Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

The end of the Kosovo myth

They told us that the Serbian people were not like other Europeans. They told us that the Serbian people were so outraged over international recognition of Kosova’s independence that they would turn their backs on Europe and rally behind the nationalists. They told us that Serbia and Europe were parting ways because of Kosova. They told us that the Serbian people were crazy.

They were wrong.

Some of us had more faith in the Serbian people. After the riots in Serbia that followed the Western recognition of Kosova’s independence, when Serbia appeared to be descending into darkness once again, I wrote this:

Serbia’s suspension of diplomatic relations with Western states that are recognising Kosova conveniently burns the bridges to the democratic West and creates the isolation that the nationalists crave. This is not what most Serbian people want. It is one thing to be unhappy about the loss of Kosova, but to favour turning Serbia into an isolated, impoverished Cuban- or North-Korean-stye satrapy of Russia, under a repressive regime that condones mob rule and murders dissidents, is quite another. The opinion of the majority of Serbians is probably best represented by Tadic: angry about losing Kosova, they nevertheless do not want this issue to stand in the way of Serbia’s European integration.

In yesterday’s Serbian parliamentary elections, despite the Western recognition of Kosova’s independence less than three months ago, the Serbian electorate failed to punish the pro-EU parties or reward the nationalists. The results of the election have not yet been fully confirmed or broken down, so any conclusions here are only tentative. But it appears that, whereas the neo-Nazi Serbian Radical Party received approximately the same share of the vote as in the last Serbian parliamentary elections in January 2007, i.e. something over 28.5%, there has been a swing away from the nationalist faction of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica (Democratic Party of Serbia – New Serbia), which has seen its share of the vote fall from 16.55% to something over 13.5%. Conversely, the parties that make up the coalition ‘For a European Serbia’ (Democratic Party, G17+, Serbian Renewal Movement, League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina and some smaller parties) have received 36.69% of the votes according to the provisional calculations of the Republican Electoral Commission, which is a rise of at least 2.5% compared to what these same parties received in 2007. The wild card is the success of the Socialist Party of Serbia, which received 5.64% of the vote when standing alone in 2007, but whose coalition of parties, which includes the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia, yesterday received over 9% of the vote.

I emphasise again that my conclusions here are tentative. But the results appear to show that the Radicals, although remaining the largest single party, are incapable of breaking out of their existing electoral base, even in circumstances that are apparently most favourable from the nationalist perspective. By contrast, Kostunica’s faction, which has become more overtly nationalistic, xenophobic and anti-European since Western recognition of Kosova, has done so at a cost to its electoral support, part of which has deserted it for the pro-European bloc. Kostunica put all his money on the Kosovo card, and lost.

We do not yet know what kind of coalition government will emerge from the new parliament. But there is no doubt about it: this election represents a watershed; despite the recognition of Kosova, the danger of a Serbian backslide into popular extreme nationalism has been averted. There is no Kosovo factor in Serbian electoral politics.

Zivela Srbija !

Monday, 12 May 2008 - Posted by | Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbia

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