Belgrade is overwhelmed with a wave of mass protests: young people in white are protesting against the “tyrant” – the newly elected Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Russian special services see here the hand of the U.S. Department of State, Western special services say this is the Kremlin’s tricks, most of the Serbs regards this as just the next act of the tragifarce they have watched since the collapse of Yugoslavia – a show they don’t want to see any more.
Officially, last year, there were seven million people in Serbia. Two of them are working abroad. So, we have five million actually living in Serbia.
According to the Republican Electoral Commission, Vucic polled almost two million votes, while his rivals altogether received no more than one and half million. So, just three and a half million Serbs took part in the voting. That is, almost one and a half of Serbs ignored it. If we add to this the two million Serbian guest workers, we will get three and a half million. Just to compare, the population of Serbia’s biggest city, Belgrade, is 1,200,000.
With all this notwithstanding, the pro-governmental mass media have qualified Vucic’s victory as unprecedented: no presidential hopeful has ever polled more than 50% of votes since 1992, when the runners for presidency were Slobodan Milosevic and Milan Panic. But if we keep in mind the abovementioned 3.5 million people, Vucic’s victory will not be as convincing as it seems to be.
Why haven’t millions of Serbs voted for Vucic? Because they are tired of demagogy and lies. And Vucic is well known for his “flexibility”: before the elections he promised the West to be pro-EU and pro-NATO and met with Angela Merkel, but later, well aware that 2/3 of the Serbs do not want to see their country as part of the EU and NATO, he visited Moscow. By the way, all candidates, except ultra-liberal separatist from Vojvodina Nenad Canak, used pro-Russian rhetoric in their campaigns.
The Russians in their turned closed their eyes on Vucic’s active involvement in the disclosure of the “plot” in Montenegro - when the Serbian authorities began deporting Russian citizens from Belgrade on suspicion of being privy to it. They also closed their eyes on Vucic’s meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg – when he said that NATO’s attacks on Yugoslavia were aimed at protecting peaceful civilians. So, no surprise that when celebrating his Pyrrhic victory to the music of the Russian Kalinka Malinka song performed by a Gypsy band, Vucic thanked both Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel for their support.
Nor was it a surprise to us to see the Russian ambassador to Serbia persuading the Serbs living in Kosovo to stop boycotting the local separatist government and to take part in its activities and to hear Vucic saying - as if unintentionally - that the problem of Kosovo could be solved only if Serbia recognized its independence but that was impossible.
The Russians’ position is clear – their national interests in Serbia are based on partnership and economic benefit and the basis of that partnership the Serbs’ irrational love for Russia. They have given the Russians their oil industry and railways, they have asked them to reequip their army and they are deaf to the West’s calls to support the anti-Russian sanctions. In exchange, the Russians have opened their markets for Serbian products. Recently some Russian politicians hinted that the South Stream project might be reanimated. So, we should not be surprised to see the Kremlin ignoring Seselj, Obradovic and Parovic with their much more pro-Russian positions – simply their positions cannot be converted into any benefits.
Unlike the Russian and Serbian leaders, the Serbian voters are not pragmatics or cynics but idealists. The past decades have disappointed most of them – this is why as many as 9% of them gave their votes to freak Luka Maksimovic, whose electoral nickname was Ljubiša Preletačević "Beli" ("Preletačević" is a humorous pun. The word preletač (similar to "defector") is used in Serbian language for a politician who switches political parties for personal gains. "Beli" means "The white one"). Maksimovic, with his "Samo jako!" (Go hard!) slogan and white extravagant suits parodied his rivals and turned the election into a big farce – something very much resembling the films of Kusturica.
“Beli” proclaimed himself the winter before the voting was over and publicly called on former President Tomislav Nikolic to give him the key – he must have meant the key to the presidential office. When Vucic won, “Beli” said that he still was the winner as he had managed to give a slap to lots of leading politicians.
It is symbolical that the young people that are protesting in Belgrade are also wearing white clothes. They are not campaigning for other candidates, they are protesting against the victory of Vucic. Mass media say that they have been gathered through social networks. They blame the protesters for having ruined the “wailing wall” – the wall made of the pictures of those killed in Kosovo and during the NATO attacks but all videos show that they did not do that on purpose and those who decided to cordon off the parliament from the people are also to blame for that. As of now, the protesters have no leaders but very soon, somebody may try to use their “white” energy and to turn it into the “black” energy of street clashes. Both Eduard Shevardnadze and Hosni Mubarak were loyal to the West but both were swept away by similar street protests and were replaced by politicians who prefer two chairs to one.
Alexey Toporov, specially for EADaily