Friday, May 11, 2012

Election Fraud in Serbia: The Winds of Spin

The spin is kicking in. After the initial public outrage at the documented election fraud, the somewhat squeaky wheels of what was thought to be a well-oiled regime propaganda mechanism are starting to turn. Even when shaky, the Boris Tadić regime's media machine is powerful, if for nothing but for the simple reason that it is a monopoly and there is no other comparable media power to counter it. 
After the Progressive Party officials revealed a bag with invalid votes, reportedly retrieved from a dumpster, and called for a nullification of the election results, and after Vojislav Koštunica of the Serbian Democrats called for investigation of the fraud charges, and after Dveri addressed the people gathered to protest the fraud in front of the Republican Election Committee, and after more than 5,000 of those people walked the streets of Belgrade, chanting ''Tadić, the thief!'' the regime's media machine went into a high gear. We woke up to face a media spin offensive that included not only journalists, but also cabinet ministers affiliated with the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party. A media outlet after a media outlet repeated the statements by Boris Tadić, his minister Oliver Dulić, his party vice-president Jelena Trivan, his cabinet ally Ivica Dačić and others, in which they expressed unsupported denial (Tadić) and a counter-charge against the Progressives (Dulić); Trivan accused Tomislav Nikolić of trying to incite violence, and Dačić - to everyone's amazement at his arrogance and recklessness - proclaimed he would never steal an election ''again,'' literally admitting he had committed election fraud before! In every country with the established rule of law, Dačić would get arrested or at least investigated, but in Serbia, where he is the police, that will not happen. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Dragan Šutanovac argued with his Twitter followers over the already-notorious dumped ballots. Of course, the chorus of regime's social media cronies began moving away from Thursday ostensible bewilderment by the fraud reports and slowly, as the day was advancing, retained their usual position of exposing everything not aligned with the regime's daily ideology to ridicule. 
However astounded by the statements of Trivan and especially Dačić, my personal favorite is Tadić's recent blurb in which he said that the election fraud protest voices originated in ''the structures of the 1990s.'' If I have to remind you that Ivica Dačić, Tadić's ally, was a Slobodan Milošević protege and a spokesman of the 1990s regime, who, by the way, only today implied he actually had participated in stealing an election before, then you should stop reading here and go google a more interesting subject.
In other news, the trivialities the Serbian ether was bombarded with served to overwhelm the fraud-related news or cast a shadow on the significance of the election theft scandal. 
Yes, the Tadić regime's spin was aggressive, albeit amateurish and clumsy, but the opposition, parties, other than Dveri, haven't keyed in with a focused media effort either. This is somewhat due to the media blockade by the regime, but in the world of social media this can't be an excuse and we have to look for amateurism and sluggishness as the attribute of that camp as well.
The Western media were on it, too, although the tone was rather unusually mellow. While Bloomberg was quick to point out that there were election fraud allegations that will be investigated, its reporter from Belgrade, Misha Savic, characterized Nikolić as someone under whose leadership Serbia would ''turn east,'' meaning towards Russia. Although assumptions could be made that Nikolić didn't change much from his Radical Party days, he did declare himself pro-EU integration, changed his rhetoric and tried to shed what was considered a nationalist stigma in the North Atlantic community, at the expense of destroying the Radical Party he led for years and of losing his most ardent supporters. I personally liked the old Toma much better, but these are the undeniable facts that the Bloomberg article ignored. Reuters, significantly enough, used the word ''threatened'' to describe the nature of Nikolić's statements related to his party's plan for contesting the election results. Jovana Gec of the Associated Press, went several steps further and set the stage for future impressions on who's who, leading with the following:
"Serbian nationalists accused pro-European Union reformists Thursday of stealing the recent general elections, fueling tensions ahead of a key presidential runoff." 
To be clear, the nationalists in Serbia hardly consider the Progressives nationalist, as someone who turns pro-EU is seen as not much different than Boris Tadić, and Tadić is everything but patriotic or nationalist. But Gec did something more significant than just branding the Progressives nationalist. She juxtaposed them as nationalist - generally viewed in the West as the bad guys - against the ''pro-European Union reformists," reflexively perceived as the good guys by a Western reader. She then said the accusations have fueled tensions, as if the tensions shouldn't be fueled if the democratic right of the Serbian people to have their will respected is not tension-fueling in itself. So, no, Ms. Gec, the election fraud protesters did not fuel tensions; the fraud itself fueled discontent which automatically produces tensions in every self-respecting society that cares about its political freedoms. 
I said earlier that the anti-fraud parties are under-performing in the anti-fraud public campaign. Yes, the truth and justice is on their side, but since when has that been enough to win? Calling people out in the streets is dangerous and the regime may just be waiting for it, setting up to entrap the protesters in violent incidents and blame them for the unrest, like Jelena Trivan signaled today. This is not the 5th of October and the people of Serbia have to remember that many of those who helped bring Milošević down turned out to be in the employ of Western intelligence agencies, who facilitated the fall and provided protection for the vanguard whose well-rehearsed tactics spearheaded the larger public outrage. The Boris Tadić regime is actually supported by the same foreign interests that toppled Milošević and like their revolutionary strategies were well put together, their reactionary strategies have been even better prepared and efficiently exercised across the globe. The main goal of the anti-fraud protesters should be to entrench the truth that the fraud has been committed in the mind of the people seeking truth and justice, by documenting and calling the attention to various evidence to the fraud, thus de-legitimizing the power of this regime, letting the entire people know it was not elected, it does not stand on the fundamental principle of democracy, the consent of the governed, and that the regime relies not on democratic mechanisms, but on the brute force supported by the foreign interests coming from the EU, NATO and their NGO vanguard in Serbia. The Tadić regime might preserve the power, but it should be know that its power is dictatorial and they derived it out of defrauding the people of their most basic freedom: the right to free election.

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