19 February 2004, Volume 6, Number 7
DOES SERBIA NEED A KING?
A program by Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service with Radoslav Stojanovic, professor of the Belgrade Faculty of Law, and Desimir Tosic, member of the Political Council of the Democratic Center.
RFE/RL: Mr. Stojanovic, you have called for the restoration of the monarchy in Serbia. What is your main argument?
Radoslav Stojanovic: ...The English people once restored the monarchy to prevent dangerous people such as Cromwell from coming to power again. If a king were our head of state, it would be impossible to elect a man like [Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav] Seselj or any of the many people like him in today's Serbia....
I think that, in our case, the restoration of the monarchy abolished after [World War II] would be more than a symbolic gesture of reconciliation but also a confirmation that the civil war among Serbs is finally over, and that things are back where they used to be.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the Serbian people are still divided between the [royalist] chetniks and the partisans [of Josip Broz "Tito"], and [restoring the monarchy] might restore its identity.
Desimir Tosic: I don't think the Serbs and English should be compared since the differences in time and circumstance are too great....
Restoring the Serbian monarchy would not solve the problem of tyrants, because we have had monarchs such as Milos Obrenovic or Montenegro's Nikola I who were real tyrants....
Today in Serbia, the monarchy is unlikely to bring about reconciliation. Just take a look at a photo of the members of the [heir to the throne's] Crown Council, and you will see some fanatical people ready to become what professor Stojanovic is trying to avoid.
Stojanovic: ...I am talking about a contemporary European model of a monarchy. As we all know, eight out of 15 members of the European Union are monarchies. It is absolutely clear that a monarchy with prerogatives enabling the king to become a tyrant is out of the question today.
Tosic: ...It is true that there are eight monarchies within the European Union, but their significance is symbolic and limited chiefly to ceremony....
In former Yugoslavia before World War II, the Slovenes, Croats, and Muslims opposed the monarchy. The issue divided the Serbs as well.
Let's not have any illusions. The monarchy cannot help us overcome the deep divisions in and fragmentation of Serbian society. The Karadjordjevics once were good fighters but also very dangerous for democracy.
King Aleksandar promised a democratic order to the peoples of Yugoslavia [after World War I]. But then on 6 January 1929, he brutally broke his promise, which then gave rise to so many problems.
To raise the issue of monarchy at this moment is a very dangerous thing and might give rise to new and bigger problems. How can we talk about democracy when one of the members of the Crown Council -- and probably the most important one, who is always smiling as if he expects the return of the monarchy in the next few days -- was very clear during his last press conference when he said that a country in which the monarchy is criticized and attacked is not a democratic state based on the rule of law.
Stojanovic: I did not say that there is no democracy without monarchy. What I said is that the monarchy would help us bring back Serbia's lost identity. There is no doubt about that.
But I cannot accept the legitimacy of the 1945 vote to abolish the monarchy. The monarchy was rejected in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and maybe in Macedonia, but that was not the case in Serbia.
I talked about this in two public speeches, first in front of 200,000 people and then in front of 100,000. I remember well the ovation I received when I mentioned the restoration of the monarchy. People react that way today simply because they never accepted the way the monarchy was abolished in 1945.
Searching for its identity, the people have to overcome their divisions. It is hard to say what is the best way to do it. Maybe it would be through the restoration of monarchy, especially if the king said: "The communists fought and died for their cause, and they were convinced that it was the right thing to do. I now give the order to the chetniks that there must not be any revenge." In my opinion, that would be the easiest way to promote national reconciliation.