By Bojana Milovanovic
Over the last 20 years, Serbia has experienced wars and international sanctions, an authoritarian regime, and a democratic revolution. After Slobodan Milosevic ceded power in 2000, a more peaceful era arrived — interrupted three years later by the gunning down of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
Since then, one election has followed after another, bringing a succession of governments. But the country remains divided over key questions — namely, alignment with Europe or Russia, the thorny issue of Kosovo, and the requirements of co-operation with the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
Serbia lacks “concrete solutions that would bring it closer to Euro-Atlantic structures”, political analyst Dejan Vuk Stankovic told SETimes. “At the same time, it is weighed down by certain half-truths about political and economic co-operation with distant countries, which have very little geopolitical and economic interest in co-operating with Serbia.”
Internally, political instability remains high, and even the ruling coalition is far from united. This week, Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic and two other cabinet members from his G17 Plus stepped down after a public quarrel with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic.
Cvetkovic, insisting that the government will survive and early elections are not in store, says a cabinet reshuffle will be completed during March.
In Stankovic’s view, however, Serbia is only a step away from dissolution of the ruling coalition and a snap vote.
Serbs, he said, can count on “an exhausting and brutal election campaign in the coming months”.
Members of the public say they feel like moviegoers, wondering how will it all end.
“If a new election is held soon, I don’t think I’ll vote because I have no one to vote for; everyone is equally bad,” Belgrade resident Milos Lazarevic, 32, told SETimes.
The economy remains in dismal shape and ordinary people have trouble making ends meet. Economists say rising levels of debt are the top problem.
“Serbia is on the verge of joining the group of highly indebted countries. Its debt currently accounts for 78% of GDP, just 2% away from excessive debt,” economist Sasa Djogovic explains, pointing also to rising inflation and unemployment.
The solution, he suggests, lies in increased exports and the restructuring of public companies.
“Serbia still sorely needs support from the International Monetary Fund in order to secure even fragile macroeconomic stability,” Djogovic says.