Monday, May 21, 2012

The Tease Note and the Rough Road Ahead for the New President of Serbia

When Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy congratulated Tomislav Nikolić on his presidential election victory – three hours before the closing of the polls on Sunday, mind you – it was clear the game was on. The press release was quickly taken off the Council of Europe web site, but not before Croatian daily Večernji List launched it into the serbophone media space. Of course, I refused to believe this was a mistake; I believed it was a signal, although I had a dilemma as to what kind of signal.  A pair of Eurocrats of the highest order such as Barroso and Van Rompuy would do this for one of the two reasons: (1) project the winner to the Tadić voters to urge them to come out in a more feverish fashion; (2) project to Serbia that the Nikolić victory, or anyone’s victory for that matter, is within their absolute control so much that they dared to announce the winner any time they wanted, without regard for electoral procedures. Serbian media did not pick this release up until much later, but the fact that a Croat daily did told me the intention was for Serbs to be able to receive it. Nikolić won the election, as Barroso and Van Rompuy projected hours before all the voters slipped their ballot through the box slot. How could they know? This outcome all but eliminated the first possibility in my dilemma and left me with the one that was less realistic, but more likely. Of course, it is possible and plausible that congratulatory notes for both outcomes were prepared in advance and some trigger-happy editor in Brussels was just way too impatient. Of course.
Nikolić did win. I can’t say that doesn’t please me. If I was in Serbia, I’d probably be celebrating with the people. Boris Tadić conceded the loss, congratulated Nikolić and it is unfortunate that Tadić’s congratulatory note was not the most important of the day. Tadić looked awful, a totally deteriorated man ending his political career, in Serbia at least. It is too bad that Eurocrats from Brussels rather than the Eurocrat from Belgrade ushered in the Nikolić era. The signal “the Tease Note” sent begged too many questions for one blog post to answer. 
But Nikolić did win, that is a fact. Whether people voted against Tadić or for Nikolić is irrelevant. Both men are way less popular than four years ago when they squared off in the same contest. Nikolić the Radical was way more convincing than Nikolić the Progressive. Toma the Undertaker was more natural than Toma the Master of Management. But, to get rid of Tadić, patriotic Serbs will take whatever Toma they can get. However, a more important question is what side of Nikolić was promised to and made acceptable by the Eurocrat pair of kingmakers. Even devoid of his innate nationalist ideology that made him a symbol of post-Šešelj Serbian nationalism, and with weak and hollow rhetoric that avoided most of the crucial issues, Nikolić was supposed to be able to thrash Tadić, whose political capital was completely gambled away, or purposefully spent, if you wish. And he did. At the meager 46 percent turnout, it was clear Tadić lost support of his outer core voters who saw him as ineffective or who felt the change was in the air and did not want to be on the losing side. If you add the nationalist voters who sided with Dveri in the election fraud protest and boycotted the second round altogether, it is obvious that this race was about which candidate would experience less of abandonment by his natural supporter groups. It was a race to the bottom and Nikolić won. It is nothing unusual for democracy; democracy is about not being denied the right and good democracy is about exercising it. No one claims Serbia is a good democracy. One would be hard-pressed to find such a “good” democracy anywhere on the planet.
Van Rompuy and Barroso surely couldn’t be happy that Nikolić, the former hardline nationalist-turned-pro EU moderate, won the Serbian presidency in which Tadić wielded the almost absolute power, indispensable to the process of Serbia’s EU subjugation. Why the dog-and-pony show then? Did Nikolić really become that acceptable? I’d say yes and no.
The last four years of Tadić could in no way be compared to what awaits Nikolić in his newly won seat, if the constellations in the National Assembly remain. Tadić, maneuvering in the executive arena with much more power that the Constitution allowed due to being able to appoint and manhandle the weak Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković and encroach onto his turf with reckless regularity, literally grabbed all the executive power since he won the second time in 2008. In his first term, sharing power with legalistic Vojislav Koštunica as the Prime Minister, Tadić was constitutionally limited and that is exactly what looms ahead for Nikolić. He will not be able to affect policies and personnel appointments nearly as much as Tadić has done in the last four years. As the coalition-building stands now, Tadić’s Democratic Party will form the parliamentary majority and the cabinet with Ivica Dačić’s Socialists, leaving Nikolić isolated in the presidency. For Nikolić personally, the presidency is the paramount of his expectations and ambitions, a hard-earned honor and a vindication. For his party and for the nationalist cause, it is just a tease of greater gains to be won through more years of heavy political fighting. To sum up, Nikolić is not expected to have a lot of power. And he declared himself to be decisively pro-EU. Considering the popular outrage against Tadić, the arrogance with which Tadić and his allies treated the election fraud protests and the fact that Tadić has done more than enough to please the Western globalist desires, thus spending his political capital with the Serbian people, perhaps Nikolić, as a factor of stability in the country and a man who drastically changed his foreign policy stance, indeed was accepted as a crony, err, partner by the Eurocrats. Tomislav Nikolić, the former chetnik vojvoda, and a man who once said he’d like to see Serbia as a Russian province rather than an EU member, a crony of the Western imperialism? Come on. Not even apparatchiks like Van Rompuy and Barroso would believe that, even if such a determination was their call. No one in their right mind can believe this. Yet, no one should be so naïve to believe that Nikolić would win the presidency without a Brussels nod or at least a shrug.
The EU is in a hell hole with the entire eurozone mess. Not only that they do not look at Serbia as a prospective member, but for most of the EU power structures, Serbia is not on the horizon of their priorities. This does not mean they do not care if a Eurosceptic wins the presidency. This does not mean there are not special interests within the Western power structure that are not interested in Serbia either. In Serbia’s demolition that is. When the EU rejected Serbia’s candidacy on December 9, 2011, it meant the demise of Boris Tadić, despite the fact that Serbia won the candidacy on the second try in February of 2012. Tadić complied with everything Brussels demanded. Brussels wanted more, showing utter disregard for Tadić’s political future. It should have become clear to all the doubters that the EU, or at least certain powerful interests associated with it, did not want Serbia in the Union, but Serbia on its knees. Serbia has in no way benefited from the EU integrations, while being forced to comply with the most unreasonable demands. Now, after Angela Merkel dropped Tadić like a dirty sock and still got what she wanted in relation to Kosovo, and after Tadić lost not only the trust of the Serbian people, but any legitimacy as well, and after the streets of Belgrade became a ground fertile for an anti-EU revolution, who but Tomislav Nikolić could jump in to stabilize the situation? No, he is not a Western ally and although his political agenda will be obstructed to the point where to some it will appear as if he served the Western interests, he will never be a Western ally.
On the other hand, if the West only wants to demolish and dismember Serbia, that process has been well into its finishing stages and I don’t only mean in terms of Kosovo, Vojvodina or Raška. Nikolić and the cabinet he will be in a constant power struggle with will inherit a dependency status in relation to the international financial bodies and foreign investors. The destruction of Serbia’s heavily damaged economy would be a matter of weeks if those interests wished to punish Serbia, regardless of who is in power. In fact, if they treated Tadić, the servile, pro-Western puppet, like a bastard child, imagine what kind of pretext will Nikolić’s presidency create if someone in Brussels, Berlin or Washington decides that Serbia can continue to be picked apart.
Why, then, would Van Rompuy and Barroso not applaud Nikolić’s win? Tadić could realistically give no more without causing havoc on the streets of Belgrade and such occasions would divert the subjugation processes into an unpredicted direction. Nikolić hasn’t spent 20 years fighting for power to risk it now by starting a revolution. He wants stability, the EU wants stability, and while they may not necessarily want the same kind of stability, both their positions are tenable as long as they agreed on this.
As I’ve said, one blog post cannot explain the new reality in Serbia. How could one talk about Nikolić and not mention Russia? Any attempt to predict Nikolić’s future is closely tied with the formation of the cabinet. While all the musings and conclusions above have been conditioned on the present parliamentary alliances, however tentative, any serious contemplation on Serbia’s near political future has to also dwell on the instability of any alliance whose one member is Ivica Dačić. No one in Serbia would be surprised if Dačić, who already committed to continue in the coalition with the Democratic Party, jumps ship, switches alliances in the coming weeks and joins Nikolić and Koštunica. Oh, and what about Koštunica… What an interesting twist his alliance with Nikolić has been! The declared Eurorejectionist, err, Eurorealist, joined forces with the nominally pro-EU Nikolić, ostensibly leaving the question of EU integration aside for now and vowing to let the people’s will prevail in a referendum. Koštunica, with a steadfast political demeanor and a methodical, unwavering style, is still alive and kicking, despite the relatively successful push against him by the Western ambassadors in Serbia. He is bound to make his presence felt in any coalition and in any political agenda he is a part of, regardless of the relative strength or the role his party plays in the partnership. The last, but not the least, the effect of Dveri, which have become a grassroots organizing force among nationalists, will be felt as well, and they will inadvertently benefit from Nikolić’s every lapse.
So, the road ahead for Nikolić is going to be rough, as Tadić sneeringly warned in his concession speech. Nikolić is a better option for Serbdom than Tadić, that is for sure. But the Serbs should not get their hopes high. This is a small step in essence, however gigantic in symbolic significance. He must be cunning, quick and ready to compromise with the enemies and utilize potential allies without pride and arrogance. 

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