Text: Žikica Milošević
Đorđe Vukadinović has been a prominent figure in Serbian journalism for many years, with his balanced approach in his Politika columns and “New Serbian Political Thought”. He has been a board member of the Serbian Philosophical Society on several occasions and participated in editing professional journals and publications of national and international importance. His analytical articles have also been published by local and international periodicals. Apart from Politika, he is also a regular columnist of weekly NIN and a political commentator for RTS and several foreign TV stations. He recently entered politics as an MP. This month we spoke to him about the current “hot” political issues and the landslide victory of the current prime minister in Serbia’s recent presidential election.
How would you comment on the results of the presidential election?
I think the results are pretty much as expected if we are talking about Aleksandar Vućić being the winner. But the result of former ombudsman Saša Janković (slightly over 16%) will mark his career as the future leader of an anti-Vučić, pro-EU opposition. I would notice the spectacular “bronze medal” for the phantom candidate on the white horse, Beli, who parodied the whole political scene, triggering euphoria among young voters. Others are clear losers. Šešelj lost the political capital he gained from his successful defence and release from The Hague Tribunal, which he enjoyed among part of the public in Serbia, and Vuk Jeremić ended really badly, between the Devil and the deep blue sea: the regime media demonised him, representing him as a NATO candidate (“NATO-Vuk”), traitor, criminal and American man, while liberal, pro-European voters deemed him too nationalist and right-wing. Disastrous results were also recorded by the DJB and Dveri leaders Saša Radulović and Boško Obradović. Aleksandar Vučić got what we wanted and is now undeniably the central political figure in the country, having strengthened his grip over all axes of power. However, I don’t think that is necessarily positive, given that this victory was marred by the unequal media treatment of other candidates and election irregularities.
How diversified is Serbia’s political scene? This government seems to be stronger, as it has the strong support of both the West (pro-German) and Russia, which neither Milošević nor Tadić ever had.
The current government is really a lot stronger than its predecessors. Milošević constantly – bar the brief post-Dayton period – lacked external legitimacy, especially from the West and the United States. Boris Tadić, on the other hand, like Zoran Đinđić before him, had external recognition and support, but lacked internal legitimacy, with then-radical opposition from Šešelj, Nikolić and Vučić. Aleksandar Vučić now has an easier job for two reasons: a) he signed the Brussels Agreement with Priština and an arrangement with the IMF, subjecting the country to its conditions and thus gaining full Western support; b) he has a strong grip on the media, institutions and the economy, which killed or paralysed almost the entire opposition. But I think it was overkill; he overdid it and that could rebound to hit him – such omnipotent and omnipresent domination is not healthy. The balance between the EU and Russia, with both pro-European and pro-Russian policies, is aligned with the minds and hearts of Serbian voters, but it is not that crucial, not so different from Đinđić, Koštunica or Tadić, all of whom followed more or less the same path.
Is the 3rd place result of fictitious candidate Beli a warning to systemic parties and politicians? How much does it coincide with the whole anti-system wave ranging from Brexit and Trump, to Podemos and Syriza or Cinque Stelle, or Živi zid (Living Wall) in Croatia?
I think Beli’s appearance was a breath of fresh air. On the one hand, he seems to be in line with all the aforementioned foreign trends, but he is an original reaction to the domestic political scene and the authoritarian tendencies of the current government. He is a deliberate caricature and therefore far more authentic and joyful than the aforementioned parties. In general, these (para-)political phenomena don’t usually last long. They either get shut down and disappear or gradually drown in the political mainstream, like Syriza. In short, Ljubiša Preletačević, aka Beli, only damaged the opposition candidates by reducing their results by several percentage points (especially those expected from Vuk Jeremić), but I think it is good that his activism pushed a significant percentage of the younger, so far mostly passive and apolitical population into participating in political life, waking them up.
Did the EU’s partial recognition of Kosovo’s independence essentially kill the euro-integration of Serbia, effectively killing the zeal for it?
Yes. Essentially, that is the case. And I say this as an analyst, regardless of my principle eurosceptic orientation. The recognition of Kosovo by the EU’s leading member states, as well as the EU accessions of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, in particular, to the fullest extent “killed” the will for European Integration among the Serbian public. The Greek, migrant and financial crises expanded and deepened this existing scepticism even further. For the average Serb, the symbols of the EU and sources of its attractiveness for years were Germany, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries. And that magic was almost completely lost when the blue flag with the yellow stars was flown in Zagreb, as well as being raised by Serbia’s poor eastern neighbours in Romania and Bulgaria. Even those Serbian citizens (less than half) that advocate for the continuation of European integration do so very unenthusiastically and lukewarm, more out of inertia and in the absence of clear and credible alternative.
Could all territorial issues, such as Transnistria, Kosovo, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the like, be solved at a conference like the Berlin Congress, or will “political correctness” mean that we end up with an eternal status quo?
Personally, I strongly advocate for such a conference and am confident that they will do it sooner or later, as soon as relations in the Washington-Moscow-Berlin (Brussels) triangle are normalised. I believe that without that there will be no stability in Europe, nor any solution to the problems in the aforementioned hot spots. “Political correctness’ “r political opportunism and inertia should not be an obstacle to seeking such a comprehensive solution. Contrary to popular mantras, the boundaries are actually almost constantly changing, the only question is whether that happens peacefully and amicably or during and after wars.
Where is Serbia going?
The current government says that Serbia is undergoing economic progress, political stability and regional leadership. I am, however, afraid that everything is exactly the opposite of that.