30 December 2003
It is not hard to see why a quarter of the votes in Sunday’s Serbian elections went to the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), whose leader is a man wanted by the UN Tribunal in The Hague on war crimes charges.
In essence, the Serbs have had enough of being cast as the bad boys of the Balkans. They feel that, since the October 2000 ouster of dictator Slobodan Milosevic, the democratic politicians who succeeded him let them down. They have discovered for themselves the harsh lesson learnt by other former Communist dictatorships — that the end of tyranny does not mean the automatic arrival of prosperity. Indeed the economic uncertainties in a free-market pluralist democracy contrast badly with the certainties that were part of the old regime. It was not simply that the secret police were always there — so too were the basic essentials of life. They may not have been inspiring, but they were reliable.
Any nationalist message comes with in-built values such as ethnic pride and a belief in a noble past which can somehow be resuscitated. This allows nationalist politicians to draw voters disaffected with existing parties, people who seek certainty and a political message that is clear and unambiguous. The fact that SRS leader Vojislav Seselj is facing war crimes charges may even have made it easier for Serbs to vote for the party. This was their way of protesting at their defeat and humiliation by the international community.
But why have so many Serbs moved from moderation toward potentially dangerous nationalistic absolutes in just three years? There seem to be two causes: the failure of Milosevic’s democratic successors to produce coherent and effective policies; and the inability of the outside world to deliver on its promised financial and technical assistance.
After so long under dictatorship, the failure of Serbia’s politicians to form strong alliances was to be expected. Their problems were made no easier by the existence of ugly Mafia forces left over from the corrupt Milosevic years, who may well have been responsible for the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic last March.
Some diplomats have cited this lack of political stability for the slow response of Europe and the rest of the international community to Serbia’s economic needs. The truth, however, is rather that the world has had so much else to think about in the last three years that it has taken its eye off the Serbian ball. That was a dangerous oversight.
All is not lost. At nearly sixty percent, this was Serbia’s highest-ever poll turnout and seems to reflect the fear among the moderate majority that the nationalist bigots might win power. There is still time to turn Serbia away from extremism. But that will mean active international support for the coalition of moderate parties that will hopefully emerge from these elections.
whoever wrote this doesnt know shit. SRS is gonna turn shit around and reclaim our lands. Long live Vojslav Seselj