The meeting organised last night by the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) was a failure in every respect. The turnout was low, the speeches were bad, the goals were not clearly stated, and the organisers failed to control the crowd. This is probably also why speakers were chosen from the D-list of Serbian politics: luminaries like Kosta Čavoški and Bora Đorđević. The government knew that the protest could be ignored, so they spent the evening preparing to fly Radovan Karadžić out of the country to the place where he will be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Meanwhile the only element of the meeting that made news was the violent confrontation between skinheads and police, who this time around did not have orders to let the hooligans destroy anything they wanted. A suggestion to the winsome lads of 1389, Obraz and other groups allied with SRS: when your friends are not in power, it is a bad idea to attack the police, because there are more of them than there are of you, and they are better armed and better trained.

Today Tomislav Nikolić of SRS came out with an unintentionally revealing statement. He claims that president Boris Tadić was commanding the police and attempting to create disorder, and tried to dissociate his party from the thugs who turned out for the meeting, claiming that they were on the payroll of the police.

Let's leave the contradictions in Nikolić's statement alone -- they are obvious enough that they do not need to be pointed out. What the failure of last night's meeting shows is that without support from the regime in power SRS is simply another extremist party with severely limited support and little capacity to organise anything. They could build a small base of support when they had the ability to hand out commercial real estate on the Zemunski kej. And they could assure the validity of their licence to intimidate people when everyone was sure that the police and security services were standing behind them.

Goodbye, SRS. People are no longer afraid of you, and they no longer take you seriously.

Update: Rich Byrne on the failed meeting as "a total triumph for the new government."

Update2: Similar thoughts from Vladimir Vuletić, Zoran Stojiljković and (if you can believe it) Slobodan Antonić.

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