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Toma Nikolic as Dr. Dabic

By Sonja Biserko


Turbulence at Serbia's political scene is a logical outcome of the May parliamentary elections. The commotion within the Serbian Radical Party after its electoral defeat and its exclusion from the Serbian government was unavoidable - the party had to get prepared for Serbia's European future. In this context, the petty town propaganda machinery promptly "washed up" Tomislav Nikolic and promoted him as "a civilizational brake to the Radicals." So, for instance, the media publicized the theses about Nikolic's "Sanaderization," about him as a man who said 'no' to Vojislav Seselj and the like. Tomislav Nikolic obtained widespread support and was qualified a person of principles and morality. His war career and doubts that he might have committed crimes, as well as the fact that he had never renounced the Greater Serbia, seemed to be clean forgotten.


What is the bottom line here?

The bottom line is that this is all about a most artful maneuver to take over the party from Vojislav Seselj - the man everyone has already written off. Seselj's behavior in The Hague courtroom would have hardly fit into Serbia's new image - the image of a country heading towards Europe.

In the past five years, the Radicals were actually in power through Vojislav Kostunica and enjoyed full support of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, conservative circles and - the Russians. And that was all thanks to Tomislav Nikolic, the fact everyone taciturnly acknowledges. Seselj had been in the ruling coalition too in the Milosevic era. This means that the Radicals have been ruling without respite for 15 years now. Boris Tadic's unexpected victory ousted the Radicals and caused panic among the conservative bloc, Russia's only true pillar in the long run. What brought about Tadic's victory was the fact that Serbia's citizens grew mature - they changed their priorities and replaced the delusion about the Greater Serbia by the concerns of their everyday life. Tadic's signature under the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU - and, earlier, under the Partnership for Peace - placed Serbia under the umbrella of Euro-Atlantic integrations for the first time. In the long run, that means that Serbia plunges into untroubled waters. For, big powers have shifted their focus from Europe to Central Asia. Serbia can thus freely move forwards.

Glorification of Nikolic is a prelude to his political comeback. He will be presented to the nation as a strong and principled man by comparison with the weak and wavering Tadic. The Democratic Party - that will gradually turn into a regime party - is the main stumbling bloc in the way of Russia's omnipresence. The Russians, too, favor Serbia's stabilization and accession to the EU. Therefore, it was not mere coincidence that Tomislav Nikolic decided to vote for the SAA. Russia's main goal is to prevent Serbia from joining NATO and to secure a partner it can always use to destabilize the region. Russia's strategic goal is to make the EU as dependent as possible on its gas and oil.

However, the aforementioned calculation disregards the new reality in the Balkans, Europe and the world. This refers to the Russians as well. By encroaching upon Georgia Russia lost more than it gained - within couple of days only, foreign investors fled Russia. Russia's loss is estimated at some 10 billion US dollars. Besides, its monopolization of energy resources will force the West to speed up its search for alternative sources. The operation in Georgia revealed Russia's weaknesses rather than restored its cold-war status. And those weaknesses are far from being negligible. Russia's demographic fall amounts to some 800,000 people per year, its economy and democracy are weak but its imperial ambitions are unabated. Those ambitions undermine its neighbors and growingly turn them away from it.

In brief, Nikolic's maneuver enjoys full support of the conservative bloc and Russia, wary of Tadic. They will offer Nikolic as an alternative to Tadic and try to present him as a leader Serbia needs.



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