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          One of the legitimate questions in the post-Milošević period is - whether the early parliamentary elections, scheduled for December 28th, were scheduled too late? The realistic basis for this question can be found in everything that happened in the Serbian political scene in the last three years. Even a superficial analysis of the DOS behaviour, the coalition which is politically very heterogeneous group an includes very different persons, will show that after the initial, not long-lasting optimism inspired by the breakdown of Milošević regime, the reasons for the fears concerning the functioning of the new government in Serbia can be clearly seen. Many examples of imbalance can be noticed among the coalition partners, for example - imbalance in programmes. The original DOS integrated the parties with different political orientations, ranging from the left, such as SDU (Social Democratic Union), Socialdemocracy and Djindjić’s Democrats, which can be considered as a political centre, together with the right Koštunica’s Democrats or even more right Batić’s Demo Christians. The picture gets even more complicated if we include Labus’s Experts, the national minorities’ parties, members of the Čanak’s party which are oriented toward autonomy of Vojvodina, the trade union which is not very influential but has party ambitions, etc. In addition to this heterogeneous programme orientation, there are even more elements: the real political strength of the parties, the level to which the party structure has been developed, personal authority of the leader, and... many other things can be listed. All in all, an amalgam, which has temporarily blended all these differences, included the need to change the regime but also a calculation that showed a united opposition can gain more than a simple sum of the votes that could be won by each party itself. However, the amalgam cannot last forever. Far from it.

          DOS’s honeymoon was interrupted, several months afterwards, by the Koštunica’s Democrats, entering in an open conflict with Djindjić’s Democrats and the rest of the ruling coalition. According to some assessments, it was certainly the first moment when the ruling DOS could have scheduled the early parliamentary elections. Simply, all the differences in the opinions on the transition in Serbia could be clearly seen, as well as the different ideas of democratisation and decomposition of the Milošević system. Even personal animosities among the leaders appeared at the surface. If the early elections had been scheduled at that moment, one of the pre-election promises given to the voters would be kept - the promise that a year and a half afterwards they would be given a chance to estimate how far the democratisation process has gone and to vote for those who should continue this process. The last chance was the time when emergency state was lifted. The success of the "Sabre" and the citizens’ emotions could have brought to the ruling coalition - particularly to its central part - Democratic Party - a great electoral success.

          Instead of the electoral evaluation and verification of the political offers, a period of tough conflicts and affairs has started, which meant the political disaster, first of all for so-called DOS minus, as it was named by a Belgrade analyst. The result was totally weakened parliamentary support for the government and the scheduling of the early parliamentary elections. Živković’s cabinet, perhaps, could have endured for some time the pressure in the parliament but somebody probably calculated that the price would be too high. In the other hand, the real results of the transition stood in the shadow of the numerous affairs and the opposition’s efforts - Koštunica’s Democrats led the way in derogating the government’s power, as well as in the shadow of the other side’s struggle, sometimes rather evident, to reach the full power.

          One of the key questions of the results achieved by the first post-Milošević authorities in Serbia is whether the border was crossed, after which the transitional changes would be irreversible? The results are not balanced. It seems that the most has been done in the field of foreign affairs. Starting from the position of an isolated country and the world pariah, Serbia became a desirable partner in three years. Quick solving of the problem of status in UN and inclusion in some regional integrations together with Montenegro, inclusion in the Council of Europe although slower to some extent, the beginning of the stabilisation process and first steps of joining the EU make serious proofs that the international community wants Serbia, naturally together with Montenegro, as a part of the solution and not the source of problems in the region. The transitional story has also been seriously supported financially, with more than three billion dollars of donations and favourable credits. Honestly speaking, the delay of early elections should be partially explained by the influence of the international community. The intention to carry out as many transitional changes as possible can be recognised. At the same time, one could also say that the world did not always have enough sensibility for local circumstances. There are many examples for this, but composing the state union with Montenegro, based on the shaky Belgrade Agreement or the Hague pressure, which was not always appropriate to the local circumstances, are the most illustrative examples.

          Economy is the field in which, we could say, incomplete results were achieved. Macro-economic and monetary stability presents a serious success. Inflation has been efficiently controlled and generally it has been kept within the limit of the projected growth. The government has even been criticised, with the suggestion that it could relief some social pressures but also help the exporters. Very efficient model has been chosen for privatisation: sales tender or auction ones. Almost everything that could have been transformed into private property quickly and easily has been privatised (some people would say - sold out). We say "almost everything" because infrastructure systems have not been privatised yet - power supply, railways, and oil. The more serious problem is that a significant number of industrial companies that obviously have no future have not been privatised yet. This, more difficult part of the privatisation process will be carried out by some other government. Corruption may also appear as one of the darker sides of privatisation. There are accusations, but none of the affairs opened had a valid epilogue in the court.

          The system and the institutions make the field where the delay is most serious. The situation in which Serbia finds itself, after the third failure of the presidential elections and due to the early elections after the parliament was disbanded, is paradigmatic. The only two legitimate state institutions that operate are the government and the Constitutional Court. The government even has the status of a resigning one, with the reduced authority, which should practically keep the state function peacefully until new parliament has been elected. The Constitutional Court, on the other side, works normally, without any limits and it presents a kind of an obstacle for any step the government could make out of the constitutional frame, by adopting some decree, for example.

          Thus, Serbia is a constitutionally incomplete state. A part of the reason for that should be searched for in the political pragmatism of the ruling nomenclature which, dealing with transition and democratisation, has often put out fires and did a lot of things with the short-term perspective. So-called Milošević’s Constitution is still in effect, brought in the beginning of 90’s, aimed to institutionalise the then political order. Rather anachronous, this Constitution has remained unchanged. Although one of the pre-election promises was that adopting a new, democratic constitution will be one of the first things new authorities would do, creation of this constitution started only after all the deadlines prescribed by the Constitutional Charter as a foundation of the state union with Montenegro had passed. Hence, the constitution is almost two years late. If a constitution is an institutional foundation of a state, than Serbia has not accomplished much and the reasons for the institutional division of the system can be found there. A serious question here could also be whether the new government has tried in the last three years to change the system inherited from the Milošević’s time or has it tried to gain control over it? The answer, which perhaps could be closest to the truth, is that it has tried both, aiming to strengthen the ruling position as much as possible.

          The requiem for DOS was playing when the early elections were scheduled. It seems certain that such a huge political group will never be formed in Serbia again. Though, if the numbers from the beginning and those at the end are compared, one can see that the first 18 subjects in DOS also gave basis for the new three parties. Labus’s Experts and Milovanović’s trade union transformed into the political parties, and the Initiative for Normal Serbia, led by Branko Pavlović, is a completely new party. 

          The start of the electoral race caused serious changing of positions in political scene. Even before that, it has been claimed that DOS could logically divide into several lines. Two, perhaps three. However, Serbian voters now have even a bigger choice. Democrats, as natural partners due to their programmes, are connected with the Democratic Centre of Dragoljub Mićunović and Civic Alliance of Serbia, led by Goran Svilanović. The founder of the Democratic Party Dragoljub Mićunović will be the first name on the election list. This is an important gain for him personally, which compensates not very glorious result in the third unsuccessful presidential elections. At the same time, this is the proof that, after Djindjić, Democrats do not have an authentic leader who could become the brand name of the party. Boris Tadić has become the first name on the list, but obviously after serious conflicts within the party. It is not clear yet whether this party will step out of the line of so-called leader’s parties or this can be considered as a phase after which a new face will take the leading position.

          Labus’s Experts, as expected, agreed to enter elections together with the Social Democrats led by Slobodan Orlić. It can be claimed without much hesitation, this is a political marriage and five places on the list are a part of the bargain, agreed on in time when Orlić was withholding the support to government in the parliament, which made the ruling coalition’s majority definitely pretty thin. Any other reasons that could be assessed as possible similarity of programmes could hardly be found. In any case, this symbiosis enables Orlić’s party to survive politically through the coming elections since G17+ is not expected to have any problems with the census and could be one of the key players in forming the government after the elections.

          Koštunica’s Democrats included professor Nikola Milošević, historian Radoš Ljušić, Sanda Rašković Ivić and Velimir Simonović in the list, as well as members of Vuksanović’s party and SDS. Here also a small party has a chance to enter the parliament since the pre-election prognosis leave no room for dilemma if the Democratic Party of Serbia will reach the census.

          All other pre-election coalition of the rest of DOS, which managed to find partners, can be taken as leaders’ tricks and the result of the trouble they faced because the key player, the Democratic Party, left no room for them in its pre-election performance. Here is also the high five-percent census as an obstacle for a few parties that decided to start the electoral race independently. It can be hardly believed that the majority will reach the census and for those parties, whether they enter a coalition or not, the essential question is if they can survive a period of time out of the parliament. This applies to the pre-election connections, made on so-called patriotic and hard-liner nationalist ground. In any case, this turbulence at the political scene in Serbia shows that it is rather undefined. Clear picture of the "stars" and political parties with the "supportive role" can, realistically, be expected after three or four electoral cycles. It is reasonable to believe the number will be reduced - five to eight parties.

          It seems Serbia entered the cycle of faster change of the government through these early elections. This conclusion is based on the expectation that new constitution should be completed next year so the elections are expected to be scheduled afterwards. More reasons could be found in possible result of the early elections, possible weakness of the ruling coalition, since it can hardly be expected that any party could form the government itself, etc. However, there are too many unknown elements for a reliable assessment. It can be predicted with a little more certainty that social pressure at the government will get harder in the next phase of transition, in which - according to some estimations, significantly larger number of people will lose jobs due to privatisation, than it was the case during the last three years.

          Political leaders make a special part of this Serbian transition story. Quite numerous dissimilar characters paraded along the political scene in the first three post-Milošević years. Common denominator for all of them seems to be the lack of understanding that they are transitional leaders for transitional time so majority of them will simply disappear from the politics when they complete this, not very pleasant, transitional job. 

        • Tags: Serbia, elections, DOS, political parties, Djindjić, post-Milošević
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