Yes, the EU’s diplomatic SWAT team came through in Boris Tadić’s knife-edge victory over Tomislav Nikolić. With a margin of barely 100,000 plus change, we can assume that Brussels plenipotentiary Solana played a big role in ensuring the correct outcome, what with giving the electorate the impression that membership of that Napoleonic monstrosity and the associated milk and honey conditions were within their grasp if only they voted the right way. Having already pulled that stroke in the Montenegrin independence referendum, I guess we should thank Javier for demonstrating that you can indeed fool most of the people most of the time.
As I remarked a little while ago, this is one of those situations where language takes on an Orwellian cast. You may think “democracy” is all about a process whereby the people vote for their leaders and can, at least in theory, sack them via the ballot box. That sort of holds true in the metropolitan countries, but in the colonies it’s all about guaranteeing correct outcomes. After all, as the presidents of Venezuela and Belarus have discovered, you can win multiple elections and still be a “dictator”.
The Palestinians have some experience of this. You’ll remember that they democratically elected a Hamas government. Following which, the US, EU and Israel helped engineer a coup by the defeated Fatah in the name of “democracy”. Serbia too is a place where “democracy” has a specialised meaning. On the one hand, it means that the Radicals and Socialists must be kept out of government no matter how many votes they get. On the other, democratic governance in Serbia requires that the country’s two small neo-Jacobin parties, the G17 Plus and the Liberal Democrats (who, as Nebojša quips, are neither liberal nor democratic) must have a major share in power no matter how few votes they get. Your Serbian punter, who will have vivid memories of the “democratic” state of emergency that followed the Djindjić assassination, tends to be rightly cynical about this sort of rhetoric.
It’s probably partly due to the fact that this is Serbia, a country with a severe image problem despite seven years of rule by supine “democrats”, that there aren’t howls of outrage about the Eurocrats interfering in the electoral processes of a sovereign state. But there are other things going on here as well. Yes, you’ve got some unreconstructed Serbophobes crawling out of the woodwork (hats off to Ian Traynor of the Grauniad, who I often read for comedy value), but the thing that’s been most striking about the reportage from Belgrade has been its Cold War tone. There’s been a bit of chest-beating about the Radicals’ role in the Yugoslav wars of secession, when they were indeed involved in some pretty gruesome activities, but actually the media pack have been much keener to go after Nikolić on the basis of his pro-Russian foreign policy. The Eurocrats’ mutterings about Serbia possibly becoming another Belarus also come under this category. Those pesky Serbs and Belarusians, and about half of the Ukrainians, just haven’t grasped yet that their geopolitical role is to make like Latvia and be a useful bulwark against Tsar Vladimir.
The Kosovo question comes into this as well. There can be no doubt that Boris wouldn’t have won if he hadn’t neutralised the Kosovo issue by adapting to the national consensus of defending Serbian sovereignty and rejecting the Albanian separatists’ demands. Belgrade-based diplomats and imperial chancelleries have been spinning to the media that Boris doesn’t really mean what he says. Or maybe he does mean what he says, but he’ll acquiesce in what the Empire does. And, once foreign powers have carved out 15% of the national territory, most Serbs will accept the fait accompli and the Serbian body politic will be purged of the nationalist virus. Yeah, cos that really worked well at Versailles.
Now, let me say up front that I accept there is a strong case in the abstract for Albanian self-determination in Kosovo. I am however opposed to the current independence programme for a number of reasons, partly to do with protection of minorities or the lack thereof, partly to do with unnegotiated secession being extremely illegal under international law, but mainly because Kosovo is a de facto mafia state that, with the attributes of sovereignty, would just show up the Pirate Republic of Montenegro for the comic-opera concern it is. US and EU policy-makers know Kosovo is a disaster in the making, but they seem hell-bent on pressing ahead, apparently on the grounds that not pushing through independence would result in a massive loss of face. Then there’s also the possibility, that, with hardly any Serbs left in the province, the Albanian gangs would turn on the international troops and NGO workers.
This is all by way of being an object lesson for interventionists, in two ways. The Kosovo problem, as well as the simmering Bosnian protectorate, remind me of a conversation I had some years ago with a Greek political scientist. He remarked of the Cyprus question that this was absolutely typical of the Yanks and the West Europeans – they could have mediated a negotiated solution between the local parties decades ago, but they preferred to manage a problem rather than solve it, leaving a low-level dispute where they could continue to have long-term influence. Trouble is, these long-running disputes have a habit of turning around and biting you in the ass.
The second aspect is that the strong showing of the Radicals has put the willies up the Belgrade diplomatic corps in no uncertain fashion. Their huge vote, in a high turnout, goes against the conventional wisdom that the Radicals had a stalwart but rather elderly and rural core vote (this is important also for journalists who spend all their time in Belgrade talking to trendy Anglophone metrosexuals) and were completely incapable of breaking out of that core vote – so, the Radicals could only prosper if there was a low turnout. There’s a lesson here as well. Let’s say you spend a decade and a half treating a country like shit. Even when the “democrats” take over, you still treat the country like shit. Let’s say the “democrats” turn out to be not only undemocratic but, in large part, up to their ears in criminality and corruption. Let’s say the economy is down the dunny, and the response of the Empire is to demand more “free market reforms” like the ones that put it down the dunny in the first place. Would you expect the natives to be grateful to the missionaries, or would you expect them to get the pot boiling?