Amongst all the excitement around the US election, it’s easy to forget that politics goes on in less important countries. Currently, for instance, the presidential election in Serbia, which is fascinating in a number of ways. Latest news is that we are heading for a run-off between incumbent president Boris Tadić and his perennial opponent Tomislav Nikolić, leader pro tem of the Radical Party while Vojislav Šešelj remains sequestered by the Hague Inquisition.
Let me say at the outset, or before Jim Denham denounces me as a fascist at any rate, that I’m not in the normal run of things a great enthusiast for the Serbian Radicals. I’m not exactly an ideological soulmate of the SRS, and the party contains a lot of, shall we say, colourful characters that people worrying about their respectability might like to avoid. So why do I find myself warming slightly to these fuckers?
Mostly, I have to say, this is down to spite. And very largely it’s down to the Empire’s definition of “democracy”, which acquires a specialist meaning when it comes to Serbia. “Democracy” in this context means that the Radicals must never be allowed to form a government no matter how many votes they get. Hence the frenzied activity from the diplomatic SWAT teams in Belgrade, most notably the EU scheduling accession talks for between the two rounds so as to benefit Tadić. At least that’s the theory – with support for EU membership bobbing around the 50% mark, we shall see whether being the Empire-backed candidate proves a vote-winner.
Ah, you might say, but the SRS is a pretty nasty outfit – just look at the activities of paramilitaries not a million miles from the SRS in the Bosnian war – so isn’t it justified to keep these guys out of power? I don’t deny the force of this argument, but it might hold more water if it wasn’t for plenty of other dodgy characters in the Balkan region being fully rehabilitated as “democrats”. And if US and EU diplomats in Sofia hadn’t spent over a decade agitating to keep the Bulgarian Socialist Party out of power. The BSP, by the way, dumped its old Stalinism pretty quickly and has long since been a moderate social democratic party, but it was believed by the Big Civilised Powers to be too responsive to the concerns of its voters. QED.
Bulgaria, in case you’ve forgotten, is an actual member of the EU. Some other recent entrants, notably the Romanians and the Slovaks, have had bruising experiences of being treated like redheaded stepchildren by Old Europe, which, EU rhetoric aside, continues to view the Ruritanian states to the east as not quite up to snuff. And even that isn’t enough for some of our more virulent interventionists – one notes our old chum Marko Attila Hoare calling for Brussels to get tough with Greece, apparently on the general principle that the uppity Orthodox need to be taught their place.
So let’s get back to Serbia. I have no doubt that the Powers, not to mention their cheerleaders, would really like to see Čeda Jovanović, the candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party, in the top job. Young Čeda, who is invariably described as “charismatic” by the London and Washington media, was a protégé of slain prime minister Zoran “Little Slobo” Djindjić, and is a strong partisan of Serbia going along with whatever the Empire wants. This means singing the praises of the “free market”, which means cutting social programmes and flogging off state assets to US and EU corporations rather than the Russians. It means getting into the EU, which regards Serbia as a coconut colony, and NATO, which actually bombed the country not many years ago. It means immediate independence for the mafia-run province of Kosovo. Unfortunately for Čeda, though this stuff will get him good press abroad and the plaudits of the swankier end of Belgrade’s café society, it cuts little ice with the peasants.
Which is why the Empire is lumbered with poor old Boris Tadić, who is a waffling surrender monkey rather than an enthusiastic surrender monkey. Boris will usually do what the “international community” wants if he’s put under enough pressure, but he also wants the great unwashed to vote for him. Which is why the Yanks and EU have pressurised the Kosovo mafiosi into delaying their declaration of independence until Boris is safely re-elected. And what’s on offer there is what the Powers are calling “supervised independence”, which is not what the Albanian separatists want, and this most likely means a repeat of the 2004 pogrom of non-Albanians is on the cards.
And what of Nikolić? Well, Nikolić is no pearl of great price to say the least, but he has one thing going for him. That is that he isn’t a surrender monkey, which is why the Powers have determined he can’t be allowed to win. More to the point, there is an alternative programme on offer to simply going along with Washington and Brussels. Nikolić is nowhere near as stridently anti-EU as he used to be, but his support for national sovereignty and his call for closer ties with Russia and other countries that don’t regard Serbia as the Heart of Darkness has a lot of resonance. It also exerts a pull on the supporters of prime minister Vojislav Koštunica, a layer who will act as kingmakers.
Why is this important? As Nebojša Malić perceptively points out, this is a rare case in these times of voters actually having a choice between different policies and programmes. American voters don’t get that kind of choice, nor do their counterparts in Britain or Ireland, and in most of continental Europe the acceptable spectrum of political opinion is narrowing daily. And our leaders have the cheek to lecture countries where there still is a choice on the low quality of their democracy. Mar dhea!
And if you have the language skills, as ever there is plenty of intelligent commentary to be found on NSPM.