No matter how worn out it is, the label that has been attached to the name of Alexander Lukashenko for years that he is “the last European dictator” can hardly be denied. Maybe not at all, and why would it? His Belarus is a “black hole” in democratic Europe. It is enough to look at the map of the members of the Council of Europe, the European United Nations, on which the only dark spot is the Lukashenko Republic, as the only non-member of the pan-European organization.
The autocrat with mustache from Minsk may be counting the last days of his rule, but let him and his opponents take care of that at home. We are interested in the use of the symbolism of his rule on the Serbian political scene, and in connection with that, the understanding of the terms “dictatorship”, “autocracy” and the similar, with which the local opposition often describes the scene where it tries to achieve some result. And even more interesting is the attitude of the Serbian opposition towards the autocrats, because not everyone is repulsive to it. Some, however, are acceptable and desirable to them.
Long ago, the Serbian opposition received a lesson about not living in a dictatorship and that Aleksandar Vučić is not a dictator, but that they should still look for the cause of their failures in their own ranks. Seven years ago, the then US ambassador to Serbia, Michael Kirby, rejected the opposition’s constant wailing that they are living in a dictatorship, saying that he was not worried about democracy in Serbia, nor did he worry about Vučić becoming a dictator. “The fact that Đilas can attack Vučić through the media and say all that is not a sign of dictatorship, on the contrary, it is an indicator of media freedom and democracy” – this conclusion of Ambassador Kirby seems to have been pronounced today, not seven years ago.
Persistently calling Serbia a dictatorship, opposition leaders constantly compare Aleksandar Vučić with Lukashenko, and Serbia with Belarus, thus confirming their tragic lack of ideas and inventiveness. But there is something else. Putting the sign of equality between Serbia and Belarus, as well as Vučić and Lukashenko, gained special momentum (just look at the opposition discussions on Twitter) after the elections on June 21. There is no opposition politician and activist who missed the opportunity to slap Serbia and its president as a dictatorship and dictator, of course, drawing a parallel with Belarus and Lukashenko. However, no one thought, or more precisely – dared, to compare the Serbian so-called dictatorship and its so-called dictator with Russia and Vladimir Putin. Okay, maybe Lukashenko and Belarus have long been a stereotype of the “last European dictatorship”, so reaching for such a parallel is expected. But there is something else there besides the usual opposition’s laziness of spirit.
It is really very difficult to imagine that any of the leaders of the anti-Vučić opposition, and even its prominent activists, would say anything bad about the state of democracy in Russia, even as an association with the state of democracy (dictatorship?) in Serbia. Can you imagine, for example, that Sanda Rašković-Ivić, instead of Alexander Lukashenko, mentioned Vladimir Putin, when after the election she criticized the new composition of the Serbian parliament, as one-party. It is simply impossible to imagine, although Sanda Rašković-Ivić can justifiably make such a comparison, since Putin’s United Russia absolutely dominates the Russian Duma with 338 members of parliament, along with Zyuganov’s satellite communists and Zhirinovsky’s Liberals with 43 and 40 members of parliament each. Why always – Lukashenko and Belarus when you want to say that Serbia is also an autocracy? Why not – Putin and Russia?
In the eyes of the Serbian opposition, Putin and Russia are simply not an example of autocracy and dictatorship, moreover, they are often desirable allies and even friends of Serbia, the kind they want to build. The comparison between Serbia and Belarus has intensified in recent days, when the opposition seems to have concluded that Putin let his longtime friend Lukashenko down the water, so their trampling on the Belarusian leader has become even safer and more desirable.
The general confusion on the Serbian opposition scene is especially visible in its attitude towards Europe, which Serbia aspires to and Russia, which is not very satisfied with such a path. For some unknown reason, the Serbian opposition is often perceived as pro-Western, liberal, prone to the values of modern democracy and the open market, unquestionably pro-European. Things are, however, completely reversed. While there is almost no evidence for the aforementioned notion of the opposition, there are really many examples of its anti-Western, Russophile, and even undemocratic orientation.
The media from Western Europe did not report enthusiastically and even with live broadcasts last year from the protests of Đilas’s, Jeremić’s and Obradović’s coalition in Belgrade, by “sprucing up” reports with non-existent tens of thousands of demonstrators. This was done by the state Russian “Sputnik”. The pro-government Belgrade tabloids did not invent that the Alliance for Serbia “does not prioritize Serbia’s membership in the EU”, but its leaders said that in the face of the European ambassadors in Belgrade. None of the Serbian ministers fraternally convinced the Kremlin that it should have more influence on political events in Serbia, so as not to lose Serbia and the Balkans, but Mlađan Đordjević, one of the founders of the Alliance for Serbia, Dragan Đilas’ right-hand man, cried it out…
None of the opposition leaders, nor any of its prominent activists, dealt with the Russian mess in Serbia, the discovery of a spy affair in the middle of Belgrade, for example, or the offer from Moscow to Aleksandar Vučić to form a concentration government together with Đilas, Jeremić and Obradović’s people… About it, albeit shyly, will sometimes write pro-government newspapers, although they themselves do not want to put official Moscow on the agenda, so they accuse some Russian “deep state” of supporting violence in front of the Serbian Parliament!? What can that be and what is the purpose of a “deep state” in a state in which one man has been in unlimited power for 20 years, and after the constitutional changes, he will remain on the throne practically for life?
That is why the opposition-oriented media, whose sophisticated audience has objections even to democracy in Denmark, will widely, integrally and instantly, convey every word that Mlađan Đordjević publishes on the obscure Russian portal “Regnum”, in his regular columns or interviews. Including the fact that Vučić is without a doubt a man of the West, crucified between Brussels and Washington, that he is insincere towards Moscow and that is why the Kremlin should not take pictures with him when he visits… Đorđević is, at least, open, honest and practical when he seeks strong Russian intervention and interference in Serbian political affairs, if he does not want to “lose” both Serbia and the Balkans. His mission is neither hidden nor ambiguous. Are the media that extensively publish his views at least half of that, as well as the admirers of such a policy in Serbia? The policy promoted in Russia by the portal, whose first man Modest Kolerov was declared a persona non grata in the Baltic states in 2012, because his agency was recognized as the bearer of Russian propaganda in that region, and he himself was the head of the Russian president’s administration for interregional and cultural ties before entering the media business. It is legitimate to have such friends and political-media patrons, but then the story that Serbia is the same as Belarus stops. Fortunately, it is far from Belarus, but also from Putin’s Russia, to the great regret of the people who lead what is left of the Serbian opposition scene.