Reflecting on Serbia’s Recent Election
With Syria’s civil war reaching fever pitch and terrorism in Europe again rearing its ugly face it is surprising that many in the international press have time, or the interest, to level sustained rhetorical attacks against Serbia’s PM, Ivica Dacic following his successful campaign in Serbian elections some two months ago.
Some news agencies – such as the Huffington Post – have embarked on a character-assassination and, wrongly, depict Dacic as a devilish reincarnation of Slobodan Milosevic. Their assumption is that Dacic seeks to return Serbia to the 1990’s and maintain that, piecemeal, Dacic is directing a coup d’grace against Serbian democracy through political nepotism which is seeing the return of Milosevic-era personalities monopolising the country’s economic, political and military institutions. Such personal depictions of a leader which has encouraged regional reconciliation, taken tremendous steps towards final status negotiations with Kosovo, transformed the country’s economy and genuinely reinforced Serbia’s engagement with the EU and larger international community through the arrests and extradition of key Serbian war-crimes’ suspects, is both curious and dangerous. Curious because Dacic must be evaluated for what he has done – an expansive list of achievements – not what a handful of vocal pundits anticipate he intends to do. Dangerous because such personal attacks have the potential of isolating and frustrating Serbia and, by extension, retarding the process of sustainable regional peace and with it EU partnership and eventual membership for all West Balkan states.
So why have such pundits decided that Dacic was set on bringing Serbia back to the 1990’s? Well, most pundits do not appreciate the complete overhaul of Serbia’s political environment and simply assumed that the country has been situated in a form of purgatory for the past thirteen years. Instead of heading off to Belgrade to observe the political discourses and engage with officials and publics, most journalists are content on reciting old lines. In the lead-up to the last election, Dacic swapped his Socialist Party’s (SPS) alliance with the Democratic Party in favour of a partnership with the Nationalist Party (SNS). The new alliance, like the one before, reflects the political dynamics of a maturing, not lethargic, democracy. The SNS itself is not hyper, is it not ideologically extreme and does not aspire to reconstruct a new Serbian empire. Instead it is a centre-right party fully committed to EU membership, regional and international engagement, opening up Serbia’s economy – albeit in a slow and measured manner – and normalisation with all neighbouring states. Dacic’s move of bringing the SNS into the coalition was based on his awareness of, and desire to, strike a balance between the electorate’s aspirations and a prudent path for Serbia. This is why Germany, one of the EU’s most cautious players, had no trouble in opening channels of dialogue with Dacic, his SPS and their SNS partners.
Instead of allowing pundits’ rumours, murmurs, winks and nudges to determine the manner in which a country and its leaders are understood by the international community it is time for more questions to be asked and more robust accountability of reportage to be instituted. Dacic’s treatment in many news agencies is a reminder that the press has a responsibility to its readers to provide informative evaluations of political events and currents and must not be used to generate false representations of those working for public goods. Serbia’s recent history was not tranquil and Dacic is certainly not flawless, however neither the former not the latter deserve this form of isolation.