Serbia: Nationalists win elections

The ultra nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has become the biggest force in Serbian politics following the country’s general election on 28 December 2003.

The SRS won the largest share of the vote taking just over 25% (just under a third of the total number of seats). The party is led by indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj, who is currently imprisoned in Scheveningen in the Netherlands, awaiting trial in The Hague.

During the anti-Milosevic movement in December 2000 Seselj had bricks thrown at him by angry workers who rightly blamed him for propping up the authoritarian regime.

Since the coming to power of the pro-EU, neo-liberal government of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS – the multi party coalition that took power following the overthrow of Milosevic) the worsening economic situation, the privatisation of state assets, continued corruption and the ’national humiliation’ implicit in the DOS’s cooperation with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, has led to a resurgence in support for the nationalists.

The nationalists’ rhetoric strikes a populist note with many in Serbia who are understandably bitter at the harsh economic measures administered by the DOS Government and neo-liberal policies imposed on them by the EU, the IMF and other capitalist institutions.

Despite the victory of the SRS, the ’pro-democratic’ neo-liberal parties, under intense pressure from the EU, are likely to form a coalition government in order to bloc the SRS from participation.

Western imperialism is fearful that the SRS in government would cause yet more instability in the region, affecting the liberal economic reform programme and, in turn, the prospects for Serbia’s integration into the EU. This would, of course, affect the profits of Western companies.

The Guardian newspaper (London, 28 December 2003), commented on the potential instability a SRS government could have on the continued union of the Serbia and Montenegro state:

“The victory of Radicals, regardless of whether they will be capable of forming the government, would strengthen the anti-Serb standpoints of the Kosovo Albanians and will inspire Montenegro’s government to break the state union”.

Despite the animosity between the ex-members of the DOS coalition, they will most likely collaborate to form the new government. This regime could be made up of the Democratic Party of Serbia, led by President Kostunica, the Democratic Party (whose previous leader Zoran Djinjic was assassinated), and the smaller parties; G17+ and the pro-monarchy Serbia Renewal Movement/New Serbia.

However, the SRS, combined with the so-called ’Socialist Party’ of former president Slobodan Milosevic (which received 7%), may be able to form a bloc in parliament in order to prevent the other parties getting a two thirds majority needed to pass certain legislation.

Milosevic was top of the Socialist Party list and was therefore elected to the parliament from his prison cell – although he is obviously unable to take his seat.

Inter-Mafia disputes

This election took place against a backdrop of the trial of the alleged assassins of former Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. This trial is seen, at least outside of Serbia, as a show case for the supposed new post-Milosevic ’rule of law’. However, the truth behind the assassination is highly unlikely to come out during the trial because it could be politically explosive.

The official story is that the Zemun gang (Belgrade mafia), extreme nationalists and former Red Beret paramilitaries combined in a plot to kill Djindjic and to stage a military coup. However, the relationship between the then government and rival mafia gangs is widely seen as the more likely cause.

Those close to Djindjic allegedly had links with Zemun and other criminal gangs. Because a crack down was supposedly about to take place on the mafia, many believe that the assassination was actually the result of inter-mafia.

The connection between the DOS government, organised crime, and the continuation of corruption from the Milosevic-era has discredited neo-liberal politicians and so called ’Western-style democracy’ in general. This has led to a large degree of cynicism amongst Serbians and so-called ’voter apathy’.

There was not one party or electoral bloc representing the interests of the working class during the recent elections. Yet the need for workers’ resistance to privatisation and neo-liberal attacks is acute. There is a desperate need for a new workers’ party to be created.

In the absence of a working class political alternative opposition to the neo-liberal government has been channelled into the dead-end of nationalism. The SRS and the pro-Milosevic Socialist Party have no solution to the problems faced by the working class and oppressed minorities within Serbia. They put forward populist demands and argue for a protectionist / isolationist Serbia that would only worsen the plight of working people.

The working class must organise to oppose the new government, as well opposing the rise in national chauvinism. This means linking up with workers of differing nationalities and ethnicities, in order to defend their common class.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party cwi in England and Wales.

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January 2004