BALKAN

Nine years of pushing

The undeclared but obvious goal of this form of government is for the government to remain completely alone on the ground. In that case, she can play with herself, she cannot lose because there is no one to threaten her

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Road blockade in Belgrade due to the Law on Expropriation and Referendum, November 2021, Photo: Reuters
Road blockade in Belgrade due to the Law on Expropriation and Referendum, November 2021, Photo: Reuters
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Playing out a political struggle in a democratic society is a bit like a sports game, say football or basketball.

The government and the opposition compete on the same field, play with the same ball, according to rules that apply equally to both sides; everyone has their own half of the field, and their goal is to "conquer" the opponent's half and score a goal by the rules provided and by the allowed means.

Impartial and expert referees are there to sanction fouls as serious violations of the rules of the game, journalists broadcast and comment on the game in the interest of the public, and the physical or media-only audience freely cheers for one side or the other - which is legitimate as long as it goes without violence.

That's how it looks at least under "ideal" conditions. In reality, especially in countries with immature and unconsolidated democracies, it can happen that the government enjoys various "advantages of the home field", that the judges turn a blind eye to some of its fouls, that some commentators openly support it. It is unfortunate, but the game can still be played, even the result can be uncertain.

If we continue to follow this football figure, it could be said that the nine-year history of the rule of Aleksandar Vučić and the Serbian Progressive Party is the history of pushing the opposition from the field.

In other words, the undeclared but obvious goal of this form of government is for the government to remain completely alone on the ground. In that case, she can play with herself, she cannot lose because there is no one to threaten her.

Namely, the rival team was delegitimized from the beginning, and increasingly criminalized over time, which de facto prevented it from playing under even tolerable conditions; the most prominent players of the opposition are under permanent suspension due to non-existent violations, referees are openly on the side of the "home" team, commentators who would follow the match neutrally or even with affection for the opposition team cannot get accreditation to enter the stadium, while for the opposition fans more there is no room in the stands, and there is less and less room for them anywhere else.

After several seasons of this kind of pushing, where opposition players and supporters on the field became fewer and fewer, and the remaining ones were fouled more and more terribly (without any sanctions), naturally there was an attrition. Moreover, some of the opposition players were transferring to the rival team just to stay in the game somehow.

It seems that this "sports" key is suitable for interpreting the motives and intentions of the motley opposition in Serbia, which from any point in the ideological and practical-political spectrum has a problem with the rule (in fact, for some time it is quite justified to say: the regime) of Alexander Vučić.

"Environmental uprising", Rio Tinto, Makiš and the question of the construction route of the Belgrade metro, Krusica, Jovanjica and who knows what else: all these are ultimately just reasons and ways for the opposition to win the legitimate right to return to the field from which it was violently pushed out.

So: to have any matches at all. And that is the true significance of what we are witnessing these days: it is not about whether elementary pluralistic democracy will be preserved and whether at least the basics of political life will be saved, but about whether they can somehow be rebuilt.

Because at this moment, true political life, the kind we witness, for example, even in the very, very imperfect democracies of the countries surrounding Serbia, simply does not exist here, it is suffocated and weeded out, and this did not happen due to someone's mistake or carelessness, but on worked systematically for almost a whole decade.

Hence, "neutrality" in this clash is impossible: "neutrality" would actually mean supporting the status quo, supporting the government in its intention to permanently suspend the game, with all the uncertainties it brings, without which democracy has been impossible since ancient times.

The return of the opposition to the field, under elementary acceptable conditions and standards, is a necessary precondition for the "restart" of democratic political life in Serbia, in fact - political life in general. Because if it is not democratic and pluralistic, neither is life; rather it will be dreary slavery, powerless exposure to the whims and needs of a self-reproducing clique.

(slobodnaevropa.org)

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(Opinions and views published in the "Columns" section are not necessarily the views of the "Vijesti" editorial office.)