Liberal views on the new Government in Serbia

Opinion10.11.2020Dušan Dinić
Swearing-in the new government of Serbia
Swearing-in the new government of SerbiaTanjug, Zoran Žestić

We asked two chairman - Mr Pavle Grbović (Movement of Free Citizens - PSG), and Mr Zoran Vuletić (Civic-democratic Forum - GDF) on their opinion about the newly elected Serbian Government. Here their thoughts.

1. On Wednesday, October 28, the new Government of Serbia was built. Political and ideological views of some of the new Government Ministers have been way different from those of the rest of the Government. What is your opinion on the composition of the Government in general?

GRBOVIĆ (PSG): The composition of the Government has resulted from a compromise, from settlement of personal interests and ambitions and from a desire for simulation of a democratic attitude of the ruling majority. This is not any kind of new Government, but a a continuation of the rule of one party, with certain changes of secondary importance added. The point of this kind of setting is in the intention by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) to secure the victory of Aleksandar Vučić in the first round of the next presidential elections, as well as to make use of the popularity of Aleksandar Šapić for hiding the enormous negative image of the truly acting Mayor of Belgrade Goran Vesić. Between the lines, one could expect further cooling down of the relations with Russia, but also with the EU, while on the other hand all cards were put on strengthening of the cooperation with the USA. I`m afraid that mavericking in foreign affairs might cost us dearly, because at some point in time the President might overestimate both his own capacities and Serbia`s importance and real power, where after the consequences of such failure might be long lasting.

VULETIĆ(GDF): The composition of the new Government tells us that there are no clear policies and goals. As a matter of fact, its nature is temporary. As even President Vučić told on the occasion of the government building, the sole task of the new Government Ministers would be to rush across Serbia and do the campaigning for the SNS.

New Government Ministers have just added to the image of poor policies implemented in Serbia following the assassination of the Prime Minister Đinđić. What we had, it was a bitter-taste ritual reconciliation between DS and SPS parties, a unisone vote for the 2006 Constitution that closed perspectives for our society, giving away the NIS to Russia as a bounty to preserve the policies of Milošević, the turnabout towards China and accepting of Chinese non-transparent loans. I am not surprised by the choice made by Gordana Čomić, herself once in a while, in 2018, a candidate for the party president of the DS. Here around, unfortunately, it has been normal to see a failed candidate for party president running across to the opposite political camp without any public contempt thereby earned. In democratically organized political communities that is unthinkable. Besides, no one here around was surprised to find, in the very same Government cabinet, a former ring-leader of the Milošević`s war-mongering propaganda Ratko Dmitrović. It is as simple as that: political mish-mash, all prepared in the same kitchen.

2. How could you estimate the capacity of the new Government to overcome the ongoing crises and challenges?

GRBOVIĆ (PSG): I am not sure that the freshly built Government has the same notion as citizens on what the crisis is and what the challenges are. Serbia is facing the economic, epidemiology and security crisis, whereof the cause is in the eight years of nepotistic and unprofessional management of state affairs, as well as in the full merger of the governmental and criminal structures. For society, crisis is visible through the increase of gangster showdowns in our streets, while for the current government the crisis is in that the groups of out-laws close to them are becoming relatively weaker. Our problem is primarily societal, prior to the problems with the government, state apparatus, or economy. Intellectual and moral downslide, poisoning of the public discourse, hate speech, agressive attitude, and violence, as legitimate patterns of public conduct, as well as a deliberate fooling of the nation, are leaving the consequences that are more far reaching than the fall of GDP, or a crisis in manufacturing sector. But, in that there exactly lies the basis of a skyrocketing rise of the public opinion ratings of the governing party. For that reason, I cannot kid myself in optimism regarding any steps forward in a right direction by the new Government.

VULETIĆ(GDF): In the agenda of the new Government there are no essentail items such as EU integration and adjacent facing with the issues awaiting us on our road to the EU. The Government has thus limited its activities to the daily management of the Corona Crisis Task Force, as well as to the use of the Chinese speculative loans so as to build infrastructure facilities without tendering procedures, i.e. through direct procurement. In the environment of media blackout, these topics are ideal for the SNS campaigners. As for the pledges of the Government Ministers to save Kosovo within Serbian boundaries, they sound especially pathetic.

3. An absolute novelty in Serbian politics is having women at half of the Government Minister posts. Do you believe that this fact will have some impact on the performance of the new Government? If you do, is it going to be a positive or a negative one?

GRBOVIĆ (PSG): Obviously, it`s a sham and a misuse of statistics, aimed at creating a simulation of equal gender rights. How many of those women Government Ministers really possessed enough integrity to be believed that they would discharge their duties of the offce in an independent manner? Not even the Prime Minister herself was saved from public denigration of authority, thus it has been unrealistic to expect a higher level of freedom and respect for other women in the cabinet. The struggle for the rights of, and for the respect towards women does neither start nor end with quotas. Its essence has been in creating the environment which would encourage the women to be more active in politics.

VULETIĆ(GDF): A mere fact that 50% of the cabinet consists of women does not mean much if they lack credibility for discharging the duties of the Government Ministers. Zorana Mihajlović crossed over from the G17 to the SNS party. Čomić did it from the DS to the SNS. Jadranka Joksimović was once in a while an editor in the magazine Velika Srbija [Greater Serbia], while she nowadays is in charge of EU integration affairs. Maja Gojković has changed 6-7 political parties and now is at the head of the Ministry of Culture, after her duty of the Speaker of Parliament where she had nourished the worst anti-culture sort of speech. Each and every one of these women, in her own way, had contributed to the lack of meaningfulness in our politics, and because of the thus created political milieu we came to this point. Sheer number of women in the Government, taken what kind of one it really is, has been weak as the evidence.

4. The term in office of the new Government has been limited, until the announced snap elections on April 3, 2021, or earlier. How do you perceive the chances of the GDF, or to that matter chances of the entire opposition, to impose themselves as the alternative to the current government, at such a short notice?

GRBOVIĆ (PSG): I am sure that the opposition is able to offer more than a mere platform for booing against Vučić and that people are indeed feeling a need to become more active in politics. But a trustworthy political idea should be there to awake this kind of desire. Also, there should be credible people to guarantee, through their authority and their entire public appearence, that such idea would be really implemented.  There isn`t much time left until the elections, which is bad news. But the good news is that it at the same time means that Serbia will be stuck up in the current sort of agony for a shorter period of time.

VULETIĆ(GDF): The timeline of this Government, due to be terminated in April 2022, should not derail the creation of the alternative. From all sides we could now hear the demands that presidential elections be separated from the parliamentary ones. But that should not be our ultimate condition for taking part in the elections. Civic Democratic Forum made an alliance with the political party Together for Serbia, on a fully transparent political platform, including the demands: Serbia in the West, acceleration of the EU accession and with it resolution of the Kosovo dispute, implementation of the Brussels Agreement, resolution of other regional problems, etc.

VULETIĆ(GDF): We are discussing it with several other organizations close to us as well and soon we`ll be able to create an ultimate alternative to the policies that have disallowed Serbia of stepping into the 21st century. When I say „the alternative“, by that I do not mean just the one to the government, but also to all those opposition parties which pursue basically the same policies as the ruling party, e.g. towards the EU, Kosovo, regional issues, heritage of the 1990s` wars, or economic affairs. Our vision is quite clear, it is: Serbia in the West, with two political pillars - Brussels and Washington.