The rising popularity of right wing in Europe does not have many similarities with Serbia – Vucic’s authority, at least rhetorically, promotes European values, and practically speaking, the country participates in globalization and implements austerity measures according to the IMF recipe. The only thing that we can like all of this to is authoritarianism.
The rise in popularity of the right-wing parties and movements in Europe is reflected in a specific way in Serbia. On one hand, the authority of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is seen in the context of the strengthening of populist movements, but at the same time, there are significant differences. The initial impulse to the growing popularity of the right and the populism came from the resistance to economic globalization, after which came the migrant crisis and the conflict within the EU about how to solve this problem.
In such framework, it is rather difficult to recognize the totalitarian rule of Aleksandar Vucic’s Progressive party – he is an obedient pupil of the IMF who upholds the austerity policy, and since the migrant crisis does not affect Serbia that directly, it is not a significant topic in domestic policy.
Drawing parallels between Vucic’s rule and the populist authorities in some European countries stop at the authoritarian way of governing, social gifts for “the clients” and rigging tenders to suit certain partners. But if this is a strategic course, one could argue that, rhetorically, Serbia is sitting on Europe’s front bumper.
Affinity without analysis
Aleksandar Vucic has reiterated on several occasions that walls and barbwires were not a solution, and even pointed out that if Serbia needed to defend European values from the EU itself, it will thus turn into a fan of globalism, even if it the country is viewed as “angry suburbia”. In any case, this is not a message that is often heard in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy, or by the right-wing parties that are growing in popularity in Germany or Sweden.
The affinity that the Serbian public is starting to develop towards the new right in Europe is partly interpreted as a result of the sensationalist approach of the Serbian media – says CeSID Executive Director, Bojan Klacar. “The media in Serbia unilaterally report the growth of right-wing parties and movements. However, nobody is analyzing the negative connotations of their actions. The media reports basically boil down to the negative aspects of the migrant crisis,” Klacar says for DW.
The second reason lies in the strong belief in the injustices that the West has inflicted on Serbia. “These injustices have resulted in one segment of the public being happy that many problems are knocking on the doors of Western countries,” Klacar says.
Serbia perpetuates the opposite trend in relation to the events in Europe because we have nationalists in power who have turned pro-European – says political analyst Milan Nikolic. He believes that the growing popularity of the right wing and populism in the West is closely linked to a neoliberal ideology that in some way, has incapacitated effective critique of the welfare state.
“Then there is the hardline economic / market policy. Austerity measures are very popular in Germany and now they are being imposed on smaller states. Let’s not forget that austerity has almost destroyed Greece. As a result of all of this, we have a drop in popularity of social-democratic and left parties, and the growth of the so-called sovereign parties and movements. They want the national state to manage policies and not some supra-national bodies like the European Union or European Commission”, Nikolic argues.
Nikolic believes that in all of this, “migrants represent a certain fact that contributes to the creation of a certain ideology”. “Add to this the immaturity of the European political elites, who are still focusing on the good, old times instead of scientific and technological progress. That is why people are now dreaming of the old and powerful Hungary or Poland, instead of actually doing something in their countries that would contribute to their better future”, Nikolic adds.
So, how does the trend of rising popularity of the right wing in Europe reflect in Serbia? “Its influence is quite weak”, says Bojan Klačar. “Serbia has an extremely dominant party that is the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which practically covers the entire political spectrum and takes certain parts from the right-wing and populist ideology, but it is also pro-European and liberal. Some opposition parties are forcing the anti-European rhetoric, but not from the place of ideological conviction, but just to be different from Aleksandar Vucic,” Klacar explains.
“In some ways, the rise of the right wing in Europe is reflected in a different way of political organization here,” Klacar says and adds: “In Serbia, as in Europe, there is a growing trend of forming political movements in place of classic political parties. This process has also caused changes in the way of communication, so now the Internet and social media are increasingly being used to win over voters.”
On the opposition scene, the movement called Dveri stands out as being the closest thing to the European right-wingers. “We must break this ‘Central Committee’ in Brussels, which thinks it can decide how we, the Europeans, should live in our own national states. We do not approve of this, since today, that includes Orban’s Fides, the Liberal Party of Austria, the National Front in France and AfD”, says the leader of the Dveri movement, Bosko Obradovic, for DW.
Again, unlike the League in Italy, Dveri shares the destiny of all opposition parties in Serbia which do not have enough strength to achieve two-digit election results, let alone take over power. “Due to the aforementioned strength of the SNS, they have not been able to consolidate their political positions, as some similar movements in Europe have done so and which are now already part of the government, such as the Five Star Movement in Italy,” commented Klacar.
He also references Donald Trump and Brexit, and says that the Serbian public is convinced that the West is undergoing major political changes. Paradoxically, the old mainstream hopes that the Serbs had about “the decadent West collapsing” and Russia and China rising are making a comeback. Still, tens of thousands of Serbs are migrating to this “decadent West”, choosing the countries where the right-wing still hasn’t completely taken over.
By Ivica Petrovic
(Deutsche Welle, 29.10.2018)
Illustration by Erik Jones