Sunday, May 11

Serbia's elections

Last night I watched Life is a Miracle for a second time, cementing its place as one of my absolute favorite films. It has the grand pandemonium of Emir Kusturica's earlier Underground, but it's prettier and less unrelentingly chaotic. The brass band music is almost as good as Underground's though not quite. The DVD can be hard to find, as I've found out, particularly in the U.S., but well worth the effort.

After watching Kusturica's films, my interest in all things former-Yugoslavian gets a temporary boost, so I've been following today's parliamentary elections in Serbia. According to the main media narrative, Serbians have a very clear choice in "the most important vote since Milosevic." A vote for the Radical Party, led by former undertaker Tomislav Nikolic, means turning away from the West, towards nationalism, isolation, Russia, rejection of Kosovo's independence, and the Milosevic era. A vote for the coalition led by President Boris Tadic means continued movement towards the West, liberalism, European Union membership, and possibly puppies.

According to pre-election polls, the Radicals, who used to govern with Milosevic, were expected to get more votes than the liberals, though not a majority. But the conservative party of the current prime minister, which helped topple Milosevic but has since turned more nationalist, could ally with the Radicals to provide a majority in parliament.

Which would be bad. Former foreign minister Vuk Draskovic: "This could be the beginning of a new agony for Serbia and the western Balkans. A nationalist government would be very dangerous because the world will say that Serbia doesn't want the European Union, while the Radicals will turn on pro-democracy forces in Serbia as they did in the 1990s." (IHT)

But hopefully not too bad. Democracy activist Sonja Licht: "The difference today from the 1990s is that there is no will here to fight anymore, people want jobs, economic security and the rule of law. The Radicals, if they come to power, will try to be appear moderate. Things will still get ugly. But ultimately, Serbia will turn toward the EU because although Kosovo is a trauma for Serbs, Serbs know deep down that Russia is no alternative. (IHT)

But it looks like Tadic's pro-Western coalition has come out on top. And the foreign minister of Slovenia, which currently heads the EU, is "very happy."

Reuters also has helpful summaries of the major party leaders.

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