28 April 2005, Volume 7, Number 11
THE DEMISE OF LIBERAL AND CIVIC POLITICAL ALTERNATIVES.
A program by Srdjan Kusovac (with Goran Vezic)
RFE/RL: Such progressive groups can, however, easily be marginalized if the political atmosphere is not conducive to them.
Jelena Vlajkovic (professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade and clinical psychologist): Unfortunately in Serbia, after 5 October [2000 and the ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic] and a relatively short period of optimism, what we now have is an atmosphere that discourages those who want real change. Such people, as a result, have become apathetic or have withdrawn from public life.
Veselin Pavicevic (professor at the Faculty of Economics and lecturer at the Faculty of Law in Podgorica and lawyer): Montenegrin society has no tradition of democracy or political "enlightenment" to draw on. Only about 7 percent of the entire population is amenable to the values [of civil society]....
RFE/RL: We asked our guests whether they find these processes irreversible, that is, whether parties advocating the values of liberal and civic democracy will be able to rebound or not.
Vlajkovic: As far as the current young generation is concerned, I am afraid not. Of course, new generations will follow, and the road to progress will not come to an end. But it will take time. I might be talking like this out of my own burn-out syndrome, skepticism, and discouragement, but recent developments suggest that the apathy will continue. It was probably much worse to have started the reforms and then stopped them rather than not to have started them at all.
Mira Ljubic-Lorger (former leader of Dalmatian Action, former member of Croatian parliament, and doctor of law): At this moment there is no strong alternative to the policies and ideologies of the [Croatian] ruling establishment. Unlike in wartime, there is no outside force we can unite against and thereby generate new energies. We have entered a new period with new problems that [postcommunist] transition and globalization have brought.
Pavicevic: The civic option in Montenegro is holding its own, as election results and professional research show. The [most promising development] is that the strongest opposition party, the SNP [Socialist People's Party], has begun displaying a civic orientation and distancing itself from its old image of being a nationalist pro-Serbian party. The departure of the Liberal Alliance is no great loss because it had long been liberal in name only.
Slavo Kukic (professor at the Faculty of Economics in Mostar and sociologist): What is going on in Bosnia-Herzegovina threatens to have long-term consequences.... Polarization along national lines is likely to continue, which means that any development of the civic spirit is likely to take place only within each separate ethnic group rather than across ethnic lines....
But European trends have emerged in Croatia, albeit more among the elites than with the voters. This is most evident in the HDZ [Croatian Democratic Community], where Prime Minister Ivo Sanader risks losing much of his electoral support if he moves too quickly.
Developments in Montenegro might become a problem in the coming months or years, because [Prime Minister Milo] Djukanovic cannot go back on what he promised his supporters -- Montenegro's independence.... The population is almost equally divided in terms of pro-independence and [pro-Belgrade], and the tensions could become more pronounced as the process unfolds.
What might determine the future of Serbia is that the revelations emerging from the investigation of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic's murder could lead to a process of cleansing and introspection.... But Kosovo will remain a wild card.
Pavicevic: When we talk about these countries -- Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro -- we must proceed from the sad fact that these are unfinished societies and undefined states. There can be no democratic elections or lasting values if there is no stable state with its corresponding institutions....
A further aspect of the problem is that poverty is not conducive to high democratic standards.... A poor society is given to political demagogy and to pursuit of the cheapest pastime -- watching television.