Serbian election: no surprises
mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Sun Jan 7 23:37:28 MST 2001
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Jan. 11, 2001
issue of Workers World newspaper
SERBIAN ELECTION: NO SURPRISES
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."
WHY DID THEY VOTE AGAINST MILOSEVIC?
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
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
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
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
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
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
- END -
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