Monday, December 29, 2003

What Went Wrong in Serbia

Some people, like Instapundit, offer rather interesting explanations:

Obviously, the Clinton Administration failed to plan sufficiently for the postwar environment.

The real question here -- and it's a serious one -- is whether you can turn a dictatorship into a democracy without jailing, exiling, or executing the top few thousand members of the dictatorship's apparat.

Here in Croatia, on the other hand, there is relatively little news about Serbian elections. In some circles there is some gloating about Croatians electing "normal conservative centre-to-right party" while Serbs succumbing again to old style fascism and thus again proving undeniable truth that Croatia belongs to enlightened civilised Europe while Serbia should always stay in despotic barbaric Asia. On the other hand, mainstream (and state-owned) media play down Serbian elections as much as possible, probably fearing that some brave souls would try to compare rebirth of nationalism in those two countries.

Of course, there are some major differences. Croatia, unlike Serbia, went out of war victorious, it wasn't affected by years of sanctions of NATO bombardment. Living standard is quite high compared with Serbia (and depressingly low compared to Slovenia). In other words, there are significantly less frustrated people prone to express their displeasure by succumbing back to ethnic chauvinism. HDZ, former Tudjman's party, is under Sanader ideologically much closer to moderate nationalists like Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica) and his DSS than to loonies like SRS (even Croatian far right HSP party looks like bunch of choirboys compared with SRS).

In other words, at least on superficial level, Serbia has relapsed back much more severely than Croatia.

But the causes are the same – Tudjman's party in January 2000 was, just like Milošević (Milosevic) in Serbia nine months later, overthrown not by single political party with clear agenda but by rag-tag coalition of ideologically diverse groups connected only with desire to bring down former rulers. Once in power, Serbian "reformist" coalition, just like its Croatian counterpart, compensated lack of vision and policies with bitter infighting which only frustrated population and friendly voters and allowed defeated nationalists to recuperate and stage spectacular comeback.

However, this comeback, in case of Serbia isn't complete. SPO/NS, right-wing monarchist alliance that won 22 votes, is most likely to favour "pro-democrats" over their former allies and bitter enemies from SRS and SPS. I wonder whether the restoration of monarchy – part of their platform, apparently supported by some 75 % of Serbians – would play any part in coalition talks. If successful, that scheme would make them real Serbian kingmakers.


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