Breaking the Game

Is democracy just civil war, only with ballots instead of bullets? Like chess, or football, politics is a stand-in for war, designed to ritualize conflict so as to prevent bloodshed. As long as everyone abides by the rules, and accepts the restrictions of the system, that is all fine and good. Once someone decides to cheat, or even rewrite the rules to "I win, you lose," the game is soon up, and violence ensues. It’s a schoolyard lesson, yet so many politicians today appear unable to grasp it.

When Trust Dies

Contrary to received wisdom, the problem with what was once Yugoslavia was too much democracy, not too little. Or, to be specific, the form of democracy in which everything is at the whim of the tyrannical majority, and safeguards for rights and liberties either do not exist, or are routinely ignored.

A particularly tragic example is Bosnia. The first multiparty election in 1990 saw the three parties seeking to represent the republic’s major ethno-religious communities join forces to oust the ruling socialists. Then, however, they fell out – as Muslim and Croat parties illegally called a referendum and declared independence, ignoring the objections of the Serbs. By the time the Muslim leadership reneged on a power-sharing agreement they’d actually signed in Lisbon, the loss of faith in the political process was complete. For the next four years, it was guns that did the talking.

The guns fell silent in 1995, but the war continued by other means. Bosnia’s communities don’t trust each other today any more than they did in 1992, or 1995.

Majority Report

The first postwar census, conducted last month, revealed a population drop of almost 600,000 people; between 100,000 wartime casualties and mass emigration from the devastated country, it is surprising the number wasn’t even higher. Yet manipulation with the census results has already begun, with Muslim activists announcing that the final tally of "Bosniaks" (the name they claim for themselves) would make them at least 54% of the population.

It is simply impossible to know the numbers this quickly. Processing census forms takes time. While Bosnian elections may well be a census, a census is not an election: there are no official monitors and exit polls. So the claims of unidentified activists aired by the Sarajevo media are most likely a crude attempt at "anchoring". They do, however, reveal a disturbing mindset, where crossing the magical threshold of 51% is seen as a license to tyrannize.

The last time such thinking held sway, there was war.

System of a Mockery

Serbia has been a mockery of democracy for years. In 2000, the Empire put together an 18-headed chimera from various pocket opposition parties, gave them suitcases of cash, and organized a "democratic revolution," first of the many to come. The very first thing the "revolutionaries" did was torch the ballot boxes, thus ensuring the actual results of the election they disputed could never be known.

Time and again, rules have been bent and abused in order to establish governments answerable only to the Empire. As one observer noted in 2007, democracy meant whatever the EU said it meant, facts and figures be damned. Bribing individuals to defect was so 20th century: in 2008, an entire party did a political 180 and joined its erstwhile enemies in a pro-Imperial coalition. Just a year later, leaders of another party were bribed to destroy it and establish another, then positioned to replace the worn-out Democrats as Empire’s executioners in June 2012.

The Twilight Zone

For almost a year, the regime in Belgrade has been steadily breaking Serbia on orders from Washington and Brussels. Part of that long march has been the betrayal of the remaining Serbs in occupied Kosovo, considered a separate client state by the Empire. Unable to break the Serb resistance by force, the Empire leaned on Belgrade to sell them out.

"Agreements" between the EU, the Serbian regime and the "Kosovians" have already established a border and customs posts. The latest step was to be the official transfer of control to the "Republic of Kosovo," via the local elections on November 3. Serbs would vote on "Kosovian" ballots, elect candidates offered by Belgrade and approved by Hashim Thaci’s "government" in Pristina, and at the end of the day, become "Kosovian" subjects. Those who objected would be bullied into silence.

Yet the entire cunning plan failed utterly. Serbs in the northern counties overwhelmingly boycotted the election, despite outright violence by regime’s supporters. Though initial reports agreed that without Serb participation the vote lacked legitimacy, a solution was quickly found: there would be another vote. Meanwhile, Belgrade and Thaci have been united in wishful thinking, claiming the electoral fiasco was really a success.

To make matters that much more surreal, an ethnic Albanian candidate was murdered in broad daylight by another Albanian, elsewhere in the province. The alleged killer was an "off-duty police officer."

Denying Consent

The problem with democracy is when it seeks to decide matters over which it cannot, and should not, have dominion. The law of gravity cannot be repealed by a majority vote. Nor can the basic equations of economics – though that hasn’t stopped men from trying, time and again. Prosperity and happiness cannot be legislated into being – yet, again, many have tried.

All government ultimately depends on the consent of the governed. Historically, that consent has been obtained by force, through lies and subterfuge, and very seldom voluntarily. That makes is that much more remarkable when a populace explicitly and emphatically refuses to consent to being misgoverned. The American colonies’ separation from the British crown was one such notable occasion. The resistance of Serbs in Kosovo surely ought to be another.

Just like the British Empire back then, the American Empire, its vassals in the EU, and servants in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Pristina, think they can just force reality to conform to their desires. That they are above the law, because they have the argument of force. That because a certain number of papers with their names or symbols were deposited into boxes during a ritual, they can command the tides.

It doesn’t work that way, of course. But some people never learn.

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 debuted in November 2000.