Montag, 21. Mai 2012

Why people didn't vote for Tadic

1. It's fashionable
Criticizing the government is a favorite pastime, not just for intelligent people. The not-so-smart-ones by and large support the most fashionable option, and in this case it was Nikolic. We gotta hand it to his campaign advisers (some Israeli agency) for profiling him as the contender that's about to win.

2. "I don't want to vote for the lesser evil anymore" argument
Well, as far as stupid arguments go, this one is right up there with "things can't get any worse, so what the heck", and you already know how I feel about that. If you don't understand that politics is inherently evil (unless you live in a place like Norway), you don't have the faintest idea about what politics is like. These are not the people who want to get elected for your benefit - it's theirs that they worry about! The choice you have is to steer it slightly to a direction that you feel is right by choosing one of the candidates. You only have one vote, use it!

3. They bought into the "white ballot" spin
Well, whoever thought of this (probably the Israelis), knew exactly who they're gonna hurt. An act of citizen's revolt is typical of democrats not of nationalists. Hence, this hurt Tadic significantly more than it did Nikolic. In the first round there was over 4% of invalid ballots, most of them with doodles, and in the second round, as I mentioned in another post, there was 39,000, and Tadic lost by 33,000 votes. (

4. Poverty and corruption
It's not a secret that things are bad. It's just that people act like they aren't. But, people are getting more aware that they can demand changes, so they finally did something about it. People wanted change and didn't care about the other option. Naturally, since the only other viable choice was Nikolic, he was the collateral winner. It's hard to believe anybody in their right mind would think Nikolic can do more to fight poverty and corruption than Tadic. They both suck at it, by the way.

5. Rise of the Pirates
They didn't enter these elections, but there's clearly something on the horizon resembling a Pirate Party in Serbia. They were rather active in promoting the white ballot scheme. Honestly, depending on the people that run it, I'd also be inclined to vote for them. Only because I think it's a movement beneficial for the society (again, depending on the actual program they adopt in Serbia), and that all the traditional parties are part of a political system that needs to be changed.

6. Because Kostunica told them not to
I saw this in the news, and thought "wow, some people really work hard to resurrect the old bat". Kostunica, for those who don't know, is the guy who was our PM until 2007, and now he's openly against EU. The only one that's crossed the threshold of 5% that openly says so (I'm hinting that we don't really know anything about Nikolic's policies, but have reasons to doubt his dedication to the EU values). This reason is as bogus as they come, but because the turnout was so low, even his support mattered.

7. Some people just hate everything he stands for
There are many impoverished people in Serbia, some of whom might be called transition losers, who have personally suffered from the transition towards market economy and EU, and to them Tadic is the devil. It's not about Nikolic's program being sounder than Tadic's, it's about making Tadic pay for what happened to them. Of course, the whole privatization process in Serbia was extremely corrupt, so their grudge is fine. What's not fine is the fact that Nikolic isn't any better.

8. The intellectuals didn't vote (because they had better things to do)
Finally, I hear a lot of accusations against the intellectuals, and the elites in general for not taking a more active role in the election. I'm not the bandwagoning type, but if there's something I agree with it is that the civil society and the intellectuals are not doing their job. We now have a person who didn't finish a University as our president (I can't really say he "finished" a University, can I?). What did the intellectuals do when debating this issue? They said "it doesn't really matter if the president has a degree or not". Well, if there ever was a wrong time to be politically correct, this was it. Most of all because his degree is fake, but also because majority of people in Serbia already have poor education, and now the message they get is that they don't need education, because apparently, even without it one can become a president. Then, there's also the fact that Nikolic won't resign, even if he's faced with proof of his wrongdoing in regards to obtaining the degree. No way Jose, after all this trouble to get there! Resign?! Never! But then this starts a downward spiral - he won't take responsibility for his previous actions, nor will he in the future. The next step is accusing others for your own mistakes. I dread thinking where it goes from there.

Why Serbia lost when Nikolic won, or, who is Tomislav Nikolic to me

The biggest loser is... Serbia! Tadic will be fine. Years ago, I was thinking about what Tadic could do once he's no longer president of Serbia. I concluded that he'll most likely advance to an international position (but, my premise was that he'll retire after his 2nd term, no longer having the constitutional right to run for the 3rd time). There simply can't be a position in Serbia he could be satisfied with. For sure he won't be the PM, to him that's a demotion.

So, how come Serbia lost in these elections? Nikolic is an old-type politician, the 1990s model. For those who don't know, or remember the period differently, '90s in Serbia sucked! They sucked so bad that now, more than 10 years after we defeated the man responsible for them, we get someone like Nikolic as president, because 10 years is not long enough to mend all the damage to the society done by Milosevic and his clique.

Let's just recapture some of Nikolic's achievements:
He started off as an employee of a cemetery in Kragujevac, in Central Serbia. That's why, after he became a prominent politician, his opponents would call him a "gravedigger". I think the title suits him right. There's just something about him that evokes this darkness of cemetery and death.

He is, or was, the "kum" (translates as both best man and godfather) to Vojislav Seselj. Seselj is a very special figure in Serbian politics. An exceedingly intelligent man (to this day holds record as the youngest PhD at his University), but evil to the bone, he was one of the nationalist politicians that emerged in the early '90s when the country introduced multiparty elections. (This is a link about how Seselj, on the right, dealt with his opponents. They had an argument on the TV show, where Seselj keeps talking about the man's dead father, and then the man splashes him in the face with water. The next day, Seselj and his bodyguards beat the man up, and Seselj claims that the man simply slipped on a banana peel:

Nikolic boasts one of the longest careers as a member of Serbian Parliament, of around 20 years. This is one of the issues - how can someone who's pretty much only been a government employee have a luxurious apartment in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Belgrade?

For a short period, Seselj's radicals were forming a government with Milosevic, and Nikolic was one of the ministers, or maybe a deputy PM. His history is generally obscure, and I was too young back then to remember all of these details.

His real career only starts after Seselj relocated himself to the Hague Tribunal's detention unit in Scheveningen. Just 20 days later, PM Zoran Djindjic was killed. What do we remember about Nikolic from this period? That he held a speech at Seselj's farewell rally in which he said: "If any of you sees Zoran Djindjic around in the next month or two, tell him even Tito had leg problems just before he died", referring to Djindjic's ski injury because of which he wore a cast on one of his legs:

Seselj being in Hague, Nikolic was the de facto chief of the Radical party in Serbia. He was running the show, in a manner hard to describe as anything but disgusting. This was the general description of how Radicals acted. There are many examples, but very few in English (none here):  (Radical women cursing the traitor Nikolic)

The biggest political bomb in Serbia was when Nikolic decided to break off from Seselj. In Serbia, all members of Parliament are conditioned by their respective parties to sign a blank resignation note and give it to the party. Just in case the MP gets some ideas about switching to another party. In the Radical party, to which Nikolic belonged, he, being the deputy president of the party, held all the resignation notes. So, when he decided to form a new party (because he lost to Boris Tadic for the second time, for which he blamed Seselj and his ultra-nationalist rhetoric, which wasn't moderate enough for an average voter), effectively splitting the Radicals into two parties, no one could activate his (and his new MPs') resignation note, because "he had lost them", as he put it.

Since then, he claims to be pro-EU, but also pro-Russian at the same time. He's famous for saying he wants to see Serbia become a Russian province. Also famous for a weird hunger strike. He was on a hunger strike for about two weeks, but no one knew why. Then he held a rally and said he'll sit in front of the Parliament until the government accepts his terms (again, no one remembers why this happened), but he added he'd sit on a stirofoam because he's an old man. So, now everyone makes fun of him and stirofoam. Just stupid s**t like that. (hunger strike) (stirofoam)

In the latest election, the issue of his University degree took the lead as one of the most talked about issues. In short, he "graduated" in 2007 with a degree in Marketing, but in 2008 elections he said that he's studying at the Faculty of Law. Why, if he even then had this degree? Also, according to his student file, he passed all of his 2nd year exams in 3 days! Then, when they checked his bachelor thesis, it's on a completely different topic than what the University says it is. And the University? It belongs to one of his former political allies. All in all, fishy. (unconvincing explanation)

So, that's why I say Serbia lost. Our political culture took a major blow, because it's this kind of demeanor that Nikolic consistently shows.

On the positive side, the Radicals are no more! The newly formed Progressives (Nikolic and Co.) took over all their votes and the radicals didn't pass the census threshold of 5%.

Sonntag, 20. Mai 2012

Boris Tadic loses presidency. Why?

Well, Boris Tadic just lost his presidency. What a shock! I was predicting that he'd win by 2% before the elections started, but was waiting to see the turnout to post the prediction on FB. When I saw it was low, I knew things were going sour.

Why did he lose? Several reasons. Let's start from the wasted votes. By this, I mean both doodles on the ballot AND my vote.

Why is my vote wasted? Poor government administration, is all. If I wanted to vote, being abroad an all, I had to register two weeks before the elections, letting some schmuck know that I want to vote. And not only that, I also had to travel to Vienna to cast my vote. Well, gentlemen bureaucrats, I'm not inclined to do deal with administration any more than I absolutely have to, so F**K YOU! That's why you lost mine and many more votes of young people who are getting their education or whatever abroad. And I think these votes are mostly DS votes.

There were 39,000 doodled ballots. Boris Tadic lost by 33,000 votes. Well done. So, now what?
I can't believe there are people so stupid to think things "can't be any worse than they already are" (an actual comment on B92 from someone who congratulated Nikolic). THINGS CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE! That's the logic of it - things move from one state to another, the latter being less good than the former. It happens all the time.

Tadic also lost because his party led a campaign that doesn't suit the profile of his voters, nor that of Serbian citizens. As can be seen from Nikolic's success, people respond to campaigns that energize people around a certain issue (change in most cases). A campaign that claimed things will remain the same (with the same people), and maybe slightly get better over time, is doomed for failure. It surprises me no one in DS recognized that the messages need to be more optimistic and more engaging. After all, it is exactly how they themselves ousted Milosevic. Nikolic recognized this and applied it.

I think they failed to recognize this because people in DS didn't really want any changes. They lost their compass, which is what usually happens to people once they get power, and they had power for far too many years to remain sane. Not that I can claim these people were honest before they became powerful, but they certainly didn't get any more honest after. My point is, being in a position that allows you to steal, you're not rewarded to promote anti-corruption measures, even to the extent of "neglecting" to seriously address the issue in a re-election campaign and give firm promises of change (important word). BIG mistake.

So, what really happened, and why is someone like Nikolic seemingly more popular than someone like Tadic? It's because people in Serbia hate success in other people. They can't bear that someone is apparently more successful than they are, as this gives them the perception of failure. I argue that Tadic is the prototype of a successful man. Everything about him is squeaky clean, and polished in order to project this message. The thing is people envy that. They downright hate it. However, people recognize the fact that the president should be like this. He represents all of us, especially in foreigners' eyes. They are willing to support such a person, as long as this image in untarnished. Once they see, taste or smell blood, they can't help but grab the opportunity to see the mighty fall.
Nikolic went for exactly this - from the get-go his campaign was all about "we know we'll win". Tadic was baffled, and counted that people will see through this, but they didn't. They bought into it big time. A small crack in his pristine finish was enough for Serbian voters, especially the very low - and also very bitter - to write Tadic off and support someone everybody knows isn't nearly as good as Tadic.

Biggest error of Tadic? Not enough house cleaning in his own yard. That's something you don't introduce over time - you do it from the start. Everybody should know there can't be any "kraduckanje" or else everybody does it. But, I think that's an inherited problem, not something Tadic himself introduced.

What will happen next time? Will a democrat win because people will see how bad Nikolic is (maybe people will mobilize for the next elections, which they failed to do in this one, for various reasons), or will DS lose even the Parliamentary elections because Nikolic will blame the democrats for all the problems, claiming he hasn't got enough power to effectuate changes? We'll see.