aimed directly at strengthening the pro-EU camp before the May 11th elections.
Although Tadic’s pro-EU Democratic Party (DS) refused to ratify a major oil pipeline deal with Russia (EU’s rival for influence in the Balkans) just days earlier, arguing that the pre-election “caretaker” government did not have the mandate to do so, Tadic and his party colleague Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic jumped at the opportunity to sign the SAA. No issues of mandate this time. Premier Kostunica and the SRS vigorously opposed the signing and called it treason, as the signature legitimizes EU institutions at a time when most EU member states recognized an independent Kosovo and when EULEX, an illegal EU mission to Kosovo that Serbia officially opposes, was being pushed through by EU member states.
To make things even more complex, the EU froze the just signed SAA with Serbia until the country extradites General Ratko Mladic and other Serbs accused of alleged war crimes, and all this only weeks after Ramush Haradinaj, a former leader of the KLA terrorists, was found not guilty of all charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (interestingly enough, the same countries that keep pushing for Serbia to extradite alleged war criminals to face international justice shamelessly broke international law when they recognized an independent Kosovo.) Haradinaj, who himself admitted to having killed Serbian police officers in his official biography, was acquitted despite the fact that as many as 9 key prosecution witnesses were killed and countless others intimidated during his trial.
Despite the obvious hypocrisy that accompanied it, the signing of the SAA did indeed help the pro-EU bloc on May 11th. Tadic and his DS won a plurality in parliament with nearly 39% of the vote, despite most pre-election polls showing the SRS ahead. The Western media hailed the outcome as a clear-cut victory for the pro-EU bloc and a sign that Serbia was well on its way to becoming a modern, prosperous, and 15% smaller country.
The euphoria subsided when Westerners realized that a plurality in Serbia’s parliament doesn’t necessarily mean taking power, after all, if that were the case the SRS would have been ruling Serbia for the past 4 years. And so the media circus and Western pressure was stepped up again with more “hopes” and “wishes” and “appeals” that a pro-EU government is formed. The threats poured in as well, with the EU warning that only a government headed by the pro-EU bloc would receive the union’s support (and approval), clearly implying that a different outcome could lead to diplomatic and economic repercussions. Freedom of choice for the people of Serbia at its finest….
From anti-Milosevic coalition to “socially responsible government”
Having realized that the DSS and SRS were bent on forming a “Kosovo comes first” coalition of their own, the pro-EU bloc went looking for allies in an unlikely place… the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), the very party founded by former President Slobodan Milosevic himself.
Tadic “cited the SPS as a natural partner for achieving national reconciliation, because these two parties, Tadic said, were Serbia’s authentic representatives, pre- and post-2000.”
What a sudden change of rhetoric, when only weeks earlier the SPS was slammed as one of the parties representing the dark past of the 1990’s, along with the SRS. In fact, the SRS was regularly identified in the Western media as being loyal to the late Slobodan Milosevic just for forming a government coalition with his SPS from 1998 to 2000. Now the pro-Western and pro-EU champions of democracy and freedom from Milosevic’s tyranny are asking Milosevic’s own party to join them in a coalition?
It will be interesting to see how the Western media spins this one, but the usual suspects in the EU and the U.S. are continuing to exert pressure on Tadic to form a pro-Western government at all costs. As things stand, the SPS is deeply divided between the pro-EU and Kosovo comes first blocs, and a long stalemate or even new elections are very possible.
In the end, the biggest losers in the elections are once again the Serbs of Kosovo, whose government’s bickering and disunity in Belgrade provides Albanian separatists and NATO with ample opportunity to continue unimpeded in their attempts to silence Serbian opposition to Kosovo’s illegal secession.
If Canadian journalist Scott Taylor is to be taken at his word, the near future does not bode well for Serbs in Kosovo. Instead of taking their future into their own hands, the people of Serbia continue to let themselves be divided by outside forces, even at a time when national unity is of critical importance.
The EU and the U.S. see Serbia’s elections as their own; they continue to manipulate them to reflect the decisions made in the backrooms of Brussels and Washington, instead of reflecting decisions made by Serbia’s voters. Empty promises and invalid agreements are waved in front of Serbia’s dispirited citizens as flickers of hope in a sea of disappointments, but this false hope the West offers leaves Serbia more polarized and divided, and leaves Kosovo more vulnerable.
One is left only to hope and pray that the Serbian people will take back their country, their elections, and their future before it’s too late.
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Serbiana, it’s great to hear the truth once in awhile when it comes to dirty politics! Thank you Serbiana for your honesty! There should be more people like you as well as more articles written "truthfully" and not smeared with political lies. Thank you! PJ
Very useful article of Bojan Ratkovic. If you don’t object, in a week or so, I’ll try to put a verbatim translation in Dutch of it on "de Vrijspreker" with a reference to this site. Send your reply to the mentioned e-mail address. I hope, that you will continue these reports.
Good Luck SpyNose