Tadic’s Titanic

Nothing so destroys the delusions about democracy as the practice thereof. Examples of this are legion; one could look at the daytime drama presidential campaigns in the U.S., or the ethnic referenda in places like Kenya or Bosnia-Herzegovina. The latest exhibit in the case against democracy comes from Serbia, where general elections were held on May 11.

Even before the polls closed, the "European Serbia" coalition, led by the Democratic Party leader and President of Serbia, Boris Tadic, was claiming a stunning victory. Media, both in Serbia and the West, thundered about the country’s "clear European choice" and waxed poetic about Serbia’s "tilt to the West." The morning after, however, electoral math spoke differently.

In order to form a government, any party or coalition in Serbia has to have at least 126 seats in the 250-member Skupshtina. Tadic’s coalition got 103. Even with the support of every possible ethnic minority party and the militant Liberal Democrats, the most votes he could put together in the parliament was 123.

On the other hand, the "patriotic bloc" that supposedly "lost" the election – Serbian Radical Party (SRS), ex-PM Vojislav Kostunica’s populist coalition (DSS-NS) and the Socialists (SPS) – won more than enough mandates among themselves to put together a government: 127.

As the awareness of numbers slowly crept into the post-election EUphoria in both Serbia and the West, anger and threats replaced self-congratulatory twaddle. U.S. and UK ambassadors, as they’ve grown accustomed to, lectured the people of Serbia that democracy didn’t really mean letting those who won the most votes rule. Because, you see, only the Democrats had democratic legitimacy to democratize democratically in a democracy…

And if democracy failed to bring Democrats to power, there were always other means. Ceda Jovanovic, leader of the militantly pro-Imperial Liberal Democrats, spoke about a "parallel government." Bozidar Djelic, Tadic’s right-hand man, claimed there would be protests in the streets – then tried to backtrack and blame Reuters for misinterpretation.

Tadic himself threatened he would "not allow" any "tampering with the popular will." Yet there was no disguising the fact that he found himself in the exact same position as the Radicals have been in the past five years: the strongest single party in the parliament, unable to actually rule.

Courting the SPS

Empire’s enablers and EU’s favorites thus found themselves in a quandary. They could not go back into a government with Kostunica; they had to be dragged into a marriage of convenience with him last year, and burned all their bridges this spring, after sabotaging the government’s policy on Kosovo. The Radicals stand for everything they despise: tradition, sovereignty, independence. So in desperation, they reached out to the Socialists – the party of the late Slobodan Milosevic, whom they have incessantly demonized for the past decade.

Suddenly, one could hear from the champions of "democratic reform" that the Socialists weren’t really all that bad, they could be a modern leftist party if they’d only shed the 1990s baggage, and say, wouldn’t they want to join the Socialist International, of which the Democrats are a member (sort of)? Even the Brussels commissars chimed in, saying the Socialists’ support would not be objectionable (quite a different story from four years ago).

Somehow, the Serbian voters were supposed to believe that the Radicals, who were allied with Milosevic for a short time in the 1990s, and Kostunica – who ran against Milosevic in 2000 and succeeded him as President after DOS took power – somehow represented the "retrograde forces of the 1990s," while Milosevic’s actual party was a "modern, progressive" force of reform?

On the Edge

There was some reason to believe that Socialist leaders could be seduced by the promises from Brussels. After all, Serbia’s obsession with the EU was manufactured from people’s nostalgia for the old Socialist Yugoslavia, in which no one had to work and everyone had everything – until the IMF loans came due, anyway. Those in Serbia who worship the EU don’t want a bigger market for their products, or lower customs, or better standards of governance; they want free money, pure and simple.

For a week, the Democrats seemed convinced the Socialist leaders would sell out their voters for a chance to partake in Brussels junkets. Serbia was "on the edge," declared political analysts, punning on the name of the Socialists’ leader, Ivica ("edge") Dacic.

Over the weekend, Dacic flew to Moscow, ostensibly to meet with a minor Russian politician. Serbian media feverishly speculated whether he discussed a possible deal with the Democrats with members of Milosevic’s family, who now live in Russia. Or could he have sought advice from Putin and Medvedev?

Finally, news came on Tuesday that the Socialists agreed to form a government with the Radicals and Kostunica.

No Easy Task

Last Friday, Tadic derided the possibility of Socialists joining his opponents, saying such a government would be a "short trip on the Titanic." One can only assume the Democratic Party leader had in mind to be the iceberg; the "nationalist" government may actually be the most stable political structure in Serbia since the DOS coup in 2000.

DOS was a squabbling mess of pocket parties whose leaders all suffered from delusions of grandeur. Subsequently, under tremendous pressure to keep the Radicals out of power, Kostunica had to accept either allies of the Democrats (G17-Plus, in the first mandate) or the Democrats themselves (in the second mandate), both of whom ran their own policies and ultimately caused the government to collapse. For the first time in almost a decade, the government actually has a consensus on issues of vital importance to Serbia, and doesn’t contain a "Trojan" element.

On the other hand, the Empire has invested too heavily in the Democrats and their hangers-on, as well as a host of "non-governmental" organizations, and is likely to increase their funding now. Political pressure from Brussels and Washington is bound to rise. So will the demonization of "nationalists" in the Western press, already growing for the past few years. Serbian press is by and large controlled by foreign interests, both economic and political; it will continue to hound the government and brainwash the people into "accepting the reality" of Imperial domination.

The Stumbling Giants

It is questionable, however, how long that domination may last. With each passing day, oil gets more expensive (strengthening, say, Russia) and the dollar gets weaker. The Mesopotamian expedition is bogged down, and attempts to "win" by expanding the war to Iran may result in a Stalingrad scenario.

Empire’s hegemony in the Balkans may soon be put to a test by none other than its Albanian protégés. Elections in Macedonia are on June 1, and the country’s restless Albanians are already up in arms, again. One of their leaders, Menduh Thaci, is a cousin of the current "president of Kosovo," Hashim Thaci. Another, Ali Ahmeti, was a longtime lieutenant of Avni Klinaku, who has just established a "Movement for Unification" (of "ethnic Albanian lands"), on May 17 in Pristina. Meanwhile, videos announcing the formation of the "Liberation Army of Chameria" (Epirus, in western Greece) appeared on the internet recently, following the same pattern that Thaci’s KLA used to initiate its campaign in Kosovo. It is indeed tempting to conclude that the Greater Albanian project is about to enter its next phase.

The EU’s effort to supplant the UN in the "independent state of Kosovo" seems to have foundered as well, the Brussels bureaucrats finding that there was more to creating reality than they initially thought.

All over the world, the idea that wishing for something could make it reality is facing the cold, hard facts that say otherwise. The verbal acrobatics of the Empire and its enablers in Serbia only underscore the vacuous nature of their hegemony. President Tadic’s unfortunate metaphor about the Titanic wasn’t wrong, merely misplaced. For the real monument to arrogance proudly sailing on the irreversible course towards the End of History now appears to be that of his masters, and his own.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.