Democracy, Serbian type: It's not over until Slobo says so

Today is the third day with Milosevic effectively voted out of power by the people of Serbia. Yet, he still clings to his office, and his servants, mercenaries and sycophants are trying to buy more time for him by announcing the election results tailored to fit the need for the second round. The victorious opposition, naturally, rejects to participate in that fraudulent continuation of elections.

There is peril in that rejection - as there would be peril in the acceptance to participate. It is a Milosevic classic: presenting his opponents with a lose-lose situation. If DOS opposition would accept the second round, they would admit that the results on their web site that show their >50% victory over Milosevic, are wrong, and that would ruin their credibility and may jeopardize their standing in the second round. So, they cannot now admit that the second round is legitimate. But if they abstain from ballots, thick- skinned Milosevic will appear there as a lone candidate and take the victory. Which is exactly what is going to happen on October 8.

Therefore, DOS must act fast, VERY fast. It is not enough to announce protests in the street. The DOS has to understand that they are NOT the opposition any more - they are the government now, and they should start acting like one. Milosevic's cronies hope that DOS won't know what to do, and that Milosevic will easily steal the elections on the 8th. The Serbian people that came to the polls in exceptionally high numbers expect from DOS not to let that happen. Kostunica should seize this moment and this opportunity. He should not betray all those people who voted for him.

So far, many governments, including both NATO governments and Russia, recognized the results of first round as reported by DOS to be legitimate results of elections, implying recognition of Kostunica as a president. Also, the opposition has an overwhelming majority of local governments under control, and the electoral results suggest that many, maybe half of the security apparatus (army and police) gave vote to Kostunica. Milosevic may not have the upper hand any more, but he remains the master of the bluff. Kostunica should take him up on that bluff, this time.

Of course, this is a tough decision - because the split in the security apparatus may end up in violence similar to Romania 1989. I am not sure if this price is what majority of Serbian people would be willing to pay to once for all get rid of Milosevic family. On the other hand I am not sure that it would be necessary - maybe after all this procrastination Milosevic's supporters are ready to switch colors without much resistance. This news from Nis (source: B92) testify that local policemen already actively think about how to hold onto their jobs in the future: "NIS, Tuesday -- Police in Nis have returned a quantity of technical equipment seized last week from the local branch of the Otpor movement. ‘Three policemen came by car and brought all the equipment which they had seized last Friday,’ spokesman Milos Krivokapic told media, adding that the police officers were polite and friendly."

That's where comparing Kostunica with Republika Srpska Biljana Plavsic's comes in handy. Karadzic was eased out of power, but never arrested or extradited to The Hague, and Plavsic, who once participated in his war cabinet, became NATO darling and Bosnian peace maker. Kostunica, who did neither shmooze with Karadzic, nor with Albright, can't be as exactly suspected both as a Western mercenary and as a war criminal associate as Djindjic can, for example, yet he does retain credentials both as a pro-Western type in terms of political and economic structure (with a long life of a human rights lawyer) and as a staunch nationalist who supported Karadzic, approached Srebrenica apologetically and posed with the AK rifle in Kosovo. So, the comparison with Plavsic is quite apt. But the West was more than willing to put up with Plavsic, so I don't see why wouldn't they put up with Kostunica. And Bosnia survived Plavsic as a state, so it would not be harmed with Kostunica, either. At some future time Kostunica should be expected to apologize for Srebrenica and make peace with Bosnians, but that shouldn't be an imminent pre-occupation right now. After all, politicians do stuff like that everywhere all the time...

The Serbia of Vojislav Kostunica thus may look pretty much like Republika Srpska of Milorad Dodig and the fate of Milosevic may look like the fate of Karadzic. And while the US Congress allocated half a billion dollars to help Kostunica's government, the Manhattan court passed a judgement requiring Karadzic to pay five billion dollars in damages. The discrepancy between the amount that the West is prepared to invest in democratization and the amount that it is comfortable to request judicially is telling. Maybe Milosevic can be asked to pay for democratization of Serbia? That should be his punishment.

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