2005-08-18

What becomes of the broken hearted

Despite having a name that suggests being held together by an idea, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) has found that it had little to keep it together once it ceased to be the proprietor of all state services and patronage and the rentier of the League of Communists' real estate. The part of it that did not seek restoration at the hands of the Radicals sought rehabilitation at the hands of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), or avoided it by travelling to the Hague. Last week there was an abandoned effort to "unify all social democratic forces" (which SPS never was) by joining up with Nebojša Čović's Social Democratic Party (also not a social democratic party--aren't these names helpful?).

Bogoljub Karić: Singing "All things must pass."

Now Danas reports that a plan is on the table for one portion of the party to join up with the "Forza Srbije" party led by state-asset profiteer Bogoljub Karić. This may or may not happen, and if it does it may or not involve a meaningful number of the shrinking SPS faithful. But it would lend credence to the claim by the Radicals that movements like Karić's have been engineered to cut into their base of support. Which might not be a bad thing, to the extent that you think that corruption is more tolerable than mass violence.

5 comments:

Valerie said...

My first thought was that they'd been designed to complement, rather than cut into, the Radicals' support. The SRS & Snaga Srbije/SPS could get a majority.

Valerie said...

sorry, 'were designed to', not 'had been designed to' - i.e. that Karic is an active agent, not a passive one. Still, the alliance could easily founder. Meanwhile, Ilic seems to be their man in the cabinet, and everyone else is too scared to boot him out.

Eric Gordy said...

I guess I may have left the impression that I was taking the Radicals' charge at face value. Although I am not usually sympathetic to conspiracy theories, in the Balkans one does have to keep an open mind. Maybe it would help to set out the background conditions as I understand them:

1) The basic condition for the people who gained power in the Milosevic period to keep it is that the state of lawlessness continue, and the basic condition for that is that stable democratic institutions not develop. If stable democratic institutions were to develop, that would mean that one could lose power and another one gain it without leaving an opening for criminal structures to gain a foothold.

2) The continued threat of an authoritarian restoration (now mostly represented by SRS) means that stable democratic institutions cannot develop. Instead of a left-center (led by DS) and right-center (led by DSS or SPO) competing with one another, they are both forced into unstable coalitions with dubious partners in order to form governments. These governments prolong their lives beyond their vanishing point of legitimacy, either because they are afraid that losing power will mean giving an opportunity for SRS to lead a restoration (this has come close to happening a few times, but has not happened yet), or because the junior partners (like G17, which now controls both Defence and Finance) are afraid that they may never have access to power again. (This is why Ilic will not get booted -- it means the whole government falls).

3. SRS cannot win by itself--too many people are either afraid of them or regard it as beneath their honor to support them. Nor can they join a governing coalition, because they are widely regarded as somewhere between extremist and criminal. Since they do not control patronage, they are unlikely to expand their base beyond a combination of people who support them ideologically and people who use them as an all-purpose protest vote. The competition is for those old SPS supporters who will not go to SRS. Basically this competition is between DSS and PSS. Unlike SRS, these two parties can be part of a coalition, but any coalition with them in it will continue to be weak.

You see what this amounts to. There is not much chance that the old guard can take over again, but they are poerful enough to prevent the formation of a new guard. Karic plays into this conveniently, and probably also draws some benefit for himself.

Valerie said...

Cheers - sorry, I've only just come back to check this.

OK, now I'm a bit I'm more confident that the SRS will continue to be sidelined. I think the thing that had made me worried was that it seemed to be the hardliners within the Socialists who wanted to join the PSS, and that Karic seems such an unknown quantity. I know he backed Tadic in 2004 in the end, but might he be prepared to use the Radicals?

Eric Gordy said...

He could. The dangerous thing about him is that he is an unknown quantity, and an opportunist as well. Of course, he also has a history with SPS. The other possibility is that he knows that a restoration would mean isolation for Serbia again, which would not be in his interest materially. At the same time, it is not clear that his movement has much of a future -- it might be a populist moment that came and went, as with Miksic in Croatia.