Update No: 137 - (27/10/08)
Rift with Russia?
The Serbs are anxious that the global credit crunch does not dry up foreign
finance to them entirely. They feel very much out in the cold, alone and bereft
of friends, even Russia, which has enough troubles on its plate to be hard put
to help Serbia.
There has been something of a rift, anyway, between Russia and Serbia over the
August war in Georgia and the Russian recognition of the independence of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia. The parallel with Western recognition of the independence
of Kosovo is too close for comfort. The Russian decision has in effect finally
ditched the mirage that Kosovo could ever again belong to Serbia.
For the message that the Kremlin is sending the Serbs and the world generally
here is that it is as well to acknowledge realities, even if they run counter to
the strict canons of international law. Kosovo has been de facto independent
since the coalition won the Kosovo war in mid-1999 nine years ago. The Kosovar
Albanians want no part of Serbia, any more than the Abkhazians or South
Ossetians want to be part of Georgia - period
Sigh of relief over election
One consolation for pro-West and pro-EU Serbians is that it got its vital
parliamentary election out of the way earlier this year before the financial
crisis, which could have helped the radical nationalists. President Boris Tadic,
who is very much of this pro-Western persuasion, was relieved that the
nationalists, especially the Serbian Radical Party, were eclipsed at the polls
by the centrist parties.
The final vote count in Serbia's divisive parliamentary election, held on May
11, confirmed on May 21 that pro-European parties had won the most seats in the
future legislature, but not quite enough to govern alone. President Boris
Tadic's reformist group, ‘For a European Serbia’, won 102 seats in the
250-member parliament. The far-right Radical Party won 78 seats, and nationalist
Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Popular Coalition won 30, the results
New government forms
The reformers and pro-Europeans have basically engineered a deft 'divide and
rule' maneouvre over the hard-line nationalists by bringing the rump of
Milosevic's old Socialists on board. The pro-European bloc behind President
Tadic's Democratic Party (DS), the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic's
Socialists and four representatives of the Hungarian minority combined to make
up 126 seats, the minimum majority in the assembly of 250, by July after nearly
two months of negotiations.
After a marathon session on July 4th, the Serbian parliament passed a law paving
the way for a new cabinet headed by economist Mirko Cvetkovic, firmly in the
pro-EU, reformist camp.
Parliament, in a sitting filibustered by the opposition, also passed a law on 24
ministries. The two laws were necessary for the parliament to start debating the
The size of Cvetkovic's government, the largest in the region with its 24
ministries and three deputy premiers, reflects the fierce haggling which
produced the ruling coalition and its slim majority since the election. The DS
and the Socialists signed a coalition agreement earlier on July 5th, which
states the principles and goals of the new Serbian government.
Map of the opposition
The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party leads the opposition now after four
years in government with the increasingly nationalistic Democratic Party of
Serbia of outgoing Prime Minister Kostunica.
The government may well have the support of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),
with 13 votes, when it tables laws which would accelerate Serbia's stalled
progress toward European Union membership. The Liberals alone have been
consistent about joining the EU, even when that was politically against the
current in Serbia.
There are also three minority representatives -- two Muslim and one Albanian --
in the parliament.