May 18, 2008
The Serbian elections have provided a somewhat surprising result: despite the outgoing (and probably would be) prime minister’s argument that Serbian people have to choose between the EU and Kosovo the pro-European coalition was a relative winner of the early election. It was also somewhat surprising and also reassuring that Mr Kostunica did not win new votes with this false alternative. Otherwise the results show a country in a standstill: the proportional system almost reproduced the former Parliament. The pro-European win comes mainly from the fact that some small parties have joined this group since the last elections.
Since Mr Kostunica made the distinction between Kosovo and Europe, his party that had held the balance between the pro-European and the nationalist bloc was sided to the latter. This made the party of Serbia’s former dictator, the Serbian Socialist Party the kingmaker. Although they look more natural allies to Mr Kostunica and the nationalist Radical Party, for the first time the EU would be happy with them.
I do not think that the EU or any country should put a pressure on this process. Although it would be highly desirable for the EU and Serbia’s neighbors if the country would ally itself with the EU instead of Russia, this process needs to have the support of Serbia’s people. As the previous elections had shown, neither the pro-European or the anti-European bloc has a clear majority. At least one sizable group and party has to make to decide on a new direction, otherwise Serbia (plus Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia) will stay in the current limbo for years to come.
Arithmetically it would look good if the Socialist Party would turn to Europe. Many former Communist Parties took a constructive role in Central Europe in the transition from planned economy and one-party state to a market economy and democracy. However, this former Communist Party, like Serbian society has a double-weight bag: it was the party that went into war in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and was only stopped by a preemptive NATO move in Macedonia. Most of its supporters fought in the wars of the 1990s or made a profit from it. These wars were stopped by NATO and EU members. The head of the Socialist Party died in the prison of the war-crime tribunal in the Hague. Changing the direction of the Socialist Party is as difficult as changing the direction of Serbia itself.
Update: After the Socialists have joined the pro-European camp and the nationalist Radical Party has spit over Europe, in retrospect it seems that there was indeed a turning point in Serbia on the 2008 election.Author : Dániel Antal