modern parliamentary democracy developed in the West through trial, error and
often violence, it has been virtually unknown in the Balkans. The peninsula was
not completely free from Ottoman rule until 1912, and from Austria-Hungary till
1918. In the crisis of parliamentary democracy that followed the Great War, none
of the Balkans countries fared any better than their Western European allies.
They were parliamentary monarchies all, with just enough parliamentary politics
to render the relative advantages of monarchy
meaningless. Then came fascism, either in form of alliances with Hitler and Mussolini
or occupation. Riding on Soviet tanks, socialism followed soon thereafter.
45 years, the socialist State remade societies and governments in Yugoslavia,
Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria. When it finally collapsed in 1990, few of the
old traditions political or social survived, except as myths. Having lost
everything, they adopted the trappings of democracy without any of the traditions,
precedents and cultural values that made it functional in the West. Stripped to
its primeval basics and run by people with few (if any) scruples, democracy has
shown its real face in the
Balkans like nowhere else in the world not even the successor states of the
former Soviet Union.
such, the peninsula is a political scientist's dream. But for its residents, it
is a never-ending nightmare.
stunning turnabout took place last week at the Hague Inquisition. Summoned as
a prosecution witness, Radomir Markovic, former head of Serbian State Security
(SDB), unequivocally refuted all the Inquisition's
allegations against Slobodan Milosevic. He testified that his witness statement
was doctored by the
Serbian authorities to indicate things he neither said nor did. Finally, he
claimed he was tortured
while in Serbian police custody, and offered money and a new identity if he would
falsely testify against Milosevic. Since Markovic has never stated he would testify
against Milosevic, the prosecution's decision to call him as a witness is inexplicable
unless they believed Markovic would indeed incriminate Milosevic to save himself.
They were wrong yet again.
the flustered and angry Inquisitors broke off the cross-examination, the "trial
of the century" went into summer recess on a decidedly sour note for the prosecution.
à la DOS
is this more obvious than in Serbia, where vestiges of socialism held on the longest
and pure democracy was only introduced less than two years ago. A coalition of
18 political parties none with a clear political profile, few with any agenda
except power, and all with "democratic" or "democracy" in their name seized
power in a relatively bloodless coup on October 5, having claimed electoral victory
over Slobodan Milosevic and his coalition partners. Two months later, Zoran Djindjic
became Prime Minister of Serbia after the DOS coalition won another election on
the coattails of Vojislav Kostunica indeed, using his name on the ballots.
since, Djindjic has been expanding his authority and accumulating power, while
Vojislav Kostunica slowly disappeared like the dysfunctional
federation he presided over. Step by step, Djindjic undermined the Constitution,
the law, and the institutions of government he did not control. The seizure
and extradition of Slobodan Milosevic last year sidelined the Yugoslav Supreme
Court. With the help of the Hague Inquisition and its threat of war crimes indictments,
he won over the Yugoslav Army's Chief of Staff whom Kostunica then sacked.
Meanwhile, Kostunica's party (DSS) was gradually pushed out of the ruling coalition.
Last month, Djindjic loyalists took half its seats in the Parliament alleging
the DSS was "boycotting sessions." When the DSS appealed, the Supreme Court ruled
in its favor. As a response, Djindjic's henchmen officially threw DSS out of the DOS
coalition and claimed all
its seats in the Parliament.
coalition throwing out the party that installed it in power? This is absolute
abuse of even the basic forms of democracy, let alone any meanings the system
may have acquired over the centuries. But it did happen in Zoran Djindjic's Serbia,
where everything serves a personal power agenda with full Imperial blessing,
non panem, circenses
must suspect that rulers knew the secret to ruling the masses long before the
time of Rome. Yet it was Roman leaders that coined the phrase "panem et circenses"
(bread and circuses) to describe what the masses need to be content. What can
one do, however, if the bread is in short supply? Give the masses entertainment,
and pray the trick works.
elections approaching, it appears the new/old Croatian government
is desperately seeking to distance itself from a rather grim economic situation
by blowing petty border disputes out of proportion in order to distract the masses.
there was the conflict with Bosnia over a border crossing in the northern town
of Kostajnica. Croatia claims to own a strip of land between the rivers Una and
Uncica (Unchitsa), and insists the border crossing be set up on Uncica. The Bosnian
Serb Republic, where Kostajnica is located, points to the Dayton Peace Agreement
signed by Croatia's president Tudjman and ratified by the Croatian parliament
that puts the border on Una, leaving the Old Town of Kostajnica in Bosnia. To
complicate things further, Muslim and Croat authorities in Sarajevo seem willing
to accept Croatia's claim if only to annoy their Serb countrymen, in a typical
Bosnian cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face fashion.
Kostajnica dispute was eclipsed by another incident this
weekend, though, when a group of Croat officials attempted to land on an Danube
river island controlled by Yugoslavia but claimed by Zagreb and was shot upon
and boarded by a Yugoslav border patrol. Official Zagreb immediately flew into
rage, demanding a written apology, sending a protest note to the Yugoslav ambassador,
and rejecting Belgrade's conciliatory statements. Adding to the hysteria, Croatian
media even resurrected the old monikers for the Yugoslav Army from the 1991 war.
Kostajnica or Sarengrad Isle would matter none to the vast majority of Croatians,
who remain paralyzed by a massive bureaucracy and controlled by a near-omnipotent
government. It would, however, enhance the image of its current leaders in the
eyes of the gullible masses who might mistake expansionist bluster for a sign
of strong character, as masses everywhere are prone to doing.
See, Monkey Do
the most absurd state in the Balkans, maybe even in the world, Bosnia has an enormous
advantage over its neighbors when it comes to furthering absurdity and taking
democracy to whole new levels of madness. This is, after all, a country with the
highest government-to-people ratio (with no less than 15 parliaments!), the most
frequent elections (every two years), and least economic achievement. This last
is routinely blamed on the ravages of war, corruption, and even lack of state
institutions (!), but the blunt truth is, Bosnia is suffocating under too much
government. Six years and millions of aid dollars after the war, it is still a
wasteland its inhabitants are longing to abandon.
answers are sought in politics. One theory is that there aren't enough young people involved
in the government though no one seems to seriously examine why. Yet another
is that there aren't enough women in the government. As a result, numerous women's
groups and foreign do-gooders are backing
a new law against "discrimination, violence and sexual harassment" against
of insisting on equality of all individuals and protection from the greatest violator
of human rights the government Bosnia's misguided reformers are adopting one
of the worst ideas Europe and the United States ever came up with.
law designed to protect just one group of people is ipso facto a violation
of everyone else's rights and liberties. If it is to be just, a law must apply
to all. Furthermore, "sexual harassment" defies legal principles, since
it can only be defined in the eye of the beholder, and demands of the accused
to prove innocence something that is both legally and logically impossible.
Even worse, the law seeks to help women by introducing quotas in government employment.
This, of course, is ultimately degrading to women. Those who obtain employment
through quotas will always be thought as less competent and unable to succeed
on their own merits.
worst thing of all is that the law is intended to be enforced "both in public
and in private" effectively meaning the government policing its people's homes
and bedrooms. Whatever little liberty there was in Bosnia, this law would completely
obliterate in the name of "human rights" and "progress," of course.
wonder the place is an irreparable mess.
Balkans states and Yugoslavia's successors in particular are not in agony
because they "failed" as states. Quite the contrary, they are entirely too successful
at what states do: theft and violence. All the "experts" scratch their heads and
try to figure out why the economy of the region is so deep in a rut, and they
offer unconvincing answers: lack of human rights, lack of democracy, lack of law,
too much corruption... All these perceived problems demand political solutions,
since politics is all the "experts" can think of. The real problem, therefore,
eludes the scope of their reasoning.
is there no justice, no liberty, no pursuit of wealth, or happiness, in the Balkans?
Because there is only politics.
that is the problem.