Republika Srpska and elections in FRY

Petar Reljic

MON, 04 SEP 2000

Banja Luka, August 28, 2000 - The support to the candidate of Serbian Democratic Opposition Vojislav Kostunica in presidential elections of FRY has not yet reached Belgrade when its sender Biljana Plavsic could have bitten her tongue. Kostunica sharply attacked the thunderously announced American pre-election support in the form of the office for Yugoslav issues just opened in Budapest.

The nicely formulated diplomatic message of US Ambassador William Montgomery (until just recently stationed in Zagreb) that the "office will work on offering support to the broad spectre of democratic forces in Serbia" was named by Kostunica "an enormous amount of arrogance, but hypocrisy as well", and he described the help as the "American kiss of death" and assessed it as "the crudest meddling in internal matters of our country and a drastic example of hegemonic and colonial aspirations of American administration". On that day he did not exactly care to carefully weigh his words! Except that he separated the approach of Europe from "American arrogance".

Everybody who is acquainted with the circumstances in Serbia will understand Kostunica's "thanks for the assistance" which is a precedent in post-Cold War relations between the USA and forces in societies in transition they support where the not at all rare clumsiness was described by the cute story on "an elephant in a china shop". The statement of the other presidential candidate of democratic opposition, member of Serb Revival Movement, Vojislav Mihajlovic, went along these lines. On that same day he asked the USA "to abstain from excommunicating FRY from the UN and declared that "bombing can neither be forgotten nor forgiven, but we must not build our future on eternal animosity with the leading powers of our time".

Such an approach in view of the prevailing opinion in Serbia can be estimated as realistic, politically sensible. Reasons for that should not be attributed only to last year's bombing, because after that war Milosevic seemed the most fragile. But then the peace-keeping campaign of the international community followed and reinforced the initial premonition of the Serbs that after the war retaliation might follow. Nobody, not even Bernard Kouchner and Horton Abramovic, can deny that the result of the peace mission in Kosovo is quite contrary to a humanistic and optimistic intentions recorded in the UN Resolution. The Serbs in Kosovo live only in enclaves. And when not long ago KFOR soldiers entered Trepca and by doing it violated another Western sacred thing - ownership, not even the most ardent advocates of the stand that there can be no democracy in this part of the world without good teachers from the West could continue to defend their stand. That is why Vojislav Kostunica said that the greatest help to democracy would be if the helpers did not help Serbia. They should just leave it alone. A dangerous virus.

Not even Zoran Djindjic who has until recently regularly travelled "to the West" and met Dodik mentions support any more. Only few are still taking into consideration the still-born idea that the territory of RS should become the region from which "sound information" would be dispatched to Serbia which would bring about awakening of the Serbian electorate so it would vote "for changes". As soon as some piece of news arrives from abroad it is at first received as "a little doubtful", and then when it should be accepted and absorbed, the degree of its credibility declines by geometrical progression. And journalists who have until just recently, with their meagre salaries, made the impression that they were reliable, have suddenly become the target of suspicion and persons who are paid (well) to say and write whatever they are paid to do.

Mostly "real news" for Serbia are not correct interpretations of developments any more, better than those on Milosevic's RTS, but "lifting of the sanctions, resolving the problem of Kosovo within Serbia and FRY" (Nebojsa Covic, Democratic Alternative). In other words: "Let them (the Americans) do something to restore independent media and let them show that they truly support democratic alternative in Serbia", says Vladan Batic, leader of Christian Democratic Party of Serbia. All "American men" in Serbian public.

And then Zoran Djindjic, the man with the most conspicuous label of a "foreign mercenary", supported the widely spread belief in Serbia that like "for who knows how many times before" this was direct help to Milosevic ("the man who made the most disastrous arrangements for the Serbs") and said to the Americans that they were hindering more than helping".

Everything indicates that Milosevic was not losing time while the opposition was "clinging on to the West" and waiting first for "oil for democracy", then for bitumen, and for lifting of the sanctions tomorrow. And then the Europeans came along and reached an agreement with the government of FRY on removing the remains of the demolished bridges from the Danube! So now Milosevic is building bridges, constructing housing units, and the opposition is making promises without foundation. That is how "reconstruction of the country" which was the subject of general ridicule is nowadays becoming a likely election victory.

Nowadays it seems that it will be very difficult to influence the elections in FRY from RS, but their results might seriously affect the November elections in RS. A few days ago The Washington Post carried the concern of Clinton’s advisor for national security: “The nightmare is the scenario according to which Milosevic first wins the elections, then takes over Montenegro and, because we cannot do anything, holds up for ridicule our Balkan policy”.

A hot election autumn lies ahead. That is why one should not take lightly the message of secretary general of the Radicals of RS Ognjen Tadic (the party which was deprived of the right such organisations exist for – to run in the elections) who “welcomed the decision of FRY not to allow international organisations to participate in the control of the elections, because it seems November elections in RS will be forged due to their very presence”. Exaggerations in political statements are constant, but one should be aware of the trends in unstable societies. Some of them are certainly going to be the result of Yugoslav elections scheduled for September 24. They bring something along with them. And in the coming months this process will gain in intensity and clarity.

Original article