December 29, 2003


Serbian Radical Party surge may complicate reform (Peter Ford, 12/30/03, CS Monitor)

Serbia has stumbled again in its bumpy climb out of a bloody past, as the country's most aggressively nationalist party took the most votes in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

The Serbian Radical Party, an ultra- nationalist grouping allied with former Yugoslav president and indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, won almost one-third of the votes, according to unofficial results.

Though not strong enough to form a government, the Radicals are well placed to complicate efforts by the coalition of reformist parties that is expected to try to rule, Serb analysts predict. [...]

Western governments, keen to establish a stable, democratic, and reformist government in Belgrade, are not popular in Serbia, where memories of NATO bombing during the Kosovo war are still fresh. Nor does the prospect of economic prosperity as a member of the European Union hold much appeal. [...]

"I am counting on international pressure to force (the reformists) to try something," says Mr. Stepanovic. "And I am counting on the leaders to be aware that if they fail, new elections could bring a new radicalization of the electorate."

That, say several Serb political analysts, appears to be the Radicals' plan, since they would be hard pressed to take power now and carry out campaign promises such as sharply reducing the price of bread or recovering "Serb lands" from neighboring states.

Instead they seem ready to bide their time, hoping a fragile reformist coalition would soon collapse and then call elections that would give the Radicals a chance to emerge victorious. "If that happened," says Stepanovic, "I dare not think of the consequences. Serbia would be stuck as a second-class country for the next 30 years."

Thirty years from now Old Europe will be begging the Serbs to cleanse ethnics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 29, 2003 7:43 PM
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