My newest column on Antiwar.com this weekend deals with the upcoming elections in Serbia. Due to considerations of space and time, however, I couldn't elaborate on the parties and candidates involved, just mention them in the broadest of strokes. So, here is a handy guide to who's who of politics in Serbia at the moment.
Boris Tadić, currently the President of Serbia, is also (quite improperly) the head of the Democratic Party (DS). He narrowly won the presidential election in January 2008, which was rightly seen by the Empire as the go-ahead for proclaiming the "Independent State of Kosovo".
Following that announcement, in February 2008, the Democrats ran in the general election as the senior partner in a coalition called "For European Serbia", with banksters (G17+) and two regional separatist outfits. The coalition didn't get enough votes to form a government, until July when - in a stunning turn of events - they were joined by a coalition led by the Socialists. Given that the Socialists had run on a platform openly opposing the Democrats, this resulted in a government no one had actually voted for - except for the U.S. and EU ambassadors involved in its creation.
Originally set up by the well-meaning opponents of Communism, the Democrats quickly turned into a haven for old Communist cadres purged by Slobodan Milošević (e.g. Dragoljub Mićunović). In 1994, Zoran Đinđić, a Frankfurt School graduate with a PhD in coup d'etat, took over as party chair.
Đinđić and the Democrats came to power through DOS, a coalition created by the National Endowment for Democracy as an experiment in "astroturf revolution." DOS stood for the "Democratic
Opposition of Serbia" (though in practice, it was opposition to Serbia). Đinđić was the coalition's campaign manager and became the PM of Serbia in December 2000. Following his assassination in 2003 - which was blamed on former Special Forces and a shadowy organized crime syndicate, but questions about it remain - the DOS and the Democratic Party were taken over by the people Đinđić had purged as rotten or incompetent. Following a bad electoral defeat in December 2003, the Democrats recovered by electing Boris Тadić, a psychologist formerly in charge of the postal service and the military. Тadić became President of Serbia in mid-2004.
While only controlling a third of the legislature themselves, the Democrats have a chokehold on the media: the entire advertising spectrum in the country is controlled by agencies run by Тadić's advisor Srđan Šaper and high-ranking DS official Dragan Đilas (who is also the mayor of Belgrade). But back in 2000, they had to take a back seat to Vojislav Koštunica - the only candidate NED managed to find that seemed decent, among the 18 pocket parties whose leaders were either unpopular or outright reviled.
The Other Democrats
Koštunica was once a Democrat, too - but split off in the early 1990s, unhappy with the DS position on Serb national interests (i.e. that none existed). He named his splinter the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and stayed on the sidelines of politics, teaching law and translating the Federalist Papers. As the figurehead of DOS, he stood for Yugoslav presidency in September 2000. He didn't win, but that was soon made moot: the plan called for DOS to claim election fraud and overthrow the government through mass protests. As part of these protests, DOS agents stormed the Parliament and torched the ballots, making it impossible to ascertain the actual results of the vote.
Arguably, Koštunica helped Serbia avoid civil war by negotiating a transfer of power with Slobodan Milošević. He also refused to remain a figurehead and let Đinđić rule, which resulted in the next two years being a constant struggle for power between the two. Đinđić won, kicking the DSS out of DOS and its legislators out of the parliament; he even destroyed Yugoslavia so Koštunica would be out of a job. But then he was killed, and his cronies fumbled so badly that they were kicked out of power in 2004.
Prime Minister from 2004 to 2008, Koštunica succeeded in bringing about a new Constitution and thwarted Imperial designs to some extent. On the other hand, he kept the banksters running the economy and outright traitors running the foreign ministry. Koštunica reneged on a deal with the opposition Radicals and caved in to Imperial pressure to form a "democratic" government with the DS in 2007, which resulted in the electoral fiasco of 2008 and the triumph of Тadić. The DSS is going at it alone this May, campaigning on the ultimate beta platform of "neutrality."
Once the Communist Party, then the League of Communists, they changed their name to the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) in 1990. Their victory at the first multi-party election in 1990 wasn't due to communism, though, but to their leader's defense of Serb rights in then-Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milošević rose to power in the late 1980s by hammering the old, cowardly Communist leadership for pandering to separatism and anti-Serb chauvinism within the country. Smeared by the West as the "Butcher of the Balkans" (which he wasn't), Milošević frustrated Empire's attempts to dominate Serbia, until his ouster in October 2000. His last speech to the nation warned of the Imperial threat, but he was so demonized by that point that the people were unwilling to listen. He was arrested on spurious charges in May 2001, and on June 28 that year sent to the Hague Inquisition. There he died in 2006, before the end of his show trial.
Milošević's successor at the head of the party was his former spokesman Ivica Dačić. The SPS was a silent partner in Koštunica's first government, but kept running afoul of the Empire. Maybe that factored into his decision to make a pact with the Democrats. The "legitimacy" thus gained with the Empire was paid with betraying Milošević's legacy, party principles and the electoral platform. It also resulted in SPS officials landing many cushy government jobs; Dačić himself ended up in charge of police, becoming Tadić's chief enforcer. May 6 will show whether the Socialists' voters think that was worth it.
On an interesting aside, Dačić's deal with the Democrats represented a sort of reconciliation of the old Communist factions; the old guard defeated by Milošević in 1987 had mostly joined the DS. Only this time, obviously, the anti-Serb line they represented had emerged triumphant.
The Lunatic Fringe
Čedomir Jovanović started out as a "student protester", back when he was studying drama in 1996. He soon became a confidant of Đinđić's, and ended up the PM's parliamentary whip and go-to guy for shady deals (liaisons with organized crime syndicates, arresting Milošević, etc.). Eventually he became so much of a liability, Đinđić quietly sidelined him - but after the PM's assassination in March 2003, Jovanović roared back into power. At the end of 2003, DOS suffered a crushing defeat at the polls, and Jovanović suffered a similar defeat in the bid to lead the Democrats.
Desperate to avoid having to work (he eventually got that acting degree, somehow), Jovanović first set up the "liberal democratic faction" within the DS, then spun it off as an actual party in 2005. He quickly established himself as Empire's favorite Serb, advocating unconditional obedience to Washington and Brussels. His hatred of everything Serbian - though he once styled himself a nationalist - can be partly explained by the influence of Latinka Perović, a Serb-hating Communist historian purged by Tito in the 1970s for being too loony (and that's saying something), and partly by the present profitability of such a position. Thanks to the backing of the Empire and its "NGO" cultists, Jovanović enjoys a media presence disproportionate to his actual political strength.
Recently, Jovanović's "Reversal" (Preokret) initiative was joined by Vuk Drašković, the most infamous chameleon in Serbia. Once a raging Communist, Drašković reinvented himself in 1990 as a nationalist, creating an image cobbled together from Communist propaganda stereotypes about the WW2 royalists. He is best known for trying to lead a street revolt against Milošević in March 1991. Having refused to join DOS, Drašković saw his party (SPO) nearly disappear, but made a comeback in 2003, when he became Foreign Minister in Koštunica's cabinet. After a disastrous mandate, he reinvented himself again - this time as the most fanatical supporter of NATO and the Empire.
Basically, the task of "Reversal" is to anchor the Democrats to the Empire, while enabling them to pretend they have freedom of action. The Democrats have also made alliances of convenience with ethnic minority and separatist parties, promising them privileges and entitlements, and even parts of Serbia. This includes the ethnic Hungarians in the northern province of Vojvodina (a legacy of Tito's strategy of dividing Serbia), though separatism there is actually driven by Nenad Čanak and his "League of Social-democrats" (LSV) and the regional Democrat leadership. The Democrats also seek support with the Muslim separatists in the southwestern region of Raška (also known as the "Sanjak"), whose mufti, Muamer Zukorlić, is running for president (!).
The economic platform of DOS was developed by "experts" of the G-17, a collection of international banksters of Serbian origin with "transition" experiences of serving the Empire in places like Russia and Poland. Over the past decade, they have successfully dismantled most of Serbia's economy, achieving what neither the UN blockade nor NATO bombs could. While G17 is still around, its former leader jumped ship some months ago, to establish the "United Regions" (URS) party. He hopes everyone will forget how he despoiled the country for a decade and lied through his teeth, and believe he is now a champion of the provincial farmer.
A minor opposition party during the 1990s, the Radicals became the principal opposition to DOS following the October 2000 coup. Led by the outspoken Vojislav Šešelj, the party publishes a newspaper called "Greater Serbia" and firmly opposes the Empire, NATO and the EU.
Šešelj was such a thorn in the DOS side that Đinđić actually asked the Hague Inquisition to indict him for anything and take him away (long a rumor, this was confirmed last year by Wikileaks). He has been imprisoned since 2003, eventually standing a sham trial for "inciting hatred" (i.e. hate speech). A verdict is expected in May.
Though it would routinely win the largest chunk of votes in any election since 2000, the SRS could never claim victory. No other party dared form a coalition with them, because of the immense pressure from the Empire, which dubbed the Radicals "undemocratic" and "ultranationalist" (whatever that means).
Šešelj's deputy, Tomislav Nikolić, ran the party in his absence. He was twice narrowly defeated in presidential contests, following hysterical media campaigns predicting apocalypse unless a properly "democratic" candidate won. In 2007, he became speaker of the parliament for all of three days, until PM Koštunica caved to Imperial pressure and backed someone else. It remains unclear whether the Radicals had offered an alliance to Koštunica in 2008, but rather than contemplate a coalition with them and the Socialists, he called a general election - thus paving the way for a total Tadić takeover.
The party is still officially run by Šešelj, who is also running for president by way of his wife, Jadranka.
Following the establishment of the Democrat-Socialist government in 2008, Nikolić split from the Radicals and in 2009 formed the Progressive party (SNS). It is unclear what their actual platform is. The Progressives are basically telling whoever listens whatever they want to hear: e.g. friendship with Russia to the patriots, EU integration to the EUrophiles, "partnership" with the U.S. to fans of the Empire. They aren't even terribly original: their slogan - "Let's get Serbia moving" - was outright copied from the disgraced former PM of Croatia.
The Progressives are a parliamentary party even though they've never actually participated in an election. This is possible due to the seemingly paradoxical Serbian electoral law, which considers the parliamentary mandates as belonging to individuals, even though they are allocated to parties based on the voting results. Consequently, when Nikolić left the SRS, a number of Radical legislators switched allegiance to him, and kept their seats. So even though they claim to be the principal opposition to the government, because they've never stood for election the extent of their support is impossible to gauge.
Mockingbirds and Believers
Understandably, many in Serbia are revolted at the shenanigans of the political class, the lack of moral compass and complete depravity of which might be forgivable if they at least let the country eke out a living. Instead, the politicians live lives of obscene wealth and privilege, while more and more common people scavenge from garbage bins. With everyone but the Radicals choosing to serve the Empire in one way or another, and the Radicals becoming obsessed with their Progressive heretics, a large vacuum in Serbian politics opened up, simply begging to be filled.
Some have chosen to make a mockery of the existing system. "None of the above" (NOPO) registered as a party of the Wallach minority, exploiting the lower threshold loophole of the electoral law and just about guaranteeing the election of its leading candidate for legislature: Đorđe Vukadinović, analyst, columnist and pollster. Once a strong critic of the Empire and its servants in Serbia, Vukadinović has been notably softer on the current coalition, going so far as to endorse its disastrous capitulation on Kosovo as a wise and statesmanlike policy. His election will have shown the system to be a joke - but as this is already common knowledge, it is unclear what else it will accomplish.
And then there are Dveri. Officially the "Movement for the life of Serbia," they claim they aren't a party in the classical sense of the word, but rather a family. Originating as an Orthodox Christian student society (their name refers to the sacred doors to the church altar), they organized as a political force late last year.
They are entirely unlike any other party in the country, in a number of ways. That alone ought to recommend them, but in their program they also call for far less government meddling into people's lives (not an end to it altogether, but it's a step in the right direction), reforming the system entirely, prosecuting banksters and oligarchs, liberating the country from foreign domination and ending the campaign against Serbian language, culture, history and traditions that has been going on for a lifetime.
It is almost inevitable that they will be dubbed "Orthodox fundamentalists" and "ultranationalists" and "right-wingers" and a number of other choice derogatory terms used to smear opponents of Empire's "democratic" favorites. Because they really do threaten to upset the proverbial apple cart.
So, who will win?
It depends on many things. First, how many people will actually get out and vote - and how many will give in to the regime's message of despair and not bother. Of those that do vote, the question is how many have lives that depend on the current system - government or public jobs, contracts that depend on bribes to those in power, etc. - and have a vested interest in seeing it survive. How many will vote for the sideshows created to bamboozle the voters, such as the "Peasant and Worker Party" led by a NATO lobbyist pretending to be a populist patriot? Who will count the votes, and not whether there will be voter fraud, but how much of it? Last, but not least, it depends on what the Empire has planned for after the votes are counted, e.g. a replay of the 2008 surprise super-coalition or something like it. Note also that the Empire may not be the only outside power with a vested interest in Serbian politics that is both willing and able to influence things.
The Serbs have displayed remarkable resilience. After a century of fighting horrific wars; surviving several attempts to obliterate them physically and culturally; social engineering seeking to obliterate their identity, language, culture and history; demonization designed to crush their spirit; communism and banksterism nearly wiping out their economy and enterprise - they are still hanging on. Many others would have broken long ago.
It is tempting to make an apocalyptic appeal and say that, if the quislings triumph again, this might be the end of the Serbs. This might be what the Empire wants, and what its death cult - represented not only by the sycophantic politicians but also by the legions of "NGO activists" - tries to bring about. But I doubt they will succeed where far mightier forces have tried and failed.
Let's see what happens.