Hope on the Balkans Kosov@ Crisis 2000
The regime won't hold on power much longer
Interview with Goran Milicevic, Belgrade University professor
Free Serbia: Belgrade Civil Resistance, an organisation whose members are the citizens taking part in more than 200 daily demonstrations in the centre of our capital, was established some time ago. What are the reasons to legitimise yourselves to the authorities?
Goran Milicevic: The most important thing is that this first step has been made. In this case we've made it regardless of whether the authorities would allow for the registration of our organisation or not. Somehow we've felt that the protests should also evolve into some sort of an organisation so that something would remain behind these demonstrations as a proof that it was possible to voice one's protest for 200 consecutive days. Now at issue is only whether this virus will spread to as many people as possible, millions of them, so that we could do what must be done.
We would like to incite the nongovernmental scene to be more active. Even though the NGO scene has diversified for the last couple of years, it appears that these organisations cover specific fields like legal protection, distribution of aid to refugees or poor people. However, there's no cohesion among them which would interconnect all those varied organisations so that they might contribute to creation of a unified civil front. Certain material fatigue could be perceived in already established and prominent organisations which becomes even more visible in comparison with the activities of Otpor (Resistance) student movement so that we gain an impression that the Otpor activists are the only ones doing something, while all the others seem to be almost sidelined.
We'll try to train election observers as we're going to need over 20,000 trained observers while CESID has only around 1,000 of them. We're planning to establish Belgrade Civil Parliament and we would also be one of such nongovernmental organisations.
Will NGO scene allow you to do that? Perhaps something similar to the contentious relationship between the opposition bloc and G17 (a group of economic experts) might emerge?
There's no place for such an analogy whatsoever since G17 is neither a political party nor a political movement but an expert organisation whose role is to serve as a catalyst for changes. However, there are indications that NGOs are willing to cooperate. For instance, the people of the Serbian Civil Parliament have been inviting us to their meetings for quite some time. Perhaps we should also mention that the police has taken keen interest in our inaugural session. There were several police officers in uniforms and even more of those plainclothes men. One of them literally entered the premises during the inaugural session of the Belgrade Civil Parliament. We even asked him if he'd like to participate. Unfortunately, we didn't nominate him for the Supervisory Board which would've been quite appropriate for the occasion.
Will this institutionalisation cause some problems in your work as it has already happened to many other organisations? Will there be less practical actions and more meetings and empty talk?
No one could possibly anticipate all the problems that might surface. I believe that we're not in any danger of our practical activities being abated on this account. The real danger is whether there would be enough people for additional activities, apart from the public protests. There's no spite or hostility towards other people engaged in activities intended to achieve our common objectives. Our intention is to call on as many people as possible who share our views to join us. The principal criterion for admission of new members is to what an extent he or she is prepared to engage in various forms of expressing civil disobedience vis-à-vis the regime and our main objective is to bring about free and fair elections as soon as possible.
There are so many indications that this regime won't be able to hold on to power for much longer. We still do not know for how long exactly. However, there is apparent willingness to continue with our activities even after the change of the regime. There's a misconception in the public that this continuation of our demonstrations is a part of the activities of the Alliance for Change, the Democratic Party or even only close friends of Ceda Jovanovic (a Democratic Party official) and some of his companions. In these parts there is a strong sentiment as regards political parties' affiliations. People are inclined to take a critical stance towards the opposition as well. They have many objections regarding the activities of the opposition bloc and they also think that our problems won't vanish into thin air once the opposition comes to power. We're prepared to be critical of them as well. Given that the changes will occur much earlier than anyone might expect, we should prepare ourselves on time.
Speaking of discontent with the opposition bloc, why don't the people who've established your organisation and the wider public as well try to change those political parties from within?
First, here we've got many people who are already members of some political parties, mostly the Democratic Party members. There's considerable disappointment with all the parties, including the Democratic Party which is being considered as 'the lesser evil'. There's no manifest readiness of political leaders and maturity of political parties which should make their leaders more serious to effect necessary changes. Something's obviously wrong when you have conceited leaders whose vanity is being tolerated by the party membership. Neither are those political parties nor their leaders mature enough, or perhaps, in question is not maturity at all, but collaboration with the regime or some secret deals like 'don't meddle in our affairs at the local level and we won't bother you too much at the level of the republic...', etc.
Anyway, it doesn't show that the existing opposition parties will succeed in delivering what's been demanded of them - namely, the change of the regime, change for the better, an end to this ten-year-long madness. The parties haven't even manifestly shown their willingness and ability to do the job themselves. Opinion polls indicate that the Alliance for Change was stronger last autumn than the whole lot of the regime's parties put together which is an unprecedented phenomenon so far. Despite this, the Alliance for Change leaders haven't acted as people confident of their being capable to achieve something given the overwhelming public support. Instead they've been hesitant, they've been putting off things for some other time, they've been wrangling and bickering with the rest of the opposition parties. There has been no patent responsibility towards the citizens.
Even these most recent make-believe talks on creating a unified opposition front are not being respected by the opposition political parties and haven't amounted to much thus far. To give one's word, unfortunately, doesn't mean much in these parts. Everyone pledges loyalty and gives promises that he wouldn't attack others, but even before the ink dries on the signed agreements, they engage in absurd and childish squabbles.
The public has no trust in the opposition bloc, but this testifies to the maturity of the people who despite being aware of it (and this isn't the mood of the minority, but the majority of the public) accept the fact that the political parties must effect the changes. This means that individuals can't do it on their own nor the NGOs. It's an accepted fact that these inefficient and lukewarm political parties must do the job with our support and we must urge and spur them on to do it by voting for them in the elections. And then, through changes in the subsequent elections some more serious politicians will finally emerge on the public scene. I think that this is the scenario most of the people bear in mind.
Milosevic still enjoys the support of a fifth of the electorate which is not to be neglected. What are the reasons behind such a support among the people?
We should begin with the first elections in the early '90s. Allegedly, Milosevic had backing of more than 70 percent of the electorate. In the meantime, his popularity has been significantly wearing away and there are several factors because of which he still enjoys the support of the fifth of the electorate.
We should first take into account the general level of development, education, degree of urbanisation, need for a genuine democratic structure of our society and transparent articulation of our political scene where each political option would have its representative in a political party. Then we'll see that we haven't achieved much in these fields. The people are relatively poorly educated and when it comes to urbanisation we've hardly passed some 50 percent. Bearing in mind this drastic decline in living standards, the people simply fear they might lose even those meagre wages and illusions of benefiting from social security. There are also apparent fear and cowardice present among the people which increases the support for the regime. We shouldn't omit propaganda disseminated by the state-run Radio Television Serbia which is still the main source of information for the majority of the population living outside urban centres.
Is there any danger of this untenable situation being resolved in a violent manner?
Emergency situations, by definition, cannot be possibly ruled out, but these cannot be predicted or anticipated either so that it's quite probable that this crisis might be resolved in an extraordinary manner which also might turn out to be rather violent. I personally believe that something similar to what's recently happened in Croatia will take place in this country as well and that the forthcoming elections will show how weak the popular support for the regime truly is even if only a disunited opposition bloc takes part in those elections.
There are so many possibilities to avoid a violent clash between the regime prepared to defend its position in power at any cost and the opposition. A peaceful solution to this situation is also viable - they might be left out in the cold without the tricks they've got up their sleeve. It's true - they've got the police and it's also true that they've got the army. However, they mustn't be given a chance to use the army or the police - their position in power should simply slip from their hands in the election process.
There's an incredible optimism of all the people who've spoken of a dramatic ultimate outcome of this crisis. Everyone says that it wouldn't last for more than two or three weeks. Therefore, there would be no major conflicts and it wouldn't last long since there are no two bitterly confronted armies but only the regime with its police and a part of the Yugoslav Army on the one side and an overwhelming majority of the people on the other.
Source: Free Serbia
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