comment 16 May 12

Dacic as PM Would Take Serbia Backwards

Serbia badly needs a decisive new prime minister with vision, experience and strength – not a cynical old relic of the Milosevic regime.

Zlatko Cobovic

A political deal by which the Socialist leader, Ivica Dacic, could become Serbia’s new Prime Minister would mean the country going backwards into the dark, recent past.

Those who are quick to remember and slow to forget know Dacic as one of the former Milosevic regime’s attack dogs.

Although he clearly differs in various ways from Milosevic, Dacic has essentially remained an orthodox party soldier.

He has never renounced the methods he learnt from his old party leader - only updated the format.

It seems to have worked. Since 2006, his party has been gradually gaining support in successive elections.

From winning only 5.64 per cent of the votes in 2006 to 7.58 in 2008, in the general elections this May, the Socialists doubled that figure, getting about 14.51 per cent of the vote.

Dacic also came as third in the race for the Serbian presidency, winning 14.23 per cent of the vote.

In the meantime, since becoming Interior Minister four years ago, he has crucial failed to solve major scandals and murders that have rocked Serbia, such as the assassinations of journalists and deaths of soldiers in the army barracks at Topcider.

In April this year he denied ever having said in 2008 that he would find the killers of three journalists who died in the Milosevic years - Dada Vujasinovic, Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic.

Police have identified the perpetrators of the crimes since Dacic has been running the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry has also protected journalists who received threats and whose lives were in danger, but no steps have been taken to shed actual light on these and other crimes in which reasonable suspicions are that Milosevic was the instigator, or that the state stood behind them.

These include actions in Kosovo prior to and at the beginning of NATO’s armed intervention, the sacrifice of Serbian state TV employees in the NATO bombing campaign, for which just one person was held responsible, and assisting in hiding Hague Tribunal indictees.

Dacic’s laconic explanation is always that everything that happened during someone else’s term in office is the responsibility of the minister at the time.

Throughout this year’s election campaign, as well as after the electoral results were released, the Socialist leader has demonstrated the kind of behaviour that was previously familiar under Milosevic.

Was it a coincidence that a month before the elections there was a flurry of arrests of drug dealers?

Then, just five days before the elections, the Minister signed a Socialist Party charter with representatives of nine unions working within the Interior Ministry, which envisaged “further joint work on the implementation of collective contracts and the improvement of financial, working and legal conditions of employees.” Fine words, but the agreement meant nothing.

While advocating the division of Kosovo prior to the election, Dacic described Serbia’s ruling Democratic Party as “a false fake leftist party”.

Now he is almost certain to renew a coalition with this same party in spite of saying after the May 6 election, “Maybe we don’t know who will be President, but we know for sure who will be Prime Minister,” – that is, himself.

After the election, when the Serbian Progressive Party claimed the vote had been rigged, Dacic said that while “there were certainly some irregularities, just like there are everywhere”, he was against the mass repeat of elections because it reminded him of events in 1996.

That year, when the opposition “Together” Coalition won the local elections, Milosevic’s and Dacic’s party refused to accept the result. They only relented following mass protests and the release of hostile OSCE Commission reports.

Milosevic’s Socialists then tried to rig the general elections in 2000. In connection with this, Dacic said on May 11 that the call for protests this year reminded him of the overthrow of the Milosevic regime that October.

“I don’t know what good October 5 [2000] brought us and who needs a repeat of that,” he asked, in what looked like a multifaceted answer that anyone can interpret as he or she liked.

He then also wished a happy May 13 to all those “who once used to celebrate it as Security Day”, referring to the Communist-era holiday marking the establishment of the Yugoslav military intelligence service, known as OZNA, which was celebrated until 2001. That action could be interpreted as a tendency to slowly, through the backdoor, introduce other dates that had a meaning in different rules in order to be, in time, rehabilitated.

Dacic is also arguably compromised by links to the so-called Briefcase Affair, in which the former National Bank Deputy Governor Dejan Simic and Socialist Party official Vladan Zagradjanin were accused of accepting bribes in 2006.

Dacic left Simic’s flat moments before the police raided it. In 2010, a Belgrade court ruled the defendants not guilty.

It’s clear that the same old goods are being sold today in new packaging, and, in some cases, the packers don’t even bother much about the packaging. It is as if they don’t really care that what they’re doing is completely transparent.

If we expect a Prime Minister to be a man of authority and a driving force, like Ante Markovic and Dragoslav Avramovic, Dacic surely cannot be a candidate for the post. Still, anything’s possible in Serbia.

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