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Recognizing Kostunica

by Stojan Cerovic

Changes in Serbia have already occurred. One should only note how the old game in which all roles were allocated and all seemed planned and predictable had suddenly and marvelously gone to pieces.

There isn't time for any new miracles. One can only keep repeating what has already been seen, all to no avail, a couple of more slaps, threats, interrogations, yet I believe even the police is fed up of detaining the same people for the same senseless reasons and of posing the very same stupid questions. The regime isn't capable of thinking up anything more nor worse than that, and that is insufficient, which doesn't mean that it was insignificant. The young men and women from Otpor have taken upon themselves and courageously born the rage of the regime which wanted to check whether the people had truly turned their backs on it. In other frivolous and gullible countries one only believes in the votes, however in Milosevic's Serbia the will of the people obviously has to be measured by police clubs, too.

It will definitely have to be ascertained one day who had beaten up whom and following whose commands, but for now the most important thing is that the will of the people has been defended in advance. Serbia seems to be firmly resolved to disappoint Milosevic and I don't believe he would dare not to acknowledge that. If Vojislav Kostunica's victory turns out to be as great as expected, Milosevic can only try to diminish it and to try to make it worthless by taking out all the telephones, desks, chairs, curtains, rugs and light fixtures out of the offices while he personally retreats to an alternative position.

However, the change in Serbia has already occurred. One should only note how the old game in which all roles were allocated and all seemed planned and predictable had suddenly and marvelously gone to pieces. All the well trained players, Milosevic's allies and rivals in the country and a large part of the world have become agitated now and simply cannot believe that they could soon be out of a job which was flourishing. Such excitement can only be seen on the stock market when a well known company's stocks spectacularly plunge, followed by demand for new, successful products.

All those who had seemed hopelessly irreplaceable until this summer, who had covered the entire field, who knew everything about each other, who had fiercely publicly bickered and secretly made deals a number of times, whose voices have finally turned into an intolerable buzzing sound in the heads of the people, all of them have suddenly disappeared and have been cut down to their natural measures. Where is the Duke of all Dukes? Where is Vuk Draskovic? Those who miss them should scratch themselves behind the ear, the sensation will pass immediately. Only the police still believe in Milosevic now, out of duty. Every one of their bodyguards was more powerful and richer than Kostunica, and now they aren't equal to him, all three of them together.

Kostunica has been on the Serbian scene for a long time, from the very beginning, yet he always acted somewhat strangely so that he looks like a new man to all now. First of all, he stubbornly refused to take part in all the well known illusions of political battles, which was occasionally quite risky, bringing him to the very brink and to a dangerously passive position. However, he refused to accept the existing rules of the game as the only possible ones, he refused to accept the swear words and deals, secret whispered plans and bribes, somehow believing that Serbia was something else and that it deserved better.

There were other moral and serious people who tried to say something, to influence the unfortunate flow of events in Serbia and to hold on to some principles, yet only Kostunica managed to, despite his „impracticality", hold together a relatively large party. If he hadn't, he would simply have been unqualified for political activities. On top of that, with time he managed to conquer his academic dryness and has learned to speak to the people on the streets, never in a totally relaxed manner, however that doesn't seem to put a strain on him in this campaign.

In his calm and restrained manner, he never was a man of mass rallies, which Serbia couldn't do without for years, however it seems all adrenaline reserves have been used up in the meantime so that even that fault has been turned into his advantage. It might be that the NATO bombs have slightly contributed to the fact that Serbia no longer likes to hear noisy speeches, angry threats and, generally, too many big words. The atmosphere has become more chamber-like now, people have started wanting to strain to hear and comprehend what they are told, they even want to think about it for themselves, which is all very suitable for Kostunica. Kostunica's patriotism was always apparent and the same, which didn't look too good when Serbs were massively ailing from an enormous surplus of aggressive egotism, yet he never believed Milosevic, he never collaborated with patriotic professionals and didn't put on weight from it. Naturally, now that Serbs have waged and lost all the wars, when all that is left for them is to tend to their wounds, patriotism has become perfectly legitimate. Therefore, if someone is still concerned about Kostunica's nationalism, may that luckily be his or her greatest worry in life.

The same goes for his firm and cautious relation towards the West, which sometimes wasn't sufficiently justified and is perfectly logical and natural today. In his case that certainly isn't a question of election tactics, yet neither is it a manifestation of a deep anti-western orientation, as with other Serbian patriots. In principle, Kostunica is a man of western spirit who doesn't shrink from Europe and definitely won't look to China for salvation. He certainly knows that Serbia is deeply stuck in its relation with the West, not exclusively through its own fault, and he believes that his stand can be understood and respected in Europe. Even the US would have to accept him even though it appears all have become accustomed to Milosevic here and that they wouldn't like to change their relation towards Belgrade as a snake's nest.

Maybe it no longer means much to anyone, however Kostunica is also a new man because, unlike practically all of the other players, he never was a member of the communist party. On the contrary, he was passionately dedicated to democratic values and always was a part of a scarce yet valuable tradition of educated, moderately conservative Serbian citizens. That social layer had practically become extinct under the communists, and what had just recovered - was crushed, seduced, deceived, bribed or forced to emigrate by Milosevic's brutal nihilism. Kostunica survived by miracle and on top of that he seems undamaged and collected, and the greatest miracle, after all, is that Serbia has recognized its new representative in him.

Maybe that's because this Serbian man, unlike all the other patriots who had unsuccessfully tried their hands in Serbian politics, truly loves Serbia and belongs to it body and soul and probably sees it as being better and prettier than it really is.

Milosevic's movement of national emancipation has induced vulgarity, violence and crudeness, obviously nurturing the deepest scorn towards the people and a total indifference to their fate. Apparently, the people recognize a clear opposite to all of the above in Kosunica. With his very appearance he represents and requests of the others restraint, politeness and civil self-control, which is more than sufficient for a political program.

Even though I believe Kostunica will win and that Milosevic won't be able to dispute that, I am afraid that nothing with connection to these elections and after them will run smoothly and easily. When he says there won't be revenge, Kostunica seriously means it, which is a very important message to Milosevic's people. Which is why he could make an effort to incite revengeful sentiments, so that those very same people from his side can lose all hope of surviving without him. The disintegration in his government is threatening even if he attempts not to recognize an obvious defeat or if he recognizes it. The greatest secret of these elections is what he shall assess to be the lesser threat.

Source: Vreme NDA (news digest)

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