Serbian election: no surprises

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Sun Jan 7 23:37:28 MST 2001

 Via Workers World News Service
 Reprinted from the Jan. 11, 2001
 issue of Workers World newspaper


 By John Catalinotto

 The Dec. 23 Serb elections brought no surprises. The former-
opposition and now-ruling coalition Democratic Opposition of
 Serbia, which controls both the national and the private
 media, got 64 percent of the votes. The Socialist Party of
 Serbia, led by Slobodan Milosevic, got 13.5 percent. Two
 Serb nationalist anti-NATO parties got a little over 13
 percent between them.

 No other parties won the 5 percent needed to get
 representatives in the 250-seat parliament. With 176 seats
 the DOS has more than the two-thirds needed to control the
 government. The politician Zoran Djindjic, who many consider
 a U.S.-German puppet, has been named the new Serbian prime
 minister. The SPS won 37 seats, as did the two Serb
 nationalist parties combined.

 Like the Sept. 28 election when Milosevic lost the
 presidency and the Oct. 5 right-wing coup that burned the
 Parliament and State Television buildings, this latest
 election is being celebrated in Washington, in NATO
 headquarters and in the capitals of the other European
 imperialist powers. These forces had used threats, sanctions
 and actual bombings to push out the Socialist Party
 government before they manipulated the elections, as they
 themselves admitted. (Washington Post, Dec. 11)

 A Dec. 21 interview by the Berlin daily newspaper Junge Welt
 with one of the SPS leaders, Alexandar Rastovic, showed why
 the results were no great surprise. "Our activists have been
 working in an atmosphere of intimidation," said Rastovic.
 "If we were to hold on to 15 to 20 percent of the vote under
 these abnormal conditions, as I expect, that would be a
 success. ... The forces now ruling only concede 5 to 7
 percent to us."


 A correspondent for the Belgian weekly Solidaire, Michel
 Collon, interviewed some people in Serbia to get their view
 of the elections:

 For Andrej, the elections have been distorted since
 September by threats of a new NATO bombing attack or
 invasion of Montenegro. And by the hundreds of million of
 dollars from the United States to finance a very effective
 propaganda campaign to criminalize Milosevic in the eyes of
 the Serbs. On top of this, the main media outlets have been
 strictly controlled.

 Gordana agreed: "The people know that the SPS was more
 'social' [aware of the needs of the poor and workers] than
 the DOS but also that the West would continue to strangle
 them as long as Milosevic remained in power. Four wars,
 isolation, demonization, the embargo: Serb politics were
 made neither in the streets, nor in Parliament, but in
 foreign countries."

 Tanja added, "However, the SPS limited its losses in light
 of the circumstances and two splits that weakened it."

 Bata, who opposed NATO, was resign ed: "Serbia is part of
 Europe and has to accommodate to the way of the majority."

 According to Natasha, who favored the DOS, "The bad economic
 situation explains why the majority of his supporters turned
 their backs on Milosevic. The people have seen too much
 corruption, and the 'newly rich' directing the country. They
 were disgusted by it."

 The discussion Collon reported supported the basic truth
 that war-weariness and a hope that a new government would
 get NATO and the U.S. off their backs were the main causes
 for the SPS setback. Even more, that aid and investment from
 the West would restart the Yugoslav economy. So far all the
 West has promised are loans that will have to be repaid out
 of the sweat and blood of the Yugoslav workers.


 The DOS's economic advisers have been promising "shock
 therapy." This means massive privatizations right away and
 quick price rises on basic necessities. Prices on basic
 goods have already doubled and tripled since last
 September's election.

 Moves to lay off workers are expected soon. For example, 90
 percent of the workers of the Zastava automobile factory
 face layoffs from the new owner, Peugeot, a French-based
 auto manufacturer.

 The first act of the new government was to order electricity
 shutdowns for 12 and 16 hours a day. It is unable to keep up
 the power supply that the SPS government had kept going
 throughout the war and sanctions.

 Despite the "shock therapy" slogan, future Prime Minister
 Djindjic has announced that the privatization could take two
 years. He knows that it will run into opposition from the
 majority of the population. President Vojislav Kostunica--an
 open rival of Djindjic and much more popular--is also afraid
 to cut jobs and workers' salaries too quickly as prices
 continue to rise.


 The new government--a coalition of 18 parties who were
 united only in their opposition to the SPS and Milosevic and
 their willingness to accept help from NATO countries--now
 has the complete responsibility before the population for
 its program for Yugoslavia.

 Will it hold Montenegro in the federation with Serbia? Will
 it be able to defend southern Serbia from attacks by the KLA
 forces? Will it be able to keep contact with the few
 majority-Serb areas of Kosovo?

 Most important, will the Serbian economy develop because of
 its contacts with the imperialist West? Or will it be like
 most of Eastern Europe where the most profitable factories
 are sold dirt-cheap to imperialist corporations and the rest
 shut down?

 The biggest danger for the Yugoslav left comes from a threat
 that the new regime will make a mockery of the "democratic"
 part of its name and launch a wave of repression, something
 that SPS spokesperson Rastovic warned of in his Junge Welt
 interview. Already there has been a purge of military
 officers and threats to put Milosevic and other SPS leaders
 on trial.

 - END -

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